Sustainable Development News

Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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Prix Pictet prize 2015: shortlist captures theme of disorder – in pictures
Dramatic images of refugee smuggling, ivory poaching and floods feature in the shortlist for the sixth global award for photography and sustainability. The finalists and winning image will feature in an exhibition in Paris in November.

Energy and Climate Change

Wind power generates 140% of Denmark’s electricity demand
So much power was produced by Denmark’s windfarms on Thursday that the country was able to meet its domestic electricity demand and export power to Norway, Germany and Sweden. On an unusually windy day, Denmark found itself producing 116% of its national electricity needs from wind turbines yesterday evening. By 3am on Friday, when electricity demand dropped, that figure had risen to 140%.

Hazelwood owner makes big push into solar energy
The owner of the Hazelwood coal-fired power station, the dirtiest generator in Australia, has announced a major push into renewable energy, snapping up the international solar farm developer SolaireDirect for about $A300 million. GDF Suez, now known as Engie under a massive re-branding campaign that signals its shift from fossil fuels and nuclear to renewable energy, will become the largest solar and wind developer in France after the purchase.

Clean Energy Finance Corporation directed by Government to stop funding wind farms
The $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) has been told to stop investing in wind power projects, in a move the Federal Opposition has described as a “dramatic escalation” in the Government’s war on wind farms. Treasurer Joe Hockey and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann have written to the corporation directing it to change its investment mandate, banning new funding for wind projects.

What you should – and shouldn’t – believe about climate targets, via Mark Twain
“Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: ‘There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.'” – Mark Twain

In the near future, the Abbott government is expected to announce the pledge that it will take to the Paris climate change summit in December. Almost certainly, it will be confusing. This may not be the government’s intention, though it is reasonable to assume it won’t mind. For reasons not immediately clear, the diplomats who dreamed up the language of climate negotiations made the solution to this great global problem impenetrable to anyone beyond the trainspotter. Every word is argued over and carries meaning, but the resulting documents – a blur of acronyms, square brackets and bureaucratese  – can glaze eyes at Olympic standard.

Paris climate talks need business to move beyond greenwash and empty promises
The success of the Paris climate talks, COP 21, this December will not be measured by whether or not countries can all agree on a new global deal. It will rest on deals made outside the negotiation halls and beyond the traditional scope of international climate talks. The New York climate change summit last September offers one bellwether for tracking this change, where 481 private companies and investors joined national, city and regional governments, and nearly 400 civil society groups to craft and sign 29 different pledges for climate action.

Clean energy investment continues to lag behind last year
Clean energy investment worldwide was $53bn in the second quarter of 2015, just 3% less than a revised $54.4bn in Q1 2015 but down 28% compared to the $73.6bn recorded in Q2 2014. Global investment this year is facing headwinds from the financial markets, with the sharp rise in the US currency over the last 12 months reducing the dollar value of deals struck in other countries; and volatility in share prices, particularly in China, holding back equity-raising by specialist clean energy companies from both public market investors and venture capital and private equity funds.

Fossil Fuel Divestment

Fossil fuel industry must ‘implode’ to avoid climate disaster, says top scientist
An “induced implosion” of the fossil fuel industry must take place for there to be any chance of avoiding dangerous global warming, according to one of the world’s most influential climate scientists. Professor Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, an adviser to the German government and Pope Francis, said on Friday: “In the end it is a moral decision. Do you want to be part of the generation that screwed up the planet for the next 1,000 years? I don’t think we should make that decision.”

Environment and Biodiversity

Mount Rothwell: the feral free incubator for Victoria’s lost species
Annette Rypalski​ stands on aptly named “rock wallaby hill” looking out over the You Yangs. She would like to knock over the fences separating the Mount Rothwell Conservation Centre and the granite range so the dozens of the brush-tailed rock wallabies standing before her could spread out over the rise. But the abundance of feral predators out there means the threatened native creatures would not last very long. “This is really an ark,” she says of the centre, “until there is a wider solution to foxes and cats.”

Economy and Businessemployees sustainability

Future-Fit Businesses Include Sustainability in Leadership Competencies
Over the past few weeks, several people have shared with me how they’re using my sustainability competencies research and guide to define the leadership skills and knowledge needed for long-term business — and societal — success. The feedback has been swift and promising. I am delighted (and encouraged!) to hear about the distinct and specific ways that these individuals are putting the competencies research to work for their organizations.

