Sustainable Development News

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COP 20 Conference, Peru

Lima climate talks: EU and US at odds over legally binding emissions targets
The European Union (EU)’s delegation at the climate change conference in Lima has argued that legally binding cuts applying to all countries are necessary and should be adopted by 2015 and entered into force by 2020. “The EU is of the mind that legally binding mitigation targets are the only way to provide the necessary long-term signal, the necessary confidence to the investors … and provide credibility in the low carbon transition worldwide,” said Elina Bardram, head of the EU delegation at the conference, which opened on Monday.  It is the first time an EU official has publicly gone on the record on legally binding targets, stating the EU’s negotiating position at the Lima conference, which is intended to deliver the first draft of an accord to cut carbon emissions and stave off dangerous climate change. The accord is expected to be signed at a UN conference in Paris next year.

Yeb Saño, vocal critic of west, dropped from Lima climate talks
Yeb Saño, one of the most vocal critics of rich countries in international global warming negotiations, has not arrived at the latest UN climate conference in Lima and is believed to have been dropped by the Filipino government as its chief negotiator. The move coincides with the Philippines apparently leaving the ‘like minded developing countries’ (LMDC) group, a powerful bloc of nations regarded by the US and Europe as the main obstacle to a new global agreement.  Saño, who has headed the Filipino diplomatic delegation to the talks for three years and is director of the government’s climate change commission, became one of the few iconic figures in the 2012 talks after an emotional speech when he broke down in tears and called on rich countries to act urgently for the climate.

Energy and Climate Change

Australia well placed to replicate European community-owned wind, solar and hydro power projects
Regional Australia has the sunlight and the knowledge to replicate the successful move to renewable energy seen in Europe. That was the message delivered to participants at a clean energy conference in the New South Wales Hunter Valley. Jarra Hicks, director and co-founder of the Community Power Agency, says Australia could learn a lot from Germany’s move to renewable energy.  “In Germany 46 per cent of all their renewable energy is owned by ordinary citizens, mum and dad investors, through cooperatives. Together they own wind turbines and solar panels and hydro power plants.” She says a very stable policy environment has been an important factor.

Power sector emissions rebound as renewable energy wilts
Australia’s carbon emissions from the main electricity sector continue to climb, driving up the national total just as nations gather in Peru to negotiate a global pact to halt climate change. Greenhouse gas emissions from the National Electricity Market, which serves eastern Australia, rose at an annualised rate of 3.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide for the 12 months to November compared with the year to the end of June, according to the latest Cedex report by energy consultants Pitt & Sherry. “If this rate of increase were to continue for a year …NEM electricity generation emissions would by themselves increase Australia’s total emissions by 1.4 per cent,” Pitt & Sherry said. Emissions from the power sector began rebounding as soon as the Abbott government scrapped the carbon tax.

Sydney gets international recognition for renewable energy plan
The City of Sydney’s Renewable Energy Master Plan has won the European Solar Prize 2014 award for excellence and innovation. The award from not-for-profit organisation EUROSOLAR recognises outstanding commitment and contributions to the renewable energy sector. “Our Renewable Energy Master Plan will help us transform Sydney into a city run entirely on renewable energy by 2030,” Lord Mayor Clover Moore said. “The City is Australia’s first carbon-neutral government with ambitious targets to reduce emissions by 70 per cent by 2030. We are delighted that our renewable energy master plan has received this prestigious recognition on a global scale.”

Environment and Biodiversity

Western Australian pastoralists inundated with messages of support for radical land regeneration experiment
A young couple’s devotion to restoring a half-million-acre property decimated by decades of drought and overstocking has struck a chord with Australian Story viewers far and wide, who have flooded the station’s managers with messages of support. David Pollock and Frances Jones recently told of their dream to nurse their property in the Murchison Rangelands, seven hours’ drive north of Perth, “back to health”. After the story went to air, viewers from around Australia and as far flung as Vietnam, Canada, America and England took to social media to applaud their efforts. “We have been overwhelmed with support. It took me three days to sort through the thousands of comments on Facebook and Twitter and I’m only now starting to read through my clogged email inbox,” Ms Jones said.

Tiny marine plants face a mixed bag thanks to climate change
You may not have heard of them or given them much thought, but phytoplankton — the microscopic plants that grow throughout the world’s oceans — are the foundation of oceanic food webs. Although tiny, they are responsible for half of the productivity of the planet, and through photosynthesis are a source of energy for virtually all marine ecosystems and the fisheries that many people depend on. So it’s important to know how climate change might affect them. In a new study published in Nature Climate Change, my colleagues and I have mapped out the environmental factors the influence phytoplankton, and how they might change due to global warming. There’s good news and bad news, but the new models will help scientists better figure out how phytoplankton, and the ecosystems that depend on them, will be affected by climate change.

Economy and Business

E.On’s switch to renewables is a sign of things to come, say experts
More companies are likely to follow the German utility giant E.ON and shift their energy generation away from coal and nuclear to renewable power, the president of Germany’s Federal Environment Agency (UBA) has told the Guardian. E.ON’s surprise announcement on Monday, that it would split its operations to focus on clean energy, power grids and energy efficiency services, also increased the prospect of success for Germany’s ambitious Energiewende [Energy Transition] project, Maria Krautzberger said. Asked whether she expected similar announcements by other German firms, she replied: “Yes I do. RWE announced that they are thinking of shifting their energy generation towards renewables and EnBW is also discussing it, but E.ON is actually the biggest player so it is consequent that they are the first to make this announcement.”

