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

‘Inequality is not just bad economics – it’s bad for the planet too’
When we are in the midst of economic strife, as we saw in 2008, the health of our environment often gets shunted down the priority list by tough-talking governments. Environmental problems are often characterised as oppositional to raising living standards. Yet, tackling inequality (pdf) is exactly what we need to do if we are serious about building a safe and healthy natural environment, as well as essential for a sustainable economy.

Energy and Climate Change

Find Power Consumption & Carbon Footprint For 50,000 Electric Devices
It’s difficult to use less electricity if you don’t know how much energy it takes to run the devices in your home, and it’s challenging to reduce your carbon footprint if you aren’t aware of the CO2 emissions created as a byproduct of powering those devices. Whether you’re shopping for a new electronic device or appliance, and you’d like to make sure you’re getting the most efficient model, or you’re trying to assess the energy efficiency of the devices you own, you can use the WattDoesItUse website to get the answers you need.

Potent greenhouse gases should have no place in our air conditioning units
Our planet’s fragile ozone layer is on a path toward full restoration by about 2050. But there’s a hitch: the success has hinged largely on replacing ozone-depleting substances with hydrofluorocarbon (HFCs) – chemicals we now know are highly damaging to the environment. It is time to reduce these pollutants.

Melting Antarctic ice sheets and sea level rise: a warning from the future
The remote location of the Antarctic and Greenland polar ice sheets may leave us with the impression that developments in these regions have little effect on the climate and life in the temperate zones of the Earth, where most of us live. We may therefore be forgiven for asking why should we care when these changes are projected to unfold over tens to hundreds of years.

Scotland set for world’s largest floating offshore wind farm
The Scottish Government has granted consent for the world’s largest floating offshore wind farm to be developed off the coast of Peterhead.  Oil and gas giant Statoil will build a 30MW pilot park consisting of five floating 6MW turbines. The project could eventually generate 135GWh of electricity a year, enough to power nearly 20,000 homes. The project will be the UK’s first ever floating wind farm development, with construction set to start next year.

Turnbull’s Direct Action plan may be multi-billon dollar boondoggle
The Australian government will hold the second of its Emission Reduction Fund auctions this week, with up to $1 billion or more expected to be sold to a range of projects from coal mine waste gas activities to forest regeneration and savannah burning… Industry analysts Reputex, a division of rating agency Standard and Poor’s, says the auction may well buy a significant amount of “abatement”, but it will not change the fact that Australia’s emissions growth will continue to outpace contracted payments, particularly in the 2020-2030 period.

Adelaide’s hottest October on record: Temperature 5 degrees hotter than the average, rainfall scarce
A hotter than average month has shattered Adelaide’s all-time October record by more than five degrees Celsius. Last month’s series of daytime temperatures of more than 30C — and spikes of up to 35C — have rewritten the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM)’s records. BOM duty forecaster Matt Colopy told 891 ABC Adelaide the city’s average for this October was 27.1C. The average maximum temperature for Adelaide during October has historically been 21.3C. The records were established for Adelaide observations in 1840.

Paris 2015: UN Conference on Climate Change

China and France say Paris climate pact should have five-year reviews
French president François Hollande claimed China and France had taken an “historic” step towards tackling climate change on Monday after the two countries agreed any deal reached in Paris next month should include checks on whether signatories are keeping their commitments to reduce emissions. In a joint statement released weeks before the United Nations Climate Change Conference, China and France said such progress should be reviewed every five years in order to “reinforce mutual confidence and promote efficient implementation”.

Business groups urge finance ministers to back strong climate deal
A group of 11 international business organisations have today called on G20 and EU finance ministers to “step up their efforts” to deliver a strong agreement at the UN climate negotiations in Paris later this month. In a letter organised by the Prince of Wales’ Corporate Leaders Group (CLG), ministers are also urged to play an active role in creating effective national policies to build low-carbon economies and increase resilience to the effects of climate change.

Environment and Biodiversity

Borneo’s orangutans forced out of habitat by haze from Indonesian peat blaze
Indonesia’s threatened orangutans are being choked by the haze from the land-clearing fires burning on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, and being driven out of their habitat into farmland, where they risk being shot. As with humans, the orangutans most at risk are the young. At a rehabilitation sanctuary just outside of Palangkaraya, in central Borneo, 16 baby orangutans have been treated for smoke inhalation. Six of the young orangutans suffered acute respiratory problems, said Monterado Fridman, from the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation at Nyaru Menteng.

Indonesia’s forest fires: living under a yellow haze – in pictures
As rains finally clear the skies over south-east Asia, dramatic Greenpeace photos show people and wildlife coping with the haze in one of the worst hit areas of Central Kalimantan on Borneo Island.

How two Darling Downs retirees are winning the fight against the Indian myna bird
While Australia is home to a rich collection of wildlife, it also has a large feral pest problem, which is why two men in the small town of Inglewood have decided to do something about it.  Every morning for the past two years, Bob Lindner and Darryl Bleach have walked around the small town of Inglewood to check and set bird traps. After the Indian myna took up residence in the town, the Queensland Murray Darling Committee (QMDC) started a project to rid the town of the invasive species.

Fishing industry hits back at Maui’s dolphin campaigners
NEW ZEALAND – Claims fishermen are killing endangered dolphins in nets should be taken with a pinch of salt, according to industry insiders. Maui and Hector’s Dolphin Defenders launched its ByCatch of the Day campaign asking New Zealanders to boycott fish caught in gillnets, a wall of netting that hangs in the  water,  because the endangered species could get ensnared and  drown .

