Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Top Story

International Tiger Day: How are tigers faring now?

[Friday was] dedicated to the largest of the big cats — the tiger (Panthera tigris). This awe-inspiring animal once ranged widely across Asia. But now, the animal has vanished from more than 93 percent of its former range. Only 3,000 to 4,000 wild tigers remain and the species is currently listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. Three subspecies of tigers — the Bali tiger (P. t. balica), the Caspian tiger (P. t. virgata), and the Javan tiger (P. t. sondaica) — have become extinct. But six tiger subspecies still roam the earth. So how are these tigers faring in a human-dominated world? Mongabay takes a look.


An estimated 400 Sumatran tigers are believed to survive in the wild. Photo by Monka Betley, released under license GFDL.

An estimated 400 Sumatran tigers are believed to survive in the wild. Photo by Monka Betley, released under license GFDL.

Energy and Climate Change

Debate needed on 1.5C temperature target
Scientists are calling for a “thoughtful debate” about the wisdom of attempts to keep a global rise in temperatures under 1.5C. At the Paris climate summit last December, governments agreed that they would “pursue efforts” to keep warming below this figure. But a new study shows the limit will be breached over land, even if emissions of warming gases ceased immediately. The research has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

What the Earth’s frozen burps tell us about global warming
Law Dome is a special spot in eastern Antarctica where scientists have been drilling down into the continent’s long-frozen surface to pull out cores of ice. Trapped in the ice cores are bubbles that give a record of the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere going back tens of thousands of years. New analysis of those bubbles by a group of Australian, British and Italian scientists could have just given an answer to a crucial question. As the Earth gets warmer, how will the planet’s soils and plants react? Will they start to “burp” too much CO2 and, if so, how much?

Britain’s energy dilemma: if not nuclear power, then what?
Britain faces a problem in coping with its complex energy demands. It needs to provide extra energy to meet rising demands for power in coming decades but at a reasonable cost – while also reducing carbon emissions by considerable levels in order to meet its climate change commitments. This is not an easy combination to achieve. However, Hinkley Point was considered by many experts to be a crucial aid in reaching these goals.

Hinkley Point C delay: how to exploit this attack of common sense in energy policy
These are extraordinary times for energy policy in the UK. After years of resigned acceptance that the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station would be built no matter how much of a basketcase it was, the government has surprised everyone by calling a halt to the process until the autumn… Few people argue that Hinkley Point C makes sense. The project’s budget has grown from original estimates of £16 billion to £24.5 billion today. Even this might be an underestimate given the experience of cost overruns similar reactors under construction in Finland, France and China.

Chernobyl could be reinvented as a solar farm, says Ukraine
The contaminated nuclear wasteland around Chernobyl could be turned into one of the world’s largest solar farms, producing nearly a third of the electricity that the stricken plant generated at its height 30 years ago, according to the Ukrainian government.

Dear corporate Canada: it’s time to pay for your part in climate change
By 2030, Canada intends to see its greenhouse gas emissions fall 30% from the 2005 levels of 749 megatonnes. To get there, the country expects its businesses to play an important role in a new plan that will include a program to make companies pay for their carbon emissions. Under the new government, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Canada expects to unveil a carbon pricing program as early as this fall. “We’re going to make sure there is a strong price on carbon right across the country,” Trudeau said during a TV interview last week.

Can America’s first floating wind farm shake off environmental concerns?
The deep waters off the coast of California could become home to the country’s largest offshore wind energy project and a test case for a technology that is still in its infancy. The 765-megawatt project, proposed by Seattle-based Trident Winds, would sit about 25 miles off California’s central coast, near the town of Cambria. If built, it will be larger than the 630-megawatt London Array off the coast of Kent, – the world’s largest working offshore wind farm that began operating in 2013.

EPA limits on aircraft emissions are ready for takeoff
The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday declared that jet engine exhaust endangers public health by contributing to climate change, a key milestone as it works to develop regulations that will cut carbon emissions from commercial aircraft. Regulating aircraft emissions is part of the Obama administration’s goal under the Paris Climate Agreement to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by up to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

Plunging cost of big solar in Australia
Australia still does not have a significant amount of utility-scale solar installed on a global scale, but its rapid short-term growth has already been enough to drive costs down faster than even the most optimistic project developers could have predicted.

