Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Top Story

Beauty companies and the struggle to source child labour-free mica
Nearly a decade after child labour in mica mining came to light, the cosmetic industry’s progress on cleaning up its supply chain for the glittery mineral has been slow and tricky.

Energy and Climate Change

Plans for Victoria’s ‘largest’ community solar farm set to double in size
AUSTRALIA – A 10MW community solar farm planned for the regional Victoria’s city of Wangaratta could soon double in size, after a strong show of interest in the council supported project from both businesses and investors.

Energy efficiency would be cheaper than Hinkley
UK – Installing energy efficiency could be £12 billion cheaper than the construction of the Hinkley Point C new nuclear power plant. The cost of implementing energy efficiency measures is estimated to be less than £6 billion, while the construction of the new nuclear plant Hinkley Point C is expected to cost around £18 billion. Utilitywise has called this cost an “unnecessary expense” and highlighted the opportunities to reduce energy consumption through efficiency.

Environment and Biodiversity

Parakeets are the new pigeons – and they’re on course for global domination
Love them or hate them, ring-necked parakeets have invaded Europe and they’re here to stay. Already a staple of many urban parks and gardens around the UK, some of these charismatic bright green birds are now so comfortable in their new surroundings that they will happily sit and feed from your hand.

Why a Giant Green Lake Turned Blood-Red
Like the famous Aral Sea between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and the Salton Sea in California, the salty expanse of Lake Urmia in Iran has been drying up and shrinking for decades. Now the lake, once one of the largest in the Middle East, looks more like a gigantic crime scene.

Bloody Transformation: The waters of Lake Urmia changed from green on April 23 to red on July 18, as seen by a NASA satellite. Photograph by NASA Earth Observatory

Bloody Transformation: The waters of Lake Urmia changed from green on April 23 to red on July 18, as seen by a NASA satellite. Photograph by NASA Earth Observatory


Malayan Sun bear: bile trade threatens the World’s smallest bear
The Malayan Sun bear may not be the most famous animal in Southeast Asia, but it is undoubtedly one of the most endearing — though its charm hasn’t served to protect it. These gentle, inquisitive residents of the Asian mainland, Sumatra and Borneo, are threatened by poaching for traditional medicine. They’re also fast losing their tropical forest habitat to agricultural expansion for oil palm plantations and other crops. Currently listed as Vulnerable to Extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Sun bear global populations have declined by more than 30 percent over the past three decades (three Sun bear generations).

Britons urged to help chart spread of thriving butterfly species
Wildlife lovers are being asked to spend 15 minutes in a wood this week to chart the spread of the speckled wood (Pararge aegeria), Britain’s most successful butterfly. The speckled wood is one of a handful of species that appear to be benefitting from climate change, recently colonising East Anglia, the Midlands and much of northern England, increasing in abundance by 84% over the past 40 years… As part of this year’s Big Butterfly Count, Butterfly Conservation and the Tree Charter – a campaign to help protect the UK’s woodlands and wildlife – are asking the public to visit a local wood and record the speckled woods and other butterflies they see.

This island plans to remove invasive rats and goats to save its native wildlife
The remote Caribbean island of Redonda, part of Antigua and Barbuda, is home to numerous species of plants and animals found nowhere else on earth. It is also home to invasive black rats and non-native goats that are wiping out the island’s native, rare wildlife, conservationists say. To help the island’s flora and fauna, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda is now initiating a plan to remove all goats and rats from the island.

Redonda from the air. The island, once forested, now looks like a lunar landscape. Photo by Jenny Daltry/Fauna & Flora International.

Redonda from the air. The island, once forested, now looks like a lunar landscape. Photo by Jenny Daltry/Fauna & Flora International.

James Russell: Giant leap to pest-free NZ is attainable
Dr James Russell is in the school of biological sciences and the department of statistics at the University of Auckland.
While offshore and back-country conservation makes a lot of sense when money and resources are limited, do we really want our precious taonga native species tucked away in remote places where most New Zealanders rarely get to see them? The Government has said no, but by any standard scaling up our efforts by the order of magnitude required to achieve a pest-free New Zealand by 2050 is a giant leap from where we are now.

Thousands of seabirds killed by fishing boats
NEW ZEALAND – Just-published graphics have laid bare the toll of commercial fishing bycatch on seabirds, marine mammals and turtles. Between 2013 and 2014, an estimated 81 dolphins were killed in the jack mackerel trawl fishery, along with an estimated 2,277 seabirds, among them threatened species such as Salvin’s mollyhawk and white chinned petrel. An estimated 387 fur seals were killed in other trawl fisheries.

Economy and Business

Why are insurance companies lagging in climate risk?
You would think that insurance companies would be experts in minimizing risk and reducing exposure to catastrophic natural disasters.  But a recent report suggests that the vast majority of insurance companies are not factoring in climate risk when it comes to their investment decisions. Just one out of every eight insurance companies is taking tangible action on protecting their portfolios on climate risk, according to the Asset Owners Disclosure Project’s (AODP) annual Global Climate 500 Index, which analyzed 116 insurers with $15.3 trillion of investments.

New European cities fund to screen for climate resilience
A new €700 million (AU$1.03 billion) European real estate fund has been launched that will only invest in “future-proof cities”, and includes a climate resilience screen in order to provide diversified and defensive income return optimised over the long term. The fund, managed by TH Real Estate, processed 200 European cities through a filtering system to create a list of cities that were structurally positioned to grow in value over the long term, and included factors such as quality of life and technology scores as well as urbanisation and youth population figures, and discretionary spending and growth rates.

