Why is air quality important?
Air quality affects our health, the liveability of our cities and towns, and our environment. Air pollution, particularly from human activity, can cause health problems that affect the heart and lungs, and can cause cancer.
Even short-term exposure to air pollution can cause health problems. Children, the elderly and people with existing heart and lung conditions are especially affected by air pollution.
How is Australia tracking?
By world standards Australia has very clean air, but there is still work to do. Challenges to maintaining and improving our air quality include population growth, more people living in cities, and growing demand for energy and transportation.
Who manages air quality in Australia?
All levels of government play a role in managing Australia’s air quality.
To help ensure a clean air future, Australia’s Environment Ministers established the National Clean Air Agreement to help governments prioritise national actions to address air quality issues.
State and territories have primary responsibility for monitoring and managing air quality in their jurisdictions. They monitor and report against national ambient (outdoor) air quality standards that protect health. They also have legislation and strategies in place to manage air quality, including for point source emissions from a particular industry or facility where local circumstances play a key role.
The Australian Government takes a lead role in national issues such as fuel quality and vehicle emissions as well as implementing Australia’s international obligations. In addition the Australian Government is able to take a national approach on issues that have been identified by all Australian governments and includes the decision to manage noxious emissions from outdoor powered equipment and propulsion marine engines through the Product Emissions Standards Act 2017 and Product Emissions Standards Rules 2017
Local governments respond to local air pollution issues like wood heater smoke and undertake activities to raise awareness about household activities that can impact on air quality.
What is the Department’s role?
- Together with states and territories, we help maintain and improve Australia's air quality through delivering actions under the National Clean Air Agreement.
- We administer legislation related to air quality management and reporting.
- We seek to improve the science relating to air quality through the National Environment Science Programme.
- We provide policy advice on air quality matters.
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.
Product Emissions Standards Act 2017
A legislative framework for setting emissions standards for certain products to address the adverse health and environmental impacts of air pollution from these products.
Product Emissions Standards Rules 2017
The Rules set standards to limit emissions from outdoor power equipment and marine engines.
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.
Fuel Quality Standards Act 2000 and fuel quality standards
A legislative framework to set national fuel quality and fuel quality information standards for Australia.
Links to other agencies who play a role in managing air quality
- Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications - manages emissions from vehicles and meeting Australia’s international obligations for shipping emissions.
- National Environment Protection Council - administers the national Environment Protection Measures (NEPMs) including the national ambient air quality standards and National Pollutant Inventory.