Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Energy and Climate Change

Scientists declare an ‘urgent’ mission – study West Antarctica, and fast
Scientists who have been raising alarms about the endangered ice sheet of West Antarctica say they’ve identified a key glacier that could pose the single most immediate threat to the world’s coastlines – and are pushing for an urgent new effort to study it. The glacier is not one that most people will have even heard of – Thwaites Glacier along the Amundsen Sea. It’s a monstrous body that is bigger than the South Island and has discharged over 100 billion tons of ice each year in recent years.

Report on effects of 1973 Mururoa nuclear testing
In 1973 the New Zealand government protested against French nuclear testing at Mururoa. The two-frigate protest sparked international pressure for the testing to stop, which forced the French to move to underground testing. Now, 42 years later, an independent report detailing likely exposure and risk from radiation is to be released in October. Commissioned by Veterans Affairs New Zealand (VANZ), the report will explore the effects the nuclear testing had on veterans, on seawater, and the hereditary effect on offspring.

Climate change plan get green light from Wellington regional council
NEW ZEALAND – Wellington’s regional councillors have made a public commitment to reduce their carbon footprint, but by how much remains to be seen. Councillors have unanimously approved an official climate change strategy, which will guide how the council goes about combating global warming, which threatens to thrust more storms, droughts and sea-level rise upon the region. The strategy document is full of aspirational goals but light on actual targets for reducing emissions – for now, at least.

No long-term future in tar sands, says Alberta’s premier
The leader of Canada’s biggest oil-producing province has declared she sees no long-term future in fossil fuels, predicting Alberta would wean itself off dirty energy within a century. In an early reveal of her forthcoming new energy policy, Alberta’s Rachel Notley said she would fight climate change by cleaning up the tar sands, shutting down coal-fired power plants, and converting to wind and solar power. Notley also forecast an eventual future beyond fossil fuels – a dramatic change for Alberta – and a track that has put her on a collision course with Canada’s conservative prime minister, Stephen Harper.

England’s universities are losing steam on climate change
More than three-quarters of England’s universities are set to miss carbon reduction targets for 2020, according to the latest analysis. Despite the introduction of initiatives to reduce carbon emissions and invest in sustainable energy, higher education institutions claim that an era of expansion has hampered plans to make the sector more environmentally friendly.

The tropical steam-engine: how does El Niño warm the entire globe?
We regularly hear about how El Niño events raise the temperature across much of the planet, contributing to spikes in global average temperature such as the one witnessed in 1998, with severe bush fires, droughts and floods. Indeed, the extra warmth is typically much more apparent over land than in the oceans, despite El Niño being chiefly thought of as an ocean temperature phenomenon. How is it that an event predominantly characterised by a warm blob of water in the tropical eastern Pacific can have such a pervasive effect on global land temperatures?

Environment and Biodiversity

Many bats hate long commutes – here’s how to help them
Many bat species suffered severe population declines in the UK and elsewhere during the 20th century mainly due to their habitats being fragmented, damaged and destroyed, particularly in woodland areas. Though many species have stabilised or even increased slightly in the past couple of decades, numbers are still much lower than they were in the early 1900s. The woodland destruction has made it harder for many bats to hunt and now they are also having to deal with other emerging threats such as wind turbines, artificial lighting and in North America, a disease known as white nose syndrome.

Swan River nutrient reduction plan may take ’10 years or more’, WA department says
AUSTRALIA – The multi-million-dollar effort to reduce nutrients flowing into the Swan River from the Ellen Brook has failed to hit its targets for the fifth year in a row. The Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPAW) has admitted it may be at least a decade before it does meet targets. The Swan River Trust’s annual report showed nitrogen and phosphorous levels in the Ellen Brook were above both short and long-term targets.

Duranillan farmer unlocks secret to germinating snottygobble tree, giving new hope to mine site rehabilitation
A PhD research project into native plant species is set to be a major boost to mine site rehabilitation in Western Australia. Duranillin farmer Kerryn Chia has been studying the native snottygobble trees, or Persoonia longifolia for almost six years in an attempt to work out how they germinate. Ms Chia said she began her PhD through the University of Western Australia after she could not work out how to get snottygobbles to germinate in her garden.

Economy and Business

Beginning of the end for fossil fuels? Panic sweeps global markets
Well, we can’t say we weren’t warned. Panic selling swept major global stock-markets on Tuesday in what could be a foretaste of things to come, as investors suddenly woke up to the fact that the game has changed. Fossil fuels and their associated investments are in decline, and the world is heading rapidly towards new and cleaner technologies. A bunch of big stories this week highlight what is going on: VW, Shell, Glencore, BHP, Origin Energy and AGL. All linked by a common thread – their exposure to fossil fuels. It prompted a warning on the financial risks of climate change by Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England.

