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

Malala on Standing Up to World Leaders While Also Being a Teenager
When Malala Yousafzai was born, the people in her Pashtun village felt sorry for her parents because their new child wasn’t a boy. Now, Malala commands attention as the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize winner, advocating for girls’ education. During her journey to the world stage, she took on the Taliban as an 11-year-old blogger, survived an assassination attempt, and founded an organization that supports education around the world. This week, He Named Me Malala, a movie about her life, opens in the United States. Speaking from Los Angeles, Malala described how she pushes world leaders to act and why she doesn’t think she’s really that special.

Energy and Climate Change

Climate pledges by 140 countries will limit global warming – but not enough
Plans submitted by 140 nations to limit their greenhouse gases would go some way towards tackling climate change, but not enough to prevent the planet from warming by well over 2C compared to pre-industrial times, experts say. The plans by countries from Albania to Zimbabwe, led by top emitters China and the United States, were submitted by an informal United Nations deadline on Thursday as building blocks towards a climate accord that negotiators will try to clinch at a summit in Paris in December. A Climate Action Tracker (CAT) by four European research groups projected the plans, if implemented, would limit average temperature rises to 2.7C above pre-industrial times by 2100, down from 3.1C estimated last December.

World’s energy systems at risk from global warming, says industry group
The world’s energy infrastructure is at risk from the extreme weather expected to result from climate change, a group of prominent energy companies has warned. Energy systems, including fossil fuel power stations, distribution grids, and the networks that reach to people’s homes, are all at risk from effects such as flooding, severe storms and sea level rises, according to a new report from the World Energy Council, which brings together energy companies, academics and public sector agencies.

Coalition to accelerate battery storage in Australian households
The Australian government has announced that it wants to accelerate the deployment of battery storage in Australian households, chiefly as a means to reduce huge peaks in demand and reduce costs for consumers, but also to cut emissions. Environment minister Greg Hunt says he wants the two institutions that have been brought within his department – the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) – to bring forward the widespread deployment of battery storage.

Environment and Biodiversity

Indigenous protection of vast area in NT will educate future generations
AUSTRALIA – Mr Kenny, 29, works with the Central Land Council as a Kaltukatjara ranger co-ordinator, a job that is, at its core, about “getting back to country”. That message rang true on Thursday as the Anangu​ traditional owners declared more than five million hectares of their land an Indigenous Protected Area (IPA). Larger than Switzerland and five years in the making, the Katiti Petermann​ IPA surrounds Uluru-Kata Tjuta​ National Park and will form part of a 48 million hectare network of nine protected areas in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and South Australia border region.

What’s Next For Yellowstone’s Grizzlies?
Chris Servheen knows why grizzly bears matter… Not only are the predators crucial to keeping prey populations in check, they boost local economies, thanks to tourists like Servheen. Nature-related tourism is worth $1 billion annually to the Greater Yellowstone region—the intersection of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho—with grizzlies and wolves being the marquee attractions… Since being listed as threatened in 1975, the species has gradually bounced back—a turnaround that many have hailed as one of the most momentous wildlife conservation successes in history.

Bush Haven welcomes four Kaka chicks
NEW ZEALAND – Three new arrivals in one year would be enough for any parent, but Invercargill kaka Hannah and Casey welcomed four to their nest in little more than a week. The first chicks hatched on Wednesday last week, followed by the third late on Thursday and the fourth hatched on Saturday. The Department of Conservation estimates there are fewer than 5000 kaka nationwide, making it less common than kiwi.

Russell Evans and kaka parents Casey and Hannah have welcomed four new chicks to their nest at Bush Haven bird sanctuary in Otatara.

Russell Evans and kaka parents Casey and Hannah have welcomed four new chicks to their nest at Bush Haven bird sanctuary in Otatara.

Sam Judd: Science delivers triumph for the oceans  (Opinion)
When it was announced that we are creating one of the biggest marine sanctuaries in the world, conservationists far and wide rejoiced. Scientists have long been calling for more no-take areas, that are proven to help fisheries recover and develop tourism opportunities. Although it will be hard to see the Kermadec Islands become a tourism cash cow due to their distance from the mainland, the effects of closing off 15 per cent of our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for biodiversity will be significant.

Fish Can Recognize Faces, a Surprisingly Human Skill
A school of fish might seem like a sea of identical faces, but at least one species has no problem telling its comrades—and even strangers—apart, new research says. To human eyes, which cannot see ultraviolet light, the Ambon damselfish (Pomacentrus amboinensis), appears yellow with a few spots. But to damselfish, which can see ultraviolet wavelengths, their fellow species sport a complex array of facial patterns that are unique to each individual.

California surpasses mandate to save water for a third consecutive month
State officials say Californians have surpassed a mandate to save water for a third consecutive month, using nearly 27% less in August than the same month in 2013. The state water resources control board on Thursday released the statewide conservation figures. Max Gomberg, a senior climate scientist for the board, said the results meet the 25% savings goal set by Governor Jerry Brown.

