Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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An alternative airplane fuel will be used today to power a Virgin flight across the Atlantic, reducing emissions by around 70%, explains Business Green in our top story today. A mixed bag of other news with, leaked drafts of the imminent IPCC report showing the differences to expect in an extra 0.5oC warming; voting is now open for New Zealand’s Bird of the Year raising awareness of threatened birds, some of which you won’t have heard of yet; an innovative tool to collect microfibres from your washing is accompanied by a thought provoking short video; and the Chinese government is indicating it won’t force industry to reduce operations this year to reduce pollution.

Top Story

Ready for take-off? Virgin poised for commercial flight using waste-based biofuel | Business Green
Passengers on Virgin Atlantic’s VS16 flight from Orlando to London Gatwick set to arrive in the UK tomorrow morning may not realise there is anything particularly special about their flight. But the planned touchdown of the Boeing 747 running the VS16 flight is set to mark a “historic” moment in the history of green aviation, according to the airline. The flight is poised to become the first commercial air journey in the world to run on a new form of jet fuel made from recycling waste carbon gases, which its creators claim could dramatically cut the carbon emissions associated with aviation.

Climate Change

What does 1.5C mean in a warming world? | BBC News
Over the past three years, climate scientists have shifted the definition of what they believe is the “safe” limit of climate change. For decades, researchers argued the global temperature rise must be kept below 2C by the end of this century to avoid the worst impacts. But scientists now argue that keeping below 1.5C is a far safer limit for the world. Everyone agrees that remaining below that target will not be easy.

See also: Leaked US critique of climate report sets stage for political showdown in Korea | Climate Home News


Leaked drafts of the IPCC Summary for Policymakers that will be published after a week of haggling with government delegates in South Korea point to some major differences in terms of the impacts on the world of 1.5 and 2C. We've summarised the main ones here.

Leaked drafts of the IPCC Summary for Policymakers that will be published after a week of haggling with government delegates in South Korea point to some major differences in terms of the impacts on the world of 1.5 and 2C. We’ve summarised the main ones here.

Wildfires in Mediterranean Europe will increase by 40% at 1.5°C warming, say scientists | The Conversation
New research in Nature Communications suggests that the summer fire season in Mediterranean Europe is going to get worse. Under the hottest climatic predictions of 3°C warming, the area that is currently burned every year would double. Even more worryingly, 40% more area would be burnt even if the Paris Climate Agreement is fulfilled and warming stays below “only” 1.5°C. So, time for Europeans to start looking for other holiday destinations? Hang on. Let´s look at the new study in more depth first.

Environment and Biodiversity

Explainer: what is Helicobacter pylori? | The Conversation
In 1982, two Australians – Robin Warren and Barry Marshall – presented their first observations of strange bacteria living in the human stomach. They went on to propose that these bacteria caused a common condition called gastritis, which is essentially inflammation of the stomach. This radical suggestion was not well received by doctors at the time. To convince sceptics, Marshall famously infected himself with a culture of these bacteria, causing him to develop gastritis.

Bird of the Year: How an endangered bird ended up on Tinder |
NEW ZEALAND – Somewhere on the Tinder there is a profile for a kakī – a black stilt – called Shelly D, and she’s doing better than most humans do on the dating app. The bird lives in the braided rivers and wetlands of the Mackenzie Basin in the South Island, and there are about 132 adult birds left in the wild. That makes it rarer than a Kākāpō or a takahē. It’s on Tinder to win the hearts, minds, and votes, of the New Zealand public. It’s in the running for Bird of the Year, and that’s a big deal.

Brown Teal (Pāteke)

Brown Teal (Pāteke)
This little brown duck has gone from being “nationally endangered” to “recovering”. Their populations have jumped from just 700 birds in the wild, to over 2500! Pāteke can be tenacious and aggressive, and they have the attitude of a bird much larger. They’re nocturnal, extremely territorial, and one of the few waterfowl species that involve both parents in rearing their young.

Want to name a kiwi? Trade Me auction launched to support Stewart Island/Rakiura project | NZ Herald (Research)
NEW ZEALAND – Kiwis have the rare opportunity to name a kiwi chick in a Trade Me auction raising funds for a first of its kind Stewart Island/Rakiura monitoring project. Charity Kiwis for kiwi is running the auction to support a project tracking kiwi chicks from birth to understand more about monitoring methods, their behaviours and the threats they faced on Stewart Island/Rakiura. Massey University PhD candidate Emma Feenstra said the Rakiura tokoeka sub-species of kiwi was very unique, and little was known about it.

Another approach to our freshwater crisis | Newsroom
NEW ZEALAND – Across Aotearoa New Zealand we are seriously concerned about declining river health: many are disappearing and others are no longer safe for fishing and swimming… I am part of Te Awaroa, a project aiming to create a national movement of Kiwis taking action to care for waterways by understanding this issue from the perspective of the river – asking what would the river say/what is it saying?

Economy and Business

Decades-old consents should not be used to allow for water bottling, court hears |
NEW ZEALAND – Businesses hoping to bottle and sell billions of litres of water from aquifers beneath Christchurch should not be allowed to rely on old resource consents granted decades ago for industrial uses, a court was told.

