The 2018 report looks at 21 environmental topics across six broad themes covering Drivers, Human Settlement, Climate and Air, Land, Biodiversity and Water and Marine. The report shows population growth and human activity have influenced air and water quality, ecosystems and threatened species.
Key findings in this SoE Report include:
- Air quality is generally good, drinking water quality has been maintained at a high quality and the recreational water quality of our beaches continues to be good.
- The overall rate of greenhouse gas emissions has fallen 18.5% since 2005.
- Electricity generation from renewable resources has more than doubled from 6% in 2007 to 16% in 2017 and growth has accelerated rapidly over the past three years
- The NSW economy is predominantly services based and there is evidence that economic growth is ‘decoupling’ from the use of environmental resources.
- The NSW Government’s $802.5 million Waste Less, Recycle More program has continued to be effective in managing waste, with littering down and new recycling facilities opening for problem wastes.
- About 9.5% of NSW is conserved in the public reserve system. Although the rate of new reservations has slowed, with around 32,000 ha being added to reserves since 2015, there is a greater focus on off-reserve conservation.
Many of the challenges reported in previous SoE reports remain in the 2018 report findings. These include:
- The growing population of NSW continues to exert pressure on the environment. Innovative ways to use our natural resources more sustainably and to protect fragile ecosystems must continue to be found.
- The effects of climate change are already evident but these will become broader and intensify in the future.
- The number of species listed as threatened in NSW continues to rise. These species are at the greatest risk from threats including vegetation clearing, the spread of invasive species and the mounting impacts of climate change.
- NSW is still heavily dependent on non-renewable sources of energy such as coal for power generation. Transport has become the largest (and fastest growing) sector for energy use.
- The condition of most native vegetation is deteriorating.
- Our love of the coast continues to put pressure on the condition of coastal estuaries and lakes.
Population has grown at about 1.5% per annum over the past 5 years and is the main driver of environmental issues.
Since 1990, the NSW economy has grown by 2.6% a year, but over the past 10 years levels of resource use have dropped.
The economy has shifed from a resource intensive industry base, to now be 70% services-based...
Energy use has dropped by 6% since 2012-13 and there has been strong growth in the uptake of renewable sources of electricity.
The use of energy for transport continues to rise at a steady rate in line with population.
Litter has dropped by 37% over the past 5 years and recycling of waste has increased...
Climate and Air
The effects of climate change, especially increases in temperature, are already being felt, but will become more intense in the future.
NSW greenhouse gas emissions peaked in 2007 and are now 18.7% lower than 2005 levels.
Air quality is generally good but ozone and particles continue to pose a health concern in some regions...
Soil resources in NSW are generally in a moderate condition. Declines are mainly due to acidification caused by intensified land use.
Native vegetation covers 61% of NSW. The latest reported clearing rate in 2014–15 was 14,700 hectares/year.
The public reserve system covers 7.59 million hectares or around 9.5% of land in NSW...
The number of species considered at risk of extinction continues to rise. There are currently 1025 species listed as threatened in NSW.
However, the conservation status of 64% of land-based vertebrates is presently not threatened.
Invasive species are a major threat and are widespread across land and aquatic environments...
Water and Marine
The share of water for protecting the aquatic environment is growing.
Drought conditions are intensifying. The overall condition of rivers is moderate but waterbirds and fish communities are in poor condition.
The marine and coastal environments are in good condition overall, but estuaries are more variable...