Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Australian emissions rising towards historical highs and will not peak before 2030, analysis finds
Australia’s national greenhouse gas emissions are set to keep rising well beyond 2020 on current trends, with the projected growth rate one of the worst in the developed world, a new analysis has found. An assessment of recent government emissions data, carried out by the carbon consultancy firm RepuTex, says that in the 2014-15 financial year Australia’s carbon pollution rose for the first time in almost a decade when compared to the previous year. From there they say separate government forecasts, also released late last year, show Australia’s emissions are on track for a further 6 per cent increase to 2020.


Energy and Climate Change

Record Renewables Increase In Europe, Emissions Stay Level
2015 saw a record 2.5% increase in renewables generation in Europe, which now makes up 29% of total European electricity supply, reports UK think tank Sandbag. However, as a result of lower output from hydropower and nuclear power stations, the amount of fossil fuel generation barely changed. CO2-emissions from the power sector fell only 0.5% after a 7.5% fall in 2014, but according to Sandbag this year will see a rapid fall again.

Owning The 21st Century With Solar, Water, & Brain Power
Abu Dhabi is beginning to emerge as a solar energy powerhouse in the 21st century, after powering its way through the 20th century on petroleum. The tiny Emirate still has plans to continue producing oil well into the future, but it is diversifying its economy and that of the United Arab Emirates to deploy three other critical global resources: collaborative innovation and water, in addition to renewable energy.

Coalition provides funds for 300kW solar for community groups
AUSTRALIA – The federal Coalition government has announced $300,000 of grants to help 17 community groups in two South Australian cities install 320kW of rooftop solar on their buildings. The funding, from round two of the Coalition’s Solar Towns program, will help sporting groups, charities and multi-cultural groups add the solar and help reduce their electricity bills

Environment and Biodiversity

‘Like losing the thylacine’: Fire burns Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area
Ancient alpine ecosystems unique to Tasmania’s remote world heritage wilderness, including trees that lived for more than a millennium, have been killed by fires that scientists say are linked to climate change. The first images of the damage on the state’s central plateau have triggered calls for governments to do more to protect internationally recognised landscapes as part of their fire response.

Fires in Tasmania’s ancient forests are a warning for all of us
Bushfires are threatening Tasmania’s World Heritage area and ancient plants, warning us of a possible future under climate change.

Destroyed pencil pine on Tasmania's central plateau. Photo: Rob Blakers

Destroyed pencil pine on Tasmania’s central plateau. Photo: Rob Blakers

Human development mows down seagrass, threatening a natural source of carbon storage
Seagrasses along Australia’s coast are being devastated at increasing rates, and human development is to blame. How and when that damage first began occurring was the subject of a study at Edith Cowan University’s centre for marine ecosystems research, which revealed one area had lost 80 per cent of its seagrass in fewer than 30 years.

Endangered birds threatened by mangrove removal
NEW ZEALAND – The Mangawhai Harbour Restoration Society was given consent to clear some mangroves from the middle of the harbour in 2012, and earlier this month they announced plans to remove more. The fairy tern is New Zealand’s rarest endemic breeding bird with half of its 10 breeding pairs living in Mangawhai, and the restoration society’s plans put the birds at risk, said Forest and Bird’s seabird conservation advocate Karen Baird.

Lions rediscovered in Ethiopian national park
Conservationists have announced the “amazing discovery” of a previously unknown lion population in a remote north-western region of Ethiopia, confirming local reports with camera trap photographs for the first time.


Choose Clean Water Tour pushes for swimmable waterways
A group of freshwater campaigners is collecting stories about water as it pushes for swimmable waterways. The Choose Clean Water Tour is travelling around the country on a month-long journey to document New Zealanders’ relationship to their waterways through short films. The campaign will present a petition to Parliament calling for strong protection for freshwater, including raising the minimum standard for rivers and lakes from “wadeable” to swimmable… The petition was able to be signed at, where people can also upload their own stories.

Desperate need for effective regulation for lakes and rivers (Opinion)
NEW ZEALAND –  A colleague recently asked me which rivers and lakes I’d recommend she take her son and nephew swimming during an upcoming visit to Christchurch, somewhere handy to the city. I was embarrassed to email back that she would have to drive for over an hour to Lake Lyndon near Porter’s Pass if she and the boys wanted to be able to swim in a lake or river without the risk of getting sick.

Economy and Business

Nestlé admits slavery in Thailand while fighting child labour lawsuit in Ivory Coast
It’s hard to think of an issue that you would less like your company to be associated with than modern slavery. Yet last November Nestlé, the world’s largest foodmaker and one of the most recognisable household brands, went public with the news it had found forced labour in its supply chains in Thailand… By independently disclosing that Nestlé customers had unwittingly bought products contaminated by the very worst labour abuses, the company said it was moving into a new era of self-policing of its own supply chains.

Who will pay the $17.8 billion mining rehabilitation bill?
AUSTRALIA – Queensland MP Jim Pearce caused an uproar among mining industry executives recently, by announcing that he was “… concerned that, at this time in the history of coalmining in Queensland, I am unable with confidence to point to any mining company that deserves the right to mine.’’ He reportedly made this statement due to less than enthusiastic mine rehabilitation efforts, citing as an example of Rio Tinto walking away from mines that were only 20% rehabilitated.

