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Monday 03 December 2018

Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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It’s finally here, the COP24 meeting in Katowice, Poland. I feel hope and trepidation as world leaders try to negotiate a rule book on how we can limit the Earth’s warming to 1.5oC. Countries’ targets are way off so far and there is still a lot of resistance still on many fronts. In other news, on Friday, school children in Australia took part in mass protests calling for climate action; bush fires in Queensland are more intense than historically normal; investing in sustainable business makes good financial sense; a report in New Zealand criticising how plastic is dealt with says we need to adopt a circular economy approach; and the plastic bag ban is working in Australia.

Top Story

As they meet in Poland for the next steps, nations are struggling to agree on how the ambitions of the Paris Agreement can be realised | The Conversation
International leaders and policymakers gathering in Katowice, Poland, for the 24th annual round of UN climate talks know that they have plenty of work to do. They are hoping to make progress on the Paris Agreement Work Programme, otherwise known as the Paris Rulebook – the guidelines needed to guide implementation of the Paris Agreement. That agreement was struck three years ago, but it is still not clear how the treaty’s goals to curb global warming will actually be achieved.

Related:

Close to half the corals on the Great Barrier Reef have died in the past three years, according to expert Prof Terry Hughes. Photograph: Greg Torda/ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

Close to half the corals on the Great Barrier Reef have died in the past three years, according to expert Prof Terry Hughes. Photograph: Greg Torda/ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

Climate Change

Queensland’s ‘abnormal’ bushfires linked to climate change | ABC News
Both the bushfires and the heatwave ravaging parts of Queensland have been described as extraordinary and abnormal. Bureau of Meteorology Queensland manager Bruce Gunn said records had tumbled in a week of widespread and protracted heatwave conditions, combined with catastrophic fire danger. Fire ecologist Philip Stewart said Queensland’s fires of the past few days were historically unusual.

New Zealand is unprepared for more frequent drought, report warns | Stuff.co.nz
NEW ZEALAND – More drought could bring disease, power outages and food shortages and New Zealand isn’t ready, a new report warns. Although the country has historically been “water-rich”, New Zealand is not well-prepared to cope with a future involving more drought in some areas.

Why no US region is safe from climate change | The Guardian
USA – In the final part of our series looking at the climate report Trump tried to bury over Thanksgiving, we examine how regions will experience climate change.

Environment and Biodiversity

Why daily doses of nature in the city matter for people and the planet | The Conversation
The environmental movement is shifting away from focusing solely on raising awareness about environmental issues. Many environmental agencies and organisations now also aim to connect people with nature, and our new research suggests daily doses of urban nature may be the key to this for the majority who live in cities.

Brisbane’s South Bank parkland isn’t exactly getting out in the wild, but experiences of urban nature are important for building people’s connection to all living things. Anne Cleary, Author provided

Brisbane’s South Bank parkland isn’t exactly getting out in the wild, but experiences of urban nature are important for building people’s connection to all living things. Anne Cleary, Author provided

Week in Wildlife – in pictures | The Guardian
Red fody, beached whales and wildlife rescued from an Australian heatwave in this week’s gallery.

A murmuration of starlings flies over the Altare della Patria monument in Rome. Authorities have enlisted falcons to scare off defecating starlings, as the Italian capital plays host to a growing menagerie of animals, including gulls, wild boars and sheep. Photograph: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images

A murmuration of starlings flies over the Altare della Patria monument in Rome. Authorities have enlisted falcons to scare off defecating starlings, as the Italian capital plays host to a growing menagerie of animals, including gulls, wild boars and sheep. Photograph: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP/Getty Images

Wild horses are a key threat to delicate ecosystems: science panel | SMH
AUSTRALIA – Feral horses constitute a “key threatening process” that pushes dozens of species at risk closer to extinction, according to an independent scientific panel set up by the Berejiklian government. The final determination of the NSW Threatened Species Scientific Committee also comes as conservation groups announced they will boycott a call for nominations for the Wild Horse Community Advisory Panel to show their opposition to the government’s decision to protect the animals in the Kosciuszko National Park.

Wild brumbies in the Kiandra region of the Kosciusko National Park. Credit: Andrew Plant

Wild brumbies in the Kiandra region of the Kosciusko National Park. Credit: Andrew Plant

Scientists urge action to protect habitat of Tasmania’s endangered ancient skate | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Scientists studying Tasmania’s endangered maugean skate believe urgent action is needed to help the species survive in Macquarie Harbour, which hosts the only surviving population of the ancient fish. Tasmanian Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) scientists have been monitoring falling oxygen levels in the harbour. They said declining environmental conditions due to salmon farming and changes in river flow have been piling pressure on the species.

Economy and Business

BlackRock is going green, sort of, and what this means for sustainable investment | The Fifth Estate
BlackRock’s founder, chairman and chief executive, Larry Fink, told the Financial Times in October that “sustainable investing”, incorporating environmental, social and governance criteria, would be a core component of “how everyone invests in the future.” “We are only at the early stages,” he said, estimating that the investment in ETFs (exchange traded funds) with a sustainability focus would rise from a current $US25 billion to over $US400 billion within a decade. The numbers look big, but the money in sustainability is only a fraction of the global investment universe.

