Sustainable Development News

Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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Report: Sustainability Innovation Powering Business Growth
Revenues from company-defined portfolios of sustainable products and services grew by 91 percent between 2010 and 2013, according to a new report by The Conference Board, a public interest research association. For S&P Global 100 companies that break out revenue for sustainable products or services separately, that revenue stream grew at six times the rate of overall company results.

Energy and Climate Change

New report: the chance to rescue the world’s oceans from climate change is drifting away
Until recently, you might be forgiven for thinking that the oceans were a trivial component of Earth’s climate system, and that the consequences of change were minimal. After all, only 5% of papers published on climate change involve ocean systems… Yet the ocean system could not be more important: it regulates the global temperature and atmosphere, feeds 3 billion people, and largely determines our weather. The ocean also has lots of “inertia” – which means that getting the ocean to change takes a lot of energy, but once it begins to change, slowing it down becomes more or less impossible.

Origin and CEFC in no-capital solar partnership
AUSTRALIA – The Clean Energy Finance Corporation is engaging in a $100 million, 12-year partnership with Origin to support solar power purchase agreements for business and residential customers. Under the PPAs, Origin will install and manage solar systems at no upfront cost, with consumers paying a price per kilowatt-hour of solar energy produced – most likely at a rate lower than offered through the grid.

Germany to mothball largest coal power plants to meet climate targets
Germany agreed on Thursday to mothball about five of the country’s largest brown coal power plants to meet its climate goals by 2020, after months of wrangling between the parties in chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition. But Merkel and the leaders of her two junior coalition partners also, in effect, agreed to set up a “capacity reserve” system where utilities could switch on the brown coal plants if there were power shortages in the country.

An emerging renewables superpower: China’s climate pledge guns for green growth
It’s official. On Tuesday, China submitted its emissions-reduction goals to the United Nations, in the lead-up to the Paris climate summit in December this year. China’s submission, known in UN parlance as its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), follows similar submissions made in the past month by the United States, the European Union, Brazil and others. China’s submission is particularly important because the country has become the world’s largest carbon emitter, as its manufacturing industry has grown to gigantic size, and because it is viewed as having played a negative role at the last major climate talks, in Copenhagen in 2009. China’s 2015 commitments are much stronger than those it was prepared to make in 2009, reflecting the enormous strides it has made in building the world’s largest renewable energy industry.

Fraser: Time to stop paying lip service to climate policies
AUSTRALIA – The Climate Change Authority has not budged from its call for Australia to rapidly increase its emission reduction targets, calling on policy makers to stop paying lip service to climate science and embrace the “unstoppable” transition to a low-carbon economy. CCA chairman Bernie Fraser, a former head of the Reserve Bank of Australia, said the independent authority stood by its interim findings that Australia should aim for a 30 per cent cut in emissions from 2000 levels by 2025, and should possibly double that target by 2030. Its recommendations for 2030 are for a cut of between 45 and 60 per cent on 2000 levels.

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1,700 cities stress local action key to UN climate deal
Holding half of the world’s population and releasing 70% of its greenhouse gases, cities are vital players in fighting climate change. Barcelona, Munich and Vienna are among 1,700 cities and municipalities to reaffirm commitments to cut carbon on Thursday, at a summit of mayors and local leaders in Lyon, France. The Climate Alliance, which binds its members from 25 countries to halve per capita emissions by 2030 from 1990 levels, will deliver the pledges at the close of the World Summit – Climate and Territories.

Solar Impulse breaks solo record
The Solar Impulse plane has broken the record for the longest non-stop solo flight without refuelling. The milestone was achieved 76 hours into the latest leg of its attempt to circumnavigate the globe. Pilot Andre Borschberg is making steady progress as he attempts the first solar-powered crossing of the Pacific. After leaving Nagoya, Japan, early on Monday (local time), he has now passed Midway Island and is heading towards his destination of Kalaeloa, Hawaii.