Garnaut – time to write down value of power grids
AUSTRALIA – As private companies bite the bullet and write off billions of dollars off the value of oil, gas and coal assets in the face of declining demand, plunging costs and the growth in renewable energy sources, a new call has gone out for Australia’s state governments to do the same with their network assets. Professor Ross Garnaut said forcing high network charges on consumers in the face of declining use of the grid would impose a bigger penalty on consumers and businesses than a consumption tax, or even a carbon price. And it would be less efficient.

PM should invest in nature – Environmental Defense Society
NEW ZEALAND – Not-for-profit organisation the Environmental Defense Society has responded positively to Prime Minister John Key’s announcement that the Government will be investing more money in upgrading infrastructure that has already been built… However, the environmental advocates are also encouraging the Government to put funds toward directing protecting New Zealand’s “natural capital”.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Funding problems hit plan to clean Rio’s polluted waterways ahead of Olympics
With the Olympic Games just months away, Rio de Janeiro has a problem: rubbish. Hundreds of tonnes of unprocessed waste flow into the Guanabara Bay every year. The problem isn’t new but the prospect of Olympic swimmers and sailors taking to Rio’s contaminated waters have put the issue in the spotlight.

Olympic swimmers and sailors face the prospect of heavily polluted waters at the Rio Olympics. Photograph: Silvia Izquierdo/AP

Olympic swimmers and sailors face the prospect of heavily polluted waters at the Rio Olympics. Photograph: Silvia Izquierdo/AP

Politics and Society

Republicans reject climate change fears despite rebukes from scientists
They have bloviated about carpet bombing, bickered about walls, and waxed anti-Muslim and -migrant, but over more than 16 hours of debate, the Republican candidates for president have almost entirely ignored what most of the world fears most: the rising tides and temperatures of climate change.
See also: Election live: Trump and Clinton lead on day of Iowa caucuses

Survey: British public among the least concerned about climate change
The British public is far more concerned about the threat posed by population growth than it is about climate change, according to a YouGov survey published late last week. The survey, which questioned more than 18,000 people in 17 different countries, found that while climate change is seen as the third most concerning issue globally, people in Britain feel armed conflicts and population growth pose a greater threat.

Why would anyone believe the Earth is flat?
Belief in a flat Earth seems a bit like the attempt to eradicate polio – just when you think it’s gone, a pocket of resistance appears. But the “flat Earthers” have always been with us; it’s just that they usually operate under the radar of public awareness. Now the rapper B.o.B has given the idea prominence through his tweets and the release of his single Flatline, in which he not only says the Earth is flat, but mixes in a slew of other weird and wonderful ideas.

Trophy hunts to be offered in New Zealand
The world’s largest trophy-hunting organisation, Safari Club International, is tomorrow beginning a five-day auction in Las Vegas of trophy hunts donated by hunting safari businesses worldwide. Just over 300 mammal hunts will go under the hammer, including 28 in New Zealand… SPCA chief executive Ric Odom said the society did not have an issue with hunting for food or as part of pest control. But it was against trophy hunting, especially by amateur hunters who might not have the skill to kill quickly.

Sustainability and community at Splore Festival
NEW ZEALAND – In its history of over a decade, the Splore Festival, taking place at Tapapakanga Regional Park beyond the outskirts of Auckland, has always held sustainability as a central tenet and a principle that makes it special. From 19 to 21 February this year, the beautiful area will come alive with music, food, good times and care for the environment.

Density and equity: how urban sprawl undermines social mobility
A new study out of the US has provided more evidence to support the notion that urban sprawl compromises social mobility. The study, published in Landscape and Urban Planning, examined potential pathways through which sprawl may affect social mobility, using mathematical models to account for both direct and indirect effects of sprawl on social mobility. Direct effects included access to jobs, while indirect effects included integration of different income classes, social capital, racial segregation and income segregation.

Built Environment

World GBC lays out pathway for greener, more profitable retail
Consumers will vote with their feet for more sustainable retail spaces, according to a major report just released by the World Green Building Council. The Health, Wellbeing and Productivity in Retail: The Impact of Green Buildings on People and Profit report shows that key sustainability elements including natural light, fresh air ventilation and greenery are more likely to encourage people to come, stay and buy than the traditional “grey box” mall.

Food Systems

Forget quinoa and kale, these basic foods for your kids’ lunch box will give them the nutrition they need
With the start of another school year upon us, parents are preparing themselves for the constant task of making lunch boxes. Many parents feel pressure to include superfoods in the lunch box, which can be costly and impractical, especially if their child doesn’t like them! Yet while superfoods are hyped everywhere as being essential items, nutritionally they are not that different to other fruit and vegetables. For many families, just getting something into a lunch box is super enough.

Fish-powered vegetables: Backyard aquaponics make a splash in suburban Canberra
In a suburban backyard in Canberra’s north, Gurkan Yeniceri is growing a produce-rich garden with the help of freshwater fish. He has joined forces with the Canberra Environment Centre to show gardeners the possibilities of backyard aquaponics. Growing fish and vegetables together has long been popular in parts of southern China, Thailand and Indonesia in a unique and sustainable approach to farming.


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