Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
If you like what you see, you are welcome to sign up (on the right) for free sustainable development news delivered direct to your inbox each weekday morning.

Top Story

Elephant poaching costing African nations millions in lost tourism revenue
The poaching crisis wiping out Africa’s elephants is costing the continent’s economies millions in lost tourism revenue, according to a new study. Researchers looked at visitor and elephant data across 25 countries, and modelled financial losses from fewer visitors in protected areas due to the illegal wildlife trade, which has caused elephant numbers to plummet by more than 100,000 in the last decade. They concluded that Africa was most likely losing $25m in tourism revenue a year. The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, found that in most cases the revenue losses were higher than paying for stronger anti-poaching measures to keep elephant populations stable.


Energy and Climate Change

Global carbon intensity falls as coal use declines
The amount of carbon needed to power the global economy fell to record lows in 2015, as coal consumption in major economies plummeted. PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) annual Low Carbon Economy Index report has found that the global carbon intensity (emissions per unit of GDP) fell by 2.8%. This was more than double the average fall of 1.3% between 2000 and 2014, but far below the 6.5% required to stay within the 2C warming limit set by last year’s Paris agreement.

Renewables could lose European power grid priority, documents reveal
Windfarms and solar power could soon lose the privilege of getting priority over other energy sources on European electricity grids, leaked documents show. Paring back the “priority dispatch” system could increase carbon emissions by up to 10%, according to a confidential EU impact assessment seen by the Guardian. But the document goes on to model four scenarios for doing just that, in a bid to make Europe’s energy generators more flexible and cost-competitive.

Tesla’s solar roof rollout was … meh. These other new solar power gadgets are cooler.
Last Friday evening, Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk unveiled three new products. The rollout — scheduled, oddly, for 8:30 pm Eastern — had been hyped for weeks, but the actual event turned out to be a bit [sad trombone]. It was a fairly transparent bid to justify the proposed merger of Tesla and SolarCity to investors, but if I were one of those investors, I would not be very reassured. Still, the market Tesla is targeting — which doesn’t yet have a snappy name but involves consumer-side electricity generation, storage, and management, along with electric vehicles — is beginning to hop anyway.

South Australia hedges bets and dirties pool in energy tender
The South Australia government has declared its preference to use renewables for its major energy tender, but appears to have loaded the tender rules in favour of gas, including a dramatic weakening of the required emissions levels in what was supposed to be a “low carbon” energy tender.

Rio’s famous beaches take battering as scientists issue climate change warning
Scientists in Rio de Janeiro have warned that the city’s sea defences may not be able to cope with the effects of climate change after a record storm surge swamped beaches, dumping hundreds of tonnes of sand across nearby roads and buildings. Waves of almost four metres in the weekend storm left beach flags fluttering in tatters, forced the closure of deckchair-rental gazebos, and inundated coconut-and-beer kiosks with grit and sea water.

Environment and Biodiversity

Great Barrier Reef: why are government and business perpetuating the big lie?
At the core of the Australian government’s failure to protect our Great Barrier Reef is the big lie. Through its actions and inaction, rhetoric, funding priorities and policy decisions, the Australian government has implicitly pursued the line that it is possible to turn things around for the reef without tackling global warming.  This is the big lie.

Four environmental reasons why fast-tracking the Carmichael coal mine is a bad idea
Pressure is mounting for Adani’s Carmichael coal mine to proceed in inland Queensland. Recently the state government quietly gave the project “critical infrastructure” status to prioritise its development… In response to delays and finance issues, Adani has also reportedly scaled back its initial proposal to increase the mine’s viability. There are also growing political calls to weaken the ability of environmental groups to challenge infrastructure projects.  Others have commented on the mine’s issues around employment, finance, and indigenous and rural communities. But as ecologists, there are four good reasons why we believe the mine should not go ahead.

The ocean is losing its breath – and climate change is making it worse
Global climate change produces many effects – warming air energizes the atmosphere and intensifies storms; warmer water expands and raises sea level; storage of more carbon dioxide in the oceans is acidifying large realms. Now it is becoming clear that another, profound result of human activities is underway: lower oxygen levels in our oceans.

Economy and Business

Ecolabels: the complexity behind the simplicity
Recently it has come to my attention that there has been confusion as to what an ISO 14024 Type 1 ecolabel actually means, what it measures and what we mean when we talk about “the top 20 per cent”… The “top 20 per cent” figure is globally referred to and supported by United Nations Environmental Principles NEP guidelines and it utilised across the majority, if not all, of the Global Ecolabelling Network (GEN) members. To be clear, this is about rewarding and promoting leading sustainable products and services. It is about rewarding those who do more than just meet the minimum standards – they rise above and exceed them, outperforming even the “good” products.

Retail goods recycling and repair a booming business for TIC Group
It started with seeing an opportunity 27 years ago to recycle coat hangers and save them from entering landfill. Today, “ecopreneurs” David Harris and Mark Gandur have built a multi-national enterprise with 1500 employees across 15 sites worldwide providing services for heavyweights including Coles-Myer, Tesco, Microsoft and Tom-Tom. There’s also a mattress recycling plant opened in Melbourne’s west and another planned for Sydney.

