Sustainable Development News

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

What Difference Does One Make?
My family eats a mostly vegetarian diet. Some kids at school were making fun of my 9-year-old son, telling him how great meat tastes. Before diving into the challenge of dealing with childhood peers, I asked him if he knew why we’re vegetarian. When it was clear he didn’t (that’s on me), I started to tell him about the environmental impacts of meat as it’s currently produced, health benefits, and animal welfare. Then he asked the big question: “But there’s only 4 of us, so what difference does it make if we’re vegetarian?” Before I get to my answer, let me say that I’ve faced similar questions many times, and at all scales.

Energy and Climate Change

Why the New Sea Level Alarm Can’t Be Ignored
There are days when even a born optimist starts to waver in his conviction. The release of a new study projecting that sea level could rise between five and six feet by 2100—when many children born today will still be alive and have been forced to move inland—made Thursday one of those days.

Paris UN Climate Conference 2015: Momentum for climate change deal grows as Obama joins Xi at UN talks
More than 140 world leaders including US President Barack Obama and Xi Jinping of China are gathering in Paris for France’s biggest diplomatic event since 1948, striving to reach the first truly global deal to curb greenhouse gases… Now, with the cost of alternatives to fossil fuels coming down and scientific concern about global warming mounting, there’s stronger political will to act than ever. Delegates open their discussions on Sunday, and leaders are scheduled to speak on Monday to lend political momentum to the process.

Indian Company Plans 1,250 MW Of Solar Projects Over Canals, Lakes, Reservoirs
A government-owned power generation company in the western India state of Maharashtra has revealed expansive plans to utilize water bodies and generate solar power. Canal-top-Solar-Power-1078x516Maharashtra State Power Generation Company Limited (Mahagenco) recently floated tenders for the preparation of detailed project reports for setting up solar power projects over water bodies in the state.

Mexico Awards 1,720 Megawatts Of Wind & Solar In First Power Auction
Seeking to boost the development of clean electricity south of our border, Mexico has conducted its first power auction, awarding 1,720 megawatts of wind and solar energy. This auction took place following the government’s end of the state electricity monopoly in 2013. The Mexican government’s auction saw a total of seven wind and solar organizations winning electricity contracts and clean energy certificates. The outcome of the auction is expected to assist the government in meeting its long-range goal of producing 35% of its energy from clean sources by 2024.

Adani’s Carmichael coalmine leases approved by Queensland
AUSTRALIA – The Queensland government has granted three mining leases for Adani’s multi-billion dollar Carmichael coalmine, which will be the largest in Australia. Environmental groups say the mine will fuel global warming and compound threats to the world heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef amid one of its worst coral bleaching events on record.

March temperatures sets record as hottest ever, Bureau of Meteorology says
AUSTRALIA – You could be forgiven for not noticing the end of summer — March was a hot one. Information released by the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) indicated it was the hottest March on record, reaching 1.7 degrees Celsius above the long-term average. This eclipsed the 1986 record of 1.67 degrees above the average, BoM said in its monthly climate report. The unusual heat was particularly noticed in the Top End, where the failure of the monsoon allowed temperatures to creep up. This, coupled with a high pressure system off the east coast of Australia, caused a heatwave strong enough to prompt BoM to issue a special climate statement about the phenomenon. March 2 became Australia’s hottest day on record.

Environment and Biodiversity

Białowieza Forest

Białowieza Forest

Europe’s oldest forest is threatened by a beetle infestation – let nature take its course
Białowieza Forest is the kind of place you imagine from the Grimm fairy tales. Huge firs, oaks and ashes tower over you, woodpeckers and other birds call all around you and the guides who work there know the intimate history, and names, of many individual trees. For anyone, it is a magical place – and, as a forest ecologist, visiting it was a dream come true. However, the features that make it so unique may be under threat thanks to new plans for large-scale logging.

Great Barrier Reef pollution controls are not enough: here’s what we can do
Current efforts to protect the Great Barrier Reef from land-based pollution are unlikely to be enough, according to our scientific review published in Global Change Biology. Poor water quality – along with climate change, fishing, coastal development – is one of the major threats to the reef. Due to the cumulative impacts of these threats, the condition of the Great Barrier Reef has deteriorated over past decades.. .Poor water quality is driven by material washed off the land. So we looked for examples in Australia and overseas that could help improve the reef’s situation.

Outgoing Federated Mountain Clubs president Robin McNeill says conservation facing tourism crisis
NEW ZEALAND – Outgoing Federated Mountain Clubs President Robin McNeill believes the biggest problem the conservation world is facing is the tourism boom… McNeill thinks the biggest problem FMC and the conservation world is going to hit is how to deal with tourism. DOC was struggling, he said. “Nearly everyone loves what DOC sets out to do, but how do you get people to recognise that actually DOC need to be properly funded?” Tourists were bringing in around $35 million per day into the country and New Zealand needed to look at re-investing that into tourism product, McNeill said.

