Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Paris 2015: COP21

Prince Charles opens Paris climate talks and calls on world leaders to act now
“On an increasingly crowded planet, humanity faces many threats, but none is greater than climate change. It magnifies every hazard and tension of our existence,” the Prince of Wales told the summit, as he opened it along with the UN climate chief, Christiana Figueres and French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius. “It threatens our ability to feed ourselves, to remain healthy, and safe from extreme weather, to manage the natural resources that support our economies, and to avert the humanitarian disaster of mass migration and increasing conflict.”

Take no prisoners: the Paris climate talks need to move beyond ‘fairness’
For years now the climate talks have revolved around discussions who should bear the burden of cutting emissions, particularly between developed and developing nations. Much of Paris climate summit will be focused on this notion of equity and how to ensure that each country does its their fair share in the fight against climate change.

The Paris climate summit must go beyond mere declarations of intent
As the Paris 2015 climate talks get under way, the fear is growing that this international conference will be reduced to a simple list of good intentions. Current negotiations based on voluntary “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDCs) allow participants to make attractive promises and claim victory when, in reality, their primary use will be to keep the international community waiting. The participating countries will do their best to ensure that their commitments can’t be compared with those of others, rendering them unverifiable and thus unconstraining.

COP21: Paris conference could be climate turning point, says Obama
US President Barack Obama has said the UN climate conference in Paris could be a “turning point” in global efforts to limit future temperature rises… President Obama urged negotiators to deliver a meaningful deal, because the “next generation is watching”. He told delegates: “Climate change could define the contours of this century more than any other (challenge). “I came here personally to say the United States not only recognises the problem but is committed to do something about it.”

Paris UN Climate Conference 2015: The arguments against climate action ‘have been broken,’ says Barack Obama
The old arguments against action on climate change “have been broken,” United States President Barack Obama has told the first full day of the Paris climate summit, while his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping has declared the conference should chart a course for green development… While President Obama’s speech was full of soaring rhetoric, President Xi’s was focused more on the details of the negotiations for a new global climate agreement to be hammered out in Paris. President Xi emphasised the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities” in climate negotiations, which seeks to draw different responses from richer developed nations and developing ones.

Paris climate talks: vulnerable countries demand 1.5C warming limit
Countries most vulnerable to climate change have seized the political initiative at the start of the UN climate talks in Paris by challenging the US, China and Europe to raise their ambitions and set a long-term temperature goal of 1.5C rather than the 2C target. As more than 140 world leaders made short opening statements on Sunday, 44 countries that are members of the Alliance of Small Island States (Aosis), along with other vulnerable countries, declared that the 2C goal being backed by all major blocs would seal the fate of hundreds of millions of people in countries like Bangladesh, the Philippines, Sudan and Vietnam.

The Paris summit will be missing one of the great world leaders on climate | Bill McKibben
World “leaders” have been arriving in Paris by the scores over the weekend – there will be more than a hundred prime ministers and presidents making speeches as the climate talks open on Monday. But most of them won’t, in fact, be leaders on climate. And one who truly is – Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives – will be languishing in a cell on a prison island in his nation, instead of pressing the case for carbon cuts. Nasheed was the star – almost the only star – of the disastrous Copenhagen climate conference six years ago

India set to unveil global solar alliance of 120 countries at Paris climate summit
India’s prime minister Narendra Modi is poised to launch an international solar alliance of around 120 countries with the French president Françoise Hollande at the Paris climate summit on Monday. France’s climate ambassador Laurence Tubiana said that the new group would be “a true game changer”.  While signatory nations mostly hail from the tropics, several European countries are also on board.

Major powers pledge $20bn for green energy research
The US and 18 other countries have pledged to double funds for clean energy research to a total of $20bn over five years, boosting a parallel initiative by Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg and increasing the prospects for successful agreement at the Paris climate negotiations that start on Monday.

Paris climate talks: Australia won’t sign fossil fuel missive due to Nationals concerns about diesel rebate
Australia will not be signing a communique at the Paris climate summit about phasing out fossil fuel subsidies. Nationals MPs and senators were concerned the pledge could affect the multi-billion-dollar diesel fuel rebate for farmers and miners. The communique is due to be presented on Monday, but a Federal Government source has told the ABC Australia will not be signing it.

Climate change talks: five reasons to be cheerful or fearful
As world leaders convene in Paris for climate negotiations, the political and economic auspices are encouraging. Yet major obstacles will have to be overcome if the gap between rich and poor countries is to be bridged.

Climate Action Tracker
Refresh your knowledge of countries’ INDC pledges for COP21 at Climate Action Tracker.

Energy and Climate Change

Underwater solar cells turn greenhouse gases into ‘solar fuel’
Engineers at Stanford University have discovered how to use the sun’s energy to combine water and carbon dioxide to create chemical products, a process known as artificial photosynthesis, using underwater solar cells. The process could one day play a key role in fighting climate change. The engineers have also provided design principles to help the photovoltaic industry build energy-efficient, corrosion-protected solar cells for other purposes.

Community renewables schemes raise £12.8m in rush to meet tax relief deadline
Local communities have raised a record £12.8m for 28 new renewable energy projects thanks to a rush of investment driven by shock government plans to end tax relief for community renewable energy projects from tomorrow. According to data compiled by Ethex and crowdsourcing platform Mongoose Energy, £12.8m has been raised by community renewable energy projects since the Treasury announced in October they would no longer be eligible for Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) tax relief after 30 November.

NSW 100% renewable energy retailer nears $3m mark in share offer
AUSTRALIA – Enova Energy, the community-owned energy retailer targeting 100 per cent renewables for its customers in the northern Rivers region of NSW, has extended its share offer for a second time as it nears its minimum target of $3 million. In an announcement made late last week, the Byron Bay-based company said it would extending the share offer until December 17, 5pm, in its effort to establish Australia’s first community-owned electricity retailer and have it operational by early 2016.

