Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Top Story

Why a walk in the woods really does help your body and your soul
Have you ever wondered why you feel healthier and happier when you stroll through the trees or frolic by the sea? Is it just that you’re spending time away from work, de-stressing and taking in the view? Or is there more to it?

Energy and Climate Change

The weather bureau might be underestimating Australian warming: here’s why
Former prime minister’s business advisor Maurice Newman fired another attack at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology on Monday, arguing in The Australian that the weather bureau needs to be investigated for fiddling with the climate data that show Australia is getting warmer. Technically known as “homogenisation”, the practice of removing biases from historical climate data has been well defended. In fact, you can do it yourself… This is a very easy claim to check, and interestingly it shows the weather bureau might actually be underestimating warming.

Record Levels For European Renewable Electricity Demand
Renewable electricity demand in Europe was up 8% in 2015, according to new figures published this week. Figures published by the Association of Issuing Bodies, whose mission is to develop, use, and promote the European Energy Certificate System, showed that renewable electricity growth increased 8% from 2014 to 2015, surpassing 340 TWh. Tom Lindberg, Managing Director of renewable energy solutions provider ECOHZ, praised the “thousands of businesses and millions of households in numerous European countries” who have been “voluntarily purchasing renewable electricity.”

UK greenhouse gas emissions’ 8% drop
Greenhouse gas output in the UK fell almost 8% in 2014, although emissions from transport and agriculture rose slightly, official figures show. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions fell 8.9% in 2014 on the previous year, while emissions of all the greenhouse gases were 7.7% below 2013 levels. The figures come from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc).

easyJet to trial zero-emissions fuel
UK airline easyJet has announced plans to use zero-emissions fuel on its aircraft to reduce its carbon emissions. The Luton-based company will test hydrogen fuel cells later this year which would allow its planes to taxi to and from the runway and save up to 50,000 tonnes of fuel a year.

India Coal Energy Developer Converts One Site To Solar Electricity
Citing economics, RattanIndia Power Ltd., a leading developer of coal-fired power plants in India, plans a switch to solar for an 800-acre (324-hectare) site in Punjab. According to BloombergBusiness, the company had earmarked the site for another thermal plant, but now says “the economics of photovoltaics are more attractive.”

Adani’s Carmichael coal mine gains final Queensland Government environmental approval
Adani’s Carmichael coal mine has received its final environmental approval from the Queensland Government, but will still need a mining lease before it proceeds. The Environment Department issued 140 conditions late on Tuesday for what will be Australia’s largest coal mine.

Environment and Biodiversity

Dingoes to be used as pest control in Victoria; farmers sceptical over pilot program
An environmental group plans to reintroduce dingoes into a Victorian wildlife reserve to work as a form of pest control, and says if the project is successful it could be rolled out across Australia. The Working Dingoes Saving Wildlife project is a collaboration between Aus Eco Solutions and the Australian Dingo foundation.

How ecosystems could drive a multibillion-dollar marketplace
A little-noticed announcement by the U.S. Department of Interior in late 2015 reflects an emerging paradigm shift in natural resource conservation — and the role market-based solutions will play as the nation ramps up efforts to save America’s imperiled species and landscapes.

Ships’ noise is serious problem for killer whales and dolphins, report finds
Noise emanating from passing ships may disturb animals such as killer whales and dolphins far more than previously thought, with new research showing that the animals’ communication and ability to find prey could be hampered by the underwater din.

Orca video sees Project Hotspot gain international attention
NEW ZEALAND – An orca chasing a stingray through the Taranaki surf has brought a conservation project worldwide attention. Project Hotspot posted a video to their Facebook page in late January showing the chase and it had been seen more than 35,000 times since. Project scientist Emily Roberts said the video, shot by Stefan Bienert in 2011, had not only been shared by some local groups, but had been picked up by some international big hitters in the surf and adventure sports arena.

A video of an orca surfing at Pungarehu has gone viral and seen conservation project Project Hotspot gain support across the globe.

A video of an orca surfing at Pungarehu has gone viral and seen conservation project Project Hotspot gain support across the globe.

Southland cats could have curfew if Wildlife Protection Zones introduced
NEW ZEALAND – A cat curfew could be introduced in some Southland areas if so-called Wildlife Protection Zones are put in place. Environment Southland senior biosecurity officer Randall Milne said some communities, including Omaui, had expressed interest in developing Wildlife Protection Zones which could mean specific rules would be put in place for cat owners. An engagement document says some of those rules could be a de-sexing requirement, compulsory microchipping and for cats to be kept inside at night.

Green thumb therapy: Darwin man turns kiddy pool into backyard oasis for frogs
It took less than a week for Dennis Klau’s newly installed suburban backyard pond to emerge as a breeding ground for Darwin’s green tree frogs. “It was only a matter of days and I had eggs in there and then a few more days for the tadpoles,” he said. “It’s surprising how quickly the ecosystem took off.”

Photo: Mr Klau is also a hobby photographer and has been documenting his pond's new baby green tree frogs. (Supplied: Dennis Klau)

Photo: Mr Klau is also a hobby photographer and has been documenting his pond’s new baby green tree frogs. (Supplied: Dennis Klau)

Economy and Business

New York City Teacher’s Retirement Fund Lost $135 Million In Fossil Fuel Investments
An analysis of publicly disclosed material conducted by investment adviser Advisor Partners on behalf of has found that New York City’s biggest pension fund, the Teacher’s Retirement System of the City of New York, lost approximately $135 million from investments in oil and gas companies during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015.

