The Australian Government has developed policy and guidance on outcomes-based conditions under the EPBC Act. Outcomes-based conditions specify the environmental outcome that must be achieved by an approval holder without prescribing how that outcome should be achieved. Outcomes-based conditions allow approval holders to be innovative and achieve the best environmental outcome at the lowest cost, while increasing the public transparency of the required environmental outcomes.
The outcomes-based conditions policy will:
- allow businesses to focus on achieving environmental outcomes when taking an action approved under the EPBC Act, and
- allow the Department of the Environment to focus post-approval efforts on monitoring environmental outcomes.
To guide proponents on the use of outcomes-based conditions, the Department of the Environment has drafted two documents:
- The Outcomes-based Conditions Policy provides a detailed explanation of what outcomes-based conditions are and what circumstances are suitable for outcomes-based conditions.
- The Outcomes-based Conditions Guidance provides guidance to proponents and decision makers on defining outcomes, the elements of outcomes-based conditions, and the assurance framework which will apply to outcomes-based conditions.
The Department released the Draft Outcomes-based Conditions policy and guidance for public comment from 10 August 2015 to 5 October 2015.
The objectives of the policy
The Outcomes-based Conditions Policy will benefit the environment by shifting the focus of attention to environmental outcomes that an approval holder is required to achieve. Approval holders will be accountable and responsible for achieving a set of outcomes for matters protected by the EPBC Act.
Approvals with outcomes-based conditions require robust and transparent monitoring and reporting of environmental information. Increasing the focus on environmental outcomes increases transparency and the public can clearly see what outcomes an approval holder is expected to achieve. Requiring approval holders to make this information public will result in greater public access to environmental information. This will improve the ability of regulators and other interested groups to understand and manage Australia’s environment.
Outcomes-based conditions also encourage innovation. Approval holders will be able to design the most effective solutions to achieve a given environmental outcome, and can take advantage of new technologies as they become available.
Outcomes-based conditions define the environmental outcome that must be achieved by the approval holder, instead of the process to be followed. The best method for achieving the outcome is chosen by the approval holder, and the Department only needs to be informed about progress towards the outcomes. Outcomes-based conditions will usually include interim milestones, which are tailored to each project and condition. Outcomes-based conditions will be accompanied by conditions requiring regular monitoring and public reporting.
The guidance includes more detailed information about the assurance framework for outcomes-based conditions, including monitoring and reporting requirements.
Who can be involved?
All conditions of approval should be designed to achieve the best possible outcome for the relevant protected matter. Actions and impacts will vary in the extent of their suitability for outcomes-based conditions. Some actions or aspects of an action may not be suitable for the application of outcomes-based conditions.
In general, an outcomes-based condition may be appropriate if the proponent can demonstrate:
- high quality environmental ‘baseline’ data for the impacted project site or at other relevant locations (eg control sites or offset sites), and
- willingness and capability achieve an environmental outcome and monitor progress.
How will existing development proposals be affected?
The application of the policy to existing proposals will depend on what stage of the assessment process the project is in. Proponents with questions about specific projects should contact the Department.
If you would like further information about the Policy please contact the Department’s Business Entry Point using one of the following methods:
Business Entry Point
Environment Assessment Branch
Department of the Environment
GPO Box 787
CANBERRA ACT 2601
Clearly mark the email as ‘EPBC Act Outcomes-based Conditions Policy’ and (if relevant) specify the project name and EPBC project number.