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

Russia joins US in filing Paris climate change pledge
Russia joined the US late on Tuesday in meeting a UN deadline to deliver its initial offer for a UN climate change deal due to be signed off in Paris later this year.  The Kremlin suggested it could slash greenhouse gas emissions by up to 30% on 1990 levels by 2030, although it said the level of its ambition would depend on offers other countries put forward. In a statement on the UN climate body website it said this goal would “allow the Russian Federation to step on the path of low-carbon development compatible with the long-term objective of the increase in global temperature below 2C”.  — Paris tracker: Who has pledged what for 2015 UN climate pact?

EU emissions fell five per cent in 2014 under trading scheme
Greenhouse gas emissions policed by the European Union’s carbon trading platform dropped by nearly five per cent last year despite a 1.3 per cent growth in GDP, new figures from the bloc suggested today. Preliminary figures from the European Commission appeared to show that the EU has already met its 20 per cent carbon reduction target six years early, partly as a result of warmer weather and upgrades to manufacturing plants.

BP’s extreme climate forecast puts energy giant in a bind
BP’s annual Energy Outlook report, released in February, details the results from modelling of what it sees as the “most likely” energy scenario out to 2035. In this scenario global fossil use increases by 33%, consistent with a scenario the International Energy Agency (IEA) uses to describe the trajectory towards global warming of 6C – far beyond the accepted “safe” limit of 2C. In its public presentation of the report, and elsewhere, BP admits that climate change is a problem, and that current carbon emission projections seem unsustainable, so what’s going on?

Shell gets go-ahead for Arctic drilling
Shell has been given the go-ahead by the US government to restart its controversial Arctic drilling programme, a decision campaigners have called “indefensible”. The same day President Barack Obama pledged emissions cuts of up to 28 per cent by 2025, the Department of the Interior approved the oil major’s request to explore for oil off the Alaskan coast.

The fat-burning and energy-producing gyms
Two great challenges facing western society are the looming energy crisis and the alarming increase in obesity. But if technology has developed to a point where we can efficiently trap kinetic energy, then could green gyms become little power stations burning human energy and sequentially running it into the grid? As more health clubs install energy-producing exercise equipment it’s becoming a prospect that burns ever more brightly.

Bright ideas for Vanuatu
Kiwi company Sunergise is rushing to the rescue of the people of Vanuatu, by bringing solar electricity solutions to the repair. You can help too…  Now that Cyclone Pam has devastated Vanuatu, Sunergise is offering solar as an effective contributor to the country’s power needs as it rebuilds. It was scheduled to install a 1.2 MW system at Iririki Island Resort just off Port Vila when the cyclone hit. It hopes to get that up and running within a couple of weeks, once the equipment arrives from Australia and damage to the resort is fixed. It will also use Irikiki as a depot for an ambitious project to offer basic power at village level, with help from Element and Shop Green.

Fossil Fuel Divestment

Guardian Media Group to divest its £800m fund from fossil fuels
The Guardian Media Group (GMG) is to sell all the fossil fuel assets in its investment fund of over £800m, making it the largest yet known to pull out of coal, oil and gas companies. The decision was justified on both financial and ethical grounds, said Neil Berkett, GMG chair: “It is a hard-nosed business decision, but it is influenced by the values of our organisation. It is a holistic decision taking into account all of those things.”

‘What are the Wellcome Trust using their access to the boardroom for?’
In a recent article in the Guardian Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, suggests that engaging with fossil fuel companies is a more constructive strategy than divesting from them. Farrar explains that if after engaging with these companies, they do not “meet their environmental responsibilities” and “support a transition to a low carbon economy” then Wellcome would be prepared to divest. But what are Wellcome’s investment criteria and would any of the top 200 fossil fuel companies meet them?

