Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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You may have noticed amongst the plethora of articles in this newsletter that I like to draw attention to ways we can all contribute to living more sustainably.  Todays’ top story highlights something you might not have though about yet, your traditional sunscreens are bad news for the oceans.  In other news, investors show Rio Tinto they’re concerned about climate risk and the threats to business; while in Indonesia, coal companies get away with illegal river diversions; wet wipes are in the spotlight again changing the riverbed of the Thames; and there’s a new movie out showing the link between deforestation and cattle farming in the Amazon.

Top Story 

Hawaii sunscreen: Bill to protect coral reefs would ban oxybenzone, octinoxate | The Washington Post
From Banana Boat to Coppertone, major sunscreen brands may soon have to revamp their products or stop selling them in Hawaii. State lawmakers passed legislation Tuesday that would ban skin-care companies from selling and distributing sunscreens on the islands that contain two chemicals deemed damaging to coral reefs. If Gov. David Ige (D) signs the bill, it would make Hawaii the first state to enact legislation designed to protect marine ecosystems by banning such sunscreens.

Climate Change and Energy 

The people who’ll be most hurt by climate swings did the least to cause them, study says | The Washington Post
It is no secret that not everyone on the planet is equally responsible for climate change. On a per-capita basis, greenhouse gas emissions are far higher in wealthy countries like the United States. Indeed, the Northern Hemisphere, where 13 of the 15 largest countries by GDP are found, emits far more than the Southern Hemisphere does. But the whole globe warms as a result. In a study released Wednesday, however, scientists have gone further in documenting what they call climate-related “inequality.” They found that tropical countries, which tend to be poorer and to have contributed less to climate change, are set to disproportionately suffer one of the more severe effects: major swings in temperature.

Pakistani city breaks April record with day of 50C heat | The Guardian
PAKISTAN – A Pakistani city has set a global record temperature for the month of April, with the mercury rising to more than 50C on Monday, prompting fears that people might leave to escape even higher temperatures when summer sets in. The southern city of Nawabshah recorded a high of 50.2C on Monday.  “We are worried that the extreme heat started too early this summer, and are planning to migrate to other cities if the situation remains the same,” one city resident, Ismail Domki, said.

UN forest accounting loophole allows CO2 underreporting by EU, UK, US | Mongabay
Scientists are raising the alarm that this goal may already be beyond reach. One reason: a carbon accounting loophole within UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) guidelines accepting the burning of wood pellets (biomass) as a carbon neutral replacement for coal — with wood now used in many European Union and United Kingdom power plants.

Environment and Biodiversity 

$500 million for the Great Barrier Reef is welcome, but we need a sea change in tactics too | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – The federal government’s announcement of more than A$500 million in funding for the Great Barrier Reef is good news. It appears to show a significant commitment to the reef’s preservation – something that has been lacking in recent years. But one concern with the package is that it seems to give greatest weight to the strategies that are already being tried – and which have so far fallen a long way short of success.

Everglades under threat as Florida’s mangroves face death by rising sea level | The Guardian
USA – Florida’s mangroves have been forced into a hasty retreat by sea level rise and now face being drowned, imperiling coastal communities and the prized Everglades wetlands, researchers have found. Mangroves in south-east Florida in an area studied by the researchers have been on a “death march” inland as they edge away from the swelling ocean but have now hit a manmade levee and are likely to be submerged by water within 30 years, according to the Florida International University analysis.

Economy and Business 

Coal mine diverts Sumatran river without a permit, leaving villagers short of clean water | Mongabay
INDONESIA – Since coal mining company PT Seluma Prima Coal set up operations in 2015, residents of Rangkiling Bakti village in Jambi, Sumatra say they have suffered from a lack of clean water as well as from landslides and flooding. Although a permit to do so is still being processed, PT SPC and its partners have diverted the course of Sungumai River, which runs through their concession. The company has drilled wells and promised other social initiatives, but area residents have continued to protest, calling for more compensation and for legal measures to be taken against the company.

Rio Tinto’s climate change resolution marks a significant shift in investor culture | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – What does the advocacy group the Australian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR) have in common with the Local Government Super fund, the Church of England Pensions Board, and the Seventh Swedish National Pension Fund? Quite a lot, it seems. These three institutional investors joined with the ACCR to co-file a shareholder resolution on climate change at mining giant Rio Tinto’s Australian annual general meeting in Melbourne yesterday.