French inquiry confirms widespread irregularities in diesel emissions data
French investigators have found a large number of diesel cars emit much higher levels of pollution than their European manufacturers claim. The claims were revealed by France’s environment ministry after a 10-month investigation ordered following the “Dieselgate” scandal over Volkswagen’s use of software to cheat emissions tests.

City of London puts the brakes on new diesel vehicle purchases
The City of London Corporation has banned the purchase or hire of diesel vehicles for its business. The public authority, which has a fleet of more than 300 vehicles, announced on Friday it will now no longer lease or purchase diesel models when older models need replacing.

Better incentives needed to encourage forestry
NEW ZEALAND – Forestry would stack up better against dairying in the central North Island if environmental factors were taken into account, argues Scion chief executive Dr Warren Parker. Parker, who heads the forestry crown research institute, said forests on the Central Plateau were cut down from 2004 to 2015 to increase capital gain without regard for the best land use.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Call to ban use of polystyrene cups and food containers
NEW ZEALAND – First there was the bid to rid Palmerston North of single-use plastic bags. Now the city has been challenged to be the first in New Zealand to ban the use of polystyrene cups and food containers. The proposal was put to the city council’s planning and policy committee on Monday by ratepayer William Van Ausdal. Speaking about the proposed waste management and minimisation bylaw, Van Ausdal said use and sale of expandable polystyrene foam (EPS) for cups, plates, take-out food containers and packing materials should be controlled.

Auckland Pokemon Go beach clean-up expected to attract hundreds
NEW ZEALAND – Pokemon Go users are being encouraged to do some good while they “catch ’em all”. At the height of the its popularity, an environmental science graduate has seized the opportunity to lure in users of the popular game for a beach clean-up mission.
Go to for more information.

Politics and Society

Diversity versus cultural fit: ‘I hire people who I know will challenge me’
Hiring people to fit company culture is one of those things that sounds great in theory when you want to work in a place where everybody gets along and wants the same things. But there is increasing concern that cultural fit is also used as a lazy excuse for old-fashioned bias in recruitment. Jobseekers may find themselves judged too introverted, too rightwing, too working class, too money-focused, too unattractive, too female or too foreign to fit in.

Reimagining NSW: four ways to boost community well-being and why it matters
AUSTRALIA – Healthy, engaged people and communities will be crucial in a prosperous future for New South Wales. That’s not a new idea – it’s another way of saying everyone should have a fair go or we all suffer. But what practical steps can we take to get there? Here are four areas of policy focus that will help build a future NSW where every citizen has a chance to contribute to their full potential.

Reimagining NSW: how good governance strengthens democracy
AUSTRALIA – Large-scale protests – often centred around lack of consultation – are not uncommon in NSW and are starting to shift election outcomes. The NSW government has tightened the rules on protest (which has sparked further demonstrations). The common thread here is governance: the relationship between the state and civil society. Many NSW citizens appear to be indicating they feel disenfranchised, marginalised and silenced when it comes to policymaking. Could doing governance differently make NSW more prosperous?

Santos coal seam gas project clears legal hurdle after court verdict
AUSTRALIA – The $2 billion Santos coal seam gas project in north-western NSW has dodged a legal bullet after the state’s Land and Environment Court dismissed a case its main wastewater treatment plant had been constructed without necessary approvals. The decision, handed down on Monday by Justice Tim Moore, found permits for the Leewood facility were valid for the treatment of wastewater without a full development consent and environment impact statement (EIS). The site can treat more than 1 million litres of water a day.

Indonesia’s new cabinet built on political transactions
It is not surprising that the new ministers recently appointed by Indonesian President Joko Widodo still reflect a cabinet of compromise. As a political outsider, the president lacks the support of a strong political machinery. In the context of Indonesia’s oligarchical system he has little choice but to succumb to political transactions.

How being in nature makes us appreciate our bodies and reject unrealistic beauty standards
Nature is good for us – surely nobody has missed that fact. These days, both scientists and policymakers agree about the importance of offering everyone access to green spaces, regardless of social background. That’s because easy access to nature encourages physical activity, which in turn has positive health effects. For instance, English populations with the most green space in their surroundings also have the lowest levels of mortality. The simple fact is that people tend to be healthier and live longer when they have easy access to nature. Accessible green space is also good for our psychological well-being.

Built Environment

5 companies leading the charge on net zero building
Last month, the World Green Building Council announced its ambitious new project, Advancing Net Zero, which aims to make all buildings net zero by 2050… The WorldGBC plans to do this by implementing net zero certification rating systems and training in countries that have the highest projected growth in building development. As there are 74 separate Green Building Councils and 27,000 member companies within the WorldGBC, this new project holds potential to make a massive impact on building stock around the globe.

Sydney Opera House ups environmental ambitions
The Sydney Opera House will target a 5 Star Green Star Performance rating, recycle 85 per cent of operational waste and work to become carbon neutral by 2023, its Environmental Sustainability Plan 2017-19 has revealed. Sydney Opera House chief executive Louise Herron said in 1954 former NSW Premier JJ Cahill had described the ambition of the building “to help mould a better and more enlightened community”.

Food Systems

‘Better Food for More People:’ Chobani Incubator Seeking Purpose-Driven Food Startups
Roughly a decade ago, Hamdi Ulukaya was just beginning his journey to popularize Greek yogurt in the United States as a healthier alternative to the sugar-loaded, artificial preservatives-filled cups and tubes of yogurt Americans were consuming… Knowing that the market was beginning to mature, the company announced it would launch the Chobani Food Incubator, a program for purpose-driven food startups. The time is finally here – applications are closing soon! Entrepreneurs who share Chobani’s mission to “provide better food to more people,” seeking to offer affordable products made using only natural ingredients, are encouraged to apply for the program by August 10, 2016.


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