Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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COP21, Global Inequality, Resource Scarcity Among 15 ‘State of Play’ Sustainability Trends
[Yesterday], think tank SustainAbility released its view of the key sustainability developments during 2015 in a webinar, “Mid-Year ‘State of Play’ Sustainability Trends.” Its latest research identifies 10 global trends and five region-specific trends in Latin America. “These are not this week’s headlines,” clarified Mark Lee, Executive Director of SustainAbility. Instead, the trends highlighted in the webinar reflect long-term movements within the international sustainability community that his team expects will continue throughout the year and beyond.

Energy and Climate Change

South Australia pushes battery storage in government buildings
South Australia is rapidly emerging as the leading state in battery storage, with the Labor government announcing a $1.1 million tender to install battery storage in several key government buildings, including parliament house and its flagship arts buildings in the North Terrace precinct.

Anger grows over Spanish law designed to halt residential storage
Thousands of citizens have joined pro-solar groups in slamming the Spanish government for attempting to stymie residential energy storage prospects. Earlier this month, the Spanish Ministry of Energy proposed legislation that would tax owners of solar-plus storage systems $10 per kilowatt of capacity. The proposal has upset many people in the country. The energy ministry website set up to collect comments on the proposed law crashed after more than 100,000 petition signatures and 34,000 formal objections had been sent in.

M&S Energy launches £400,000 fund for community energy projects
Marks and Spencer (M&S) Energy will offer up to £400,000 for community energy projects with the launch of the M&S Community Energy Fund today (1 July).  The energy arm of the UK retailer also announced it is now supplying 100% of its electricity from renewable sources, generated from 46 hydro power stations in Scotland. The M&S Community Energy Fund will offer funding to not-for-profit organisations that want to use renewable energy for the benefit of their local community.

Fossil Fuel Divestment

Church of England divests from Soco oil firm over Virunga operations
The Church of England (CoE) has sold its stake in a British oil and gas company over allegations of bribery, corruption and human rights abuses and what it said was the company’s failure to unequivocally rule out drilling for oil in Africa’s oldest national park. London-listed Soco International has been criticised in the past two years by conservationists including WWF and Sir David Attenborough for its attempt to drill in Virunga in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which is a world heritage site and home to around half the world’s mountain gorillas.

Environment and Biodiversity

Great Barrier Reef: World Heritage Committee decides against declaring reef as ‘in danger’
The United Nations’ World Heritage Committee has decided against declaring the Great Barrier Reef as “in danger”. The reef will remain on the UNESCO watch list for another four years. The committee’s 21-nation members met in Bonn, Germany, to debate a draft decision that had recommended the reef not be listed. The ruling came three years after the committee first threatened to add the natural wonder to the list.

Tasmanian Govt under fire from UN over management of wilderness area
Tonight, the United Nations World Heritage Committee will decide whether to recommend the Great Barrier Reef not be declared ‘in danger’. But less attention’s been paid to the committee’s criticism of the Tasmanian Government’s plans to manage its world heritage listed forests. The UN’s draft decision urges the Tasmanian Government to ban logging and mining in the wilderness area.

Six Pictures of Beautiful, Bizarre Worms That Slink Or Swim
It was only a matter of time before the humble worm got its own day. July 1 is the first International Polychaete Day, and museums around the world—including the Australian Museum, London’s Natural History Museum, and the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum—plan to celebrate the wonderful world of the worm so let’s give these humble, but critical-to-the-food-web, animals their day in the spotlight.

Psychedelic Researchers discovered this "squidworm,"in 2007 in the Celebes Sea between Indonesia and the Philippines. The worm has ten "tentacles" on its head that it uses to grab tiny food particles from the water.

Psychedelic Researchers discovered this “squidworm,”in 2007 in the Celebes Sea between Indonesia and the Philippines. The worm has ten “tentacles” on its head that it uses to grab tiny food particles from the water.
Photograph by Michael Aw

Oranges bug ‘hacks insect behaviour’
New research suggests that a bacterium, thought to be the cause of a deadly disease of citrus plants, aids its own spread by altering insect behaviour. Asian psyllids – the insects behind the spread of citrus greening – were shown to fly further and more frequently after feeding on infected plants. This increased mobility is thought to enhance the chances of the insect passing the bacterium on.  The research was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Economy and Business

Resource efficiency will help to reduce volatility risks, suggests Green Alliance report
A study undertaken by Green Alliance has said that improving resource efficiency will help to reduce volatility in commodity prices. In the report, Managing Resources for a resilient economy: lessons from the financial sector, showed that governments around the world have focused on improving resource stewardship in response to rising commodity prices since the turn of the century.