Carney warns of risks from climate change ‘tragedy of the horizon’
Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, has warned that climate change will lead to financial crises and falling living standards unless the world’s leading countries do more to ensure that their companies come clean about their current and future carbon emissions. In a speech to the insurance market Lloyd’s of London on Tuesday, Carney said insurers were heavily exposed to climate change risks and that time was running out to deal with global warming.

Origin Energy taps investors for $2.5b after share price slump
Power and gas company Origin Energy has announced a raft of measures to raise billions of dollars to counter the impact of lower oil prices on its bottom line. The energy firm plans to sell new shares to investors in the hope of raising $2.5 billion. In April, the company’s debt was downgraded by credit ratings agency Standard & Poor’s to BBB-, just above junk status.

Western Power to take small communities off-grid with solar plus storage
Western Power, the state-owned company that operates the grid in the south-west corner of Western Australia, is looking to take small communities completely off grid so that it can save money on costly network upgrades and extensions. Western Power this week called a tender for up to ten stand-alone power systems, using solar plus battery storage, with back-up diesel, to cater for small communities around the Ravensthorpe region, around 500kms south east of Perth.

Italian firm Eni poised to begin Arctic oil quest as Shell quits Alaska
Italian oil giant Eni has vowed to press ahead with oil production in the Arctic by the end of the year, undeterred by Shell’s decision to abandon its quest for Arctic oil. As environmentalists celebrated Shell’s retreat from the Chukchi Sea this week, Eni is meanwhile making final preparations to a $5.5bn (£3.6bn) project in the Norwegian Arctic. The Goliat project is set to become the world’s northernmost offshore oil field to come on stream, eventually pumping 100,000 barrels of oil per day from reserves believed to hold around 175m barrels of oil and 8bn cubic metres of gas.

Report: 91% of Top Firms View Climate Shocks as Business Risk
Ninety-one percent of companies in the S&P Global 100 Index see extreme weather and climate change impacts as current or future risks to their business, but many struggle to translate long-term, global climate data into short-term and local risks, according to a new report by the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES). Despite growing access to climate-related data and tools, companies say they need “actionable science” that helps them to understand locally-specific risks or risk scenarios. Released last week during Climate Week NYC, Weathering the Next Storm: A Closer Look at Business Resilience, examines how firms are preparing for climate risks and what is keeping them from doing more. It also suggests strategies for companies and cities to collaborate to strengthen climate resilience.

Forbes Names 6 Social Entrepreneurs Finalists in Under 30 $1M Change the World Competition
More than 2,500 young social entrepreneurs applied to the Forbes Under 30 $1M Change the World Competition. Six finalists will compete on the main stage at Forbes’ second annual Under 30 Summit for a portion of the $1 million prize money. Entrepreneurs under the age of 30 who aim to address global challenges with their business were invited to apply.

Unilever Foundry’s Ideas Platform Announces Winners of First 3 Sustainability Challenges
Unilever Foundry’s new idea platform today announced the winners of its first three sustainability challenges. The debut round of idea sourcing saw over 70 community members submit more than 150 ideas across the three categories. A panel of Unilever judges have now selected a grand prize winner for each challenge… Unilever Foundry’s ideas platform was launched with three ‘grand challenges’ that aimed to solve sustainability issues in the areas of sanitation, hygiene and nutrition. The following winning ideas have been selected for each category:

Waste and the Circular Economy

Google enters circular economy partnership with Ellen MacArthur Foundation
Google has become the latest major company to partner with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in order to accelerate the planet’s transition to a circular economy.  The tech-giant joins Cisco, Kingfisher, Philips, Renault and Unilever as a ‘Global Partner’ of the Foundation. These businesses work closely with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation team to identify circular business opportunities and to implement tangible programmes within their sectors.

Dell Advances Circular Economy Model with CE100, Industry-First Recycled Carbon Fiber
On Monday, Dell announced additional progress against its circular economy initiatives, including the expansion of its closed-loop recycled plastic supply chain, introduction of reclaimed carbon-fiber source materials and new industry collaborations to advance global circular practices. In an industry first, Dell has partnered with supplier SABIC to recycle excess carbon fiber and scrap raw materials into new Dell products beginning in late 2015.