Environment and Biodiversity

Lakes and wetland restoration feature in latest clean-up funding decisions
NEW ZEALAND – A wetland home to rare bird species and long-tailed bat is among restoration projects to receive funding from Waikato River Authority. A total of $4.8 million from the authority’s latest funding round has been granted to a further 33 projects to help clean up the Waikato and Waipa river catchment following its latest funding decisions.

Fears for rare western ground parrot after Esperance fires destroy 90 per cent of habitat
Western Australia’s rarest bird is a step closer to extinction after the Esperance bushfires destroyed 90 per cent of its habitat. Cape Arid National Park was one of the areas hardest hit by the bushfires earlier this month which claimed four lives, burned 30,000 hectares of crops and about 15,000 livestock. Before the fires there were just 140 western ground parrots believed left in the wild.

Economy and Business

The secretive trade agreements that could scupper climate change action
While all the focus and hope for tackling climate change is on COP 21 in Paris, starting today, secretive global trade deals are already negating any commitments that might be made at the summit. The texts from the various trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP), make it clear that they will increase production, trade and consumption of fossil fuels.

We can achieve sustainability — but not without limiting growth
Can Australians be sustainable and enjoy endless economic growth? It’s not likely. In a recent article on The Conversation, Steve Hatfield-Dodds argued that sustainability was possible in Australia without sacrificing economic growth. He also argued the necessary policy changes would not require fundamental changes to Australians’ values. This research was based on a detailed paper in Nature and modelling undertaken for CSIRO’s recent National Outlook Report. Contrary to this pro-growth outlook, I will argue that sustainability would be almost impossible to achieve in practice without ending growth in population and consumption per person.

Global energy consulting sector grows to almost $15bn
The global energy and resources consulting market grew 6% to $14.7bn in 2014 despite slumping oil prices, a new report from consultancy firm Source has found… The report said the utilities sector was the stand-out market, growing at 8% to $3.4bn thanks to new competition, regulation, green technology, and smart metering.

Indonesian Forest Fires, Amazon Tipping Points, and the Business Case for Investing in Reforestation
Both expectations and leading practices on corporate engagement with forest issues are broadening—beyond sourcing and supply chain management, to include active investment in reforestation and ecological restoration. The reason cuts to the core of mitigating business risk. Landscapes need plants or trees to prevent erosion, improve soil productivity, diminish flood and landslide risk, sequester carbon, and provide numerous other (ecosystem) services. Absent restoration, businesses will face a growing number of landscapes with ecosystem malfunction risk, which in turn will translate into business risk.

Unilever Sets Carbon Positive Target For 2030
Multinational consumer goods corporation Unilever has announced a target to be carbon positive across all of its operations by 2030.  The announcement comes shortly before the opening day of the COP21 international conference on climate change and focuses mostly on energy sources. The Dutch company plans to eliminate coal from its energy mix by sourcing all grid electricity from renewable sources by 2020. In 2030, it intends for all of its energy to come from renewable sources. Of course, the announcement comes with the hedge that “market conditions may change”, but ambitious announcements like this one can be seen as a positive step forward, especially coming from one of the world’s largest businesses and when the case being made is based on economics.

Engaging Business in the UN: An Imperative for Action
For the United Nations, working with business is not always easy business. Yet it is a necessary -particularly if the recently approved Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are going to be achieved by 2030. A broad consultation and negotiation process has led to the ground-breaking and inspirational 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. A process which was one the most inclusive and wide-ranging dialogue processes in the UN history. How to effectively engage businesses in this new agenda proved to be one of the most recurring, contested and challenging elements.\

Politics and Society

How the US started to break its fossil fuel addiction – 12 steps in 50 years
The White House first acknowledged climate change in 1965. As Barack Obama joins world leaders at the Paris climate talks, we look back at the highs and lows of US climate policy and denial.

Direct Action policy ‘fiscally unsustainable’ says Climate Change Authority ahead of Paris talks
AUSTRALIA – The Climate Change Authority has warned the Government’s own climate policy is at risk of becoming fiscally “unsustainable”. A report released today, called Australia’s Climate Policy Options, assesses different ways of reducing greenhouse gases, using examples from around the world.

Built Environment

Air pollution killing 430,000 Europeans a year
Air pollution is responsible for up to 430,000 premature deaths a year across Europe, a new report from the European Environment Agency (EEA) has found. The report claims that air pollution is the single largest environmental health risk in Europe, contributing to serious illnesses such as heart disease, respiratory problems cancer.

Bristol becomes beacon of best practice for sustainable cities at COP21
Bristol, which is co-hosting the Pavilion during the Paris talks, is offering COP21 delegates a free online toolkit called ‘The Bristol Method’, which highlights and documents what Bristol has learnt from its time as Europe’s Green Capital. Mayor of Bristol George Ferguson said: “The people of Bristol have worked incredibly hard over the last decade – and particularly during 2015 – to make this city more sustainable. As part of our year as the European Green Capital we pledged to make it easy for other cities to emulate our successes and learn from our challenges.

Food Systems

Waikato dairy farmers disgusted at abusive behaviour
Waikato dairy farmers have reacted with disgust and anger at footage showing people carrying out cruel and violent abuse to newborn male calves. In the investigation by Farmwatch and welfare organisation SAFE, investigators used hidden cameras to expose the dark side of the dairy industry. The footage was disgusting and indefensible, former Waikato Federated Farmers dairy section chairman Craig Littin said at a Waikato Federated Farmers dairy section meeting in Hamilton. Littin said it should be dealt with appropriately by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).


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