Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand. If you like what you see, you are welcome to sign up (on the right) for free sustainable development news delivered direct to your inbox each weekday morning.

Energy and Climate Change

Global clean energy investment soars 17 per cent in 2014
Global clean energy investments grew 17 per cent to $270bn in 2014, reversing two years of declines, new UN figures show. A 148 per cent increase in offshore wind investments and major expansion of solar installations in China and Japan drove an improvement on 2013’s $232bn despite the challenge of rock-bottom crude oil prices, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) said in its latest Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investments report. The report is confirmation of the pick-up in investment over 2014 noted by reports from earlier this year, with Bloomberg New Energy Finance recording a 16 per cent rise to $310bn and Clean Energy Pipeline charting a 12 per cent surge to $274bn.

Developing countries close to taking lead in clean energy race
Renewable energy investments in developing countries are close to overtaking those in the developed world for the first time, research from the UN Environment Programme shows.In 2014, US$270 billion was invested in clean energy technologies, a 17% leap from the 2013 figure of $232 billion, with a record 103GW of power generation capacity added around the world.Of that, $139bn was directed towards industrialised countries and $131bn in emerging or developing economies.China experienced a 39% surge from 2013, with one in every three dollars spent on renewables around the world invested in the country.

Pic: 2015 UNEP Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investments

Pic: 2015 UNEP Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investments

Global trends in renewable energy investment 2015 | Bloomberg New Energy Finance
Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2015 is the eighth edition of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report. Based on data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, it has become the world’s foremost reference document on renewable energy investment, and for the examination of trends by region, country, sector and investment type. The report, commissioned by the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre, can be downloaded from

Rich nations’ fossil fuel export funding dwarfs spending on renewables, documents show
Rich nations provided far more in export subsidies for fossil-fuel technology as for renewable energy over a decade, according to OECD data seen by Reuters. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) figures on export credits are central to a debate on targeting funding ahead of U.N. climate talks in Paris at the end of the year. Just when the European Union is leading the push for a new global deal on curbing emissions and is phasing out domestic coal subsidies, the documents underline the scale of the developed world’s investment in exporting technology for the most polluting fossil fuel.

US pledges emissions cuts of up to 28% ahead of global climate treaty
The White House pledged to cut carbon pollution by up to 28% on Tuesday, boosting the prospects for an international agreement on climate change at the end of the year. With the US pledge, the countries accounting for nearly 60% of greenhouse gas emissions from energy have outlined their plans for fighting climate change in the 2020s and beyond, the White House said in a conference call with reporters. “That’s a big deal,” Brian Deese, the White House climate adviser wrote in a blog post announcing the pledge. “The United States’ target is ambitious and achievable, and we have the tools we need to reach it.” Deese told the conference call the US expected to achieve emissions cuts of 26% to 28% by 2025 relative to 2005 levels and was on track for an 80% cut in emissions by 2050.

Despite decades of deforestation, the Earth is getting greener
While the news coming out of forests is often dominated by deforestation and habitat loss, research published today in Nature Climate Change shows that the world has actually got greener over the past decade. Despite ongoing deforestation in South America and Southeast Asia, we found that the decline in these regions has been offset by recovering forests outside the tropics, and new growth in the drier savannas and shrublands of Africa and Australia.

Emissions slide began to reverse after the end of the carbon price, data show
Australia’s greenhouse emissions from the electricity sector jumped in the September quarter, reversing the industry’s declines during the two carbon tax years preceding it, the latest government data shows. According to the National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, released without fanfare last week by the Abbott government, emissions from power plants in the 12 months to September totalled 181.9 million tonnes,  or about 1.5 million tonnes more than for the year to June. The impact of the carbon price fell mostly on the electricity sector, which posted a year-on-year emissions reduction of 4 per cent, or 7.5 million tonnes, in the final 12 months of the carbon price, only to have that slide reverse in the September quarter after the tax was scrapped last July.

Fossil Fuel Divestment

Desmond Tutu intervenes over King’s College London’s refusal to divest
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, one of King’s College London’s (KCL) most revered former students, has intervened after the university rejected a demand from 1,400 staff and students to sell off its fossil fuel investments. The university says it supports relationships with fossil fuel companies “as long as they are open about any harm they might do, and that they are taking action to minimise this harm”. The vice principal dealing with the staff and students, Chris Mottershead, spent 30 years working for oil giant BP. Tutu, who was awarded the Nobel peace prize for his work in ending South Africa’s apartheid regime, is a strong supporter of fossil fuel divestment. “People of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change,” he told the Guardian in 2014. “It is clear [fossil fuel companies] are not simply going to give up; they stand to make too much money.”

Naomi Klein and Bill McKibben call on Paris to divest in Le Monde letter
Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything, and environmental activist Bill McKibben have written a joint letter in Le Monde to Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, asking her to pull the city’s investments out of fossil fuels. The campaign to divest Paris was launched on, the global climate movement founded by Bill McKibben. It calls upon the mayor to divest the pension fund of the city’s councillors and employees from fossil fuel companies, as well as to commit to not investing its new endowment fund in the same companies.

Environment and Biodiversity

Is Australia meeting the UN recommendations for the Great Barrier Reef?
The Reef 2050 Long-Term Sustainability Plan, released jointly by the federal and Queensland governments last weekend, claims that both governments “have responded to all recommendations of the World Heritage Committee and indeed have gone further”. Over the past four years the World Heritage Committee has made more than 28 separate recommendations or formal comments about the Great Barrier Reef (GBR).

