The issues

The following briefs provide insights into nine key environmental issues with the aim to help you make informed funding decisions. Each brief outlines the theme, the challenges it faces and the solutions experts have proposed. These briefs are largely based on the Federal Government’s State of the Environment Report 2016.


Climate change

Climate change affects all aspects of our environment and our humanity. There is an urgent need to rapidly scale up action.

Climate change is already having a significant impact on our world. The environment, communities and the economy are reeling from the impact of the warming planet, extreme weather events and rising sea levels.

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Inland waters

Australia’s inland waters support globally significant biodiversity and are vitally important for agriculture, industry and communities. 

Yet everything we do in and around water catchments can impact and potentially degrade wetlands and the flora and fauna that rely on water flows.

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Land and biodiversity

Australia is an internationally renowned biological treasure, one of 17 “mega-diverse” countries.

Our national responsibility for The Australian continent is home to highly distinctive and diverse plants and animals — around 90 per cent of Australian mammals, frogs, reptiles and plants are found nowhere else.  

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Sustainable cities and communities

A sustainable city draws on the resources of its local, regional and global environments without compromising their ecological, social and economic boundaries. It provides all its inhabitants with access to safe, healthy and inclusive livelihoods. And it protects the rights and well-being of its most vulnerable citizens.

Regrettably, Australia’s major cities fall well short of this definition. 

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Sustainable economy

Sustainable economies enhance the environmental and social systems on which they depend. Yet Australia’s economy, and the world economic system it operates within, are depleting these systems.

Consequently, we now face critical challenges that require both immediate action and a commitment to creating a sustainable economy over the longer term.

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Sustainable food systems

Sustainable food systems restore and strengthen ecological systems, empower us all to realise our right to a full and healthy diet and enable food producers and consumers to determine what food they produce and eat, and how.

Yet our food system is unsustainable in all these ways. We are using non-renewable, polluting resources to produce food, which is degrading land and water systems. 

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Toxic chemical pollution underlies many environmental challenges, yet it is generally overlooked: industrial chemicals pervade our culture and the pollution they create is often invisible.

The reality is Australians live in a chemical soup, exposed to thousands of toxic chemical emissions from food, water and everyday products, and impacts are difficult to quantify.

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Indigenous land and sea management

The Indigenous estate held under various land rights and native title regimes covers about 1.7 million square kilometres or 23 per cent of the Australian land mass.

Many Indigenous landholdings are contiguous with or form an integral part of the National Reserve System which protects areas of high environmental value.

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Marine environment

Australians have a love affair with the beach and the coast, reflected in our coastal settlement, our recreation, arts and culture.

The diversity of three oceans, five climate zones, varied underwater seascapes and mighty currents bring together a trove of ocean treasures. With a coastline stretching 70,000 kilometres, Australia has the greatest diversity of marine species and habitats of any single nation.

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