Sustainable Development News

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

Indigenous rights are key to preserving forests, climate change study finds
The world’s indigenous communities need to be given a bigger role in climate stabilisation, according to a new study that shows at least a quarter of forest carbon is stored on communal land, particularly in Brazil. The research by a group of academic institutions and environmental NGOs is the most comprehensive effort yet to quantify the contribution of traditional forest guardians to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

Energy and Climate Change

Climate change: Australia falling behind rest of world on emissions cuts, says report
Australia is lagging behind other countries on tackling climate change after signing the historic Paris Agreement last year, a new report shows. The Climate Council’s new report, “Towards Morocco: tracking global climate progress since Paris,” questions Australia’s ability to meet its 2030 emissions reduction target.

NSW sets net-zero carbon emissions goal by 2050 as Australian pollution climbs
NSW, home to Australia’s largest economy, will set a goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and allocate $500 million over five years to help spur the transition to renewable energy… By releasing a goal for NSW to be carbon neutral by mid-century, the state is falling into line with states such as South Australia but also federal Labor’s target.

UK coal-powered electricity projected to fall by record amount
The amount of electricity generated from UK coal power stations is on track to fall by two-thirds this year, a decline which analysts said was so steep and fast it was unprecedented globally. Climate change thinktank Sandbag said the drop was due to a doubling in the price of a carbon tax and the lower price of gas. The group has written to the chancellor, Philip Hammond, urging him not to water down the carbon floor price in this month’s autumn statement, which the steel industry has been lobbying the government to do.

Powerwall 2: Tesla doubles up on battery storage and slashes costs
Just nine months after the first batch of Tesla’s 7kWh Powerwall battery storage systems hit the Australian market, the US company has unveiled the Powerwall 2 – a smaller, sleeker second generation unit with double the energy storage capacity at nearly half the cost per kilowatt hour of its predecessor.

Environment and Biodiversity

Massey University student develops backyard homes for lizards and wetas
NEW ZEALAND – Kiwis working to free their backyards from pests to make life easier for native birds could soon have another way to measure their success. Tom Armstrong, an industrial design student at Massey University in Wellington, has designed homes for weta and lizards that are easy to assemble, and can go in the backyard of anyone who is conservation conscious. The return of weta and lizards to an area are an early sign that efforts to trap pests such as rats and stoats are working.

Mine expansion threat to rare lizards – DOC
NEW ZEALAND – A proposed expansion of the country’s biggest goldmine would kill thousands of protected lizards, the Department of Conservation (DOC) says… The expansion would create a new 63ha mine pit, called Coronation North, and a 280-million tonne waste stack. It would add three years to the life of the 25-year-old mine, which has pumped billions of dollars into the Otago economy since it opened.

Nigerian superhighway project draws international attention over threats to local communities and wildlife
If completed, the Cross River Superhighway in Nigeria would displace 180 indigenous communities and threaten one of the world’s greatest biodiversity hotspots, according to the World Conservation Society (WCS), which has launched a campaign in partnership with the local Ekuri Initiative to call on Nigeria’s President Buhari to stop the project.

Myanmar’s logging ban feeds shadow economy of illegal trade
Despite efforts by local authorities, a nationwide logging ban has heightened illicit trade of wood in Myanmar’s second-largest city. An intricate network along the Irrawaddy River is leading illegally logged timber and logs into the city. Even some business owners sympathetic to the logging ban find it necessary to operate outside the law.

Economy and Business

3/4 of Millennials Would Take a Pay Cut to Work for a Socially Responsible Company
Three-quarters (76 percent) of Millennials consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work and nearly two-thirds (64 percent) won’t take a job if a potential employer doesn’t have strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices, according to the 2016 Cone Communications Millennial Employee Engagement Study. The study reveals that meaningful engagement around CSR is a business – and bottom line – imperative, impacting a company’s ability to appeal to, retain and inspire Millennial talent (that’s a business case if we ever heard one).