Waste and the Circular Economy

How can we keep microfibers out of food, water and air? | Ensia (Video 3:45)
Microfiber pollution is a growing problem around the world, with miniature contaminants shed by synthetic textiles being found in our food, our water and the air we breathe. What’s a concerned citizen to do? This video offers some idea on how we can take action on an individual basis — trapping fibers before they enter wastewater streams, or not buying clothing that’s likely to release microfibers. But it also proposes a more enduring solution: moving the locus of responsibility upstream to clothing and textile designers and manufacturers.

Ikea says goodbye to plastic straws with display at London’s Design Museum | The Guardian
Ikea today symbolically unveiled its last single-use plastic straw in a display at London’s Design Museum, after it stopped serving or selling the items in any of its UK and Ireland stores, restaurants and bistros this week. The so-called Last Straw installation will be on show to the public until Saturday and aims to inspire consumers to collectively take small steps that will have a positive environmental impact. “Plastic straws have become such an important emblem for change when it comes to single-use plastic, but this campaign is not just about straws,” said Ikea spokeswoman Hege Sæbjørnsen.

The Last Straw installation in London, as the retailer announces it will no longer sell or serve single-use plastic straws in the UK and Ireland. Photograph: John Nguyen/PA

The Last Straw installation in London, as the retailer announces it will no longer sell or serve single-use plastic straws in the UK and Ireland. Photograph: John Nguyen/PA

War on Waste: Curious Darwin checks to see if a bag of recyclable items ends up in landfill | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Shift worker Glenys Goda is such an avid recycler she’s been known to bring armfuls of recycling home from her workplace to save it from landfill. At a small sorting station in her driveway, recyclables are studiously sorted into containers, soft plastics, and general recycling. Envelopes don’t make it into the bin without having their plastic windows removed first. But recently, Ms Goda became convinced her efforts — and the $270 that Darwin households annually pay for waste collection — were going into the proverbial bin.

Five hours, 15 volunteers and 200kg of plastic ‘nurdles’ in the bag |
NEW ZEALAND – It took 15 volunteers just five hours to collect 200 kilograms of plastic nurdles in a cleanup of Evans Bay. Using “wheelie bin” filters, Petone Beach Clean Up Crew co-ordinator Lorraine Shaab said the amount collected was equivalent to the weight of 40,000 plastic bags. Nurdles are the raw material used to make anything plastic, and they’re about the size of a lentil.

Politics and Society

Could Trump’s trade war fuel surge in Chinese pollution? | Business Green
President Trump’s attempts to revive the US coal industry may be struggling to make much headway as American coal power plants continue to close, but his policies could yet lead to higher emissions for the world’s other economic superpower. Reports this week suggest the Chinese government will not renew winter caps on steel production and coal power generation that had helped improve air quality across the country.

Victoria’s environmental laws questioned after asbestos and eagle-killer cases | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – It is 30 years since Victorian legislation was changed so illegal polluters could be sent to jail, and environmental lawyers like Brad Jessup believe it is time authorities finally put that power to use. “They need to come down hard on someone,” said Mr Jessup, a lecturer at the University of Melbourne Law School. “And someone big.” Like the magistrate in the recent Corkman Irish Pub case, in which two developers were fined for dumping asbestos from a demolition in the middle of suburbia, he believes more needs to be done to stop industrial polluters.Energy

Origin says solar cheaper than coal, moving on from base-load | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – Origin Energy says the cost of wind and solar farms has fallen so far it is now cheaper than the marginal cost of coal generation, and the company is moving on from the concept of “24/7 base-load”. The assessment was made by Greg Jarvis, the company’s head of energy trading and operations, in an interview for RenewEconomy’s popular Energy Insiders podcast, published on Tuesday. “I have been in this game for so long … the one thing I have seen is just the cost of renewables really change the game,” Jarvis says. “It is amazing what we have been seeing.

Built Environment

Intellectual capital and high performing buildings is money in the bank: Stok | The Fifth Estate
New research released by real estate services firm Stok on Tuesday unearthed a hidden value of high performance buildings: happier and healthier people. By designing office buildings for improved human health and wellness, owner-occupants can earn $3395 per employee in annual profit thanks to increased productivity, less absenteeism, and higher rates of retention… The report’s findings – which aim to shore up the business case for healthier offices – were calculated by applying financial impact calculations to over 60 robust research studies on the effect of HPBs in three areas: productivity, retention, and wellness.

Hyundai lets slip pricing for new Ioniq electric vehicle models | The Driven
AUSTRALIA – The Hyundai Ioniq hybrid, plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicle range has been expected to be one of the watershed moments for the Australian EV market, mostly because of the expectations that the pure electric version would break the $50,000 barrier and still provide an acceptable driving range. It turns out that is exactly the case. The full battery electric vehicle (BEV) version will come in at $45,000, with a range of 280km.

Related: ‘Zoom-Zoom’: Mazda speeds towards 2030 electric future | Business Green