Toyota, Nissan and Honda promise to fuel Japanese hydrogen station push
Global auto giants Toyota, Nissan, and Honda have this week announced a joint project to subsidise the rollout of hydrogen fuelling stations in Japan. The three companies have announced up to Y6bn (£31m) of funding to cover some of the operating costs of the new stations as part of the country’s efforts to become a world leader in hydrogen-fuelled vehicles.

Fossil Fuel Divestment

Vatican ‘may’ consider divestment from fossil fuels, despite pope’s call to arms
The Vatican may consider, but is not committed to, divesting its holdings in fossil fuels, a Catholic church official has said, despite Pope Francis’s call for bold action to fight climate change and global warming. The statement – made at a press conference on Wednesday to discuss the pope’s recently released encyclical on the environment – is likely to disappoint climate activists, who have praised Pope Francis’s essay stressing that climate change is mostly a man-made problem.

Environment and Biodiversity

Amazon’s Wildlife Threatened By Hydropower Dams, Study Says
As countries build more hydropower projects, new research warns that massive dams pose an extinction threat to mammals, birds and tortoises—at least in the Amazon. Brazil’s Balbina Dam has turned what was once undisturbed forest into an artificial archipelago of 3,546 islands where many vertebrates have disappeared, according to a study published Wednesday by England’s University of East Anglia.

Brazil’s Balbina Dam led to the creation of 3,546 islands, many small and isolated, in an area that was once continuous rainforest. Photograph by Eduardo M. Venticinque

Brazil’s Balbina Dam led to the creation of 3,546 islands, many small and isolated, in an area that was once continuous rainforest. Photograph by Eduardo M. Venticinque

How plants respond to drought provides insights into climate change survival
Globally, droughts have had a negative impact on many plant species. This has led to much higher rates of mortality than usual. Understanding how different species are likely to respond to drought is crucial to accurately predicting the impact of future climate change on plant communities. It can be extremely challenging to find meaningful ways to describe plants’ many different types of responses to drought, particularly in biodiverse areas. Scientists have been working to develop a new system in which plant functional traits can be used to assess the range of drought tolerance in diverse plant communities.

Plan to stop smoky chimneys in Canterbury
NEW ZEALAND – Environment Canterbury’s campaign to eradicate smoking chimneys from Christchurch’s clean air zones is no longer on a slow burn. Air pollution officers tasked with identifying woodburners that produce smoke for more than 15 minutes after ignition started patrolling on Monday. By Wednesday nine warning notices had been issued – the initial phase of a process that culminates in a $750 fine.

UN critical of Tasmanias plan to manage forests
Overnight, the Great Barrier Reef escaped being put on the Endangered Species List by a powerful United Nations committee, thanks to good crisis management. But somewhat buried in those positive headlines was UN criticism of the Tasmanian Government’s draft management plan for its World Heritage-listed forests. If the State Government has its way, just under 200,000 hectares of the World Heritage wilderness area could be opened up for some logging and other forms of exploitation and the UN has urged the State Government to ensure that timber harvesting and mining are banned within the property.

Sam Judd: World war on water
Out of all the basic necessities for human life, surely water has to be the most important of them all. But despite how critical it is we seem willing to squander this precious resource, creating economic and health risks as well as conflict. I have been told that the next world war will be about water and this looks more likely than ever before. In the last ten years, the Pacific Institute – which studies issues on water and global security – says water-related violence has increased fourfold…

Economy and Business

BP to pay £12bn for Gulf oil spill
BP has reached an $18.7bn (£12bn) settlement with the US Department of Justice (DoJ) following the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.  It comes as a US federal judge was expected to rule on how much BP owed in Clean Water Act penalties following the environmental disaster. Over 125 million gallons of oil spewed into the Gulf after an explosion at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in 2010. The settlement is the largest paid by a single company in US history .

