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

Everything you need to know about the Paris climate summit and UN talks
The governments of more than 190 nations will gather in Paris to discuss a possible new global agreement on climate change, aimed at reducing global greenhouse gas emissions and thus avoiding the threat of dangerous climate change. Current commitments on greenhouse gas emissions run out in 2020, so at Paris governments are expected to produce an agreement on what happens for the decade after that at least, and potentially beyond.

[Ed: A good explainer for friends who are not aware or not convinced.]

Energy and Climate Change

‘Moon shot’ call on clean energy
A group of scientists and economists is calling for the equivalent of the Apollo space programme to produce cheap, clean energy.  Apollo engaged America’s best minds to put a man on the Moon in the Cold War. The academics say a similar effort is needed to make renewables cheaper than coal within a decade in what they call the biggest scientific challenge of the century. Such a project has been mooted in the past – but always failed. The group of experts call their project Global Apollo. They say they have generated interest from major nations in their plan for an investment of 0.02% of their GDP into research, development and demonstration (RD&D) of clean electricity.

Panasonic signs battery storage deal with 3 Australian utilities
Japanese electronics giant Panasonic has struck agreements with three Australian energy utilities to trial its home-based battery storage options, saying it would help double the amount of self-consumption of Australian solar households and also challenge utilities to change their business models. Panasonic has agreed on trials with Red Energy, the retailing arm of the mostly NSW government-owned Snowy Hydro, along with Queensland regional network operator and retailer Ergon Energy, and the ACT-based utility ActewAGL.

Installation rate hits inflection point in New Zealand
Solar installation rates in New Zealand have grown by more than 220% in 2015, over the previous 18 months. New figures from the Electricity Networks Association show that while there were 1,630 PV arrays in New Zealand as of October 2013, that number has now climbed to 5,367. The continuing internationalization of the global PV industry continues, with New Zealand that latest country to show strong installation growth. Commenting on the trend, the Electricity Networks Association CEO Graeme Peters said that solar looks likely to present a challenge for local utilities, which operate as regulated monopolies. Peters said that battery storage is likely to be a “game changer” for electricity supply in New Zealand.

Fossil Fuel Divestment

Highlights from the Guardian Live debate on fossil fuel divestment
The Guardian’s keep it in the ground campaign has been calling for individuals and major investors to pull out their money from fossil fuel companies. But is that a viable strategy on its own? Is there evidence that engagement rather than divestment would work better? And will the business and investor community lend their support? This and other issues were discussed at a Guardian Live debate on divestment, chaired by the Guardian’s editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger in his last week as editor.

Great Lakes not for profit company throws its support behind renewable energy
AUSTRALIA – A major Mid North Coast not for profit organisation has changed its energy supplier, due to what it said are concerns about coal seam gas (CSG) and the renewable energy target (RET). The Tuncurry based Great Lakes Community Resources runs a number of community projects in the region, and employs 60 people. It has responded to a campaign that urges companies to abandon power providers involved with CSG or opposing the RET. Great Lakes Community Resources CEO John Wheate said the move suits their business ideals.

Environment and Biodiversity

Tanzania elephant population declined by 60% in five years, census reveals
Tanzania has emerged as the epicentre of Africa’s elephant poaching crisis after a government census revealed it had lost a “catastrophic” 60% of its elephants in just five years. The results will pile pressure on a government that has been heavily criticised for its inability to stop a flood of poached ivory being stripped from its national parks. Tanzania’s elephant population is one of the continent’s largest. But data, released on Monday by the Tanzanian government, showed that between 2009 and 2014 the number dropped from 109,051 to 43,330. When an annual birth rate of 5% is taken into account the number of dead is 85,181.

Creating private nature refuges key to battling climate change effects, Queensland Government says
AUSTRALIA – Creating more nature refuges on private land could be the best way to protect animals from the effects of climate change, the Queensland Government says. The Government worked with James Cook University and the CSIRO to assess which habitats for 1,600 different vertebrate animals would best resist the effects of global warming. Department of Environment and Heritage director of landscape conservation, Allan Williams, said the research was done by looking at where animals lived and the climate in those locations.

Platypus find in Melbourne’s west a sign of population recovery
Platypus populations in Melbourne’s urban areas are showing signs of recovery, five years after drought wiped them from the map in many Victorian habitats. The most recent survey, lead by wildlife ecologist Josh Griffiths, found a 2.7-kilogram platypus in Jackson’s Creek, Sunbury. “We’re seeing some signs of recovery from the drought — Jackson’s Creek has shown a really good bounce-back,” Mr Griffiths said.

Saving seeds for future plant biodiversity and food production
AUSTRALIA – Homegrown tomatoes that have a real flavour and hundreds of heritage varieties of fruits and vegetables that you no longer find in the average supermarket. The vegetables of your youth are the things that a group called ‘Seed Savers’ say they want to keep for the future. The central west New South Wales towns of Gulgong and Mudgee has seen an influx of seed fanatics over the past couple of days, as they congregate to share information and inspiration in their passion for a vibrant stock of plant genetics.