Environment and Biodiversity

Poll: Marine reserve reform should cover EEZ
NEW ZEALAND – Most Kiwis think proposed legislation to protect our marine habitats doesn’t stretch far enough, a new poll suggests. The Colmar Brunton poll, commissioned by conservation group WWF, showed three quarters of respondents want the proposed Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Act to allow new reserves to be set up in all of our deep ocean territory, rather than just in the coastal waters the reform targets.

Star spangled shoot ’em ups bringing big bucks to Kiwi countryside
Big-game trophy hunters from the United States are shooting thousands of Kiwi critters every year, but local hunting guides are upset they’re being shut out of the market. And they’re paying big bucks to do it, industry insiders say. Data from the Humane Society shows Americans killed almost 44,000 animals in New Zealand for trophies between 2005 and 2014.
[Ed: FYI, if you’re not from New Zealand, all mammals (apart from a few species of tiny bat) are introduced to New Zealand and most of them are considered pests for the damage they do to the native ecosystem.]

How we can out-sniff a kiwi-killing predator
NEW ZEALAND – Researchers have happened upon a clever new way to fool a notorious kiwi-killing predator – by using its own sense of smell against it. Experiments by Auckland University and Landcare Research have revealed that stoats, the major killer of young kiwi chicks in the wild, are attracted to the smell of their two biggest enemies, cats and ferrets, raising the possibility of using their scent as a lure for traps.

Wellington backs down on cat curfew, but continues push for compulsory microchipping
NEW ZEALAND – The Wellington City Council has decided not to include a cat curfew in its new animal bylaw, but one councillor is still pushing to make microchipping moggies mandatory. In May, city councillors voted to toughen up the proposed animal bylaw, suggesting compulsory microchipping, limiting the number of cats people could own, and putting a curfew on when cats could roam free. But environment committee chairwoman Iona Pannett said on Friday that the curfew idea had been ditched, after public consultation.


Group working towards making Parramatta River safe for swimming in next decade
AUSTRALIA – It has been referred to as an “ambitious target”, but hopes remain high that Sydney’s Parramatta River could be safe for swimming by 2025. However, some believe it will not happen unless the State Government changes its emphasis on Sydney’s development. The Parramatta River Catchment group has reintroduced swimming at Parramatta Lake further upstream and their goal now is to make more of the river usable for swimmers.

Economy and Business

Let your product do the talking: the rise of smart labels
Smart labels tell a product’s origin story, right down to where it can be laid to rest responsibly. Software maps supply-chain journeys automatically, reducing the potential for counterfeit. Invisible, digital ink that validates provenance. Just a few years ago, technologies such as these were the realm of science fiction. Now, they’re making their way into the real world.

The eco guide to clean beauty
An umbrella term meaning organic, natural, non-toxic/safe and ethical, “clean beauty” is the next thing in the beauty industry. Sales of clean products seem to be outperforming conventional brands, many of which use unsustainable petro- chemicals. recently held the UK’s first clean beauty show

Consumers lose out to Australia’s protectionist anti-dumping laws
Australia’s anti-dumping system has become tool for protecting industries which aren’t competitive. Over time federal government has cranked up penalty charges on imports, such as steel, deemed unfairly under-priced, to protect these businesses. It’s Australian consumers who bear the cost. In its latest Trade and Assistance Review, the Productivity Commission found a pronounced spike in anti-dumping duties. The average duty on imports considered “dumped” (sold below market prices) was 5% each year between 2006 and 2011. Between 2012 and 2015 it rose 15%.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Plastic bag use plummets in England since 5p charge
Plastic bag use has plummeted in England since the introduction of a 5p charge last year, the government has said. In the six months after the levy was brought in last October, 640 million plastic bags were used in seven major supermarkets in England, it says. In 2014, the waste reduction charity Wrap estimated the same shops had used 7.64 billion bags over the full year. If that trend were to continue over the year this would be a drop of 83%. It follows the pattern seen in the rest of the UK since the introduction of charges for bags.