Fossil fuel companies ‘should be made to invest in carbon capture and storage’
Fossil fuel companies should be made to invest as much in carbon storage as they do in exploring for new coal, oil and gas reserves, according to academics from Oxford University. Governments also need to massively tilt the balance to ensure the development of renewable and other “clean” energy technologies to allow the world to transition to a low carbon economy.

Australand pushes further to the lead
Australand has committed to achieving at least a 5 Star Green Star Design & As Built rating for all new industrial, commercial and retail projects, with even speculative 6 Star industrial developments in the pipeline. The news follows the company announcing Green Star – Performance ratings for its entire portfolio early last month, with an average rating of 3 Stars achieved. Australand has raised its sustainability ambitions over the past few years, a move which seems to be supported by new parent company Frasers Centrepoint, which took over Australand last year.

Trevelyan’s Pack and Cool Ltd implement Global Reporting Initiative
Trevelyan’s Pack and Cool Ltd has become one of the first privately owned companies in New Zealand to measure itself against the the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) the world’s leading framework for corporate responsibility reporting.  The GRI is a framework that champions the transparency of companies on their sustainability journey. Rachel Brodie, Trevelyan’s Sustainability Co-ordinator, says the report encourages companies to identify and respond to their responsibilities around sustainability.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Will the EU propose the most far-reaching reporting standards yet?
One of the European commission’s more controversial decisions under president Jean-Claude Juncker’s Better Regulation initiative was to scrap the European Union’s circular economy package last year.  MEPs and the outgoing environment commissioner Janez Potočnik protested vocally until the new first vice-president of the commission (and regulatory hawk) Frans Timmermans pledged to re-introduce a “more ambitious” circular economy package with a much broader economic scope than the previous one, which had focused mainly on recycling targets.

Adidas Knit These Sneakers Entirely From Ocean Plastic Trash
As engineers work to find new ways to pull some of the trillions of pieces of plastic trash out of the ocean, companies are coming up with new uses for it. Like soap bottles, surfboards, and now shoes: Adidas just released a new prototype for a sneaker woven entirely out of ocean trash. The sample shoe was made from illegal gill nets dredged up from the ocean by the nonprofit Sea Shepherd. “It’s a fishing net that was spanning the bottom of the sea like a wall, and killing pretty much every fish passing by,” says Cyrill Gutsch, founder of Parley for the Oceans, a new Adidas-supported nonprofit that is helping the company develop a larger strategy for fighting ocean waste. “They confiscated this net, and we’re bringing it back to life.”

How To Design Products To Last A Lifetime
Take a look around you. What’s the most valued possession you see? Guitar? Computer? A nice pair of designer shoes? And what do they all have in common? Chances are, they could all be easily replaced if you lost or broke them, as long as you have the money to do it. But do you also own a favorite coffee cup, maybe with a chip in the rim, or a handle that you superglued back on? Or perhaps your leather bike saddle has worn itself to fit you perfectly, despite the fact that you had to lace its sagging sides together several summers ago? Something irreplaceable, something better because of its scars and faults. Which of these is more valuable to you?

Politics and Society

Jairam Ramesh: India can’t remain on the path of further destruction (Interview)
Jairam Ramesh was a self-described “economic hawk” when he became India’s environment minister in 2009, figuring that the country’s ecological problems could wait as India lifted its people out of poverty. But by the time he left his post in 2011, he had become an environmental hawk after witnessing how India’s rapidly expanding economy and soaring population had caused widespread pollution and destruction of the environment. Today, Ramesh is one of the most outspoken critics of India’s environmental policy under prime minister Narendra Modi, who, despite his support of major investments in renewable energy, is otherwise widely criticized by conservationists for putting economic growth ahead of environmental preservation.

Melbourne’s 10-year plan a win for the people’s panel engagement model
The City of Melbourne has officially adopted the majority of recommendations from a “people’s panel” on its just-released 10-year financial plan. The people’s panel – 43 individuals representative of the council’s residents, businesses and students – was brought together by the newDemocracy Foundation, started by public policy advocate Luca Belgiorno-Nettis to provide better community input into government decision-making.

