The importance of air quality
The air we breathe affects our health, our quality of life and our environment. Air pollution can cause heart and lung disease, cancer and other health problems.
For some pollutants, no level of exposure is safe.
Children, pregnant women and older people are especially vulnerable to air pollution. First Nations people and those with health conditions are also at greater risk.
Tracking Australia's air quality
The State of the Environment Report 2021 found Australia has good air quality in general, but there is still work to do.
Climate change will increase pressure on air quality. Bushfires, like those that occurred in the 2019-20 summer, expose large areas of Australia to dangerous levels of smoke. This can have a significant short-term impact on the air we breathe. A warming climate will also lead to increased smog in the summer, and drought will lead to dust storms.
Population growth is another challenge. As cities grow, so does demand for energy and transport, which can result in increased pollution if reliant on fossil fuels.
Industry can impact on local areas, leading to air quality concerns for residents. Wood heater smoke also causes localised pollution in built-up areas in winter.
Managing air quality in Australia
All levels of government play a role in managing Australia’s air quality.
The Australian Government works with states and territories to improve air quality and reduce people’s exposure to air pollution under the National Clean Air Agreement.
The Australian Government takes the lead on issues that need a national approach. This includes setting national standards and regulating imports of polluting products.
States and territories are responsible for air quality in their jurisdictions. They have laws and strategies in place to manage pollution, including from industrial facilities. They report against national ambient (outdoor) air quality standards that protect people’s health.
Local governments respond to local air pollution issues like wood heater smoke. They raise awareness about how household activities affect air quality.
The Department’s role
- We work with states and territories to maintain and improve Australia's air quality.
- We administer legislation related to air quality management and reporting.
- We support air quality research through the National Environment Science Program.
- We provide policy advice on air quality to the Australian Government.
Our legislation and obligations
National Clean Air Agreement
Sets a framework to help governments identify and prioritise actions to maintain and improve air quality and lists these in a work plan agreed by environment ministers.
National Environment Protection (Ambient Air Quality) Measure
A national framework to measure and monitor Australia’s ambient (outdoor) air quality.
National Environment Protection (National Pollutant Inventory) Measure
The National Pollutant Inventory provides free information about noxious emissions in Australia.
Other agencies that play a role in managing air quality
- The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts - manages emissions from vehicles and meeting Australia’s international obligations for shipping emissions.
- National Environment Protection Council - administers the national Environment Protection Measures (NEPMs). This includes the national ambient air quality standards and National Pollutant Inventory.
- State, territory and local governments are responsible for the monitoring and management of air quality in their jurisdictions: