Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Energy disruption: Solar plus storage to be cheaper than grid in 2017
Some utilities may think that it will be up to a decade before there is a mass market uptake of battery storage, and the chair of the Australian Energy Market Operator may even try to convince themselves that the technology won’t be commercial for another two decades, but they might be kidding themselves: New research suggests that the cross-over point between the value of solar and storage and grid prices for Australian households may occur within one year.

Energy and Climate Change

Adani should bow out gracefully from its Carmichael coal mine
AUSTRALIA – The rejection by the Federal Court of the most serious remaining legal challenges to the proposed Carmichael mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin means it is finally time for the project’s proponent, Adani Mining, to put its money where its mouth has been.

Enphase says NSW solar tariff closure driving surge in battery storage demand
AUSTRALIA – US energy technology company Enphase Energy says orders for its first battery storage offering have jumped to more than 70,000 units, with New South Wales at the centre of demand as households respond to the end of premium feed-in tariffs for their solar installations.

Aussie solar sharing innovation Power Ledger heads to NZ
An Australian technology that makes it easy for solar users to get a good price for unused energy is set to be deployed in the New Zealand market… Using Power Ledger, users can buy and sell solar power amongst one another instead of selling to a retailer. In NZ, as in Australia, retailers currently offer feed-in rates well below the retail price of energy. The NZ trial is expected to begin in December across up to 500 Auckland sites, including schools, community groups and residential properties.

Andrew Jacobs and Michalis Rokas: Partnership powers in the Pacific
Small developing states in the Pacific have traditionally relied on imports of fossil fuels. The cost of the fuel, combined with its price volatility, the islands’ geographic remoteness, their lack of economies of scale and the fact they are scattered communities separated by hundreds of miles of ocean, are all significant strains on these small economies. In addition, the use of fossil fuels adds to global climate change effects which pose an existential threat to many Pacific communities. It was for these reasons the European Union, the world’s largest donor of development aid, and New Zealand, a major development actor in the Pacific, decided three years ago to join forces and improve prospects across the region.

Most Chinese consumers would pay more for green energy, study finds
More than 90 per cent of Chinese consumers would pay more for green energy, a new poll has found, a much higher figure than found in the US or UK. The IPSOS poll, commissioned by the Chinese Renewable Energy Industries Association, found that levels of support for green energy – and paying for it – were “unprecedented”.

Your field guide to corporate renewables buyers’ groups
…A slew of non-profit groups has rushed in to remove the obstacles [to buying renewable energy] on the demand end. Many groups focus on merely getting companies on board and to the table by encouraging corporate commitments to renewable use goals. Others provide education around financing or risk allocation, or even lessons that may resemble Electricity 101. And others still facilitate meet-ups where buyers, suppliers and distributors can all be in the same room. Here is a field guide to some of the most influential groups out there — each one’s particular purpose, area of expertise, affiliations and membership — to make the pursuit of renewables that much easier.

Environment and Biodiversity

‘Eureka moment’ research into ocean selenium levels asks: Did mountains control evolution of humans?
Pioneering research led by the University of Tasmania, that could change the way we view Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, has taken out one of the nation’s top science prizes… Headed by Distinguished Professor Ross Large, the team of scientists analysed pyrite, or fool’s gold, in drill cores, which are sections of rock drilled from deep below the ocean floor. Their research has shown that almost every major growth period or extinction in the Earth’s history correlates with a change in the amount of the trace element selenium in the ocean.

African Elephants Numbers Plummet 30 Percent, Survey Finds
The much anticipated results of the largest ever continent-wide wildlife survey, the Great Elephant Census, will be released tomorrow at the World Conservation Congress in Hawaii. The worrying finding: Africa now has 352,271 savanna elephants left in 93 percent of the species’ range. The aerial survey covered 18 African countries. In 15 of those, where information on previous populations existed, 144,000 elephants were lost to ivory poaching and habitat destruction in less than a decade. The current yearly loss—overwhelmingly from poaching—is estimated at 8 percent. That’s about 27,000 elephants slaughtered year after year.

