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Friday 07 December 2018

Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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In today’s top story you can hear from someone else who thinks that every choice you make, matters. In other news, glacial melt is happening faster than ever; biodiversity lessons learned in planting trees from Japan; spend billions now to save trillions for climate adaptation; a survey shows employees want their employers to have emissions targets; and Australian industry and states push the federal government for funding to deal with the recycling crisis.

Top Story

We need to become climate change #influencers |
The small things I do to fight a problem as vast as climate change seem insignificant. I think any one person – if they think of it at all – may not bother to make any changes, because after all, what difference can one person’s paltry plastic-use or car ride make?

Climate Change

COP24 President defends participation of coal companies at climate talks | ABC News
POLAND – COP24 President Michal Kurtyka has defended displays of coal soap and jewellery at key climate change talks in Poland, saying “it’s good to have everybody on board”. Conference attendees were confronted with coal displays in the foyer and greeted by a performance from the Polish Coal Miners Band during the talks designed to bring about global action on climate change. Polish President Andrzej Duda said using coal was not in conflict with climate protection, and with the climate change talks taking place in the city of Katowice — a coal mining stronghold — some observers said the setting undermined the purpose of the talks.

Climate change made UK heatwave 30 times more likely – Met Office | The Guardian
UK – The sweltering heat that hit the UK this summer was made 30 times more likely by human-caused climate change, a Met Office analysis has found. Scientists said the research showed global warming was already harming people’s lives and was not only a future threat. Without rapid cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, such heatwaves would happen every other year by mid-century, the Met Office said.

Climate change: Greenland ice sheet melting faster than at any time in last 400 years, researchers warn | The Independent
Greenland’s ice sheets are melting faster than at any time in the last 400 years, researchers have warned. A new study has found the Greenland melt is pushing up sea levels worldwide and is caused by global warming. The lead scientist on the paper, Dr Luke Trusel, said: “Melting of the Greenland ice sheet has gone into overdrive.

We’ve been studying a glacier in Peru for 14 years – and it may reach the point of no return in the next 30 | The Conversation
PERU – High mountain environments in South America, which in many locations encompass peaks that reach 21,000 feet (6,500 meters) or more in altitude, are home to some of the most spectacular glaciers on our planet. My research on one particular glacier shows how endangered these environments are.

Two photos taken from the same location 15 years apart shows the extent of glacier retreat on world’s largest tropical ice cap at Quelccaya, Peru. Doug Hardy, CC BY-SA

Two photos taken from the same location 15 years apart shows the extent of glacier retreat on world’s largest tropical ice cap at Quelccaya, Peru. Doug Hardy, CC BY-SA

Climate change resilience could save trillions in the long run – but finding billions now to pay for it is the hard part | The Conversation
Is your city prepared for climate change? The latest National Climate Assessment paints a grim future if U.S. cities and states don’t take serious action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The bottom line is that the costs of climate change could reach 10 percent of the entire U.S. economy by the end of the century – or more than US$2 trillion a year – much of it in damage to infrastructure and private property from more intense storms and flooding. Cities can greatly reduce the damage and costs through adaptation measures such as building seawalls and reinforcing infrastructure. The problem is such projects are expensive, and finding ways to fund the cost of protecting cities against future and uncertain threats is a major financial and political challenge – especially in places where taxpayers have not yet experienced a disaster.

Environment and Biodiversity

Learning from the past: Japan’s reforestation efforts provide lessons for other countries | Ensia
At first glance, Nishiawakura — a village in southern Japan — looks picturesque. The hills surrounding the valley in which Nishiawakura sits are a lovely, dense dark green, covered almost entirely with evergreen trees, while the river running through the center is crystal clear. But take a walk in the woods and immediately something seems amiss. No undergrowth; an eerie silence; dry, hard soil; and confounding uniformity — nearly all the trees are the same height and spaced evenly apart.

The ‘great dying’: rapid warming caused largest extinction event ever, report says | The Guardian
Rapid global warming caused the largest extinction event in the Earth’s history, which wiped out the vast majority of marine and terrestrial animals on the planet, scientists have found. The mass extinction, known as the “great dying”, occurred around 252m years ago and marked the end of the Permian geologic period. The study of sediments and fossilized creatures show the event was the single greatest calamity ever to befall life on Earth, eclipsing even the extinction of the dinosaurs 65m years ago.

As the mammal tree of life suffers hits, should we prioritize which species to save? | Mongabay
More than 300 mammal species have gone extinct since shortly before the last ice age, a loss of more than 2.5 billion years of evolutionary history across all ancestral lines, a sweeping study reports. Even in the best-case scenario — we completely stop climate change and extinctions within 50 years — evolution would need at least three million years to redevelop that lost biodiversity. Choosing to save the most distinct at-risk species is one way to minimize ongoing damage to the mammal tree of life.

Vast palm oil project in Papua must be investigated by government, watchdogs say | Mongabay
INDONESIA – Last week, Mongabay, Tempo, Malaysiakini and Earthsight’s The Gecko Project published an investigation into the story behind the Tanah Merah project, an enormous palm oil development in Papua, Indonesia, whose owners remain shrouded in secrecy. Observers say what while Papuans have a right to development, the Tanah Merah project is clearly intended to benefit the wealthy and connected individuals who have coalesced around it. Watchdog groups want Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s administration to investigate the permits underpinning the project with an eye toward cancelling them. They have also called on authorities to implement a new regulation requiring companies to disclose their beneficial owners.

Oil palms on the edge of the Tanah Merah project. Image by Nanang Sujana for The Gecko Project.

