Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Energy and Climate Change

El Nino strongest since super event of 1997-98 and intensifying, BoM says
The powerful El Nino continues to intensify in the Pacific and is now the strongest since the record-breaking 1997-98 event, the Bureau of Meteorology said. Weekly surface readings in a closely watched Pacific equatorial zone known as Nino3.4 exceeded 2 degrees at the end of August for the first time since 1997-98, the bureau said in its fortnightly update.

Indonesia pledges to cut carbon emissions 29% by 2030
Indonesia will pledge to cut its greenhouse gas emissions 29% by 2030 the environment and forestry minister said on Wednesday, but gave few details on how this would be done. Indonesia, ranked third in the amount of land covered by tropical forests and the world’s top palm oil producer, is likely to play a key role at the United Nation’s Paris climate conference later this year.

Direct Action ‘safeguards’ will allow industry to increase emissions – analysts
The Abbott government has signed off on detailed rules for its Direct Action climate policy, which experts say will allow big industry to actually increase greenhouse emissions. The so-called “safeguards mechanism” is supposed to ensure that increased emissions from heavy industry and electricity generators do not undo the reductions bought through the government’s $2.5bn scheme… Market analysts Reputex say the new rules leave major industry “largely free to grow their emissions” because the “baselines” have been set too high to make any difference, and industry has been given even more ways to avoid penalties if they are exceeded.

Eggborough coal power plant may close next year
The coal-fired Eggborough Power Station may be forced to close from the end of March next year, management has announced today, after a combination of market and regulatory conditions caused operators to conclude it has become financially unsustainable. Eggborough Power Ltd (EPL) this morning confirmed it would begin consulting staff on plans to shut down the 2GW power plant in Yorkshire, which has the potential to power around four per cent of UK homes, after it calculated it needs around £200m of additional funding over the next three years to remain operational.

Food giant General Mills announces 10-year plan to slash emissions by 28%
US food producer General Mills has announced that it aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 28% across the entirety of its value chain in the next 10 years.  General Mills will cut emissions from ‘farm to fork to landfill’ to achieve an overall reduction of 50-70% in emissions by 2050, the figure suggested by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Environment and Biodiversity

Scientists reveal there are 3tn trees in the world in latest count
Using a combination of satellite and ground measurements, researchers estimated that there are just over 3tn trees on the planet, over seven times as many as the current, non peer-reviewed reckoning that relied on satellite images alone. But people are having an “overwhelming” impact on the world’s forests, according to the international team from 15 countries. Human activities have led to the loss of nearly half the world’s trees (45.8%), the study found. Today, people are responsible for the loss of around 15bn trees a year due to deforestation and demand for farmland, a figure that the authors said was “considerably higher” than just a century ago.

The secret sex life and pregnancy of a seahorse dad
We’ve known for a long time that seahorse males get pregnant. But until now, we haven’t known much about what actually goes on inside the male pouch. In new research published this week in Molecular Biology and Evolution, just in time for Father’s Day, our team investigated whether male seahorses contribute more to their offspring than just sperm and a container to gestate the embryos. We took samples from male pouches at different stages of pregnancy and then used new DNA sequencing technologies to assess how pouch gene expression changes.

Blue whale caught on camera in English waters ‘for the first time’
The great creature surfaced from the murk of a deep-sea canyon, lingered just long enough for observers to grab a few pictures, and then vanished from sight into the fog and rain. Oceanographers believe these grainy photographs are probably the first to show a blue whale in English waters since the mammals were almost hunted to extinction in the north-east Atlantic.  The blue whale, the largest animal in the world, was spotted by scientists on board RRS James Cook, which is studying the seabed and marine life of the Whittard Canyon, located off England’s south-west coast.

Watch: Blue whale interrupts interview, BBC reporter promptly loses his mind
Last week, Salon spoke with conservationist M. Sanjayan about “Big Blue Live,” a first-of-its-kind live nature show filmed in Monterey Bay, California. And listen, Sanjayan did his best to express just how cool the show’s live format would be, as well to drive home the amazing story behind the creatures of Monterey Bay’s recovery from the brink of extinction. But if you didn’t quite get it, well, you just have to see what happened during the BBC’s broadcast of the program… when a blue whale sighting interrupted correspondent Steve Backshall, who is known for losing his mind in the face of nature, while he was conducting an interview.

Wind Industry Plans Serious Changes to Protect Bats
Migratory bats, for some reason, have a lethal attraction to wind turbines. Now, they may get help via “feathering.” New industry guidelines, to be announced Thursday, aim to save tens of thousands of bats each year by idling turbines at low wind speeds during peak bat migration season. They could reduce by a third the number of bats killed at wind farms. Seventeen members of the American Wind Energy Association, a trade group, have agreed voluntarily to begin idling, or feathering, turbines in the next year or two. Together, the companies produce nearly 90 percent of the wind generated in the United States.

Economy and Business

Say goodbye to capitalism: welcome to the Republic of Wellbeing
Imagine a country genuinely committed to pursuing the sustainable development goals (SDGs), set to be agreed on by the international community later this month. It would place emphasis on human and ecosystem wellbeing as the ultimate objective of progress. This country – let’s call it the Republic of Wellbeing – and its business sector would need to embark on a profound transformation to achieve durable, long-term change. Around the world today, companies and governments do precisely the opposite: they put more emphasis on short-term economic dynamics, or what Hillary Clinton criticised as “quarterly capitalism”. If we are serious about meeting the SDGs then this cannot continue.