Cutting global carbon emissions ought to be big business | Stuff.co.nz
To transition to a lower carbon economy, New Zealand, and the rest of the world, has got to find a way to effectively ration carbon emissions. So investors who successfully tilt their portfolios away from fossil fuels could profit from doing good. The investment management industry is moving to meet the demand.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Supermarket ban sees ‘80% drop’ in plastic bag consumption nationwide | The Guardian
The ban on single-use plastic bags by Australia’s two largest supermarkets prevented the introduction of an estimated 1.5 billion bags into the environment, and the retail industry is hopeful this is only the beginning. Coles and Woolworths’ decision to stop offering single-use disposable plastic bags midway through the year was initially met with swift public backlash. But three months on the radical change has translated to an 80% drop in the consumption of plastic bags nationwide, according to the National Retail Association.

Is this how we solve NZ’s growing plastic problem? | NZ Herald
New Zealand’s mounting plastic woes should be tackled by swapping our “take, make, waste” approach to packaging with one where nothing gets thrown out. That’s the big take-away of the first-ever study on the country’s entire plastic packaging system. It further highlighted how even radically improving our current recycling system wouldn’t solve all of our headaches. Backed by major industry players including Coca Cola Amatil and Countdown, the Sustainable Business Network study estimated that the material value of 95 per cent of plastic packaging was lost to the economy.

See also:

Ecostore has about 60 refill stations for laundy and other liquid cleaners. Photo: Supplied

Ecostore has about 60 refill stations for laundy and other liquid cleaners. Photo: Supplied

Happy birthday, SA’s big battery, and many happy returns (of your recyclable parts) | The Conversation
A year ago today, Tesla’s big battery in South Australia began dispatching power to the state’s grid, one day ahead of schedule. By most accounts, the world’s largest lithium-ion battery has been a remarkable success. But there are some concerns that have so far escaped scrutiny.

Politics and Society

Climate change strike: thousands of school students protest across Australia | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – Thousands of schoolchildren across Australia walked out of class on Friday to demand action by the federal government on climate change. The “Strike 4 Climate Action”, inspired by 15-year-old Swedish student Greta Thunberg, brought together children in capital cities and 20 regional centres such as Ballarat, Newcastle, Townsville and Cairns. A large protest was also held in Hobart on Thursday. More than a thousand primary and secondary students filled Sydney’s Martin Place and students in Melbourne marched through the streets, bringing traffic to a standstill.

See also:

School students protest at Martin Place on Friday to urge more action on climate change. Credit: Fairfax Media

School students protest at Martin Place on Friday to urge more action on climate change. Credit: Fairfax Media

New weapon: courts offer hope for driving serious climate action | SMH
In the not so far-off future, if your home is flooded by extreme rain or razed by an unseasonable bushfire, the first people to turn up on your property after the emergency crews could be bearing legal documents. In Australia and around the world, crack teams of lawyers and eminent law schools are systematically exploring available legal options to sue for climate justice – or seeking to create new ones where they don’t exist.

Niki Harré, associate dean of sustainability at the University of Auckland’s school of psychology. Photo: RNZ / Susan Strongman

Niki Harré, associate dean of sustainability at the University of Auckland’s school of psychology. Photo: RNZ / Susan Strongman

Why we’re ignoring climate change | RNZ News

It’s a dark cloud hanging over our civilisation, but there’s still a chance to act. So why do we all have our heads in the sand?

NEW ZEALAND – Harré cycles to work from her Pt Chevalier home each day, gets her coffee in a reusable cup, avoids driving, and agonises over the clothes she wears. She takes her own bags to the supermarket, and wouldn’t dream of buying bottled water. She describes herself as an advocate for “stringent, immediate and radical action on climate change,” yet earlier this month she flew to Christchurch and back for a day. “That to me is hypocritical,” she says. “We’re all on a continuum of hypocrisy.”

We ban cannabis but let people eat as much meat as they want. That makes no sense | The Guardian (Opinion)
For any tourist visiting Seattle, there’s the standard bucket list: ride the monorail, ascend the Space Needle, pay a visit to the world’s largest building, and, if you’re not squeamish about tax avoidance, check out the first-ever Starbucks and the Amazon Spheres. But, as I discovered on a recent visit, there’s a new attraction in town: the cannabis shops peppered through its downtown since Washington state legalised recreational marijuana.

Energy

Carmichael mine: federal election, rail access and native title stand in the way | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – The Indian mining giant Adani could be left in limbo until September – well after the federal election – before learning whether its controversial Carmichael coal project will be allowed to access the Queensland freight rail network. Adani announced on Thursday it would self-finance the Carmichael mine and that construction would begin “imminently”. But the company still has to gain several regulatory approvals and negotiate access for its coal trains to use the Aurizon network.

Built Environment

Why battery-powered vehicles stack up better than hydrogen | The Conversation
Low energy efficiency is already a major problem for petrol and diesel vehicles. Typically, only 20% of the overall well-to-wheel energy is actually used to power these vehicles. The other 80% is lost through oil extraction, refinement, transport, evaporation, and engine heat. This low energy efficiency is the primary reason why fossil fuel vehicles are emissions-intensive, and relatively expensive to run. With this in mind, we set out to understand the energy efficiency of electric and hydrogen vehicles as part of a recent paper published in the Air Quality and Climate Change Journal.

Behaviour rises up the ranks of efficiency trends | The Fifth Estate
Human nature and behaviour patterns are increasingly coming to the fore in managing energy efficiency for commercial buildings in particular. Now Johnson Controls has released a report showing it’s a rising trend.