Sustainable Development News

Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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Energy and Climate Change

Global clean energy investment sustains its recovery
World clean energy investment in the first three quarters of this year was 16% ahead of the same period of 2013, at $175.1bn(1), making it almost certain that 2014 will produce a bounce-back in dollars invested after two years of decline. Authoritative figures published today by Bloomberg New Energy Finance, based on its real-time data transactions and projects, show that clean energy investment in the July-to-September quarter was $55bn, up 12% from the $48.9bn achieved in Q3 2013. The highlight of the third quarter was a leap in Chinese solar investment to a new record of $12.2bn, up from $7.5bn in Q3 2013 and $8bn in Q2 2014. China is building a large number of utility-scale photovoltaic projects linked to its main transmission grid, and Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecasts that its solar installations will total 13-14GW in 2014, nearly a third of the world total.

Canada switches on world’s first carbon capture power plant
Canada has switched on the first large-scale coal-fired power plant fitted with a technology that proponents say enables the burning of fossil fuels without tipping the world into a climate catastrophe. The project, the first commercial-scale plant equipped with carbon capture and storage technology, was held up by the coal industry as a real life example that it is possible to go on burning the dirtiest of fossil fuels while avoiding dangerous global warming. The Boundary Dam power plant promises to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 90% by trapping C02 underground before the gas reaches the atmosphere – making its opening a milestone in the coal industry’s efforts to remain viable in a low-carbon economy.

U.S. Industrial Emissions Up 0.6% Thanks to Coal Use
U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from large industrial facilities were 0.6 percent, or 20 million metric tons, higher in 2013 than the previous year, driven primarily by an increase in coal use for power generation, according to new data provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The data came from the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, which is the only program that collects facility-level greenhouse gas data from major industrial sources across the U.S., including power plants, oil and gas production and refining, iron and steel mills and landfills.

Nedlands Council moves to make on-site power generation mandatory
The council of the blue ribbon electorate of Nedlands in Perth has passed a motion to make it mandatory for new homes and non-residential development over $1 million to come with on-site power generation. Just don’t call it a sustainability measure. Mayor of Nedlands Max Hipkins, a town planner and architect, said rather than use the politicised term sustainability, the council talked about energy and water efficiency. “People are comfortable with making more efficient use of water and power,” he said.

Environment and Biodiversity

Emergence: the remarkable simplicity of complexity

Patterns of emergence are everywhere

Patterns of emergence are everywhere

From the fractal patterns of snowflakes to cellular lifeforms, our universe is full of complex phenomena – but how does this complexity arise? “Emergence” describes the ability of individual components of a large system to work together to give rise to dramatic and diverse behaviour. Recent work by Enkeleida Lushi and colleagues from Brown University showed how bacteria in a drop of water spontaneously form a bi-directional vortex, with the bacteria near the centre of the droplet circulating in the opposite direction to those near the edge. Since the bacteria do not consciously decide to create the bi-directional vortex, such behaviour is said to be “emergent”.

Economy and Business

Life in a ‘degrowth’ economy, and why you might actually enjoy it
What does genuine economic progress look like? The orthodox answer is that a bigger economy is always better, but this idea is increasingly strained by the knowledge that, on a finite planet, the economy can’t grow for ever. This week’s Addicted to Growth conference in Sydney is exploring how to move beyond growth economics and towards a “steady-state” economy. But what is a steady-state economy? Why it is it desirable or necessary? And what would it be like to live in?

Bringing the free market down to earth is a moral question
Five years on, the response of governments around the world to the global financial crisis (GFC) continues to draw criticism. Leaders failed to fulfil the promises they made during the GFC’s darkest days and, post-crisis, there’s been little reform of a system in which inequality has thrived. It’s clear the administration of democracy by government is – first and last – a moral question, something the shock of the GFC should have brought to global attention. Jaded people are now asking questions about equality. Why does the culture of dangerous risk-taking for the creation of private profit appear to remain the status quo? What proof do governments have to show us that justice has been served?

New wetlands project borne from passion
A passion for the environment has prompted a Taranaki [New Zealand] farmer to experiment with developing a wetland on his dairy farm.  The new wetland in a basin covers about half a hectare on David and Adrienne Hopkins’ 235ha (effective) farm at Nukumaru, south of Waitotara, on Horizons Regional Council’s northwest boundary.  The project he started a year ago was prompted by a desire to maintain the quality of the farm’s water which is supplied by a series of springs.

CEOs: the challenge of creating a lasting legacy of sustainability
Business leaders are at the heart of ensuring that sustainability is embedded within a company’s culture and throughout the organisation and that business plays its rightful role as a lasting force for change in society. However the average length of service of a chief executive in the FTSE-350 is a little more than six years, dropping to just five years for leaders of FTSE 100 firms. The truth is modern chief executives have a relatively short time to make an impact and create transformational change within a business. That is why considering a long-term legacy should be at the forefront of how modern business leaders operate.

IKEA sustainability manager warns companies not to ‘greenwash’
“Don’t ‘greenwash’ because you will be caught out,” was the message from IKEA UK’s environment and sustainable development manager Charlie Browne, speaking at the CIPS Annual Conference. Addressing delegates at the event in Bishopsgate, London, Browne added: “The media, your own colleagues and customers will be aware” if you pretend to have good sustainability credentials. And when something does go wrong you need to be ready, he advised. “You’ve lost it if you don’t have a response plan in place within 24 hours.” He recommended people “look under rocks” and seek input from critics to uncover risks.

Citigroup: ‘big six’ to lose a quarter of customers by 2020
Research by Citigroup investment bank has suggested that the UK’s largest energy suppliers may lose up to a quarter of their customers and see a £500 million per year loss of collective profits, because of increasing competition from small energy suppliers.

Behind the front line in energy efficiency land
While the federal government continues to attack anything that supports renewable energy and sustainability, what’s happening in property’s energy efficiency sector? We asked Paul Bannister of Energy Action, Phil Harrington of pitt&sherry, PC Thomas of Team Catalyst, Chris Nunn from JLL and the Property Council’s Charlie Thomas. The casualties vary from heavy to light, but it seems no one has escaped the impact. There’s still work on offer but it’s constrained, without the ring of confidence that energy savings are rational choices with pay off in operational and capital value terms. What’s changed is not the logic but the fear of more attacks and undermining. The latest threat to the property industry is from the review of the Renewable Energy Target where the government has made it clear it wants the target to be ditched or strongly wound back.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Three tonnes of rubbish found on remote far north Queensland beach
Three tonnes of rubbish is not what you would expect to see on a remote tropical beach on the northern tip of Australia. You could not walk a metre without stepping over junk on Old Mapoon beach, on western Cape York. That was until a group of researchers, volunteers, and Indigenous rangers spent five days late last month cleaning up a seven-kilometre stretch of the beach. About 5,000 thongs were painstakingly picked up, as well as huge tangles of fishing nets and floats, and bags full of plastic bottles, some of which contained urine.

Politics and Society

Modi launches Indian clean-up drive by telling officials: get sweeping
Haresh Gandhi, the manager of Delhi’s Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station, is having a busy week. The 46-year-old bureaucrat has 200 trains and 200,000 passengers to take care of every day. However, for the past 72 hours he has had another goal: to get his sprawling, overcrowded station clean. “This is something we are doing not just for India but for the planet. The whole world needs to come together. Everybody needs to do it,” Gandhi said. Narendra Modi, the newly elected prime minister of India, launched a campaign on Thursday – the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, or Clean India Mission – enjoining his countrymen to pick up brooms, pans and brushes and set about sweeping streets, parks and other public places.


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