7 trends in the very important area of standards
The keynote address question by WWF International’s Jason Clay at A Roadmap to Change – ISEAL 2015 Global sustainability standards conference was: “With the earth today and the speed of change on the planet, what can standards do to contribute to the wider global transformation we seek?” It set the scene for the conference held in Berlin, Germany in May, and provided plenty of food for thought for everyone in attendance.

11 things we learned about social enterprise in international development (Live chat summary)
As donor governments cut aid budgets, here’s what the experts say about the role of social enterprise in filling the gap.

Could human imagination save us from extinction?
If you wandered around planet Earth 100,000 years ago you would have come across at least half a dozen distinct species, or sub-species, of human. At least one, Homo erectus, centred around East Asia, lasted for nearly two million years. That makes the duration of us, recognisably modern Homo sapiens, at around 200,000 years, seem modest. It will remain so if Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind is correct. He suggests on current trends we’ll be lucky to see out the millennium.

Built Environment

Concrete jungle: cities adapt to growing ranks of coyotes, cougars and other urban wildlife
Several times this spring, coyotes made national headlines when spotted roaming the streets of New York, from Manhattan to Queens. In recent years, a host of charismatic wild species, the coyote being only the most famous, have returned to American cities in numbers not seen for generations. Yet the official response in many areas has been, at best, disorganized, and people’s responses varied. The time has come for us to accept that these animals are here to stay, and develop a new approach to urban wildlife.

Eden Project plans for Christchurch to be unveiled
A project for Christchurch’s residential red zone inspired by the Eden Project in Britain will be unveiled this week. The founder of the Eden Project UK, Sir Tim Smit, will be at the launch of the plans developed by Lincoln University on Friday. Themed on the concept From the Mountains to the Sea (Ki Uta Ki Tai) – the New Zealand Eden will tell the story of water through nature, culture and science and is proposed to be on Crown-owned land in the Avonside loop.

This 26-Story High-Rise Will Be The Biggest Passive Building In The World
Most buildings that meet the rigorous passive house standards are single-family homes. But a new passive house apartment building in New York City will be 26 stories high—the tallest and largest in the world.

How and where did UK lose city-sized area of green space in just six years?
The UK’s spreading cities are relentlessly eating up the country’s green spaces, according to new research, and experts and campaigners believe government planning reforms will aggravate the loss. A satellite survey by a research team at the University of Leicester (UofL) found that between 2006 and 2012, 22,000 hectares (54,000 acres) of green space was converted to “artificial surfaces” – mostly housing. More than 7,000 hectares of forest was felled, 14,000 hectares of farmland concreted and 1,000 hectares of precious wetland was drained to make way for urban sprawl. That’s a landscape twice the size of Liverpool, transformed forever, in just six years.

Food Systems

Alaska’s Seal Hunt Lasted Only a Few Days Because It’s So Hot
KOTZEBUE, Alaska—In this Far North village, no animal provides more protein to fill freezers than the bearded seal. A single seal can supply hundreds of pounds of meat, enough to feed a large, extended family for a winter. For generations, every late June and early July, native hunters like Ross Schaeffer and his niece Karmen Schaeffer Monigold have motored through the broken sea ice of Kotzebue Sound in northwestern Alaska, looking for seals basking on frosty rafts. But this year, temperatures were close to 70 degrees, there was no ice in sight, and the seals had already migrated north.

Pesticide residue report not cause for health safety concern: department of health
A report on the management of pesticides in Western Australia has found residue on fruit and vegetables grown locally is more than ten times the national average. The WA Department of Health conducts tests on meat, fish, fruit, vegetables and grains every two years. Pesticides are widely used in agriculture to limit or prevent damage caused by insects, weeds and diseases to crops and livestock.


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