Common, Rigorous, Robust Standards Needed for Sustainability to Fly in the Airline Industry
If you think about air travel and sustainability, a couple of things might occur to you: First, that you are not involved or interested; second, that since airlines are so dependent on liquid fuel, reducing their carbon emissions is a lost cause. But, you probably are involved, and flying can become less disruptive of the planet’s systems.

Market forces not basin plan to blame for rising Murray water prices says Environment Victoria
AUSTRALIA – A green group says rising water prices in the Murray River system are the result of market forces and not the fault of the basin plan. Irrigators and community leaders met federal politicians on Wednesday at Barham, near Kerang, to voice concern about issues, including a spike in temporary water costs. Some of the politicians at the meeting will be involved in a Senate inquiry into the effect of the basin plan, which was adopted in 2012. Environment Victoria’s Juliet Le Feuvre said the basin plan was not to blame and dry weather meant water was in high demand.

Inclusive Brisbane cafe Australia’s best small social enterprise
A humble cafe in Brisbane’s northern suburbs has won Australia’s best small social enterprise of the year award for its efforts employing a mix of people with and without disabilities. The Espresso Train cafe has run successfully for the past 15 years, becoming an integral part of the Nundah community. After wages, all the profits are ploughed back into the business to keep it open and employ more people with a range of abilities.

Politics and Society

These Toy Guns Fire Every Time There Is A Real-World Drone Strike
The way the military kills many people today is increasingly distant and mechanically controlled. It involves finding a target on a map, linking it to intelligence, and sending in a drone that executes the order by remote control. It’s a long way from traditional arm-to-arm conflict. Jonathan Fletcher Moore’s “artificial killing machine” represents some of this. His art installation suspends dozens of toy cap guns that fire, as if on command, with every real-world drone death. The exhibit is set off as new deaths are recorded in a public database on U.S. military drone strikes.

The Best Quotations (and Key Themes) From the Pope’s Environmental Manifesto: Part 1
I doubt you missed last month’s release of Pope Francis’ powerful “encyclical” on the environment. It’s sure to be considered a very important document in the history of sustainability – perhaps a turning point in the debate on climate change. I highly recommend reading the whole thing. But it is a 180-page pdf (albeit with smallish pages and large font), and contains nearly 40,000 words (part of the reason this blog is a few weeks late). My goal here was to pull some critical and fascinating quotes, perhaps cutting the reading by 80 to 90% for you. But first, a few key takeaways and what I see as his big themes.

Why the EU’s increasing failure to protect nature means I may vote no | George Monbiot
Had I been asked a couple of years ago how I would vote in the referendum on whether or not the UK should stay in the European Union, my answer would have been unequivocal. The EU seemed to me to be a civilising force, restraining the cruel and destructive tendencies of certain member governments (including our own), setting standards that prevented them from destroying the natural world or trashing workers’ rights, creating a buffer between them and the corporate lobby groups that present an urgent threat to democracy. Now I’m not so sure. Everything good about the EU is in retreat; everything bad is on the rampage.

Sleeping while the Pacific slowly sinks
NEW ZEALAND – Weather! We can’t get enough of it. The vicious beauty of the blistering hot and the blistering cold and the blowy extremes. The human drama. The raw and practical reality of the weather forecast, upon which livelihoods depend. Such are our appetites, it sometimes seems the 6pm television bulletins are just extended weather reports with bits of news squeezed between the isobars. Climate change! Yawn. A switch-off. It may be the joined dots of all those extreme weather stories. It may be downright crucial to livelihood. It may be dramatic, but what a drawn-out, miserable, even apocalyptic performance…

Climate forecast still clouded
Is the emissions-reduction target the Government announced this week ambitious, as it says, or feeble and inadequate, as its critics say? It depends on whether you look at it from where we are starting from, or where we are heading for. The legacy of woeful climate policy by the present Government and Labour before it – woeful from the standpoint of actually reducing emissions – is that emissions are running more than 20 per cent above 1990 levels. They shouldn’t be, but they are. So it means the conditional target the Government has settled on – 11 per cent below 1990 levels – represents a reduction of at least 27 per cent from current levels.