Fishing industry bites after being blamed for five dolphin deaths each year
NEW ZEALAND – Calls to change commercial fishing practices on the west coast to save Maui dolphins have been slammed by an industry leader who says pressure groups have got it wrong. This comes as a priority report from the Waitangi Tribunal on the preservation of the Maui dolphin is expected in late April.

Forests still large enough to double the world’s tiger population, study finds
Forests that harbour tigers are being lost but are still large enough to take double the world’s tiger population in the next six years, according to a study using new satellite mapping technology. But the internationally agreed goal can only be achieved if no further habitat across Asia is lost and if the “corridors” that connect tiger populations are protected, researchers warn in the paper, published on Friday in the journal Science Advances.

Lions Are Wandering Out of Parks and Into Cities
Nairobi, Kenya—First, a lioness ventured into the city as a decoy to draw officials away from her cubs that were lost in an army barracks. Then, just weeks later, a pride of six lions breeched a fence into a pasture killing as many as 120 goats and sheep. One lion lost his bearings and ended up on a major highway, injuring a man before finding his way back into Nairobi National Park, located adjacent to Kenya’s capital city. Now, this week, a popular lion named Mohawk ventured some 20 miles (32 kilometers) south of that park only to be surrounded and harassed by onlookers. When he responded by attacking one of them, he was shot and killed by park rangers.


For sale: 40 billion litres of Canterbury’s purest water
NEW ZEALAND – A council in the drought-prone Canterbury plains is selling the right to extract 40 billion litres of pure, artesian water to a bottled water supplier. The Ashburton District Council is selling a section in its business estate, known as Lot 9, for an undisclosed sum. It comes with a valuable resource consent that allows abstraction of water from aquifers beneath the town.

Government pitches in $520,000 to irrigate dry North Canterbury
NEW ZEALAND – Government funding of $520,000 will go to the Hurunui Water Project to irrigate farmland around Hawarden in North Canterbury. Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said the new funding would provide a reliable source of water in a dry part of the country.

Christchurch’s streams are dying city-wide
NEW ZEALAND – Why  are Christchurch’s city streams drying up? Charlie Mitchell reports residents want to know what is happening to their waterways.

Economy and Business

5 signs sustainability is the new engine for global economic growth
Strong crosswinds are in the global economy. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is here, with pervasive transparency, unlimited information access and accelerating disruptive technology and change. Rapid adaptation never has been more important as corporates spread globally, facing new regulatory and environmental challenges across their operations and supply chains. Security and immigration concerns are everywhere. Climate change poses not only an environmental threat, but has become a disruptive change agent for business, driving new requirements for growth with lower carbon footprints. What is new in all this is flux the enormous economic opportunity created in the emerging global response to these challenges.

Compliance and sustainability teams should work on corporate ethics
Today’s hyper-connected world means that questions of company values, corruption and social responsibility are playing out in real time, and that companies no longer can easily control and manage their reputations. Whether it is the evolution of excuses and investigations at FIFA and Volkswagen, ongoing scrutiny of creative offshore tax structures or responses to political debates about a living wage, the public is asking companies tough questions.

G-Star, Ted Baker Lead Fashion Sustainability Disclosure with MADE-BY’s Revamped Scorecards
Fashion brands’ sustainability performance have lacked independent verification and true transparency. European non-profit MADE-BY is hoping their ‘ground-breaking’ new tool, called MODE Tracker, will change that. After a rigorous year-long verification process, the pilot program results from G-Star, Ted Baker, Vivobarefoot and Haikure were published on Wednesday.

Tesla unveils its “mass-market” Model 3 electric vehicle
Tesla Motors on Friday (Australian time) unveiled the Tesla Model 3, the  electric vehicle that it hopes will hit the “mass-market” and lifts its total sales to 500,000 units a year by 2020 – a ten-fold increase on its current production… “You will not be able to get a better car for that price,” Tesla founder and chief executive Elon Musk said of the $US35,000 vehicle. And punters seem to agree. Musk said that 115,000 reservations had already been received in the first 24 hours, and that’s before any of them had seen the vehicle.

Australian company directors can no longer ignore long term view on climate
Until recently, long term perspectives in investment, business and political circles have been deeply overshadowed by chronic short termism. Especially when it comes to climate and carbon policy risks. But that’s changing. Earlier this month David Gonski told an Australian Institute of Company Directors conference that board directors should take a more long term perspective on their investments, and if shareholders don’t like it, they should just go jump.  Or words to that effect.  It’s an important shift.