Environment and Biodiversity

Peter Hardstaff: Foreigners show way on saving rare dolphin (Opinion)
Conservationists around the world are applauding comprehensive efforts by a government to save one of the world’s smallest and rarest marine mammals from imminent extinction, through banning deadly gillnets from their waters. Sadly, this is not the New Zealand Government we are talking about. Rather, the Mexican Government has moved to protect the last of its vaquita, a tiny porpoise numbering fewer than 100 animals.

Cow steroids in waterways change fish courtship dance
Many men have tried, and failed, to woo a potential partner on the dance floor. Male guppy fish, on the other hand, have mastered the art. In their highly choreographed performance – part jig, part twerk – males shake back and forward in front of their potential partner, before contorting their bodies into a particularly acrobatic S-shaped manoeuvre. “If she’s convinced, she’ll glide toward the male and then he’ll come up behind her and fertilise her,” said Michael Bertram, a PhD student at Monash University. Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? Except that new research by Bertram and his colleagues suggests that a steroid commonly used to boost muscle growth in cattle – that ends up in waterways – may be altering this elaborate courtship behaviour.

Amazing: Tiny Birds Fly Without Landing for Three Days
Imagine a journey that requires you to first pack on the pounds, then get rid of your intestines, and finally to forgo eating and sleeping for three days. For the blackpoll warbler, such a feat is called their fall migration. Barely half an ounce (12 grams), these tiny birds fly from northeastern Canada to South America every fall. But no one knew what path they took. It turns out the warblers fly nonstop over the Atlantic Ocean, researchers report March 31 in the journal Biology Letters.

Economy and Business

Asset owners pushed to take leadership on climate change
Last month Dutch MP Jan Bos told Europe’s largest pension fund ABP and hundreds of its members that he was disappointed at the fund’s lack of ambition to take on climate change, complaining that “there wasn’t enough urgency.” It’s a proclamation we can expect to be repeated in every corner of the globe over the coming months and years.  A clear trend is emerging across the world’s seven largest pension markets as governments actively look to pension funds for leadership and guidance. These owners of nearly $40 trillion in assets have been thrust into the spotlight thanks to climate change.

UN Refugee Agency Buys 10,000 of IKEA’s Lightweight ‘Better Shelters’
IKEA has announced that its line of flat-pack refugee shelters are going into production after being tested among refugee families in Ethiopia, Iraq and Lebanon. The “Better Shelter” is a temporary shelter with an expected lifespan of three years — far longer than conventional refugee shelters, which last about six months. Delivered in flat packs, it is designed with special attention to transport volume, weight, price, safety, health and comfort, and it can be assembled on site without additional tools and equipment. It also has a solar panel and lamp to provide light during the dark hours. The Swedish furniture maker developed the lightweight shelter in partnership the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Sustainable material pioneers: what does the future hold?
In a recent live chat, experts took questions on the future of sustainable materials in the fashion industry. Here we round up the highlights.

Not all chocolate is created equal
Lucy Bennetto was never able to enjoy traditional brands of drinking chocolate because the high amounts of refined sugars and soy additives triggered her migraines. That’s when she came up with the idea for a sustainably sourced, all-natural dark chocolate bar designed to dissolve in steamed milk to create a rich, flavourful hot drink. “The aim of this particular chocolate is to create a world-class drinking chocolate brand that reflects high standards of ethics, integrity, and quality,” Bennetto says. Bennetto Natural Foods Co. Drinking Chocolate is organic and contains only three ingredients: cocoa beans, raw sugar, and vanilla.

Honour and Pari rule the roost at vineyard
NEW ZEALAND – Two rare native falcons raised on a Martinborough vineyard are growing up, flexing their powerful wings and terrorising grape thieves. When three New Zealand bush falcon chicks, or karearea, were moved last year from the Wingspan national bird of prey centre in Rotorua to a specialised nesting box at Escarpment vineyard, outside Martinborough, they were cute little balls of fluff. Five months on, one has fallen victim to a predator – probably a stoat – emphasising the vulnerability of the species, which has only about 4500 breeding pairs left in the wild. But Honour, a female, and male Pari, have already reached their full adult weights (430 grams and 250g respectively) and have begun hunting to feed themselves, sowing panic among the massive flocks of introduced “pest” birds such as starlings and waxeyes, which decimate the region’s valuable grape crop.