What’s your favourite native NZ plant?
Is agapanthus a gardening friend or foe? Do you love the cabbage tree’s distinctive form or do the leaves shedding all over your lawn drive you crazy? Do you have a lot of love for lancewood? Voting is now open for the New Zealand Plant Conservation Network’s 2015 Favourite Plant and Worst Weed award.

Economy and Business

A coal tax to help the climate and the resource owners
Most of the world’s remaining coal will need to stay in the ground if we are to avoid the risk of severe climate change: it is unburnable. Coal exporting countries could buffer the transition by taxing coal production or exports. This would raise revenue for coal producing countries, raise coal prices and reduce global carbon emissions.

China’s five year economic plan is rich with symbolism
China’s latest five-year plan, the details of which were endorsed at last week’s fifth plenum, aims to double the nation’s GDP and per capita income by 2020 (from 2010 numbers)… The plan is the latest set of indications that the Chinese leadership is determined to foster a “new normal” for Chinese economic growth. One that is based upon domestic consumption, services and strategic innovation, rather than the exports and state-led investment of the past.

General Electric and BHP Billiton team up to lower mining emissions
American conglomerate General Electric (GE) has today (2 November) teamed up with a leading mining company to identify ways to lower GHG emissions from mining operations.  GE announced the partnership with BHP Billiton to reduce the emissions intensity of unearthing resources such as gas, oil, copper, iron ore and coal. GE has also announced new partnerships with key companies across an array of resource sectors.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Retail and manufacturing waste down 80,000 tonnes against 2012 baseline
WRAP has published its second interim report on Courtauld Commitment 3 that shows retailers and manufacturers have reduced waste. Signatories to the agreement have reduced grocery ingredient, product and packaging waste in manufacturing and retail operations by 80,000 tonnes again the 2012 baseline figure.

The Plastic Bank: How ‘Social Plastic’ Is Giving Value to Waste, Improving Lives Around the World
At SB ’14 San Diego, the Plastic Disclosure Project, the UN Environment Program and Trucost unveiled the fist-ever assessment of plastic use in business, along with the business case for dealing with its global impacts: Among the sobering figures, the report calculated the total natural capital cost of plastic in the consumer goods industry to be more than $75B per year, while the most significant downstream impact of plastic use by the consumer goods sector is marine pollution, which has an estimated natural capital cost of at least $13B. With the oceans constituting a roughly $24T economy, as estimated earlier this year by WWF, the cost comes from a range of environmental impacts including the harm done by plastic litter to ocean wildlife and the loss of valuable resources when plastic waste is sent to landfill rather than being recycled.

Academic ‘gobsmacked’ over marine debris collected from Whitsunday beaches
More than 38,000 pieces of rubbish have been collected off beaches in the Whitsundays, in north Queensland, as part of a research trip… Associate Professor Smith said the amount of rubbish was shocking. “I was gobsmacked,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of work in marine debris in Australia and overseas as well and the quantities that we observed on some of the beaches were equivalent to some of the worst sites I’ve seen in South-East Asia.

Politics and Society

Clean energy investment in Australia fell by 31% under Tony Abbott
Uncertainty over the future of Australia’s renewable energy target under the Abbott government precipitated a 31% drop in clean energy investment in Australia, according to the annual report of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. The CEFC’s chair, banker Jillian Broadbent, noted in a foreword to the report that the 2014-15 financial year “saw an all-time record of around US$320bn of global investment in clean energy”. By contrast, “Australian clean energy investment fell by 31%”.

Could patriotism motivate Americans to use less energy?
Several years ago, back when we were still fighting a war in Iraq and we were all very tense about that, we tested some messaging around national security as a reason to make one’s home more energy efficient. It tested pretty well; not as well as saving money and increasing comfort, but pretty well. And, as you might imagine, it tested best with Americans who weren’t bought into climate change, but were bought into America.

Civilisation has a 10 per cent chance of surviving: Paul Ehrlich
Paul Ehrlich’s book The Population Bomb dropped like one on its readers in the late 60s. It presented an apocalyptic vision of humanity strangling the globe through overpopulation, and the dystopia it predicted was to arrive within 20 years; hundreds of millions would starve to death in North America in the 80s; Western societies like England would cease to exist in a generation. The book sold in its millions.  Paul Ehrlich concedes he blew the timing. He didn’t foresee the great scientific advances in crop production – the Green Revolution – that averted the threat of mass starvation in the 70s and 80s. For decades, he paid the price: derided as the ecologist who cried wolf.  But he doesn’t think he’s wrong, and in a new book – Killing the Koala, Poisoning the Prairie – the Stanford Professor in Population Studies sets out more reasons why our current way of life is very much on borrowed time.

Cartoon - Perils of life

Built Environment

Google-backed Database Promotes Sustainable Building Design
Google, along with thinkstep, architecture and engineering tech company Flux and nonprofit Healthy Building Network (HBN), last week launched a new collaborative open data initiative to combine health and environmental impact data on building materials that empowers the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry to achieve greater sustainability. The Quartz database is the result of a year-long collaboration known as The Quartz Project, whose overall mission is to promote the transparency of building product information.

Calls for Victoria to rethink car-parking policy
The Planning Institute of Australia is calling for Victoria to rethink its car-parking policy to improve housing affordability, health and the state’s sustainability credentials. The Victoria branch of the PIA issued the call following a recent Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal ruling that overturned planning approval for a new apartment block on the basis that it did not have enough parking.

All-electric bus unveiled in Melbourne, heading to Sydney on one charge
A prototype all-electric bus that its developers say can be driven from Melbourne to Sydney on a single charge was unveiled in Melbourne on Friday, ahead of a road-test on Saturday that will see it undertake the interstate journey… Federal environment minister Greg Hunt attended the launch, and confirmed that the bus was officially certified, to international standards, to drive a huge 1004km on one charge.


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.