4160.0.55.001 - Frameworks for Australian Social Statistics, Jun 2015  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/06/2015  First Issue
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BUILT AND NATURAL ENVIRONMENTS

WHAT ARE BUILT AND NATURAL ENVIRONMENTS?

'The built environment is the human-made surroundings where people gather to live, work and play. It encompasses both the physical structures where people do these activities and the supporting infrastructures, such as transport, water and energy networks.' (State of the Environment report, (SOE), 2011).

Close to two-thirds of Australians live in capital cities, with many living in other urban centres. Just over one in ten Australians live in outer regional and remote areas. 'The nature of the built environment in Sydney (major city) is vastly different from that in Cloncurry (remote). However, no matter how big or small, all urban environments place pressure on natural resources and have common characteristics that determine their suitability for living in.' (SOE 2011).

It is important for built environments to be well planned, provide adequate housing and access to services, and support health and safety. These environments should be somewhere that people enjoy living and being, and should support positive social interaction and inclusion. Built environments have practical value, as well as heritage, social and aesthetic aspects which contribute to wellbeing.

The natural environment is a concept which encompasses climate, atmosphere, natural resources, water, land, ecosystems and biodiversity.

BUILT AND NATURAL ENVIRONMENTS AND OUR WELLBEING

The environment, both built and natural, is fundamental to the quality of life and sense of wellbeing of Australians, as well as providing key inputs to the economy. Increasing population and economic pressures have caused many people to be increasingly concerned about the state of both the Australian and wider global environment.

The liveability of our urban environments is important for Australians as these environments should be somewhere people enjoy living and being, that also supports positive social interaction and inclusion. The quality of our built environments, and the significant impacts they have on people's lives, is an issue of growing importance; particularly given that the vast majority of Australians now live in urban areas.

A healthy natural environment is fundamental to the quality of life and wellbeing of Australians. It is also integral to a strong economy. However, the environment faces increasing pressures from growing populations and the need for economic resources, threatening to endanger the benefits that the environment provides to society. As a result, many people have become increasingly concerned about the state of the environment and its long-term health, both in Australia and globally.

In a national consultation conducted by the ABS in 2011-12, Australians said they cared about the importance of the liveability of urban environments (MAP 2013, ABS). For example, people said that built environments should be well planned, provide adequate housing and access to services, and support health and safety. Built environments have practical value, as well as heritage, social and aesthetic aspects which contribute to wellbeing. People aspired to be able to support the health of the natural environment both within their urban setting and beyond.

Getting a clear picture of current conditions and historical trends related to the built and natural environment can be challenging. The State of the Environment Report, 2011 provided insights on the following areas:

  • atmosphere
  • inland water
  • land
  • marine environment
  • antarctic environment
  • biodiversity
  • heritage
  • built environment
  • coasts.

The System of Environmental-Economic Accounting Central Framework (SEEA) focuses on the following environmental resources:
  • water
  • minerals
  • energy
  • timber
  • fish
  • soil
  • land and ecosystems
  • pollution and waste.

BUILT AND NATURAL ENVIRONMENTS AND OUR CHANGING WORLD

There are a range of events, pressures and drivers of change that have the potential to substantially affect wellbeing. In relation to built and natural environments, some examples of these factors include (What are the Drivers and Pressures causing environmental change? Integrated Environmental Assessment (IEA), United Nations Environment Programme):
  • impact of socio-economic changes, including economic growth and demand, on consumption and production patterns
  • trade patterns including the impact of transportation (e.g. food miles)
  • population growth and population distribution across Australia
  • science and technological innovation
  • distances travelled for work and leisure and mode of transportation - impact on traffic congestion, pollution, etc.
  • opportunities provided in the community, including work and housing opportunities
  • vulnerability of communities to droughts, floods and other natural disasters.

