Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Citi report: slowing global warming would save tens of trillions of dollars
Citi Global Perspectives & Solutions (GPS), a division within Citibank (America’s third-largest bank), recently published a report looking at the economic costs and benefits of a low-carbon future. The report considered two scenarios: “Inaction,” which involves continuing on a business-as-usual path, and Action scenario which involves transitioning to a low-carbon energy mix. One of the most interesting findings in the report is that the investment costs for the two scenarios are almost identical. In fact, because of savings due to reduced fuel costs and increased energy efficiency, the Action scenario is actually a bit cheaper than the Inaction scenario.

Energy and Climate Change

Wherever you are, heatwaves are getting relatively worse
Not long ago my partner and I were holidaying in Switzerland, revelling in the glorious warm summer weather. It seemed like an ideal time to venture up to Jungfraujoch and enjoy “the top of Europe” in all its snow-covered glory. So there we were, only 200 metres from our destination, when the train suddenly stopped and then retreated, backwards, down the mountain. We found out from a local that we couldn’t go any further because the tracks had swelled too much in the heat.

Are We Really Reducing the UK’s Carbon Footprint?
In the UK, we appear to have significantly reduced our impact on the climate since 1990, with our reported annual greenhouse gas emissions falling by 25% (2012). But this isn’t a complete picture of our contribution to climate change, because it ignores the embodied carbon of all the stuff we import.  When this is considered, are we really reducing the UK’s carbon footprint, and what are the implications for communities and businesses looking to lower their climate impact?

Meet the Guy Fawkes descendant plotting to revolutionise building energy efficiency
Steven Fawkes is on a mission to revolutionise energy efficiency. He wants to upturn the notion that it is not sexy or cool, or that it’s hard to invest in – but easy to do and a great financial investment.  Fawkes is senior adviser to the Investor Confidence Project, which, backed by €1.92 million of European Commission grant-aid, is hoping to change perceptions of energy efficiency among investors. He’s also a member of the Investment Committee of the London Energy Efficiency Fund and comes with 30 years experience in energy efficiency, including founding two energy service companies.

Queensland to play catch up on renewables – wants to match South Australia
Just days after Western Australia’s energy minster predicted solar PV would soon displace coal as the state’s major source of daytime electricity generation, the Queensland government has confirmed a similar departure from a reliance on coal power, with the promise to do everything in its power to support the development of solar and wind projects in the state. Speaking at a budget estimates hearing on Friday, Queensland energy minister Mark Bailey said his government was determined to grow both the small and large-scale renewable energy sectors, and jobs along with them, using investment and new policy measures, including reverse auctions like those used, to great success, by the ACT government.

Brown coal a necessary casualty of government’s emissions reduction goal
Australia’s most emissions-intensive brown coal power plants will need to close for the federal government to hit its 2030 emissions targets, according to a new report for RepuTex. While the government’s emissions reduction target has been described as inadequate on the global stage, the cut of 26-28 per cent on 2005 levels would necessitate changes in “non-negotiable” sectors such as electricity generation, mining and land-use, the RepuTex report said.
See The Road to 2030 – The Shift From Fugitives & Coal-Gen

In Appalachia, the coal industry is in collapse, but the mountains aren’t coming back
West Virginia, USA – In Appalachia, explosions have leveled the mountaintops into perfect race tracks for Ryan Hensley’s all-terrain vehicle (ATV). At least, that’s how the 14-year-old sees the barren expanses of dirt that stretch for miles atop the hills surrounding his home in the former coal town of Whitesville, W.Va. “They’re going to blast that one next,” he says, pointing to a peak in the distance. He’s referring to a process known as “mountaintop removal,” in which coal companies use explosives to blast away hundreds of feet of rock in order to unearth underground seams of coal. “And then it’ll be just blank space,” he adds. “Like the Taylor Swift song.”

Environment and Biodiversity

Even the Bottom of the Grand Canyon is Now Contaminated
By almost any calculation, the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon is one of the most isolated places in the contiguous United States. Although about half a million people a year hike Grand Canyon trails, only a tiny fraction of them make the arduous trek to the bottom, almost a mile from the surface. One might think that this inaccessibility protects the river’s unique ecosystems. But that’s wrong, says David Walters, lead author of new research conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey. “Pristine doesn’t really exist in the world anymore,” explains Walters, “even at the most remote reaches of the Grand Canyon.”