Minutes on the lips, a lifetime on the tip: the coffee cup waste mountain
It won’t have escaped anyone’s notice that the number of coffee shops in our towns and cities has grown rapidly over the past decade. As a consequence the number of disposable cups thrown away has exploded to an estimated 2.5 billion a year, or around 5,000 every minute. The sheer number of cups is clearly staggering, but the real controversy covered by Fearnley-Whittingstall’s programme was that these cups are not being recycled – even though the companies claim to be making efforts to do it.

Politics and Society

Here’s your sustainability summer reading list
Summer is here, [or winter, if you’re downunder,] hopefully bringing more opportunities to catch up on leisure reading. While you may eat, drink and breathe news and feature articles, a deep dive into a good book can bring deeper knowledge and satisfaction. Whether postcapitalism, billion-dollar brands, the circular economy or grand strategies pique your interest, there are plenty of great new titles this summer.  Below, find seven new books that should be on every corporate sustainability professional’s radar.

Up the Kapuas River, a Borneo tribe lives off the land
A journey into the rainforest with the Dayak Punan provides a window into Indonesia’s debate about indigenous rights, including how to govern their territories.
Eagle stood on the bank of the Kapuas River. He rolled a small stone over and over in his right hand. He wore black spandex shorts, a black t-shirt with the sleeves ripped out, and white rubber shoes. He turned with a smile to look at us behind him, spread out on the rocky ground, shoes off, resting on boulders, packs leaning against a fallen tree. Uting and Obed fried fish over the fire for lunch. The Silent One washed plates and cups in the river.  The four men of the Dayak Punan were leading us: two Brits, a Dane, and an American on a trek through the Borneo Rainforest from west to east.

Should we be locking people up in prisons at all?
AUSTRALIA – Footage aired last week of children being abused in a Northern Territory prison sent shockwaves around the nation. These images forced us to grapple with the problem as if it were breaking news, despite the fact that so many people knew so much about it for so long… But there is a much broader question to be asked about the use of incarceration in circumstances such as these. When we know that prison entrenches harm, as well as crime, it is hard to imagine how the deprivation of liberty in its current form – let alone the unmitigated deprivation within the walls of Don Dale – could really correct or rehabilitate anyone.

Muslims Go to Catholic Mass Across France to Show Solidarity
(ROUEN, France) — In a gesture of solidarity following the gruesome killing of a French priest, Muslims on Sunday attended Catholic Mass in churches and cathedrals across France and Italy. A few dozen Muslims gathered at the towering Gothic cathedral in Rouen, near Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray where the 85-year-old Rev. Jacques Hamel had his throat slit by two teenage Muslim fanatics on Tuesday.

Food Systems

Why it’s so hard to ‘eat local’ when it comes to fish
Australians are often taken aback to discover that we import about 75% of the seafood we consume. Yes, that’s right – in a nation girt by sea that vaunts its love of a shrimp on the barbie, three-quarters of our fish and shellfish comes from overseas.

Like Indonesia, Malaysia to sink illegal foreign fishing boats: minister
A Malaysian minister said the Southeast Asian nation would begin to sink rogue foreign fishing vessels that trespass in its waters. The practice began to be employed in Indonesia after Joko Widodo became that country’s president 2014. More than 200 boats have been captured, evacuated and exploded by the Indonesian military in a practice Jokowi, as he is known, has termed “shock therapy.” “We noticed that Indonesia’s radical measures against poaching had contributed to deflation and lowered fish prices due to bountiful catches,” the Malaysian minister of agriculture and agro-based industry, Ahmad Shabery Cheek, told local media after attending a regional fisheries summit in Jakarta this week.

Fruit and veg straight from the field
UK – Long before it became famous for its secondhand bookshops and annual literary festival, Hay was renowned as a market town. Today, that home produce heritage is having something of a renaissance. More than 40 stalls now radiate out from the main square every Thursday morning, from the wood-fired pizza man to a genuinely French patisserie maker.


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