See also:

Sydney Harbour reefs showing ‘signs of recovery’ following coral bleaching event, researcher says
AUSTRALIA – Marine scientists say coral that was damaged by a bleaching event in Sydney Harbour earlier this year are “starting to show good signs of recovery”. For the past 12 months a team of marine scientists has been examining the little known coral reefs of Sydney to try and understand more about coral survival.

Crayfish ‘functionally extinct’ in the Hauraki Gulf
NEW ZEALAND – An overhaul of crayfish management is being called for as crayfish numbers hit an all time low. Crayfish numbers are so low they are no longer contributing to the ecology of the Hauraki Gulf and are “functionally extinct.” That’s the view of director of fresh research marine ecology consultancy company eCoast Dr Tim Haggitt, after new monitoring in and near three marine reserves in the gulf show numbers continue to plummet.

Spring rook eradication programme underway in OtagoHomer Doh!
NEW ZEALAND – Keep an eye out for rooks and their nesting sites throughout the region, the Otago Regional Council is asking southerners. The council is undertaking its annual spring eradication programme. Rooks are considered a pest because of the extensive damage they can cause to crops and new grass… Rooks were introduced to New Zealand to control insects, but have become a pest here due to the damage they cause [Ed: D’oh!].


World Water Week – in pictures
More than 30% of the water sources on our planet are being over-exploited, in many cases to near exhaustion. World Water Week brings together experts and innovators from around the world to develop solutions for a sustainable water future. This year World Water Week takes place in Stockholm, 28 Aug to 2 Sept, and takes the theme of Water for Sustainable Growth.

A young leopard frog confronts a drying stream bed during a drought in the lower central plains of Missouri. One-third of all river and lake basins in the world are facing water scarcity. Freshwater species quickly decline as water is diverted for agriculture and other uses. Photograph: Mark Godfrey/Nature Conservancy

A young leopard frog confronts a drying stream bed during a drought in the lower central plains of Missouri. One-third of all river and lake basins in the world are facing water scarcity. Freshwater species quickly decline as water is diverted for agriculture and other uses. Photograph: Mark Godfrey/Nature Conservancy

Cleaning the world’s water: ‘We are now more polluted than we have ever been’
Joan Rose, a microbiologist who has won the world’s most prestigious water prize, is both depressed and optimistic at progress to make water fit to drink.

Corporates Pledge To Reduce Impacts At World Water Week, But How?
It’s been almost ten years since the Coca-Cola Company vowed to “safely return to communities and nature an amount of water equal to what we use in our finished beverages and their production,” with a deadline of 2020 for doing so… The company formally announced the results this week in Stockholm, where all sectors of society are congregating for the Stockholm International Water Institute’s annual World Water Week, and the accomplishment puts it at the head of a small pack of peers like MillerCoors, Keurig, and IKEA – each of whom has also teamed up with outside partners to both set and work towards clear replenishment goals.

World’s watersheds lost 6 percent of their forests in 14 years
The world’s 230 watersheds have critical functions in providing water to ecosystems and human communities. But like any natural resource, they are susceptible to degradation from a wide variety of factors from damming and local pollution to climate change. A new analysis released this week takes a look at a specific source of watershed destruction: deforestation. It finds that the world’s watersheds lost an average of 6 percent of their tree cover over 14 years – with some particularly affected areas losing up to 22 percent. This, the analysts write, can have detrimental effects on water quality and flow, endangering water security for the global populace.

Don’t blame birds for bad water, minister told
NEW ZEALAND – Fresh water advocates say the Environment Minister Nick Smith is ignoring the real problems by blaming birds for pollution in rivers and lakes.

Economy and Business

22 Research Studies Proving the ROI of Sustainability
As a global media platform, Sustainable Brands is in touch with hundreds of thousands of sustainability, brand strategy, marketing and innovation leaders on six continents. Thematically, we cover a lot of ground within our live events, member group and digital content, but there is one aspect to every topic that tends to be brought up all the time, everywhere — the ROI of sustainability.