Fourth hen harrier’s disappearance sparks fears of extinction by persecution
ENGLAND – The mysterious disappearance of a fourth hen harrier from a nest in the Pennines this spring has renewed fears that England’s most endangered breeding bird of prey is being persecuted towards extinction. The RSPB and Cumbria Police have launched an appeal for information after the male bird vanished on 23 May from the RSPB’s Geltsdale reserve, where it had established a nest with a female. Without the male providing food for the incubating female, her clutch of five eggs was abandoned.

Last hedgehogs in central London ‘survived by learning to avoid roads’
The last hedgehogs to live in a central London park have survived because they have learnt to avoid busy roads, a study suggests. Hedgehogs were once common across the UK but have suffered a steep decline in the past 60 years, with deaths on the road one of the biggest problems. Central London, with its heavy traffic, has experienced one of the biggest declines with few hedgehogs now surviving there. In Regents Park, however, a small population is clinging on and they appear to have learnt to keep clear of the busy roads that are one of the main causes of their decline.

Economy and Business

Japan and South Korea top list of biggest coal financiers
Japan and South Korea are the world’s biggest financiers of coal through export credit agencies, a new report has found, with coal projects in Australia among the major beneficiaries of their support. WWF said that the three countries are attempting to derail talks that could cut international coal finance from such agencies, which are state-owned mechanisms that fund or underwrite overseas projects that domestic companies are involved in.

Wattblock in million dollar capital raising
AUSTRALIA – Energy efficiency start up Wattblock has launched a capital raising on the strength of a booming strata apartment market. Co-founder of the company Brent Clark said the company had enormous market opportunity, and the capital raising targeting $1 million would be used to boost sales, marketing and product development activities. Wattblock was founded a year ago by Mr Clark, a former energy software consultant for AGL and technology executive for CBA, and data scientist Ross McIntyre.

Z Energy’s annual report uses international sustainability reporting framework
NEW ZEALAND – This year Z is taking its commitment to sharing everything it does to the next level, by producing an annual report using an international sustainability reporting framework – the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).  It’s all part of Z’s commitment to sustainability, transparency and best practice reporting. The beautifully-designed, easy-to-read report provides detailed information in the following core areas, representing the main interests of Z’s stakeholder base: Community, Sustainability, Financials and Health & Safety.

Ben & Jerry’s Announces Carbon Tax Covering Farm to Landfill Emissions
Ben & Jerry’s has announced that it will institute its own internal carbon tax of $10 for every metric ton of its greenhouse gas emissions, from farm to landfill. Using a recent Lifecycle Analysis that gave the ice cream company a “cow-to-cone” picture of its carbon footprint, Ben & Jerry’s says it will be putting the funds from the tax to jumpstart sustainbility programs it’s already working on. Due to the fact that the dairy component counts for 42 percent of its overall lifecycle emissions, the company will start by working with farmers to develop and implement carbon footprint-reducing strategies.

One Way to Create Sustainability Now? Through New Relationships, Economies
Jerry Michalski, Founder of San Diego-based REX, helped to kick off Day 1 of Sustainable Brands 2015 San Diego with a workshop entitled, ‘Leveraging the Relationship and Sharing Economies: Innovation Potential and Strategies for Entry.’ The session provided context and comparison between the Circular, Sharing, and Relationship Economies. Michalski believes our relationships to goods, services, the planet, and one another are changing profoundly; design plays a key role moving forward.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Action agenda for a circular economy released at World Resources Forum
The value of a circular economy to Australia could be $26 billion a year by 2025, according to an action agenda released at the World Resources Forum Asia Pacific being held this week in Sydney. The agenda, released by the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney, has been designed to bring focus to the significance of resource productivity and innovation for Australia’s future.

Politics and Society

Cause Marketing: Michelle Obama’s Drink Up Campaign
Does cause marketing actually work? New data shows Michelle Obama’s Drink Up Campaign is encouraging Americans to drink more water. Although some have tossed stones at its partners in the bottled water industry, some point to the campaign as a model for every sector, for one simple reason: It’s working.

Built Environment

Elon Musk’s Hyperloop to Break Ground: 5 Things to Know
Imagine a half-hour commute from your job in New York City to an affordable home in a bucolic town more than 100 miles away. That’s the vision of billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, who’s proposed the Hyperloop, a solar-powered system that floats passenger pods on a cushion of air through elevated tubes at the speed of sound. It’s no longer a pipe dream. Musk gave no detail when he announced plans in January to build a test track, likely in Texas. Since then, another entrepreneur has secured agreements to break ground early next year on a five-mile stretch in California.


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.