TerraCycle launches UK-wide cigarette recycling program
The UK’s first program to offer free cigarette waste recycling was launched this week in a bid to tackle the scourge of cigarette litter and reduce the amount of cigarette waste going to landfill. The Cigarette Waste Brigade, which is the result of a partnership between US-headquartered recycling company TerraCycle and tobacco manufacturer Japan Tobacco International (JTI), will allow people across the UK to send cigarette butts and associated waste to be recycled.

Kim Renshaw: The zero-waste event champion
Kim Renshaw describes herself as super-competitive. Competitive enough to don gloves every Monday morning from December to March and go through the waste generated by her Tauranga Gourmet Night Market to make sure it is 100 per cent compostable. That experience has morphed into Beyond The Bin, an initiative aimed at getting other event managers to buy into the zero waste vision Renshaw started the market after selling natural products like coconut oil around farmers’ markets.

Politics and Society

Volkswagen outrage shows limits of corporate power
“As far as Volkswagen Group is concerned, bearing its social responsibility has long been at the heart of our corporate culture.” So says the company’s official statement of sustainability and responsibility. “Resource conservation” and “climate protection” are touted as values that VW has integrated into its business… Within days of the EPA releasing its report on September 18, the media went into overdrive about VW’s transgressions. “Volkswagen in meltdown after faked diesel tests” declared the Times in the UK. “Cheating and outrage” led the New York Times… But from the perspective of the true corporate logic that is veiled by business ethics, VW only did one thing wrong. It got caught. And by getting caught it has shattered the fragile illusion that powerful corporations can have any real concern with ethics or responsibility.

The media is doing a ‘better job’ at communicating climate change
The British public are becoming better informed about the scientific consensus surrounding climate change and have an increased knowledge of the popularity of renewable energy, according to the results of a new survey which suggests a shift in media reporting of energy and climate policies is underway. However the survey, conducted by ComRes and published today by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU), suggests understanding about climate change and clean technology is still relatively low among large swathes of the British population.

Thousands give thanks for Melbourne’s business solar leadership
The Climate Council has collected more than 30,000 signatures to present to the City of Melbourne in support of its commitment to solar power for businesses. The more than 31,000 signatures were presented to Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle and chair of the City’s environment portfolio Arron Wood who tabled them at a council meeting on Tuesday night. The signatures were in support of a pledge that read: “Thank you for making it easy and affordable for Melbourne’s small and medium-sized businesses to go solar. We’re thrilled this will support Melbourne’s goal of securing 25 per cent of its power from renewables by 2018. May your leadership and innovation inspire other cities and towns across Australia.”

Built Environment

Lord Drayson launches pollution sensor powered by radio waves
Lord Drayson, the millionaire businessman, Labour party donor and former science minister, has released a pollution monitor that he hopes will drive efforts to improve air quality around the world. The gadget is designed to be carried in a pocket and is powered by a new technology which constantly harvests energy from the ambient radio waves that mobile phone and wireless networks emit. As such, its battery never needs replacing. It works with a mobile phone app called CleanSpace to record local air pollution levels, and pools the data with that from others to create a high-resolution, dynamic map of pollution hotspots and areas where the air is cleaner.

Australia’s weaker emissions standards allow car makers to ‘dump’ polluting cars
In the wake of the emissions scandal that has engulfed Volkswagen in the United States and Europe, it’s worth asking: how do Australia’s standards stack up? The awful truth: we’re literally years behind Europe and the US.

Wide range of cars emit more pollution in realistic driving tests, data shows
New diesel cars from Renault, Nissan, Hyundai, Citroen, Fiat, Volvo and other manufacturers have all been found to emit substantially higher levels of pollution when tested in more realistic driving conditions, according to new data seen by the Guardian.

Musk launches Tesla Model X – bio-weapon defence button comes standard
Elon Musk has today officially launched the Tesla Model X, the SUV successor to the highly successful Model S sedan. “It’s important we move to a sustainable world sooner rather than later”, Musk noted whilst opening the presentation in a glittering event at the company’s headquarters in Silicon Valley.  “It’s also important to show that any type of car can go electric, we’ve done it with a sports car, the sedan, and now we’re doing it with the SUV”.

New bus plans to cut city routes
NEW ZEALAND – Plans for an overhaul of central and eastern Auckland bus routes, with a new emphasis on feeder services to railway stations, are being unveiled today for public submissions. Auckland Transport wants to reduce the number of routes across the two sectors by about 35 per cent – from 91 now to 59 in 2017 – but promises to make up for that by increasing the frequency of services on main roads to the CBD and for cross-town trips.


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