Study: Many Consumers Willing to Pay More for, Switch to Completely Transparent Brands
A new study reveals that consumers’ demand for product transparency is on the rise – overall, they desire more product information and are inclined to be more loyal to brands that provide more detailed insights. About 40 percent say they would switch to a new brand if it offered full product transparency, and 81 percent say they would consider a brand’s entire portfolio of products if they switched to that brand as a result of increased transparency.

Have biomaterials reached a tipping point?
The untapped potential for biotechnology to solve myriad sustainability challenges is drawing the attention of forward-thinking companies across industries. Today, over $400 billion worth of conventional manufacturing products are produced each year using biomass, according to Duke University’s Center for Sustainability & Commerce. While biofuels have garnered much of the spotlight, bio-based alternatives to plastic and other fossil-based materials quickly are making their way to the mainstream. These materials can be used for a variety of applications in manufacturing, construction, apparel and more. But many bio-based materials have yet to reach scale, thanks to industry clinging to classic chemistry.

Waste and the Circular Economy

A car made from tequila? Ford Motor Co says it’s good for the planet
When you put tequila and cars side-by-side, the story doesn’t usually end well. But Ford is trying to change the narrative. The car manufacturer has plans to introduce a new kind of plastic for some of its automobile parts using waste material generated by Jose Cuervo, the tequila manufacturer. Tequila is made by juicing the heart of an agave plant, a spiky desert succulent with a core composed of very strong fibers. These fibers are left over during the juicing process, and are usually thrown away or burned.

Politics and Society

Predictive tool vital to sustainable environmental futures
A new predictive tool, which for the first time combines human perception of the environment with land-use planning and socioeconomic data, could help governments mitigate the impact of climate change in developing countries. Scientists at the University of York are working in Tanzania, East Africa, to help produce new data and strategies that can contribute to decisions around the use of land for farming and urban development, as well as more sustainable future ecosystem management systems.

Shifting the debate about conservation justice from rights to responsibilities
The recent Mongabay series on Evolving Conservation highlighted that while many conservation interventions have helped protect biological and cultural diversity and improve the linkages between the two, others have led to the infringement of indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ rights (Conservation’s People Problem). From the first denials of access of Native Americans to Yellowstone National Park in the 1860s to the ongoing plight of Uvinje villagers in Tanzania – among others – there are many documented cases of indigenous peoples being evicted and subjugated in the name of conservation.

Climate Change Authority’s key report ‘neglects to join the dots’, critic says
AUSTRALIA – The Climate Change Authority has backed off its commitment to assess the full implications of the Paris climate accord in its latest report, a move critics say departs from the study’s original terms of reference. The authority, now dominated by appointments made by the Turnbull government, on Wednesday released its third report of a special review into the climate policies Australia should take after the climate summit in France in late 2015.

Cigarettes, asbestos, now fossil fuels. How big business impacts public health
AUSTRALIA – The decisions reached at the recent Coag energy council meeting are reminiscent of a long series of failures to understand the impacts of powerful business on the health of the community. The failures extend historically from tobacco, to asbestos to the health scourges of coal, and now to the health and community impacts of the unconventional gas industry. It is too much to believe that governments fail to understand the implications.

Want to improve the nation’s health? Start by reducing inequalities and improving living conditions
We all like to think we are free agents and have huge degrees of agency. But, in reality, our health reflects the environments we live in. Men living in the Sydney suburb Fairfield East, for instance, are twice as likely to die between ages 0 and 74 as those in the far richer Sydney suburb of Woollahra. The infant death rate in Fairfield is 4 per 1,000 live births compared to 2.4 in Woollahra. Across Australia, low-income people lose about six years of life compared to their better-off compatriots.
Read also: Social determinants – how class and wealth affect our health

Tauranga agencies struggling with growing number of homeless
NEW ZEALAND – Ngati Ranginui Iwi Society CEO Steph O’Sullivan said homelessness in the Bay of Plenty was a growing, significant issue. The number of homeless seeking help was more than social agencies in the region had ever seen before. “I wonder how many people out there are going to be staggered by this and the revelation of the issue here, because the good news story of regional economic growth is fantastic, but not everyone is sharing in that story,” Ms O’Sullivan said.


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