Sustainable Development News

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

“Base load” power: a myth used to defend the fossil fuel industry
Last week, leading lights of the global fossil power industry gathered at a conference in Houston, Texas, for CERA, known in the sector as the “Davos of Energy”. They reportedly got the shock of their professional careers… Despite prodding by leading oil industry commentator Daniel Yergin, the chairman of State Grid Liu Zhenya reportedly said the “fundamental solution was to accelerate clean energy, with the aim of replacing coal and oil.” Gasp number one.

Energy and Climate Change

Syria’s Drought Has Likely Been Its Worst in 900 Years
…War has been the direct driver of the refugee flux and behind that is a complex mix of social and political factors both inside and outside the region. One fiercely studied and debated driver has been a recent dip into a series of severe droughts starting in the late 1990s. Previous work has prescribed some of the drought — and its impact on the socioeconomic fabric in the Middle East — to climate change. New findings published in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres put it in even starker context, showing that the drought is likely the worst to affect the region in 900 years.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Forget tinkering with emissions trading scheme, scrap it (Opinion)
NEW ZEALAND – The Government is consulting on its review of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). However the key questions that need addressing are outside the scope of the review. The review will not consider whether the ETS is the best way to address climate change. It will not consider when, if at all, agriculture should contribute to moving to a clean economy. It will not consider whether there should be a floor price for emissions, or a cap on the quantity that is allowed.

Auckland wastewater plants to run off grid
NEW ZEALAND – Two major wastewater treatment plants are set to go electricity-neutral. Watercare’s plants at Mangere and Rosedale are on track to run entirely on self-generated electricity by the year 2025. Biogas, a by-product of the wastewater treatment process, is now meeting 56 per cent of the electricity needs of the two plants.

Interactive tool predicts future sea levels
NEW ZEALAND – Sea levels are expected to rise half a metre in the next 50 years and coastal communities can now gaze into that future and get a glimpse of what it might look like. Waikato Regional Council launched its Coastal Inundation tool at the first Sustainable Waikato forum, held at the Don Rowlands Centre at Lake Karapiro on Wednesday.

Coonooer Bridge begins generating cheapest wind energy in Australia
AUSTRALIA – Victoria’s Coonooer Bridge wind farm has begun producing what is assumed to be the cheapest wind energy in Australia, after the project became the first from the ACT government’s hugely successful wind auction to generate power… “Coonooer Bridge becoming operational is an important milestone in the ACT Government’s commitment to 90 per cent renewable energy for the ACT,” Mr Corbell said.

Good Energy promises UK’s first subsidy-free windfarm
The UK’s first onshore windfarm to be built without government subsidy is now under planning in Cornwall, to be financed in part by the local community. The Big Field wind farm, near Bude, will consist of 11 turbines, none of more than 125m in height to the tip of the blade, and provide electricity for 22,000 homes. Its backers hope it will point the way to further such projects, after the damages to the onshore wind industry caused by the reversal of policy on government support for clean energy.

Environment and Biodiversity

Hidden housemates: we live with a zoo of harmless mini-beasts
Do you take pride in a clean house? They may not be obvious, but a recent US survey has shown that each of our homes harbours a fauna of perhaps hundreds of species of insect and other terrestrial arthropods such as mites, millipedes and centipedes.

New satellite mapping a ‘game changer’ against illegal logging
Taken from outer space, the satellite images show illegal loggers cutting a road into a protected area in Peru, part of a criminal enterprise attempting to steal millions of dollars worth of ecological resources. With the launch of a new satellite mapping system on Wednesday, governments and environmentalists will have access to hard evidence of these types of crimes almost in real time as part of a push by scientists to improve monitoring of tropical deforestation.

Invasive Species Aren’t Always Unwanted
Invasive species are bad news, or so goes the conventional wisdom, encouraged by persistent warnings from biologists about the dangers of foreign animals and plants moving into new territories… But a growing number of scientists are challenging this view, arguing that not all invasive species are destructive; some, they contend, are even beneficial. The assumption that what hails from elsewhere is inherently bad, these researchers say, rests more on xenophobia than on science.

Next few weeks critical as Great Barrier Reef suffers ‘tragic’ coral bleaching event
Fears of an imminent mass coral bleaching event on the Great Barrier Reef have prompted federal authorities to issue an urgent warning on the natural wonder, which is under threat from climate change. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority on Tuesday said patchy bleaching had already
been detected on multiple reefs in mainly shallow areas, and weather forecasts of upcoming hot conditions posed a dangerous threat over the next few weeks.

Carnaby’s Black Cockatoos at risk if Perth-Peel land-use plan goes ahead, says leaked report
AUSTRALIA – Half the remaining Carnaby’s Black Cockatoos would be wiped out under State Government land-use plans to meet the Perth-Peel region’s population growth over coming decades, a leaked report shows. The Government commissioned a Population Viability Analysis of the endangered black cockatoo as part of its draft Perth and Peel Green Growth Plan to meet the challenge of supporting a projected 3.5 million people by 2050.

