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Friday 03 November 2017

Sustainable Development News

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

Have psychologists found a better way to persuade people to save the planet?
Today, researchers are applying social dominance theory to try to understand an even broader scope of behaviours. Two recent studies relate people’s views on social equality to how they think and act on environmental issues such as climate change and conservation. The findings hint at radical new ways to increase support for measures that will make the planet more sustainable for all who live on it.

Climate Change and Energy

Explainer: hydrofluorocarbons saved the ozone layer, so why are we banning them?
On October 28, Australia ratified the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol… Once 20 countries have ratified the amendment, it will become binding… The global warming potentials for the three most abundant HFCs range from 1,370 to 4,180. In other words, these gases trap thousands of times more heat in our atmosphere than an equivalent amount of CO₂.
Ed: In addition to their use as refrigerants, HFCs are used as propellants in any pressurised can, e.g., hairspray, flyspray.  Find alternatives such as pump bottles where you can.

Turning Point: Which Countries’ GHG Emissions Have Peaked? Which Will in the Future?
The global community has coalesced around the ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement, one of which is to peak global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as soon as possible… The timing of when individual countries’ emissions peak and then decline—especially those of major emitters like the United States and China—is critically important in determining whether we can avoid the most dangerous climate impacts.
Read also: ‘Critical turning point’ as more nations hit peak carbon emissions: think-tank | SMH

Oil and gas CEOs up their methane pledge
The CEOs of 10 leading oil and gas companies last week announced intentions to move toward “near-zero” methane emissions, pledging to set a quantitative reduction target by this time next year. At first blush, it might sound like a modest step — a promise to make a promise. In fact, the CEOs announcement constitutes an important and welcome recognition that oil and gas methane emissions impact the climate, are too high and must be reduced. The new pledge comes just days after the International Energy Agency previewed its analysis showing that methane is a “critical issue for the long-term natural gas outlook” and steep emission reductions are possible with today’s technology, and enormously cost-effective.

Even Trump’s EPA says Obama’s climate plan would save thousands of lives each year
USA – A sweeping Obama-era climate rule could prevent up to 4,500 premature deaths per year by 2030, the Trump administration has found in its analysis of the plan, projecting that the plan could save more lives than the Obama administration said it would. The Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency is moving to repeal the plan.

Musk says Tesla big battery now more than 80% complete
AUSTRALIA – Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk says the so-called Tesla big battery in South Australia is more than 80 per cent complete, and is on track to be switched on in time for the December 1 deadline and the onset of the Australian summer.

ESB to use inflated costs for wind and solar to justify NEG
AUSTRALIA – The Energy Security Board is to use vastly inflated costs of wind and solar PV in its modelling for the proposed National Energy Guarantee, in a move that is likely to deliberately hide the benefits of having more variable renewable energy in the system. The cost assumptions were circulated in documents put together by the ESB earlier this week, and continue a long tradition in Australia of using grossly inflated cost estimates for wind and solar.

Environment and Biodiversity

Nature@work photo competition winners – in pictures
The European Environment Agency invited European citizens to capture how nature benefits them in a competition called Nature@work. Here are the winning images, announced this week.

Nature inspires category winner: Waiting for a new day, by Salvatore Petrantoni from Italy, taken in Colle del Nivolet (Torino), Italy.  Photograph: Salvatore Petrantoni/NATURE@work/EEA

Nature inspires category winner: Waiting for a new day, by Salvatore Petrantoni from Italy, taken in Colle del Nivolet (Torino), Italy. Photograph: Salvatore Petrantoni/NATURE@work/EEA

Australia among the world’s worst on biodiversity conservation
Australia is among the top seven countries worldwide responsible for 60% of the world’s biodiversity loss between 1996 and 2008, according to a study published last week in the journal Nature… The study clearly linked adequate conservation funding to better species survival, which makes it all the more concerning that one of Australia’s most valuable national environmental monitoring programs will lose funding next month.

New species of frizzy-haired orangutan discovered in Indonesian forest, critically endangered
INDONESIA – The bearded and frizzy-haired Tapanuli orangutan is the latest addition to our great ape family tree, but it might not be around for too long. The newly discovered species is critically endangered, with fewer than 800 of the cinnamon-coloured creatures left in the wild. An international team of scientists classified the new species of great ape after comparing its skeleton and genomes with other orangutan species.


Arsonists torch swarms of bees in Auckland
NEW ZEALAND – Bee swarms are on the increase in Auckland, with reports some householders are throwing petrol on the swarms and setting them alight to get rid of them.  One horrified bee expert said people who encounter swarms should simply call a beekeeper, who will collect them for free.

Digging contractor and farmer protects enigmatic mudfish
NEW ZEALAND – By day he digs up areas for drainage and irrigation projects; but when he goes home to his north Canterbury farm, Kent Colebrook creates a wetland for threatened mudfish. Colebrook recently bought a 25 hectare farm in the Oxford, North Canterbury foothills, following the receivership of the former owner Althea MacLean. In one boggy section of the property a 3 ha spot is home to some hundreds of the enigmatic Canterbury mudfish, listed as a “nationally critical” species.

