Sustainable Development News

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

Scientists calculated a ‘point of no return’ for dealing with climate change — and time is running out | Business Insider
The goal of the Paris Agreement was to ensure global temperatures didn’t rise more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. If temperatures hit that point, we’ll be more likely to see the worst projected effects of climate change, including rising seas, severe storms, extreme heat, drought, and fires. The world needs to transition to renewable energy fast if we don’t want temperatures to rise that much, according to a new study. In that study, the authors calculated a “point of no return” for acting on climate – and it’s soon.

Climate Change

Climate change: local efforts won’t be enough to undo Trump’s inaction, study says | The Guardian
USA – Individual cities, regions and businesses across the globe are banding together determinedly to confront climate change – but their emissions reductions are relatively small and don’t fully compensate for a recalcitrant US under the Trump administration, a new study has found.

‘We can have cows and a clean conscience’ | Newsroom
New Zealand can farm cows and still have a clear climate conscience by shaving about 10-22 percent off its methane emissions, a new report for the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s office has found. The promising news for the nation’s farmers is that while such cuts would be a big ask, they might still be compatible with being an agriculture-heavy nation. Deeper cuts to achieve a total 20-27 percent reduction in the methane burped by our farm animals would be needed by 2100 for New Zealand to be able to say its livestock were not worsening climate change with methane. But farms could keep producing some methane forever without adding heat to the atmosphere.

Environment and Biodiversity

‘Winter hasn’t turned anything around’: Water stresses to worsen through spring | SMH
AUSTRALIA – The drought is likely to expand and deepen with odds strongly favouring a drier and warmer than average spring, building on Australia’s warmest start to any year for daytime temperatures, the Bureau of Meteorology said.

Water flows into Sydney catchment at ‘shocking’ record lows | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – Water flows into the Sydney drinking water catchment are at a record low and less than half than they were during the millennium drought last decade, prompting more concern about the city’s water security.

‘Major shortcomings’: Productivity Commission backs Murray-Darling revamp | SMH
AUSTRALIA – The Murray-Darling Basin Authority should be split, while taxpayers face being hit by half a billion dollars in extra costs if projects fail, the Productivity Commission has found. The commission’s draft report into the first five years of the $13 billion basin plan, released on Thursday, called for “immediate action”, saying that while a “significant step change” had been made to correct excessive extraction, its success was “not guaranteed”.

See also: Murray-Darling Basin Plan has failings in governance, timelines and budgeting, Productivity Commission says | ABC News

Government’s reef monitoring stalled during crisis bleaching event as funds dried up | The Guardian
The Australian government-funded Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority drastically scaled back surveys of coral bleaching in the middle of an unprecedented two-year marine heatwave, as its monitoring program almost ran out of money. The authority’s field management program conducted more than 660 in-water surveys of reefs in 2016, during the first of two consecutive mass bleaching events. The program’s annual report said those surveys “played a key role in determining the extent of mortality caused”.

Tropical sunfish spotted in Highland waters | BBC News
UK – A fish normally found in tropical waters has twice been spotted off the west coast of Scotland last week. It is the fourth time this year that the sunfish has been recorded by the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust. The ocean sunfish is the heaviest bony fish in the world, with an average weight of 2,200lbs (998kg).

Sunfish were spotted last week off the north coast of Skye and off Ardnamurchan. Getty Images

Sunfish were spotted last week off the north coast of Skye and off Ardnamurchan. Getty Images

Waste and the Circular Economy

How animal waste is helping turn China’s lakes green | The Guardian
CHINA – The farm, located at the end of a narrow dirt path, announces its presence with a piercing stench. At first, the caretaker of the collective facility in Kunming says the farm recycles all the animal waste into manure fertiliser. But later, he sheepishly points behind the pigsty. There, hordes of flies swarm above a festering field of grey-black dung. A few times a month, Cai shovels the steaming excrement produced by some 100 swine owned by local families into a nearby creek, where a mile downstream, villagers fish on the rocky shores of a small lake.

Dianchi Lake in Yunnan province turns green every year through the process of eutrophication. Photograph: Robert Wyatt/Alamy

Dianchi Lake in Yunnan province turns green every year through the process of eutrophication. Photograph: Robert Wyatt/Alamy

White Balloon Day participants urged to ‘chalk about it’ instead of balloon release | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – For the past 22 years, white balloons have been used around Australia as a symbol of hope and recognition for child sexual abuse survivors. This Friday, messages of support will again be on display as part of White Balloon Day, heralded as Australia’s largest such campaign. But this year people marking the day are being encouraged to consider alternatives to releasing balloons, as the world becomes more conscious about the effects of plastics on the environment.