Economy and Business

The not-so-invisible damage from VW diesel cheat: $100 million in health costs
Cheating is not a victimless crime. The recent revelations that Volkswagen rigged in-vehicle software to defeat emissions tests are but the latest example of efforts to evade regulations that protect human health and the environment. In crimes against the environment, it’s sometimes difficult to calculate who is affected and how substantial the damages are. However, it is possible to estimate the damages, based on our understanding of the atmosphere and of how pollutants affect human health.

Shell’s abandoned well and the myth of the Arctic oil land grab
After seven years of preparation and several billion dollars spent, Shell has decided to abandon its exploration program in the US Arctic “for the foreseeable future”… To those of us in who closely follow the energy industry, the decision is hardly surprising. But it has meaning well beyond the Chukchi Sea. It helps show that the widely proclaimed “land rush” to the Arctic, aimed at oil and gas most of all, is a myth… Does this mean anti-Arctic drilling advocates have handed “Big oil…an unmitigated defeat,” as Greenpeace says. No, it doesn’t. Other factors than environmentalists’ opposition are far more important.

A third of natural heritage sites are at risk from mining – investors can save them
Shell has seen sense. Or at least, that’s what green NGOs like us want to believe. In fact, Shell says it’s more about the bottom line than environmental imperative or the groundswell of public opinion – although the company seems to be privately admitting it was surprised at the scale of public opposition to drilling in the Arctic. Whatever the real reason Shell changed course, we shouldn’t relax. There are still many threats of exploration and extraction not only hanging over the Arctic but, as new research by WWF shows, nearly a third of natural world heritage sites around the world… World heritage sites are an irreplaceable part of both our past and our future and should be kept free of extractive activity and conserved for the spiritual, social, environmental and economic benefit of future generations. But who can bring real influence to bear?

Waste and the Circular Economy

Plastic oceans: What do we know?
As England prepares to introduce a charge for plastic bags – long after many other countries – it’s a good moment to catch up on the latest research into plastic in the oceans.  Images of seals, turtles and seabirds trapped in plastic rings, ropes and sheeting always have the power to shock. And on a visit to Midway Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, I saw for myself how the island’s magnificent albatrosses were eating plastic waste that often proved fatal to them.

Ocean Conservancy Plan Could Cut Ocean Plastic Waste 45% by 2025, 100% by 2035
Ocean Conservancy on Wednesday released a report that proposes a four-point solution to cutting ocean plastic waste by 45 percent by 2025 with the ultimate goal of eradicating the issue by 2035. Stemming the Tide: Land-based strategies for a plastic-free ocean is a first-of-its-kind, solutions-oriented report in partnership with the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment that outlines specific land-based solutions for plastic waste in the ocean, starting with the elimination of plastic waste leakage in five priority countries: China, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand.

Plastic wrap recycling coming soon
NEW ZEALAND – Ever felt the frustration of not being able to put plastic wrap into your recycling bin? The reason is that it jams the equipment at the recycling sorting plant. If you’re the person who bags up your recycling in shopping bags and drops the whole thing into the recycling bin, know that the whole lot ends up in landfill due to the presence of the plastic bag. Come Labour Day, things are going to change.

Where do cars go to die?
NEW ZEALAND – A recent crushed-car competition at LynnMall Shopping Centre that invited people to guess the make and model of an obliterated vehicle that had been written off after a light crash attracted 11,000 entries. The broken-car collection company Zebra, which crushed the vehicle, first put it through a seven-step recycling programme that is applied to every car that arrives at the Zebra car-wrecking yard in Onehunga.

John Gertsakis: The e-waste champion
NEW ZEALAND – “Electronic products are proliferating. And these are consuming vast amounts of limited resources,” he says. It is a double whammy as old electronic products, or e-waste, contain hazardous substances as well as recoverable materials. Yet although we create over 80,000 tonnes of e-waste a year in New Zealand, we are not doing enough to tackle the growing issue compared to other developed countries. It is still cheaper to throw something away than to get it recycled safely. Gertsakis believes that the real work starts long before anything is tossed on the electrical scrap heap.

Over 20% of Veolia’s business currently involves circular economy activities
Veolia is currently more than half way to achieving a target of 40% of its business to be involved in the circular economy by 2020. Speaking at an event in Leeds to highlight Veolia’s contribution to making the city at the forefront of developing circular economy innovation, Veolia senior executive vice-president UK & Ireland Estelle Brachlianoff (pictured) revealed the progress towards meeting the target. She said: “We have transformed from a waste, water and electricity company – a very successful company – to effectively a mining company. We extract everything we can and take a second life from it.”

Politics and Society

‘Eco-Friendly,’ ‘Renewable,’ ‘Sustainable’ – Are ‘Green’ Buzzwords Reaching, Influencing American Consumers?
While new surveys are emerging left and right attempting to find the pulse of the ever-elusive consumer when it comes to sustainability, that stubborn attitude/behavior gap still persists. So, let’s take a few steps back … Does the growing proliferation of “green” jargon really reach a mass audience? Do these buzzwords and terms carry political baggage? Do consumers understand their meaning? And more importantly, do they stir up positive or negative feelings? Do people associate them with increased expense or better health?