Fat cat pay at fossil fuel companies drives climate crisis – report
Executive pay at fossil fuel companies rewards corporate behavior that deepens the climate crisis, and offers no incentive to shift towards renewable energy, a Washington thinktank said on Wednesday… The report, “Money to Burn: How CEO pay is accelerating climate change”, argued that such out-size pay packages – inflated by bonuses for expanding reserves – encouraged executives to hunt for oil, coal and gas even though those new fuel sources can not be tapped without triggering dangerous climate change.

Fossil fuel majors say they back global climate deal
Some of the world’s largest fossil fuel producers would support a global deal to tackle climate change, sustainable investment campaign body CDP has revealed as negotiations continue this week at the United Nations headquarters in Bonn, Germany. CDP – formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project – has received climate change information from more than 2,000 listed companies, including 28 of the world’s largest energy firms. It asked each company whether its organisation’s board of directors support an international agreement to limit climate change to below 2C. None of the energy firms responded “no”, despite widespread agreement that such a deal would require large swathes of the world’s fossil fuel reserves to be left unburned.

£45bn investors urge FTSE 100 firms to stop lobbying against climate policy
A global group of institutional investors with more than £45bn in assets have called on nine FTSE 100-listed companies to end their lobbying activity against climate legislation.  The investors have written to energy companies BP, EDF, Statoil and Total, mining businesses Glencore, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton and chemicals firms Johnson Matthey and Proctor and Gamble. The letter expressed concern that the companies’ declared climate policies are undermined by membership of lobby groups with a track record of obstructive lobbying on climate change policy.

[Ed: Interesting picture developing out of the three articles above.] 

Waste and the Circular Economy

WRAP sets out its three priorities for EU circular economy package
The EU should focus on three priorities for its circular economy package, according to WRAP. In its submission to the consultation on the circular economy package, WRAP set out its three priorities, which are:

  • The need for an EU vision based on whole-systems thinking
  • The need for an EU-wide action on food, including food waste
  • The need for EU action to encourage greater use of resource efficient business models.

Small Business: Upcycling – Fiona Clements, Senorita AweSUMO
NEW ZEALAND – Senorita AweSUMO is a zero-waste textile solution to the global problem of overconsumption in the fashion industry. In producing my clothing, I upcycle textile waste, use old garments and repurpose vintage fabrics to create higher quality garments. I also use techniques like zero-waste patternmaking, where the pattern you use to create a garment produces no material waste. At the moment, the brand is sold through Guild, which is a retail and gallery space for designers in Dunedin. Another part of my work is creating textile art, like the upcycled cloak I made for Dunedin’s Robbie Burns statue as part of iD Dunedin Fashion Week this year, and I’m also starting to teach some classes in upcycling, and how to make everyday household items that can save a whole bunch of waste

Trending: How the Circular Economy Continues to Clean Up Fashion
Striving toward sustainability is an ongoing trend in the fashion industry, as companies and consumers continue to find alternatives to cheap, disposable clothing and wasteful production practices. The latest: American textile manufacturer Polartec this week celebrated recycling its billionth plastic bottle… Meanwhile, Zero Waste Scotland launched two residency positions in August as part of its Love Your Clothes campaign, an initiative by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) to make the public think about the way they purchase, use and discard clothing.

Politics and Society

Indigenous communities are losing out in the development of northern Australia
As the Australian Government pushes ahead with its Northern Development agenda “making it easier to use natural assets”, it’s important to ask how this may affect the Indigenous peoples in whose territories development will occur… Unlocking the potential  of the north is sold as good news to Australians living far away in the south, with Prime Minister Tony Abbott telling us that northern development “will benefit every single Australian”. To speed up development, Australian governments have made red-tape reduction a priority. While this may be good news to developers, it makes many Indigenous people in the region anxious.

John Parker: My game’s rubbish but just watch me clean up
For 20 years I’ve lived beside a public golf course. I play on it twice a week, and stroll over it most days. It’s extraordinary what I find: discarded undies and knickers (especially in the summer), cigarette lighters, towels, loose coins and bank-notes (though not frequently enough), wallets (always returned to the club-house), mobile phones (same), clubs and club-covers (same), remnants of clubs (smashed against trees in anger), unopened cans of beer and energy drinks (cheers), wrecked umbrellas, old socks, disreputable caps, odd shoes (but never a pair), bottle-tops, cigarette packets, plenty of single-use plastic – and lots of little white round things. I can’t remember when I last purchased a golf-ball.

Food Systems

Undersize fish dumping results
NEW ZEALAND – A newly released report may ease concerns about major fish dumping. The results of a study by the Ministry of Primary Industries includes figures that put the number of undersized snapper caught in the Snapper 1 area – from Northland to the Bay of Plenty – as 3.3 per cent of the total commercial catch. When keen Manly fisherman Matt Mitchell came across snapper being thrown over the back of a commercial trawler off the Whangaparaoa Peninsula earlier this year, he admits he was pretty angry.


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