BUILT AND NATURAL ENVIRONMENTS AND ACTIONS SUPPORTING WELLBEING

There are many ways that people, community groups, governments and other institutions can work to improve outcomes for both the built and natural environments in Australia. Some examples include actions to (Advanced policy analysis, Integrated Environmental Assessment (IEA), United Nations Environment Programme):
  • be informed about environmental issues
  • change behaviours, such as, consumption and recycling
  • evaluate attitudes to environmental issues
  • participate in environmental projects
  • engage in decision making processes and the work of community environmental action groups
  • protect and develop green space
  • build awareness of efficient use of energy, infrastructure and transport
  • maintain well-functioning urban planning and renewal programs
  • maintain well-functioning transport systems and environmental policies, programs and regulation
  • energy related research and development such as renewable energy, landfill gas, cogeneration (combined heat-power)
  • implementation of sustainable agricultural practices
  • adoption of best available technologies for supporting the environment
  • encouraging efficiency improvements in the built environment.

BUT THIS IS NOT THE WHOLE STORY...

To gain a better understanding of built and natural environments in Australian society, look through the pages on:
  • Learning and knowledge
  • Health
  • Economic wellbeing
  • Housing
  • Culture and leisure
  • Work
  • Information and communication technology
  • Population

USEFUL RESOURCES

Need some more information on built and natural environments? This section can point you in the right direction.

United Nations, Framework for the Development of Environment Statistics - The Framework for the Development of Environment Statistics (FDES 2013) is a multi-purpose conceptual and statistical framework that is comprehensive and integrative in nature, and marks out the scope of environment statistics.

United Nations, System of Environmental-Economic Accounting - The System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) was adopted in 2012 as the first international statistical standard for environmental-economic accounting. It contains the internationally agreed standard concepts, definitions, classifications, accounting rules and tables for producing internationally comparable statistics on the environment and its relationship with the economy.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2015, Australian Environmental-Economic Accounts (cat. no. 4655.0) - This issue of the Australian Environmental-Economic Accounts brings all ABS environmental accounts together in one place to deliver a broad and cohesive picture of the environmental stocks and flows of relevance to the Australian economy and society.

The Department of the Environment, State of the Environment 2011 - Written by an independent committee of experts, the report presents a comprehensive review of the state and trends of the environment; the pressures on it and the drivers of those pressures; management initiatives in place to address environmental concerns and the impacts of those initiatives; its resilience and the unmitigated risks that threaten it; and provide an overall outlook for the Australian environment. This is a five yearly report with work currently being undertaken on the 2016 report.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013, Measures of Australia's Progress (cat. no. 1370.0) - This publication is designed to help Australians address the question, 'Is life in Australia getting better?' Measures of Australia's Progress provides a digestible selection of measures in answer to this question. Australians can use this evidence to form their own view of how our country is progressing. This 2013 release presents a refreshed set of indicators and new areas of progress, based on a public consultation process, includes themes and indicators under an Environment domain.

The Department of the Environment, Sustainable Australia Report, 2013 - This first report provides a picture of Australia, what we look like and who we are. It tells the story of how we have changed as a nation over the last 30 years.

The Department of the Environment, The Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan - The Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan is the overarching framework for protecting and managing the Great Barrier Reef from 2015 to 2050. The plan is a key component of the Australian Government’s response to the recommendations of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2010, Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) - This is the first volume of a series detailing the new Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS). It deals with the ASGS Main Structure (Statistical Area Levels 1 - 4) and the Greater Capital City Statistical Areas.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2015, Australian Environmental-Economic Accounts (cat. no. 4655.0) - This Australian Environmental-Economic Accounts (AEEA) contains accounts for key environmental themes.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Environment & Energy FAQs - Environment and Energy Frequently asked questions.

KEY TERMS

System for Integrated Economic and Environmental Accounting (SEEA)

The System for Environmental-Economic Accounting is a statistical framework used to develop environmental accounts by integrating environmental information into an accounting framework.

REFERENCES

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013, Measures of Australia's Progress (cat. no. 1370.0).

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2015, Australian Environmental-Economic Accounts (cat. no. 4655.0).

United Nations, 2012, System of Environmental-Economic Accounting Central Framework.

United Nations, Environment Programme, What are the DRIVERS and PRESSURES causing environmental change?

United Nations, Environment Programme, Advanced policy analysis.

The Department of the Environment, The Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan.

The Department of the Environment, State of the Environment 2011.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2010, Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS).


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