Welcome to 2050: Here’s what the planet has in store
Welcome to 2050. The days are hotter, the sun is harsher and sea levels are up. A series of extreme storms have hit NSW that have been directly linked to the warm ocean temperatures associated with global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is now 95 per cent certain that humans are the main cause of current global warming. Increased greenhouse gas emissions have led to atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide that are unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years. “I expect by 2050 … people just don’t go outside,” said Professor Andy Pitman, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science at UNSW.

Sustainability stats: [Last] week in numbers
It’s been a hectic week for sustainability professionals, with the Summer Budget leaving many edie readers with some big numbers to mull over…  As well as the new Government policies, there were a series of high-profile announcements from firms and charities.

Built Environment

UK scraps zero carbon homes target
Housebuilders, planners and green groups have condemned the government for scrapping plans to make all new UK homes carbon neutral. The zero carbon homes policy was first announced in 2006 by the then-chancellor Gordon Brown, who said Britain was the first country to make such a commitment.  It would have ensured that all new dwellings from 2016 would generate as much energy on-site – through renewable sources, such as wind or solar power – as they would use in heating, hot water, lighting and ventilation.

Airbus electric aircraft takes first flight across English Channel as French rival challenges claim
Airbus has hailed a new chapter in aviation history by claiming the first electric flight across the Channel, brushing off a similar feat by another French pilot a day earlier. Nearly 106 years after French pilot Louis Bleriot became the first to fly across the Channel, test pilot Didier Esteyne took off from Lydd Airport on the south-eastern English coast in Airbus’s battery-powered E-fan aircraft at 10:15am on Friday. In a bright, cloudless sky he flew 74 kilometres to the Calais Dunkerque airport in 38 minutes at an altitude of 1,000 metres.

Solar Impulse grounded for 2-3 weeks
The record-breaking Solar Impulse plane will be grounded in Hawaii for at least two weeks because of battery damage. The solar-powered vehicle overheated its electrical storage units during the historic, five-day crossing from Japan. Engineers are trying to fix the plane but are not sure yet if new parts will be needed to get it back up into the air again. The delay makes it less likely that Solar Impulse will complete its round-the-world quest this year.

Food Systems

This New Vegetarian Drive-Thru Wants To Redefine Fast Food
While McDonald’s continues to hemorrhage millions each month, a new California startup is quietly attempting to set a different standard for fast food. Technically, Amy’s Drive Thru is not exactly a startup—the burger joint is the brainchild of Amy’s Kitchen, a vegetarian frozen food empire. After 27 years of making packaged mac and cheese and burritos, Amy’s is launching an all-vegetarian, 95% organic diner in Rohnert Park, a city north of San Francisco. Everything will be made from scratch on site—from tofu to buns—and will be ready in less than three minutes.

A Visual Guide To All Of Those Unpronounceable Ingredients In Processed Food
If you’ve ever perused an ingredient list and wondered why there’s polyglycerol polyricinoleate in your candy bar or tertiary-butylhydroquinone in your cereal—or what, exactly, those things are—a new book has the answers. Ingredients includes close-up photos of 75 common additives, along with descriptions of their origins and use. Ethylenediaminetetracetic acid sucks up any trace metals in food to stop oxidation. Disodium inosinate multiplies the umami taste of MSG by a factor of six or eight. Carrageenen, made from seaweed flour, binds up fats and proteins in chocolate milk and is also used in everything from salad dressing to beer (and air fresheners, shoe polish, and personal lubricant).

Taranaki’s environmental state reflects public aspirations
NEW ZEALAND – Janet Fleming dreams of an organic future. The Taranaki dairy farmer simply sees good sense in farmers turning their back on petrochemical fertilisers, pharmaceuticals for their animals and chemical herbicides. “I can’t see why it’s not attractive, but I’m a little one-eyed,” Fleming says. It’s not hard to see why. Fonterra buys the Flemings’ organic milk at a premium, currently $1.75 more per litre than non-organic. In a season with a forecast payout hovering around the $4 mark, the organic extra is especially enticing. Despite this, Fleming isn’t expecting many of Taranaki’s 1700 farms to rush to switch from conventional dairy methods, even with the money on offer. It’s getting cheaper to go the all natural way but the start up costs can be onerous, as is the stress and worry that comes from straying from the herd.


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