Australian business is unprepared for the 2018 Modern Slavery Act | The Fifth Estate
AUSTRALIA – I was particularly surprised at one of the findings in this year’s Annual Review of the State of CSR in Australia and New Zealand. It called out how unprepared Australian business appears to be for the imminent introduction of the Modern Slavery Act 2018. Australian businesses need to be aware that some 4300 people were estimated to be enslaved in Australia in 2016, and that 45 million people in the world suffer from slavery conditions that generates US $150 billion (AU $200b) of illicit profits a year. And more than half of those people are in our major trading partners.

Waste and the Circular Economy 

Wet wipe pollution ‘changing the shape of British riverbeds’ | The Guardian
UK – Wet wipes are changing the shape of British riverbeds, campaigners said after finding more than 5,000 of them alongside the Thames in an area the size of half a tennis court. Thames 21, a London environmental organisation that cleans up rivers and canals, retrieved 5,453 wet wipes during an operation last month in 116 sq m of the Thames embankment near Hammersmith. The haul was an increase of nearly a thousand over last year’s total (which took place on a larger riverbank area).

Recycle the Weetabix! What I learned from a month on the app that tackles food waste | The Guardian
UK – I am walking with a woman named Kerry, whom I have just met, to her car. She is in her mid-30s and has a tinge of attitude. When we reach her car, she opens the boot. Inside are hundreds of industrial-sized tubs of hummus, enough to power Brighton for a week. I met Kerry online, not via some kind of hummus-appreciation society messageboard, but on Olio, an app that is attempting to end food waste at home by letting people upload details of the food they would otherwise chuck out, so that others living nearby can take it off their hands. I am trying out the app for a few weeks to see if it can reduce my own waste to zero (and to see if I can get some freebies).

Politics and Society 

I watched an entire Flat Earth Convention for my research – here’s what I learnt | The Conversation
Let me begin by stating quickly that I’m not really interested in discussing if the earth if flat or not (for the record, I’m happily a “globe earther”) – and I’m not seeking to mock or denigrate this community. What’s important here is not necessarily whether they believe the earth is flat or not, but instead what their resurgence and public conventions tell us about science and knowledge in the 21st century.

Science can’t solve climate change — better politics can, former IPCC scientist says | ABC News
It’s not every day you hear that the climate change debate needs to be “more political and less scientific” — but that is exactly what Mike Hulme is calling for. The 2015 Paris agreement was declared “a victory for climate science”, but Professor Hulme — who used to work for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — is not convinced that the Paris deal will work. In fact, he said he thought climate change was in danger of becoming a “fetish” and that rallying cries to “save the planet by limiting global warming to 2 degrees” could distract us from the “political logjam” in front of us.

Origin pushes for higher Co2 targets, as CEC lament’s “hysteria” over NEG | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – Major energy utility Origin Energy has lifted pressure on the federal government to increase its emissions reduction target, as the Clean Energy Council also clarified its position on the National Energy Guarantee, also saying it must come with higher targets.

‘Trust us’: Changes to Murray-Darling plan may face legal challenges | SMH
AUSTRALIA – A bid to cut environmental flows in the $13 billion Murray-Darling Basin plan by about one-fifth will likely face legal challenges should it pass the Senate, according to The Australia Institute and the barrister leading South Australia’s Royal Commission to examine the river system. Senators are currently due to vote Tuesday – the same day as the federal budget’s release – on whether to block amendments to the plan that would reduce environmental water savings in the southern basin by 605 billion litres a year.

Built Environment 

Small living and the promise of eco-collaborative housing | The Fifth Estate
How we live in our homes can undermine potential sustainability… Certain studies of the sustainability of various households show how minimal and efficient living in relatively small dwellings with fairly ordinary sustainability building ratings can have closer to one planet lifestyles than the over-consuming in seemingly super-sustainable grandly designed homes — again emphasising the key importance of householder practices.

Food Systems 

New film shines light on cattle industry link to Amazon deforestation | Mongabay (Film)
Approximately one fifth of the Amazon rainforest has already been cut down, and nearly 80 percent of this deforestation is attributable to the cattle industry, says a new nearly hour-long documentary, “Grazing the Amazon.”

Documentary director, Marcio Isensee e Sá filming illegal cattle pasture in Jamanxim National Forest, a protected area located in Novo Progresso municipality, Pará state. Image by Bernardo Camara.

Documentary director, Marcio Isensee e Sá filming illegal cattle pasture in Jamanxim National Forest, a protected area located in Novo Progresso municipality, Pará state. Image by Bernardo Camara.


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