Subsidies to industries that cause deforestation worth 100 times more than aid to prevent it
Brazil and Indonesia spent over 100 times more in subsidies to industries that cause deforestation than they received in international conservation aid to prevent it, according to a report by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI). The two countries handed out over $40bn (£27bn) in subsidies to the palm oil, timber, soy, beef and biofuels sectors between 2009 and 2012 – 126 times more than the $346m they received to preserve their rainforests from the United Nations’ (UN) REDD+ scheme, mostly from Norway and Germany.

Largest Rhino Airlift Ever to Move 100 At-Risk Animals
Weighing up to two and a half tons each, rhinos aren’t easy to herd, let alone pack into crates and ship across national borders in airplanes. But that’s what conservationists are doing with about a hundred rhinos in South Africa, in an admittedly desperate bid to save the endangered animals from poachers and establish new populations in the wild. “Rhino conservation is a desperate situation, so we are moving rhinos from the highest poaching areas to the lowest poaching areas,” says Dereck Joubert, a wildlife filmmaker and conservationist based in Botswana’s Okavango Delta.

4 Baby Bird Cams You Should Watch This Spring
Nothing says spring quite like little beaks clamoring to be fed. Across the United States, video cameras installed near nests are making avian stars out of baby birds and their parents, from bald eagles to great horned owls. These unobtrusive cameras offer both scientists and the general public a valuable window into birds’ tantrums, messy meals, and sibling rivalry. Some of these youngsters have been living large for weeks now, while others are too small to do much but snuggle under mom and dad. To avoid disturbing these new families, the cameras illuminate nests with infrared light, which birds aren’t able to see. Here’s [Nat Geo’s] pick for the season’s best nest cams.

Baby (seal) sitters wanted for Ohau Point
NEW ZEALAND – The Department of Conservation will soon hold a volunteer training session in Kaikoura for helpers to manage the Ohau Stream “baby seal encounter” that has become popular with tourists.  DOC partnership ranger Brett Cowan said it was an opportunity for volunteers to get involved with helping protect the species as well as ensure continued access to a rare and special place.  “It is only through the grace of the owner of the land that the public be allowed access. Because it is private land, visitors have to respect that, and respecting the seal pups is important.”

Economy and Business

Natural dyes v synthetic: which is more sustainable?
Colours derived from plants may appear more planet-friendly than man-made dyes, but the case isn’t clear-cut. Natural dyes have an older, more romantic heritage. Indigo, the most commonly known natural dye, is traced back to the days of the ancient India’s Indus river valley civilisation. “The use of natural dyes on cotton was India’s unique gift to the world,” says Simran Lal, CEO of GoodEarth, a luxury home and clothing brand in Delhi.  But natural dyes lack the vibrancy of synthetic dyes and rely on arable land to produce the base material, such as cotton, the easiest fabric for natural dyes to adhere to. Conventional cotton, though, requires farms to spend heavily on water.

It’s not charity: the rise of social enterprise in Vietnam
It’s mid-afternoon in the village of Duong O, Bac Ninh province, but Huong hasn’t got time to break for tea. She’s only halfway through the long, exhausting job of making a traditional paper called Do. It’s winter and her hands are raw from the process of dipping a framed screen into a trough of frigid water, raising the pulpy tree bark fibres from the surface and transferring them onto a board, where they will be pressed and dried to become a single sheet of paper.  On a good day, she can make around 800 pages, but it will take a month before the handmade paper is fit to sell.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Why H&M and Puma want to pick apart your old clothes
Clothing giants H&M and Puma are hoping to prove the value of a new recycling technology that can separate individual fibres and dyes from old clothes. The new partnership announced today will see Puma owner Kering and H&M use a technology developed by East London start-up Worn Again that aims to reduce the millions of tonnes of cotton and polyesters produced each year. The process uses chemicals to dissolve and separate polyester and cotton from old clothes and textiles. Puma and H&M hope to then use these extracted fibres to create new clothes.

Food Systems

AP: Your Seafood May Come From Slaves
Major seafood-selling brands such as Safeway, Walmart and Sysco are benefiting from slave labor, a new AP investigation has unveiled. Slave-caught fish can end up in the supply chains of major grocery stores, large retailers and the biggest food distributors. They also can find their way into the supply chains of popular brands of canned pet food, including Fancy Feast, Meow Mix and Iams. It can even end up as calamari at fine dining restaurants, as imitation crab in a California sushi roll or as packages of frozen snapper relabeled with store brands that land on our dinner tables, the AP reports. Many of the slaves come from Myanmar — one of the world’s poorest countries. They are brought to Indonesia through Thailand and forced to fish, and their catch is shipped back to Thailand, where it enters global supply chains.

Organic fruit and veg could increase sperm count
HIGHER LEVELS OF pesticide residue on fruit and vegetables are associated with lower quality of semen, according to a study (pdf) published today in the journal Human Reproduction. Its authors said the research was only an early step in what should be a much wider investigation. The researchers urged men not to stop eating fruit and vegetables, and pointed to organically-grown food, or food that is low in pesticides, as options for lowering any apparent risk.

Is There a Future With Enough Food — But Without Big Ag? (Opinion)
Big agriculture, while it has a limited capacity to provide surplus foodstuffs, cannot indefinitely operate under current conditions. Over time, the mechanisms that drive this type of food culture degrade, become less cost effective and even begin to be detrimental to the surrounding environment. But with our ever-expanding population, there are concerns about veering away from this model. What are the alternatives, and can we sustainably, responsibly feed ourselves in other ways? Below, we’ll examine some of the proposed alternatives, as well as the issues they aim to resolve within the food industry currently in place.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.