Hobart alderman calls for action on cruise ships using dirty fuel in port
A Hobart Alderman has called on the State Government to stop cruise ships from using low-grade fuel while docked in the city and “dumping dirty air onto our ports”. Ships in Australian ports burn the dirtier low-grade “bunker” fuel to keep their generators running in port because it is cheaper. They are prohibited from doing do so in ports in North America, Europe and the Caribbean, and New South Wales recently announced a ban starting July 2016. No such restrictions exist for cruise ships docking in Hobart, Burnie or Wineglass Bay, but Hobart Greens Alderman Helen Burnet told ABC Local Radio it was time for the Tasmanian Government to act.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Juha Saarinen: To cut waste make products that last longer
Nothing lasts forever, but having so many things either wear out, break or become obsolete shortly after you’ve bought them really grates on me. From brittle plastic snaps to built-in batteries that give up the ghost and can’t be replaced to smartphones costing well over a grand just two years ago, but which won’t run the latest apps or get security updates. You’re forced to replace the not-so-old gear rather than keep using it.

Politics and Society

Multitude of Mindfulness Apps Making Mental Health on the Go More Manageable
If you doubt the mainstreaming of mindfulness, look no further than a key session at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, called Mindfulness Meditation. It’s a new era, where technology can directly measure and influence our moods, attitudes and behavior, which when woven together into a societal tapestry, could be a Trojan Horse for a more sustainable ethos. Mindfulness — the ancient practice of being entirely present in the moment, suspending all judgment and reaping transformational mental, physical and social results, has a new wingman — the rise of mHealth (mobile health) apps.

Forestry agreements need a full overhaul, not just a tick and flick
AUSTRALIA – The broad aim of RFAs is to “provide certainty for forest-based industries, forest-dependent communities and conservation”. RFAs are now up for renewal, and it would certainly be in industry advocates’ interest for them to be simply “ticked off”, without the critical scrutiny that is clearly warranted. The RFAs need to be fully reviewed, not just renewed, because they have had highly perverse outcomes – rather than helping to ease environmental problems, the agreements have actually worsened them in some cases.

US climate plans will survive Republican attacks, say officials
US proposals to cut greenhouse gas emissions up to 28% by 2025 based on 2005 levels will be tough to stop, say White House officials, despite intense opposition from some Republicans.  Its emissions goal will be reached by curbing coal use in electricity generation through the clean power plan, tougher fuel efficiency standards for vehicles and a new drive to address methane emissions.“This target is consistent with a straight line emission reduction pathway from 2020 to deep, economy-wide emission reductions of 80% or more by 2050,” the submission to the UN  said. The news riled some Republicans hostile to any efforts to create a UN climate deal, notably Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell.

Built Environment

There’s great value in green credentials, so why are commercial agents so shy?
We all know there is significant value in green building. Research in Australia and internationally has proven it time and time again. And the trend is that green building, particularly in the commercial space, is increasing. Why? Because green buildings offer many benefits ranging from increased market value and reduced vacancy rates through to staff productivity benefits and lower occupancy costs. It’s become a no brainer for many developers and investors. Yet we regularly see highly efficient buildings with good sustainability features not being recognised and marketed to their full potential.

Food Systems

ADM Bows to Shareholder Pressure, Commits to New Deforestation Policy
Food and commodities giant ADM, which has reached over US$80 billion in revenues, says it will develop a no-deforestation policy in a move to source soy and palm oil more responsibly. The change occurred after a shareholder proposal, submitted by Green Century Capital Management and the New York State Common Retirement Fund, requested that ADM set quantitative goals for a reduction in supply chain impacts from deforestation.




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