3 Action Items for Business as the Paris Agreement Takes Effect
On October 5, the Paris Agreement on climate change cleared the final hurdle to go into full effect. This required at least 55 countries representing at least 55 percent of emissions to join – as I write this post, WRI’s real-time Paris Tracker shows that 89 countries representing 63 percent of emissions have now joined the Agreement… Now that we are unmistakably on a low-carbon path, businesses must continue to make progress in three priority action areas.

Financing India’s clean energy transition
India’s energy system faces the triple challenge of meeting growing demand, cutting pollution and offering more than 300m people not connected to the power grid access to modern energy. The government has set the target of building 175GW of renewable energy by 2022, primarily solar and wind, and mandated the rapid electrification of more than 18,000 villages. If realised, this presents an investment opportunity of more than $150bn in clean power generation. This White Paper (PDF) examines the recent growth across the country’s off-grid, small energy grids, rooftop solar and utility-scale renewable energy segments and looks at challenges in their future growth including financing trends.

Thirst for coltan, gold threatens Venezuelan forests, indigenous lands
The price of oil controls much of what happens in Venezuela, determining the nation’s economic health, policies and politics. In 1995, when that price fell to just 16 dollars per barrel, the nation’s currency was devalued while poverty and inflation soared. From 2008-2010, tumbling oil prices caused by the global economic crisis, prompted socialist President Hugo Chávez to announce the nation’s salvation: it lay in hidden reserves of a dull black metallic ore, vital to the world and worth $100 billion dollars.

Stop Selling, Start Mobilizing: The Rise of Movement Brands
The relationship between brands and people is being transformed before our very eyes; the old-fashioned, binary model of companies selling and people consuming is dead. Traditional, rigid hierarchies of control are being replaced with more fluid and open peer-to-peer networks. We are rapidly adopting the principles of a sharing economy as the mainstream norm and there is a new world order forming. You can choose to see this as either a challenge or an opportunity but the brands that will win are the movement brands that are brave enough to let their consumers take an equal stake in setting the agendas and creating content.

Talley’s accused of risking NZ’s brand with mine buy
NEW ZEALAND – Talley’s, which owns dairy, meat and seafood companies, is purchasing three of Solid Energy’s mines in a joint venture with the miner Bathurst Resources. Just last week, the Ministry for the Environment released a report saying ocean acidification and warming due to greenhouse gas emissions was one of the biggest threats to marine ecosystems. The report said human activities, such as burning coal, were changing the country’s marine environment, and ocean acidification and warming had widespread implications for species and ecosystems. Given this, several conservationists said they were surprised that Talley’s, which has extensive fishing operations in New Zealand, was purchasing three coal mines.

Politics and Society

Norway is green – but not green enough, say students
Norway is a country of contradiction. Internationally it’s seen as a green role model, what with its pledge to become climate-neutral by 2030, a reliance on hydropower and ambitious plans for electric cars. But at the same time, it’s one of the world’s largest exporters of oil and gas. It’s a paradox that has made a new generation of young Norwegians more environmentally conscious than ever.
Related: How Oslo Plans to Achieve the World’s Most Ambitious Emissions Targets

In Iraq, the environment itself has once again become a weapon of war
Iraq has a long, sordid history of people using the environment as a weapon. In 1991, Saddam Hussein’s forces lit Kuwait’s oil fields on fire to cover their retreat after the first Gulf War. Hussein later drained the famed marshes of southern Iraq to punish the rebellious Marsh Arabs. Now, more than 20 years later, officials say the Islamic State’s version of environmental warfare is making a fragile situation much, much worse.

The Bentley Effect: Why community energy will power our future (Movie Talk)
AUSTRALIA – There is a moment towards the end of the newly-completed documentary The Bentley Effect that will cause politicians, fossil fuel developers and major corporations to wince: “We won,” says Meg Neilson, a former accountant and local landowner. “We took on the big boys and we kicked their arse.” The Bentley Effect chronicles the community fight against coal seam gas in the Northern Rivers, from early defeats to the resounding victory at Bentley, where more than 5,000 people gathered to show their opposition to a CSG drilling program by the listed company Metgasco.

Essays on health: how food companies can sneak bias into scientific research
In September, a JAMA Internal Medicine study revealed that in the 1960s, the sugar industry paid scientists at Harvard University to minimise the link between sugar and heart disease. The historical papers the study was based on showed researchers were paid to shift the blame from sugar to fat as responsible for the heart disease epidemic. The paper’s authors suggested many of today’s dietary recommendations may have been largely shaped by the sugar industry. And some experts have since questioned whether such misinformation can have led to today’s obesity crisis.

Food Systems

Sustainable aquaculture is possible, with the right science
Aquaculture is in the spotlight again, with an ABC investigation raising concerns over the sustainability of the expansion of Tasmania’s salmon-farming industry. Controversies over fish farming are newsworthy and emotive, particularly when company profits and communities are at stake. Unfortunately, independent scientific evidence is often used selectively or even ignored in these debates.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.