The belted kingfisher eats speckled dace and fathead minnows, two Colorado River fish that are highly contaminated with mercury. The levels found are 30 to 40 times higher than those shown to be toxic to fish-eating wildlife.

The belted kingfisher eats speckled dace and fathead minnows, two Colorado River fish that are highly contaminated with mercury. The levels found are 30 to 40 times higher than those shown to be toxic to fish-eating wildlife.
Photograph by Robbie George, National Geographic Creative

COTSBot: New robot aims to terminate crown-of-thorns starfish destroying Great Barrier Reef
Queensland researchers are close to completing work on an autonomous robot that will cruise the Great Barrier Reef and inject the destructive crown-of-thorns starfish with a toxic solution. The starfish is no bigger than a dinner plate, but collectively it represents one of the biggest threats to the Great Barrier Reef, already destroying around 40 per cent of the reef from Cooktown to the Whitsundays.

Peter Cullinane: Saving kiwi a matter of pride
NEW ZEALAND – Kiwis are such a part of our identity that it is nigh on impossible to imagine New Zealand without them. But here’s the thing. We are losing kiwis at an increasingly faster rate and will see their extinction if we don’t do something about it. I know it seems unimaginable but that is the very reason why more is not being done… But the good news is that a ground breaking report commissioned by Kiwi for kiwi and released this week shows that the substantial efforts made to date by Government, Iwi and community led projects are working. Saving kiwi from extinction is within our grasp. We just need to do more of it and soon.

Christchurch’s Garden City reputation at risk if 1500 trees lose protected status
Christchurch’s Garden City reputation is at risk as the council proposes to remove the protected status of hundreds of trees. Christchurch City Council is looking to slash the number of protected trees on private land from about 1900 to 429, a 77 per cent drop. These include decades-old trees of historical significance at Riccarton Bush, St Andrew’s College and the Cracroft Guiding Centre, along with hundreds of other trees on private residential land. The move makes way for private property owners to fell a once-protected tree without applying for a resource consent. This could have huge implications for Christchurch, residents and environmentalists say.
Submissions on stage three of the CRDP close on September 4.

India: No country for wild tigers?
The National Highways Authority of India proposes to widen a 50-km (31-mile) stretch of road to a four-lane divided highway connecting Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, with Nagpur, Maharashtra. While allowing humans to hurtle between these two cities, the road slices two tiger corridors: Pench-Nagzira corridor in Maharashtra and the Pench-Kanha corridor in Madhya Pradesh. Although National Highway 7 (NH7) exists already, widening it will aggravate the problem it poses to wildlife. Central Indian forests hold about 33% of India’s tigers, 688 of them. According to the National Tiger Conservation Authority, a tiger population needs at least 80 to 100 adults to be self-sustaining. None of the tiger reserves in central India host a viable tiger population independently.

Economy and Business

How do we ‘change everything’ as Naomi Klein suggests? Let’s start by getting ‘adversaries’ to listen to one another
The author and activist Naomi Klein is currently on an Australian book tour, bringing us the terrifying message that climate change “changes everything”. I say terrifying because, if you follow Klein’s logic to its conclusion, the only way to stop climate change is literally to change everything: our cities, economies, energy systems and patterns of consumption. Klein’s argument is that climate change threatens every dimension of our life on Earth – the result of an abusive relationship between people and planet, made possible by a voracious hyper-capitalist economy. Fixing climate change means changing how that economy works at its core.

At Last, a Business Case for CSR That Even Milton Friedman Could Love: The Sustainability Effect!
For the very first time, the prospect of connecting strong sustainability performance to the market value of a firm is at hand — causally and empirically. Moreover, it is not just incremental improvements in CSR or sustainability performance we’re talking about here, but sustainability performance in its most rigorous, context-based and authentic form. Indeed, it is only genuine sustainability (e.g., firms living within their ecological means instead of merely tweaking their impacts from one year to the next) that can bring forth the highest reputations and the highest market values because of it.