Smartphones are a lifeline for homeless people
If you ask someone what they think are the biggest challenges for homeless people, they might say finding a safe place to sleep or a meal to eat. Few would assume that charging a smartphone to check emails would be high on the list. “When people wonder how or why a homeless person is able to afford a mobile phone, they are making massive assumptions that people are just walking into a shop and buying a phone, whereas it might be that someone has given it to them,” says Hafsah FitzGibbon, partnerships and participation manager for youth homeless charity Centrepoint.

Murray Sheard: Lofty goals for global development (Opinion)
NEW ZEALAND – The Trans Pacific Partnership has been the focus of much scrutiny and debate yet an even more significant agreement was finalised last weekend in New York, capped off by what is being called ‘the biggest launch in history’. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) summit in New York set the global development agenda and funding priorities for the next 15 years. They replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) of the 2000-15 period, which despite some failings, have been the most successful global anti-poverty push in history.

Floating schools help buoy up Bangladesh’s remote communities
“I saw dolphins on my way to school this morning,” says 10-year-old Runa before her lesson on Bangladesh’s liberation war. She gets a lift to school in a small wooden fishing boat from her village on a slither of land in Brahmanbaria, 100kmeast of Dhaka, which flooding turns into an island for six months of the year. “My village is very pretty with lots of green trees and small ponds, and it’s surrounded by water,” she says. “It’s getting smaller. It used to be dry but now there’s more water.”

NZ: Generation Zero and getting the green voice heard
New Zealand grassroots organisation Generation Zero is having an influence on both local government and central government policy in the areas of transport, density and urban planning, with successful campaigns for cycle ways among the recent victories. Currently it is gearing up to lobby for Auckland to become a member of the COP 40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, of which Sydney and Melbourne have both become members.

‘Whitesplaining’: what it is and how it works
Have you ever had an experience where someone is explaining to you, maybe in a lot of detail, something you actually already know quite a lot about? Possibly about your own life? It’s frustrating. But it’s not a random occurrence, and it’s often about power. There’s a word for it: “whitesplaining”. It’s a term that’s been in high rotation over the past couple of weeks, thanks to Hollywood film star Matt Damon and Australian radio and TV personality Kyle Sandilands, whose comments around issues of racial diversity and sexuality have sparked debate around issues of white privilege and “colour-blindness”.

Built Environment

China’s sponge cities: soaking up water to reduce flood risks
Trillions of litres of free, fresh water drop from the sky onto the world’s cities each year – yet most of it is channelled straight into gutters, drains and rivers. At best, this represents a waste of a valuable natural resource. At worst, it can lead to devastating urban floods like the one in the Japanese city of Joso this month that killed eight and destroyed hundreds of homes. With cities getting bigger and climate change threatening to bring more extreme weather, some scientists and politicians are proposing “sponge cities”, a reimagination of the urban environment where almost every raindrop is captured, controlled and reused.

What is the world’s most vulnerable city?
Setting aside epic disaster-movie moments such as volcanoes, hurricanes and earthquakes, there are two key natural factors that can make a city vulnerable to gradual disintegration, or even total disappearance – water and sand.

To connect or not connect to the grid? That is the question developers face
Imagine the scenario – you start building a greenfield development (a precinct which may span hundreds, if not thousands of hectares, and take a decade to build). Two years in, and you find you’re competing with developments which aren’t connected to the grid, offering home-buyers 100 per cent renewable communities, with fixed energy costs for 20 years, and support for the local economy (in-perpetuity). It all happens via a municipal and/or community-owned clean energy services company, which reinvests profit into an annual community dividend, supporting initiatives chosen by the community. The time has come for developers to generate a clear competitive advantage, through a genuinely innovative approach to greenfield developments. The opportunity includes the creation of new revenue streams, local jobs, and a greater sense of community spirit.

Food Systems

Half of Europe opts out of new GM crop scheme
Half of the European Union’s 28 countries and three of its regions have opted out of a new GM crop scheme, in a blow to biotech industry hopes. Under new EU rules agreed in March, 14 countries have now told Brussels they will send territorial exclusion requests to the big agricultural multinationals including Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta and Pioneer. Applications from Latvia and Greece have already been accepted by the firms and if that pattern is extended, around two-thirds of of the EU’s population – and of its arable land – will be GM-free.

Africa’s agriculture needs young blood, says report
Modernising Africa’s agriculture sector to attract young people will help tackle youth unemployment and food insecurity, a report has suggested. The findings were outlined in the 2015 African Agriculture Status Report. Despite the dominance of agriculture in many economies, outdated land-tenure systems and poor access to finance deter new entrants to farming, it said. The call for action was presented at the African Green Revolution Forum, which is being held in Zambia.


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.