Waste and the Circular Economy

Nevada Facility Begins ‘Clean Lead Recycling,’ Could Lead to Sustainable Lead-Acid Batteries
Recycling and refining high-quality lead has commenced in Nevada, and will soon reach commercial-scale production. Aqua Metals has used its patent-pending ‘AquaRefining’ technology, which the company is calling “the only clean lead recycling method.” Unlike smelting, AquaRefining uses a water-based, room-temperature process to produce lead. Aqua Metals says the process is “fundamentally non-polluting,” and has verified verified that the lead produced in the AquaRefining module is over 99.99 percent pure. The company expects its AquaRefining systems to allow the lead-acid battery industry to simultaneously reduce negative environmental impacts and increase production to meet rapidly growing demand.

Politics and Society

Dear U.N. Secretary-General: We need ‘polycentric networks’
Scale, interconnectedness and speed are characteristics driving the problems of the 21st century. Problems such as climate change, terrorism and epidemics ask humankind to come together in ways unfamiliar to current society, but we must come together in innovative models of collaboration that can handle the complexity and scale of these problems. The problems we face are new, and therefore the systems we are attempting to create cannot be old. To address complexity, we must create a complex solution.

Green group wins air pollution court battle
Campaigners have won the latest battle in legal action against the UK Government over levels of air pollution. A judge at the High Court in London ruled in favour of environmental lawyers ClientEarth. The group called air pollution a “public health crisis” and said the government has failed to tackle it. The ruling in the judicial review called the government’s plan “woefully inadequate”. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) told the BBC that it accepted the court’s judgment.

Barack Obama is the first climate president
USA – My how far we’ve come in less than eight years. We have seen happen what those of us in the climate and energy fields knew could happen. The US has become a world leader on climate change, dramatically increased our production of clean and renewable fuels, reduced our emissions of greenhouse gases, signed major international agreements to continue progress into the future, and have done so without cost increases or power disruptions that the denial community proclaimed would occur. As we in the United States get ready to elect a new president, it is helpful to think about the impact a president can have… I am going to detail what I think are Obama’s signature accomplishments.

Are companies listening to Standing Rock?
USA – Right now, at the northernmost point of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota, around 700 people are preparing for winter and the continued protest of the 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) planned to connect North Dakota oil production sites to eastern Illinois. What’s taking place there is more than your run-of-the-mill protest. The transport pipeline project, managed by Dakota Access, a subsidiary of Energy Transfer Crude Oil Co., skirts Standing Rock reservation land by a mile but cuts through the Great Sioux Nation treaty land. Protest leaders say that the construction of the pipeline will disrupt sacred sites and threaten drinking water, the nearby Missouri River and aquifers that serve the region. As a Native person working within the sustainability world, this protest strikes a personal chord.

Read also:

Complaint against a palm oil company in Papua held in limbo by RSPO
In April, an NGO complained to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil about a plantation firm alleged to have grabbed indigenous land in Indonesia’s Papua province. The official grievance has yet to be accepted or rejected by the RSPO’s Complaints Panel, even after more than six months. Observers have noted that an executive from the parent company of the firm in question also sits on the RSPO’s Board of Directors. The roundtable denies that there is any conflict of interest. The RSPO is the world’s largest association for ethical palm oil production, whose members consist of palm oil companies, banks and NGOs that choose to join.

Food Systems

Cleaning up runoff onto the Great Barrier Reef: how art and science are inspiring farmers to help
Improving water quality will likely increase the health of reef organisms, and help reefs to bounce back from disturbances.  Government investment plans need to account properly for the total estimated value of the Great Barrier Reef and past progress in reducing runoff. An estimated A$500 million per year is needed to improve management action.  So what’s the best way to meet these targets? You won’t be surprised to find that scientists are working on the answer. But innovative projects fusing art and science are also appearing in north Queensland.


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