‘Very fragile system’ at risk from coal mining in Sydney water catchment: study
AUSTRALIA – Coal mining in Sydney’s water catchment is placing at risk sensitive and endangered swamplands that once damaged, can never be repaired, according to an independent hydrologist.

Economy and Business

Climate scientists worry about the costs of sea level rise | John Abraham
A paper was just published by Drs. Boettle, Rybski and Kropp that dealt with [the economic costs of rising seas]. The authors of this study note that if you are concerned about societal and economic costs, the rate of sea rise isn’t the entire story. Much of the damage is caused by extreme events that are superimposed on a rising ocean. Damage is highly nonlinear with sea rise.

Vancouver-based car-sharing service exceeds 100,000 members
The uptake of car sharing services continues to reach ever-impressive numbers. It was announced this week that Car2Go, a service that operates in many of the largest European and North American cities, has now exceeded the 100,000 user mark in Vancouver.

China launches $1.2bn green bonds issue
China’s Bank of Qingdao is launching a green bonds issue worth 8 billion yuan (US$1.2 billion), according to an official statement. Proceeds from the bonds will go towards financing 26 shortlisted projects aimed at energy conservation, pollution control, clean transportation, adaptation, energy efficiency, and environmental protection.

Most electrical goods bought online have misleading energy labels, study finds
Most electrical goods bought online have either been given a misleading energy label or none at all, according to a three-year survey across 11 European countries. By law, energy performance energy labels for products such as dishwashers, ovens and fridges must be displayed as prominently on a website as they are in shops. But a study by MarketWatch, a group of civil society organisations, found that 20% of online goods had no label, 1% had the wrong label, and 35% were displayed in outdated or inaccessible forms.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Retailers to focus on waste prevention and reuse above recycling
It’s A Better Retailing Climate Progress Report
said that “retailers are continuing to move away from sending waste to landfill and over the period 2020, this focus will move up the waste hierarchy to waste prevention and reuse.”

Nascent’s Modular System Enables Shift Towards Sustainable Consumer Electronics
According to the UN’s Global E-Waste Monitor, roughly 46 million tons of e-waste was generated worldwide in 2014. Of that, just 7.1 tons were recycled or reused, and those numbers are expected to rise five percent annually for the foreseeable future. The recently launched Nascent Objects platform, created by San Francisco-based Ammunition Group, offers an alternative via a customizable system of interchangeable electronic modules that can be used to assemble a variety of consumer products.

Politics and Society

CEOs emerge unscathed by environment lawsuits
Every corporation has a legal personality in the eyes of the law, which means it can be sued just like any individual person. However, unlike a person, a corporation cannot think or act of its own accord. Its actions are controlled by the chief executive officer and directors responsible for making its decisions. So when a corporation is accused of breaching the law, it raises an intriguing question: does the CEO – the brain behind the corporate machine – suffer personal penalties for the company’s alleged wrongdoing?

Cleantech innovation set to take off under China’s new Five Year Plan: Changhua Wu
The National People’s Congress of China met last year to decide on the guiding principles for the 13th Five-Year Plan, which is the roadmap for the country’s economic and social development from 2016 to 2020. In it, they set out five overarching concepts to encompass China’s transformation: innovation; coordination; green, low carbon development; openness and sharing. But it was ‘innovation’ that was front and center of discussions. And it will be innovation that dominates dialogue at the National People’s Congress in Beijing this week.

Thousands to march against coal plant threat to Bangladesh’s Sundarbans forest
Thousands of Bangladeshis will march from the country’s capital, Dhaka, to the world’s biggest mangrove forest next week in protest at plans to build two coal-power plants on the edge of the World Heritage-listed forest.


Wild deer in the Sundarbans. The forest is home to more than 1,000 species including Bangladesh’s last population of tigers Photograph: Majority World/Getty Images


Man prosecuted for trapping possums thought he was doing DoC a favour
NEW ZEALAND – A man being prosecuted for trapping possums in a forest park thought he was doing the Conservation Department a favour. Napier man Clayton Freeman, 48, has been charged with “pursuing animals in a conservation area” without a permit… The department considers possums “one of the greatest threats to our natural environment”. They eat native bush, insects and the eggs of native birds.

Built Environment

Building energy regulation: red tape or green bounty?
AUSTRALIA – As part of my research for the Cooperative Research Centre for Low Carbon Living, I recently undertook an analysis of the 5 Star Standard to see whether it has measured up as a policy instrument for greenhouse abatement, and if industry concerns about impacts to housing affordability and damage to the state’s housing market have been borne out… Results were very encouraging, both in relation to the standard’s effectiveness and the consequent potential for regulatory reforms to building energy standards in the National Construction Code.


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