Volunteers from Forest and Bird and Working Waters Trust plant the sides of a waterway on Kent Colebrook's farm, which is one of the best breeding sites of the rare and endangered Canterbury mudfish. Photo: Tony Benny/Stuff

Volunteers from Forest and Bird and Working Waters Trust plant the sides of a waterway on Kent Colebrook’s farm, which is one of the best breeding sites of the rare and endangered Canterbury mudfish. Photo: Tony Benny/Stuff

Seismic blasts: ‘A nailgun in your kitchen for 3 months’
NEW ZEALAND – The Department of Conservation will carefully review a study which has described a constant underwater racket created by seismic airguns. In a new blog post, US scientists Dr Leigh Torres, of Oregon State University, and Dr Holger Klinck, of Cornell University, have aired their concerns over the oil and gas industry’s use of the instruments, which they say are having a harmful impact on marine life. They shared underwater recordings made in the South Taranaki Bight capturing an oil survey ship letting off seismic blasts every eight seconds.

Economy and Business

Huge private sector investment puts Paris climate target in reach, says report
At least one trillion dollars are being invested globally in ways to reduce the threat of climate change, including renewable power, energy efficiency, and public transport around the world. The sums involved are likely to make it possible in future for the world’s governments to meet their commitments under the Paris agreement on climate change, provided the investment continues and is directed to the right ends, according to a new report.

CEFC records bumper year as focus shifts to sustainable cities
AUSTRALIA – The Clean Energy Finance Corporation finalised more transactions in the last financial year than it did in its first three years of operation, according to the just-released 2016-17 annual report. More than $2 billion was invested in projects worth $6.5 billion, meaning $2.10 in private investment was leveraged for each $1 invested by the CEFC. Current investments are in line to reduce CO2 by 7.3 million tonnes a year, or over 121 million tonnes a year over project lifetimes… All up the CEFC’s $3.4 billion portfolio of investments has a forecast investment yield of over five per cent – cutting carbon emissions at a profit.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Enterprising engineer to set up Western Australia’s first plastic recycling plant
AUSTRALIA – A Perth engineer is on a mission to launch Western Australia’s first plastic recycling plant, turning bottles into filament for use in 3D printers.

Waste import ban could send plastic to landfills
NEW ZEALAND – There are fears about where New Zealand’s plastic, paper and other waste will end up when it can no longer be recycled in China.  China takes more than half the world’s waste exports. It announced in July that it would ban imports of certain waste products by the end of the year because contaminants mixed in with the imported recycling were seriously polluting its environment.

China’s recyclers eye looming electric vehicle battery mountain
After years of dismantling discarded televisions and laptops, a Shanghai recycling plant is readying itself for a new wave of waste: piles of exhausted batteries from the surge of electric vehicles hitting China’s streets.

Politics and Society

19th National Congress Reaffirms China’s Commitment to Climate Action, Sustainable Development
CHINA – During the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), President Xi Jinping reaffirmed China’s commitment to climate action and sustainable development. He emphasized that China will continue to cooperate with other countries to tackle climate change, and that stepping up efforts on low-carbon development is in line with the country’s long-term sustainability strategies and development priorities.

Climate change ‘will create world’s biggest refugee crisis’
Tens of millions of people will be forced from their homes by climate change in the next decade, creating the biggest refugee crisis the world has ever seen, according to a new report… The study published on Thursday calls on governments to agree a new legal framework to protect climate refugees and, ahead of next week’s climate summit in Germany, urges leaders to do more to implement the targets set out in the Paris climate agreement.

Productivity Commission: Shifting the dial or missing the point?
AUSTRALIA – Last week the Productivity Commission released its first five-year review into the key reforms required to improve Australia’s prosperity in the medium term. It’s good to see a recommendation to reintroduce a carbon price and there were some positive suggestions on demand management for energy. Other than this there was an absence of any suggestions to improve sustainability, resilience or adaptation to climate change.

Why horse-racing in Australia needs a social licence to operate
AUSTRALIA – Like or loathe horse-racing, there’s no avoiding Australia’s spring racing carnival.  But the question we are asking is: does the industry need what is called a “social licence” to operate?

Built Environment

Electric vehicle charging points in the US grow ten-fold since 2011
USA – There are now over 50,000 charging points in the US, according to a report released this week by the Electric Vehicle Charging Association (EVCA) on the state of California’s EV charging industry. In the wake of increased market demand, there are currently 50,991 charging stations across the US, both public and private, in stark comparison to the 5,070 in 2011

Food Systems

Climate goal ‘unachievable’ without change
The government’s goal of a zero carbon economy by 2050 is unachievable if farming stays the way it is today, agribusiness leader Mandy Bell says. She said that was because there was no clear plan or direction from the farming sector, not enough information reaching farmers, and the industry worked in silos.

Murray-Darling Basin: Senate hearing on water reform in far west NSW told ‘your heartland is dying’
AUSTRALIA – Authorities and pastoralists in far west NSW have told federal senators there need to be urgent changes to the way water is managed in the upper Darling River.

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