Oil palms on the edge of the Tanah Merah project. Image by Nanang Sujana for The Gecko Project.

$30.5 million hit planned for ‘mega mast’ | Newsroom
NEW ZEALAND – When I last visited a forest frequented by orange-fronted parakeet/kākāriki karaka, there was quiet optimism. In 2009, I accompanied Department of Conservation (DOC) ranger Sandy Yong to Canterbury’s Hawdon Valley, near Arthur’s Pass, while she checked rat tracking tunnels and traps. Back then, kākāriki numbers were estimated to be between 200 and 400 birds in three valleys – the Hawdon and Poulter in Arthur’s Pass National Park, and the south branch of the Hurunui River. Yong thought the bird numbers were slowly growing. But she was concerned about a predator population explosion from that year’s beech mast. Today, kākāriki are holding on, but only just. DOC senior ranger Lyndon Slater says there are only 100 to 150 birds left.

An orange-fronted parakeet on Maud Island, Marlborough Sounds. Photo: DOC

An orange-fronted parakeet on Maud Island, Marlborough Sounds. Photo: DOC

Economy and Business

Survey: Employees frustrated by corporate inaction on climate change | BusinessGreen
The vast majority of UK businesses have failed to set carbon emissions targets, while significant numbers are yet to deploy even the most basic sustainability measures. That is the sobering conclusion of a new survey commissioned by environmental consultancy Carbon Credentials, which polled 1,000 heads of sustainability and business owners and a further 1,000 junior managers. It found only 10 per cent of businesses had set carbon emissions targets and none had set science-based emissions targets in line with the recommendations of climate scientists.

Facebook’s new King’s Cross HQ secures UK’s first ‘green loan’ | BusinessGreen
Facebook’s planned King’s Cross HQ is set to become one of the UK’s greenest office buildings, after developer Argent secured the first multi-million pound loan facility to be awarded in line with the recently launched Green Loan Principles. Launched earlier this year, the Green Loan Principles were drawn up by the EMEA and Asia Pacific Loan Market Associations and are designed to ensure projects meet a raft of demanding environmental standards.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Wasted opportunity: Industry states seek federal recycling funding | SMH
AUSTRALIA – Major states and the recycling industry say the Morrison government must allocate funding if it’s serious about implementing a much-needed nationwide waste strategy to address mounting piles of refuge. Melissa Price, the federal environment minister, will on Friday push for an agreement on a National Waste Policy at a meeting with state and territory counterparts in Canberra.

Packaging suppliers asked to take stock amid misleading recycling claims |
NEW ZEALAND – Companies are creating a “tsunami” of plastic waste by falsely telling consumers their packaging can be recycled when it cannot, an eco-educator says. Eco Educate founder Lesley Ottey said she was horrified to discover her local Spark store was giving out bags it claimed were recyclable.

Politics and Society

Calls for inquiry into protected Queensland wetlands development assessment | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – Environment groups have called for an independent probe into the government’s assessment of an apartment and marina development on protected wetlands in Queensland. It comes after revelations the former environment minister Josh Frydenberg rejected advice from the environment department that the development was “clearly unacceptable”.


Renewable energy reduces power prices by more than cost of subsidies, study finds | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – A landmark study has shown that renewable energy has reduced electricity prices by far more than the subsidies paid for it. The independent study, by the Victoria Energy Policy Centre, focused on the South Australian electricity market and confirmed households in the state have on average the highest electricity prices in the world.

Solar panels at pension prices sees regional city taking energy into its own hands | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Low-income residents of a regional South Australian city are using an innovative solar scheme to shave money off their power bills. The Port Pirie Regional Council recognised that with more than half of the city’s population on government benefits, its residents could not afford runaway energy prices or a $3,000 solar system on their homes.

Built Environment

Are the tech giants taking over as your city leaders? | The Conversation
Global tech players such as Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon – the so-called Big 4, or GAFA – Airbnb and Tesla are redefining work, mobility, leisure and the everyday of how we live. Our cities are increasingly being used as laboratories for countless innovations. Cities are expected to be home to nearly 70% of the world’s population by 2050, with 95% of urban population growth taking place in developing countries.

Food Systems

Revolutionising fertiliser for a healthier reef | UQ News
AUSTRALIA – The Great Barrier Reef and Australia’s delicate ecosystems will benefit from a research project that aims to cut the amount of nitrogen fertiliser that ends up in our waterways. Researchers from The University of Queensland are working to revolutionise fertiliser technology in a bid to prevent run-off and nutrient loss. Researcher Dr Paul Luckman said today’s fertiliser technology was behind the times. “Plants only absorb around 50 per cent of the fertiliser’s nutrients, with the other half released into the air, running into nearby estuaries or leaching into ground water,” he said.

How NZ could cut agriculture emissions by to 10 per cent | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – Most in the agriculture sector want to reduce their emissions to fight climate change – yet nearly half of farmers don’t know how to go about it. That was among the key findings from two years of research into the opportunities, costs and barriers of reducing biological emissions in New Zealand’s primary industries. The Biological Emissions Reference Group (BERG)’s just-issued report also indicated that if all farmers operated using today’s best practice, the country might be able to slash emissions by up to 10 per cent.

More people are experiencing severe food allergies than ever before | The Conversation
The recent inquest into the death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse from anaphylaxis after eating a Pret A Manger baguette she was unaware contained sesame, could lead to a change in labelling legislation. Indeed, a recent investigation found that undeclared allergens were present in a quarter of foods sampled. But a more fundamental issue needs to be addressed: why are more people experiencing severe food allergies than ever before?