SimaPro Share & Collect Software Facilitates Fast, Fact-Based Sustainability Decisions
Today, PRé Sustainability, a sustainability software and consultancy firm with 25 years’ experience as leading voice in life cycle management, life cycle assessment and sustainability metrics development, launches SimaPro Share & Collect, a web-based platform developed to facilitate fact-based sustainable decision-making in an efficient, time-saving manner.

Collaboration promotes an ethical Fashion Week
Most people know the name of the shops where they bought their clothing. But that’s where the knowledge ends. We often have no idea how, where or by whom our fashion was created, and we don’t consider where our clothing ends up when our bodies or our aesthetic sensibilities have outgrown it.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Plastic takes deadly toll
The plastics we throw away have been mistakenly eaten by around 90 per cent of all sea birds alive today – and the rate is expected to grow to 99 per cent by 2050… Researchers from Australia’s national science agency CSIRO and Imperial College London assessed how widespread the threat of plastic was to the world’s seabirds, including albatross, shearwaters and penguins, and found most seabird species have plastic in their gut. They found that while plastic had been found in the stomachs of less than 5 per cent of sea birds in 1960, this had climbed to a rate of 80 per cent by 2010, and the figure was projected to affect 99 per cent of sea birds within the next 35 years.

Goodnest embraces eco-friendly attitude
Goodnest has taken the cleaning industry by storm in New Zealand and Australia by borrowing inspiration from other groundbreaking enterprises like Uber and Parkable to create a platform for buying services by the hour. Since its start in 2014, Goodnest has connected thousands of customers with cleaning services at a low cost using environmentally guilt-free products and practices.

Politics and Society

What Hurricane Katrina Can Teach Us About Leadership (Book Talk)
When Hurricane Katrina tore into the Gulf Coast states ten years ago, leadership was in as short supply as tarpaulins. President George W. Bush was excoriated for his inept handling of the crisis, as was Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans. But in Mississippi, former Governor Haley Barbour, author of America’s Great Storm: Leading Through Hurricane Katrina  received plaudits from all sides for his decisive, non-partisan leadership and political clout, which secured $24 billion in disaster relief from Congress.

Case proven: ivory trafficking funds terrorism
Warlords of Ivory shows the results of a year-long investigation by National Geographic reporter Bryan Christy. It documents atrocities committed against people and wildlife, on an almost unimaginable scale, by an ivory trafficking network coordinated by two of Africa’s most notorious war criminals… Christy’s investigation demonstrates without doubt what many people have long believed: ivory trafficking funds the activities of terrorist groups in Africa. But the degree and scale of the depravity revealed by the film is truly shocking, even to hardened observers like myself.

We in Alaska see that climate change is real. The time to act is now | Othniel Art Oomittuk
…The US government predicts a 75% chance of an oil spill happening. Even in the small likelihood there is no spill, the drilling itself will disturb our animals. Shell itself estimates in its last environmental permit application that drilling activity will harass 13% of endangered species like bowhead whale, grey whale and ringed seals. Using the oil locked in the Arctic Ocean will accelerate climate change. Climate change is already here for us. The ice has changed. It comes late, it leaves early. It has become unreliable and hard to read, making it dangerous to cross during hunting. Our ice cellars are melting and eroding, making it difficult to store our subsistence food. It rained this past winter, it never rains in the winter. The ice in the fall used to protect our coastline from heavy waves. Now the waves wash away our shores.

Barack Obama heads to Alaska on mission to highlight climate change
Barack Obama will use a trek across Alaska’s melting glaciers and permafrost to showcase the fight against climate change during a three-day visit to the state starting on Monday. But the president, who departed for Anchorage in Air Force One on Monday morning, was accused of damaging his own environmental legacy – and the effort to keep warming below the internationally agreed goal of 2 degrees celsius – by allowing Shell to hunt for oil in Arctic waters.

Wanted! An army of citizen scientists to tackle air pollution
Turn off Tinder and exit Instagram – scientists want you to turn your iPhones to research. Launching on Tuesday, the iSpex-EU project aims to recruit people from major cities across Europe, including Manchester and London, to take part in an initiative to monitor levels of air pollution. Run during the International Year of Light, a worldwide celebration of light and light-based technologies this year, the project aims to raise awareness of air pollution and contribute to scientific research by encouraging people to use their mobile phones to record levels of airborne particles and droplets known as atmospheric aerosols.