Plastic signs ditched – real estate company challenges the industry |
NEW ZEALAND – First it was supermarket bags, then it was drinking straws – now, will real estate signs be recognised as the next plastic menace? One real estate boss thinks so, and has estimated a change could keep 37.5 tonnes of plastic out of New Zealand’s waste stream each year. Mike Pero Real Estate group is switching to aluminium composite “For Sale” signs, making them mandatory for all its agents from Saturday.

Politics and Society

Don’t believe what they say about inequality. Some of us are worse off | The Conversation
If you were going to reduce a 150-page Productivity Commission examination of trends in Australian inequality to a few words, it would be nice if they weren’t “ALP inequality claims sunk”, or “Progressive article of faith blown up” or “Labor inequality myths busted by commission”.

A new project shows combining childcare and aged care has social and economic benefits | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – What happens when you bring a group of older residents to mix with young children in childcare? Clapping hands and singing songs is just one way they spend the morning together. These interactions are made possible by intergenerational care programs that have gained popularity in Australia in recent years.

Fears over protected wildlife disturbed by drones | BBC News
UK – Police and wildlife experts are becoming “increasingly concerned” at the number of cases of protected wildlife being disturbed by drones. They say some drones are being flown dangerously close to breeding birds and animals at sites in Scotland. Seals have reportedly been chased into the sea at protected haul-out sites, which risks their pups being crushed. Concerns are also being raised about nesting birds becoming panicked and plummeting off cliffs into the sea.


Queensland says wind, solar key to lower power bills, creates new renewables generation company | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – The Queensland government has finally delivered on its pre-election policy of creating a third government-owned generation company, although this one focused on renewables. State energy minister Dr Anthony Lynham said the creation of CleanCo would help reduce wholesale prices by another $7/MWh, which would translate into a $70 a year cut for household bills. CleanCo is expected to include 1,000MW of clean energy assets. But, at least initially, that won’t include wind and solar.

Related: Turnbull was knifed by a lie: Renewables are already bringing prices down | RenewEconomy

Built Environment

McKerracher: How City Policies Are Reshaping Auto Markets | Bloomberg NEF
CHINA – Automakers are facing a new challenge that’s cropping up from Beijing to Brussels: city regulations pushing them towards cleaner vehicles even faster than national policy goals. In the past, it was all much simpler. Automakers had to juggle various national and regional policy frameworks – fleetwide CO2 targets in Europe and Corporate Average Fuel Economy Regulations in the U.S., for example – but the well-worn process generally operated with plenty of lead time and with extensive industry input. In the last few years, a potent combination of rising health concerns, emissions scandals, activist pressure and the emergence of real alternatives has led cities to take a more aggressive stance on urban air quality.

India’s EV Push to Focus on E-Buses, Taxis, Three Wheelers | Bloomberg NEF
INDIA – India’s efforts to support electric vehicles are likely to center more on public transport and “fleet operations” such as taxis and three-wheelers. This will be at the expense of private vehicles, according to our 3Q Global Electrified Transport Market Outlook.

From skyscraper to ‘plyscraper’: The towering potential of timber | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – In the inner Brisbane suburb of Bowen Hills, the finishing touches are being put on a giant jigsaw puzzle — a nine-storey office block built almost entirely of wood. Tens of thousands of prefabricated panels and beams have been bolted and screwed into place. At first glance the building looks indistinguishable from its steel and concrete contemporaries. But glimpse through the large glass panels that skin its frame and you can see the chunky timber skeleton.

Photo: The engineered timber is prefabricated and precision-cut. (Supplied: Lendlease)

Photo: The engineered timber is prefabricated and precision-cut. (Supplied: Lendlease)


Food Systems


Pests to eat more crops in warmer world | BBC News

Scientists estimate the pests will be eating 10-25% more wheat, rice and maize across the globe for each one degree rise in climate temperature. Warming drives insect energy use and prompts them to eat more. Their populations can also increase. This is bound to put pressure on the world’s leading cereal crops, says study co-author Curtis Deutsch.


Coconut oil: not quite poisonous, but best treated with caution | The Conversation

Coconut oil is under attack. Once hailed as a miraculous superfood, its reputation has been more than a little bruised after a Harvard professor described the substance as “pure poison”. To remove any doubt about her feelings, Karin Michels, an epidemiologist, added that coconut oil is “one of the worst things you can eat”. Pure poison? Well it won’t kill you instantly, eyes popping, foaming at the mouth, gasping for breath – nothing quite as dramatic as that. But it’s true that coconut oil could, for avid and devoted fans, contribute to potentially fatal heart disease.