Waste and the Circular Economy

The World I Want Our Children to Have: Designing for the Circular Economy
What if we had a chance to live in a world where the carpets under our feet, rather than releasing toxic compounds, clean the air? Where carbon dioxide emissions, formerly destined to pollute the earth’s atmosphere, become bricks paving the bike paths of public parks? Where textile mills, instead of contaminating the water supply with dyes and other hazardous chemicals, actually detoxify our rivers? Where instead of constructing buildings that make us sick, we mass-produce health?

SunPower Solar Panels Achieve Sustainability Certification
SunPower says it now manufactures 100% of its direct-current E-Series and X-Series solar panels to meet Cradle to Cradle Certified Silver standards. Administered by the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute, the certification evaluates a product across five categories: material health, material reutilization, renewable energy use, water stewardship and social fairness.

Carrying our Future stitches bags for loan
NEW ZEALAND – Carrying Our Future’s efforts to transform Palmerston North’s George St into New Zealand’s first street to break free from single use plastic bags is progressing, one reusable bag at a time. A handful of volunteers set up a drop-in workshop at the Palmerston North City Library on Friday to sew fabric bags that will be available for shoppers to borrow, wash and return.

Politics and Society

Al Gore & NY Attorney General Launch ‘AGs United For Clean Power’ Coalition
USA – Former US Vice President and Chairman of The Climate Reality Project Al Gore joined New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in New York March 29, to announce a coalition aimed at aggressively protecting the recent progress the US has made in combatting climate change. Lauded by Vice President Gore as “the best, most hopeful step in years” in this effort, the AGs United for Clean Power coalition brings together attorneys general from 25 states, territories, cities and counties to explore ways to jointly support the fight against climate change.

Mark Ruffalo among names calling for British Museum to drop BP sponsorship
Almost 100 prominent figures from the arts, science and politics are calling on the new director of the British Museum to drop BP as a commercial sponsor. In a letter to the Guardian, the museum is urged to abandon the “completely out of touch” partnership.  The intervention is backed by actors Emma Thompson, Mark Ruffalo and Mark Rylance, writers Margaret Atwood, Naomi Klein and Caryl Churchill, as well as the shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, and physicist Sir Tom Kibble.

Leonardo DiCaprio environmental tweet in Indonesia prompts threats over visiting foreigners
Indonesia says it will watch foreigners more closely after actor Leonardo DiCaprio tweeted his support of a controversial environmental campaign while visiting the nation.  DiCaprio shared pictures of himself in Sumatra with environmentalists who are trying to save a rainforest from being destroyed to make way for palm oil trees.

Greenpeace reveals Indonesia’s forests at risk as multiple companies claim rights to same land
Indonesia’s palm oil, mining and logging industries are enmeshed in a cat’s cradle of overlapping land claims and corruption that are hampering attempts to stop deforestation and fires, newly released maps reveal. Compiled over almost a decade by Greenpeace using data from provincial governments, resource companies and others, the interactive maps highlight the vast scale of the concession overlap.

Norway’s Whaling Program Just Got Even More Controversial
So few people in Norway want to eat whale meat that it’s ending up in the feed manufactured for animals on fur farms, according to a new document released by the Environmental Investigation Agency, a London-based nonprofit, and the U.S.-based Animal Welfare Institute. The document shows that more than 113 metric tons of minke whale products—equivalent to about 75 whales—was bought or used by Rogaland Pelsdyrfôrlaget, the largest manufacturer of animal feed for Norway’s fur industry.

Does climate change make it immoral to have kids? (Opinion)
The decision whether or not to have a child is one of the bigger ones a person will make in life – often the biggest. I needed some strong convincing from my wife when it came time for us to make it. Most of my reluctance was self-interested: I liked my life well enough, and I didn’t want to change it. My wife talked about feeling a biological imperative, which I had no answer for. Who was I to stand in the way of something like that? I signed on.  But there is a whole other potential person to consider, too – the new life that you are bringing into the world without asking first.

Built Environment

City Deals: nine reasons this imported model of urban development demands due diligence
AUSTRALIA – The new assistant minister for cities and digital transformation, Angus Taylor, spoke last week of his enthusiasm for a “new vehicle” for creating partnerships between all three levels of government to drive the sustainable growth of our cities. This “tried and tested” vehicle is based on the UK government’s City Deals model, which has been running in England since 2012.

London a ‘victim of its own success’ as environmental performance wanes
The city of London is at risk of becoming a ‘victim of its own success’, with aging infrastructure and a lack of investment into renewables doing nothing to ease the burden of a rapidly growing population, a new report has found.

Food Systems

Free-range egg labelling scrambles the message for consumers
Australian governments have agreed on a new national standard for labelling “free range” eggs, in a bid to clear up years of consumer confusion. The standard will be legally enforceable under Australian consumer law from next year. It states that eggs can be labelled free range if hens have “meaningful and regular access to an outdoor range” and an outdoor “stocking density” of up to 10,000 birds per hectare. The stocking density of the hens – the number of hens per hectare – will also be labelled on the pack.


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