Shenhua Watermark mine: Koala population risk not considered in planning approval, court hears
AUSTRALIA – The impact of the controversial Shenhua open-cut coal mine on a population of koalas in the Liverpool Plains district of New South Wales was not properly considered by the State Government, a Sydney court has heard.  A Liverpool Plains environment group launched legal action in the Land and Environment Court challenging the approval of the Chinese-run mine near prime agricultural lands in the state’s north-west. In 2008, Chinese company Shenhua Watermark paid the former state Labor government $300 million for an exploration licence covering 20,000 hectares of the Gunnedah Basin coal field.

Built Environment

Tesla Installs 500 Superchargers In Under 3 Years
It’s crazy to think about. Fewer than 3 years ago, there were no Superchargers. Today, Tesla opened Supercharger #500 — in Moers, Germany. Incidentally, it is the same day that Consumer Reports revealed the Tesla P85D had broken its rating system, achieving 103 out of 100 points. The Supercharger network, something Tesla either didn’t think was that critical or pretended wasn’t that critical before it existed, is without a doubt one of Tesla’s huge competitive advantages. Not only is it “free,” but it’s also much more reliable, faster, and more usefully spread out and integrated than any other charging networks on the planet.

India ranks third among top 10 countries for LEED green buildings with 1,883 certified projects
NEW DELHI: India ranks third on the US Green Building Council’s annual ranking of the top 10 countries for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certified buildings. LEED is a widely used green building rating system. The top 10 list highlights countries outside of the US that are making significant strides in sustainable building design, construction and transformation, illustrating the ever-growing international demand for LEED green buildings.

Sustainable design permeates 2015 International Architecture Awards
Greenery, prefabricated elements, zero-energy design and repurposing of underutilised space are the key sustainability themes to have come out of the Australian Institute of Architects’ 2015 International Architecture Awards. The jury, chaired by Grant Marani of Robert AM Stern Architects, chose five winners across four categories out of 26 entries that encapsulated the great work of Australian architects abroad.

Food Systems

The deer farmers who went to market
When exporters competing with each other to sell New Zealand’s small amount of venison overseas caused a sudden slump in farmers’ income, deer farmers Tony and Sally Haslett decided to find their own markets locally. “I didn’t want to play the meat companies’ games,” Tony remembers. “I wanted to get the true value of my animals.” At the same time, Sally’s friends were adding their views. “People would come to dinner and say, ‘This is a wonderful meal, why can’t we buy this meat here?’.”

Food price gap shows need for subsidies and promo deals for remote areas
Following his visit to Australia’s Northern Peninsular Area, Prime Minister Tony Abbott told the ABC’s AM program that “I would very much counsel people in remote areas against expecting the Government to subsidise fresh food. Yes, it’s more expensive than in Sydney and Melbourne but it’s not outrageously more expensive …” But the evidence shows that it’s not just fresh food that is more expensive in remote communities. On average, all food is 53% more expensive in remote communities, with the price increasing annually by approximately 5%, compared to an annual rise of only about 1% in Darwin supermarkets.

Whitebaiters joined by researchers this season
NEW ZEALAND – West Coast whitebaiters will finally head back to the rivers on Tuesday, two weeks after the season started around the country. This season they will be joined by marine biologists surveying which whitebait species are caught where – the first time an extensive survey has been done in 50 years. University of Canterbury marine ecologist Dr Mike Hickford was amazed when he started planning the survey and realised no-one had done similar work since the late 1960s.

Sunniva Holt: raw food champion
Sunniva Holt is a mother of one, and an inspiration to 135,000. That’s how many – in just 18 months – have signed up to follow her Instagram and Facebook pages, and helped to launch her brand new raw food app onto the New Zealand best-seller list. Prolonged and severe morning sickness during her pregnancy with the now-almost-two Lily, as well as a case of gestational diabetes, was the catalyst for Holt’s radical life-change, where she went from a standard omnivorous diet to a strictly vegan and raw food regime.


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