Sustainable fuel could cut aviation emissions by 24% by 2050
Using sustainable aviation fuels could cut the industry’s emissions by almost a quarter in the UK by 2050, whilst also generating economic value and creating jobs, according to a new report. The road-map, published by Sustainable Aviation, a coalition of the UK’s airlines, airports, manufacturers and air navigation service provider, sets out the opportunities the UK could receive if it supported and invested in sustainable aviation fuel. The paper forecasts the potential volumes of sustainable aviation fuel to 2050, both for the UK and globally.

GE Aviation, Turbocoating Form Coating Joint Venture
GE Aviation and Turbocoating SPA of Parma, Italy, have formed a 50/50 joint venture, called Advanced Ceramic Coatings, to provide thermal barrier coatings for ceramic matrix composite components (CMCs) used in jet engines to improve efficiency and fuel economy. CMCs are made of silicon carbide ceramic fibers and ceramic matrix, and enhanced with proprietary coatings. With one-third the density of metal alloys, these ultra-lightweight CMCs reduce the overall engine weight. Plus their high-temperature resistance properties enhance engine performance, durability, and fuel economy.

Waste and the Circular Economy

PowerCell Converts Toxic Waste to Electricity
Swedish fuel cell company PowerCell is leading a project to convert toxic waste from olive oil production into electricity. Biogas2PEM-FC is an European Union-funded project coordinated by PowerCell with partners from Spain, Greece, Sweden and the UK. It includes a pilot plant in Andalucía, Spain. The waste from olive oil production is environmentally harmful and costly to dispose of. It contains pesticides and toxic organic compounds; it is also acidic and has a high salinity.

Politics and Society

How a ruby-red Texas town turned against fracking
The fracking ban that comes into effect on Tuesday in the heart of Texas may never have happened at all, if industry had not insisted on fracking beside a local hospital, a children’s playground, and the 100-year-old farmhouse that was Cathy McMullen’s retirement dream. That brought fracking a step too far. McMullen believes such overreach – typical under the Texas regulatory framework – helped turn a ruby-red Republican town against fracking. Despite industry objections – and death threats for McMullen and other activists, Denton voted by 60% to ban fracking last month. The victorious activists like to call their fight David v Godzilla, because the oil industry is so powerful in Texas. That fight is not over yet.

Federal Government should drop plans to wind back RET: Hewson
Former Liberal leader Dr John Hewson says the Federal Government should abandon its bid to scale back the renewable energy target, calling it a political barnacle that needs to be removed… Prime Minister Tony Abbott told a coalition joint party meeting last week he is aiming to scrape off “one or two barnacles” before the Christmas break. Dr Hewson, who is also an economist, said that the target needs to be maintained.  “If you’re talking about barnacles, get rid of this one,” he argued. “He had a pre-election commitment to keep it … It costs him nothing to leave it there. It has no impact on the budget.” Dr Hewson said the Abbott government is off the pace of worldwide climate change developments.

Abbott Government cuts $4 mln from UN environment program
The Abbott Government has slashed funding to a key United Nations environment agency by more than 80 per cent. AM has learned four million dollars has been cut from the United Nations Environment Programme, which provides advice on environmental policies and climate change negotiations. The Government says the money is better spent elsewhere.

Built Environment

Campbell Hanan and why resilience is high on the agenda
Climate risk has become a key consideration for Investa following its involvement with the Australian Business Roundtable for Disaster Resilience and Safer Communities. Chief executive of Investa Office Fund Campbell Hanan said there were also broader lessons for the sector to learn regarding where to develop, with greater stringency required from local consent authorities to avoid the “groundhog day” of rebuilding the same things again and again in high-risk areas. Mr Hanan told The Fifth Estate the extreme weather events of the past five years were probably in a bizarre way an “ally” in bringing resilience to front of mind for the property sector and other industries. “I think it is changing behaviour, and I think it has to,” he said. Mr Hanan said disasters such as the floods and cyclones in North Queensland had demonstrated the “ultimate economic consequence of inappropriate housing in inappropriate areas”.

South Australia launches Adelaide “living laboratory” for low carbon living
The South Australian Government has partnered with the Cooperative Research Centre for Low Carbon Living and the University of South Australia to create a “Living Laboratory” that will investigate pathways for a more sustainable Adelaide. The four year venture is an action-based project that will use research undertaken by industry, university and the community across three key development sites at Tonsley, Lochiel Park and Bowden to help shape the future of low carbon living and design in South Australia and across the country. University of South Australia vice chancellor Professor David Lloyd said the partnership was an exciting opportunity for the state to become the national leader in low carbon research. “This is really enterprising research with enormous potential to change the way we design communities and the way we live in the future,” Professor Lloyd said.

Government unveils £15bn road building plans
The government announced Britain’s “biggest and boldest” road building programme in a generation on Monday, unveiling plans to spend £15 billion over the next five years. The plans have been met with some criticism due to their lack of focus on sustainable transport. More than 80 new road schemes have been confirmed, including a tunnel under Stonehenge, improved junctions on the M25 and turning the A303 into a dual carriageway. Around £1.5 billion of the investment will be used to turn key motorways into “smart motorways”, which allow the hard shoulder to be used as an extra lane during certain times. The plans have been met with criticism from those who want to see greater investment in more sustainable forms of transport, with the Campaign for Better Transport describing the scheme as a waste of funds.

Food Systems

Chronic Hunger Falling, But One in Nine People Still Affected
lthough the proportion of people experiencing chronic hunger is decreasing globally, one in nine individuals still does not get enough to eat. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 805 million people were living with undernourishment (chronic hunger) in 2012–14, down more than 100 million over the last decade and 209 million lower than in 1990–92.  The vast majority of undernourished people live in developing countries, where an estimated 791 million people—or one in eight—were chronically hungry in 2012–14.


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