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Ecologically sustainable development and environmental performance

This section reports on the ecologically sustainable development and environmental performance of ACIAR, and is provided in accordance with Section 516A of the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

Project-related environmental impacts

ACIAR project development guidelines include triggers to ensure that any projects developed that may result in significant environmental impacts follow the requirements under the EPBC Act. When partner organisations (proponents) are developing projects, the commissioned (lead) agency must consider all relevant obligations under the EPBC Act.

Should any potential significant environmental impacts be identified by ACIAR or project proponents, both ACIAR and the proponents are obliged to ensure that all relevant EPBC obligations have been appropriately considered. Reference to the EPBC Administrative Guidelines on Significance (EPBC Guidelines) is included in project development processes. If a proposal may have significant environmental impact, the Research Program Manager (RPM) and project proponent must use a risk assessment and management-based approach to assess the potential risks and may have informal consultation with the EPBC Referrals Unit of the Department of the Environment and Energy. ACIAR requires the proponent to submit a letter indicating that it agrees with the findings of the risk assessment.

Under the EPBC Guidelines, the ACIAR CEO is required to decide whether or not with the proposed risk-management approaches there is still a significant risk of environmental impact sufficient to warrant a formal referral of the matter to the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy.

For any project for which potential significant environmental risks were identified during the project development phase, ACIAR includes a standard condition that the commissioned organisation must annually report to ACIAR on its implementation of the stated environmental risk-management procedures and/or any special conditions imposed by the relevant Minister in the event that the project had been formally referred to the Department of the Environment and Energy.

During project development, ACIAR also considers whether or not a project has any relevance to other international arrangements to which Australia is a signatory. This includes obligations under international arrangements to which Australia is a signatory, specifically for the use of biological resources, being met and properly documented.

Letters of approval relating to the use of experimental animals and/or genetically modified organisms must be provided, along with five letters confirming compliance with regulations relating to germplasm transfer, quarantine requirements, biosafety and so on.

How the outcomes of the organisation contribute to ecologically sustainable development

The ACIAR governing legislation outlines the mandate and functions of the Centre under Section 5, including the formulation of policies to deliver against this mandate. Agricultural research is linked explicitly with sustainability. At the operational level project development, evaluation and monitoring deliver on this mandate.

Effect of the organisation’s activities on the environment

ACIAR-supported projects often have strong environmental benefits. These are spread throughout the organisation’s mandated region of operations, in developing countries of the Indo–Pacific. ACIAR projects address problems in developing countries that may also yield results applicable to environmental management in Australia. Such benefits are either a secondary objective or are the result of research having application within Australian settings.

Social Sciences—mitigating and adapting against climate change; policy and institutional frameworks and their impacts on water management

Crops—introducing crop management practices in concert with higher yielding varieties in farming systems, deploying alternative cropping methods; developing control and management strategies for weeds and pests threatening crop species; collection and conservation of unique crop and legume germplasm

Fisheries—management of cross-country fisheries resources, sustainable management of marine species, including inshore fisheries; and research to develop and implement sustainable aquaculture technologies to minimise wild capture and harvest in the ACIAR-mandated region

Forestry—enhancements of breeding technologies for Australian species, such as eucalypts and acacias, widely used for forestry plantations in Australia and parts of Asia; improving disease and pest-surveillance methodologies and management; germplasm utilisation and management

Water and Climate Change—developing water allocation and management strategies; investigating new approaches to managing and alleviating the effects of salinity and soil acidification; assessing land suitability, crop diversification and constraints; minimising pollutants in waterways; developing and promoting new cropping systems for conservation agriculture.

Measures being taken by the organisation to minimise the impact of its activities on the environment

The size and resourcing of the agency has resulted in the choice to adopt an informal system for managing environmental impacts, built upon the EMS framework circulated to government departments and agencies. The framework has been used to ensure that environmental performance within the Canberra premises is as effective as possible.

ACIAR has installed a number of measures to mitigate its use of resources. ACIAR House in Canberra has 50 solar panels installed on the roof producing an estimated output of 8.795 kilowatts. Rainwater tanks with a capacity of 40,000 litres capture runoff, and a grey-water reuse system is installed.

ACIAR established a Sustainability Committee in 2018–19, to explore additional environmental measures that can be undertaken by the organisation, including better ways of offsetting travel-related emissions and ways of improving wildlife habitat in the environs of ACIAR House.

ACIAR is the sole building tenant, responsible for the management of all infrastructure and implementation of policies to deliver sound environmental management at its Canberra premises. Like all government agencies and departments, daily operations generate waste and consume electricity, water and materials.

Mechanisms for reviewing and increasing the effectiveness of these measures

Formal reporting guidelines on environmental management and associated activities are used for an internal review of environment management processes. These include:

  • Sustainable procurement guide (2013)
  • Energy Use in Commonwealth Operations (annual publication)
  • The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) Green Office Procurement and Sustainable Office Management (2008).
Table 3.12. Resource use by ACIAR House, Canberra, 2017–18 and 2018–19





Energy (kilowatt hours)



Water (kilolitres)