Crowdsourcing Sustainable Solutions: Unilever Launches Foundry IDEAS Platform
Unilever unveiled a new initiative at the Cannes Lions festival on Friday that aims to put fresh momentum behind its Sustainable Living Plan with public input. The Foundry IDEAS platform will act us a hub for consumers and entrepreneurs to work together to tackle sustainability challenges. Similar to the original Unilever Foundry platform, which enables startups to partner with the company, Foundry IDEAS provides a place for individuals to create and collaborate on solutions to “grand challenges” relating to sustainability. Unilever says it will regularly upload challenges to the Foundry IDEAS site where its community can submit ideas or add to other people’s responses.

Coca-Cola and Cranfield University develop six themes for future sustainable manufacturing
A white paper from Coca-Cola Enterprises and Cranfield University has set out six themes that will shape sustainable manufacturing in the food and drink industry. Sustainable Manufacturing for the Future investigates the challenges and opportunities the food and drink industry needs to address to achieve rapid and fundamental change.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Scrapping of waste monitoring programme defended
NEW ZEALAND – Environment Minister Nick Smith has rejected criticism his Government is putting the environment at risk by scrapping funding for a monitoring programme that tracked liquid and hazardous waste. The Government has stopped its annual $103,000 funding of the WasteTRACK programme, a voluntary, web-based scheme which was set up a decade ago for contractors and others to trace the movement of waste, such as septic tank sludge, from pick-up to disposal.

UNICEF says one in three without toilets; children exposed to death, diseases
One in three people around the world still do not have access to a proper toilet, according to a new report from the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF. Progress on sanitation is falling short of the UN’s millennium development goals, which were set in 1990. The goals set targets for improving sanitation and plumbing around the globe. The report said close to 1 billion people were defecating in the open, increasing the risk of the spread of bacteria.

Politics and Society

Wales announces £22m grant for environment and sustainability initiatives
The Welsh Government has announced which organisations will share £22m of funding for environment and sustainability initiatives.  The package includes £2.7m for Keep Wales Tidy, £9.5m for the Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and just under £1m for the Welsh Local Government Association. Thirteen other organisations will benefit from the funding, including waste and resource initiatives and wildlife and environmental groups.

Qld Treasury repeatedly warned against Carmichael coal mine, documents reveal
AUSTRALIA – The Queensland State Government is under pressure to withdraw its support for the controversial Carmichael coalmine after revelations the State Treasury warned repeatedly it wasn’t viable. Documents obtained by the ABC today reveal that the Treasury and the Department of Premier and Cabinet had raised concerns about the mine with the former Newman government, but the documents show that they were frozen out of negotiations.

Built Environment

NSW produces urban green cover guidelines to increase resilience
AUSTRALI A – New technical guidelines on urban green cover are expected to help developments in NSW increase resilience to climate change, according to the state government. The NSW Urban Green Cover Technical Guidelines have been produced by the the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage in partnership with the NSW Government Architects Office, and outline strategies for increasing vegetation and including permeable and reflective surfaces in urban environments in order to reduce urban heat.

Demand for greener freight is on the rise, but there’s much to do
Freight makes up a big part of the carbon footprint of almost every Australian business and individual, whether it’s materials for a new office block that need transporting or the coffee beans for your morning espresso.  A swathe of reports including the Infrastructure Audit report has emphasised the need to replace high-emissions air and road freight with lower emissions sea and rail, but to get there is complicated. There is also a need for careful analysis of supply chains and customer demand so lower-emissions freight options can be used where possible.

Food Systems

How Will We Feed a World of Nine Billion People? (Book Talk)
By 2040, the world’s population is predicted to rise to nine billion. That means two billion more mouths to feed. Even now, the earth groans under the weight of those numbers. More than 800 million people are malnourished. Another two billion are short of essential micronutrients, which affect health. A billion more consume too many calories and are obese. What can be done? In his new book, The End of Plenty: The Race To Feed A Crowded World, Joel K. Bourne Jr., a former senior editor for National Geographic, travels from India to China and Africa to find answers.

How can businesses make healthy eating easier? – live chat
Recent decades have witnessed the rise of cheap, calorie-loaded diets in countries as diverse as the US, South Africa and Saudi Arabia. In the UK, the price of an ice-cream halved between 1980 and 2012 yet the price of fresh vegetables tripled, according to a recent study from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI). While low price junk food continues to be readily available, what responsibility do food companies have around the production and marketing of cheap processed food? Should they be making nutritional value and calorie content much clearer? And as more big food companies attempt to up the health factor of their products, what opportunities are there for businesses to help improve consumer health?

[The Guardian will] be putting these questions to a range of experts – and we want to hear from you too!


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