Oxbridge academics call for ‘morally sound’ university investments
Hundreds of academics from the universities of Cambridge and Oxford are demanding their institutions adopt an “evidence-based, morally sound investment policy that serves the needs of the future”, which could include divestment from fossil fuels.

Tesla Energy launches major hiring push in Australia as Powerwall sales take off
The California-based developer of the much-hyped 7kWh Tesla Powerwall – the first shipment of which arrived on Australian shores last week – is advertising 15 jobs in roles ranging from business operations, to sales and engineering and field support.  The push is not just for the Powerwall, which is designed for homes and business, but also for the utility-scale Powerpack.

HERO Program Has Created More Than 10,000 Local Jobs In California
More than 10,000 local jobs have been created in California as a result of the HERO Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program, according to a new press release. The jobs are the result of the more than 50,000 home improvement projects completed via the HERO PACE program since its launch back at the end of 2011.

If having more no longer satisfies us, perhaps we’ve reached ‘peak stuff’
The economy pumps out goods and services, all of which create jobs and incomes. There is no value judgment in such a statement, no view of what constitutes the good life. Even to invite such a question of an economist is to risk ridicule. The task of [traditional] economists – a value-free quasi-science – is to make sure that as little as possible gets in the way of turning inputs into more outputs. But around the developed world consumers seem to be losing their appetite for more. Even goods for which there once seemed insatiable demand seem to be losing their lustre.

Sharing Economy Provides the Unique, Convenient Experiences Canadian Millennials Crave
Millennials (adults ages 18 to 35 in 2015) comprise over 30 percent of the labor force in both the United States and Canada. They are doing things differently, hold different values, and have a high affinity for technology. Millennials are expected to drive change from within organizations and have a huge appetite for sustainability.

Waste and the Circular Economy

EU Remanufacturing Could Represent Up to €90B Annually, 600,000 Jobs by 2030
Following the adoption of the European Commission’s Circular Economy Package and the announcement of a €24B fund to support circular economy projects and businesses, several organizations have released research reports and tools to aid the transition. One such report revealed that returning a product to at least its original performance with a warranty that is equivalent or better than that of the newly manufactured product – known as remanufacturing – has untapped economic, employment, and environmental potential in the European Union (EU

Unilever and Novelis release circular economy tools
These resources have been made available to use following a period of internal development between charity Forum for the Future and the two multinational businesses. It is hoped that the application of this research could enable others to begin to capture some of the €1.8 trillion opportunity outlined in recent economic reports, and meet the coming requirements of the EU’s Circular Economy Package.

Boyan Slat’s high school project raises millions to clean up world’s oceans
Lourens Boot is a man of the sea. He wind surfs. His houseboat consistently ranks as one of the best Airbnb rentals in the world. He spent years working offshore exploration for Shell. But in spring of 2014, the Dutchman wanted something new. Why toil in the maintenance of the old order? So he quit Shell, attended Burning Man, and dropped by an offshore energy summit in Amsterdam. Something called the Ocean Cleanup caught his attention. Boot had first learned about the project — which aims to cleanse the ocean of trillions of pieces of plastic — on a viral Tedtalk. The video had featured a moppy-haired kid who looked like a boy band understudy. And he had a big idea…

Politics and Society

We can’t trust common sense but we can trust science
How often have you been urged to use common sense during an argument or a debate? The problem is, common sense is an unreliable indicator of truth.

Partitioning Syria is not the answer – it’s a mistake we’ve made before
Partitioning has a certain superficial appeal. Syria is broken, and it may not be possible to put it together again – even as fresh peace talks show glimpses of progress. Separating the competing groups and enclosing them in internationally mandated borders seems to make sense. However, when considered more seriously, the idea loses its gloss.

School of sustenance
In the village of Abdikadir, in Somaliland, 43 boys live at a school — however it is not a boarding school. Their parents abandoned them here two years ago, knowing they would be fed once a day instead of starving.

Five Ways China’s Wildlife Protection Law Will Harm Wildlife
While China’s President Xi Jinping has been speaking out about the country’s commitment to combating wildlife trade, bureaucrats at the State Forestry Administration seem to be doing the opposite. They’re responsible for occasional, routine updates to China’s outdated Wildlife Protection Law. While the current version of the law, in force since 1989, states that its purpose is to protect and save threatened wildlife, the draft new version adds the competing goal of “regulating the utilization of wildlife.” The language in many ways undermines the president’s—and many citizens’—desire to end the exploitation of wildlife in China.

Built Environment

Will India’s experiment with smart cities tackle poverty – or make it worse?
India is rising. In cities across the nation, the pace of construction is reaching frenzied heights. Each city, each district, each regional state is reinventing itself: one smartphone, one flyover, one superhighway, one mega-project at a time. In a recent speech, the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, said that the nation needed “to think big and focus on skill, scale and speed to revive India’s growth story”. To this end, Modi has come up with a new business model for urbanisation: India’s ambitious national smart cities mission, which aims to transform a hundred small and medium–sized settlements into smart cities.

Could green design principles make us sick (and what can we do about it)?
Concerns have been raised that green building principles such as energy and water minimisation strategies may be increasing the risk of dangerous Legionella pneumophila bacteria proliferating in potable water systems. But according to critics the problem could be as much about poor facilities management and need for better co-operation between engineers and sustainability managers as it is about unintended consequences.


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