Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Some tips in today’s top story about buying clothes that have less impact on the planet.  As with the manufacture of most things these days, it’s complicated and the processes less than transparent.  In other news, I’m happy to be able to include news of a bank concluding climate action is necessary now to save money, a lot of money, not least because it appeals to the worldview of climate deniers.  Also, a great idea by a big company to get people in Malaysia to reuse their plastic bags… pay them.

Top Story

Clothing and textile manufacturing’s environmental impact and how to shop more ethically | ABC News
The shirt you’re wearing right now: what’s it made from? In its rawest form, was it once growing in a field, on a sheep’s back or sloshing at the bottom of an oil well?  Most of us don’t realise how environmentally intensive it is to make a single article of clothing, says fashion sustainability expert Clara Vuletich, whose PhD research focuses on sustainable textiles. “Textile supply chains are some of the most complex of any manufacturing sector,” she said…. Choosing recycled polyester, local or organic cotton or water-saving fibres like hemp will likely have a lower environmental impact. They also send a message to producers there is a demand for more eco-friendly products.

Climate Change and Energy

New Australian wind farms reach nearly 50% capacity factor | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – Two new Australian wind farms are nearing capacity factors of 50 per cent – and are the best performing wind farms in Australia, according to their owner, Windlab. Windlab tweeted [a] graph on Tuesday, showing that the 20MW Coonooer Bridge wind farm in Victoria, and the newly-opened 31MW Kiata wind farm, also in Victoria, were delivering capacity factor ratings in excess of 45 per cent. Respondents on social media were quick to point out that this was nearly as good as the Liddell coal fired power station, which delivered a capacity factor of 49 per cent in 2016/17, and which had two units closed for most of the period highlighted.

Will the IMO deliver the climate deal of 2018? | Climate Home News
It could be the climate agreement of the year. In the coming two weeks 173 states at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) will discuss what a greenhouse gas reduction plan for shipping first proposed back in 1997 could look like. The idea is that an initial strategy including a long term target is agreed in 2018, followed by a more comprehensive set of measures and policies due by 2023.

Environment and Biodiversity

Expanding Sahara desert is slowly unfolding ‘natural disaster’-researchers | PLACE
The Sahara desert has expanded by 10 percent in the past century – partly because of climate change – with far-reaching impacts on communities surrounding it, researchers said on Thursday. Sudan, Chad, Mauritania and Libya are some of the countries which will bear the brunt of the desert’s expansion, researchers at the University of Maryland said.

Economy and Business

Early action on climate change would save New Zealand $30b, report finds |
NEW ZEALAND – Climate change is “a serious long term threat” to New Zealand’s economy and delaying action to address it could lose the country billions, a banking leader says. Moving to a low carbon economy sooner rather than later would allow New Zealand to reap up to $30 billion in economic benefits, a report commissioned and publicly released by Westpac found. The bank commissioned the report so it would know the financial risks climate change posed to both the country and its business. The modelling was undertaken by EY and Vivid Economics.

NZ ‘a leader’ on environment, US-headquartered Nature Conservancy says | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – One of the world’s biggest charitable environment groups, US-headquartered The Nature Conservancy, has been showing growing interest in New Zealand. Jamie Morton asked its Asia Pacific regional managing director, Charles Bedford, what its focuses are here and whether our clean, green brand is at risk.

Waste and the Circular Economy

How an Indian professor is turning plastic trash into highways | Ensia (Video 4:11)
INDIA – Plastic pollution is one of the greatest challenges facing the world. Just last week scientists writing in the journal Scientific Reports announced that the weight of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch was four to 16 times more than we thought. All of this means finding ways to recycle and reuse plastic waste are more important than ever. Enter Rajagopalan Vasudevan, a professor at the Thiagarajar College of Engineering in Madurai, India. After seeing plastic waste was a growing problem throughout the country, he devised a method for converting recycled, shredded plastic waste into flexible, long-lasting roadways.

With ‘unforgettable’ bag, Malaysian shoppers paid to cut plastic waste | Thomson Reuters Foundation
MALAYSIA – British supermarket group Tesco has launched a scheme in Malaysia based on bags with barcodes, giving customers discounts on their shopping every time they reuse the bags. The “unforgettable bag” was launched in 11 Tesco stores in Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur and the southern state of Johor on Tuesday in an effort to shift away from single-use plastic bags and reduce waste.

Politics and Society

Why you stink at fact-checking | The Conversation
Here’s a quick quiz for you:

  • In the biblical story, what was Jonah swallowed by?
  • How many animals of each kind did Moses take on the Ark?

Did you answer “whale” to the first question and “two” to the second? Most people do… even though they’re well aware that it was Noah, not Moses who built the ark in the biblical story. Psychologists like me call this phenomenon the Moses Illusion. It’s just one example of how people are very bad at picking up on factual errors in the world around them. Even when people know the correct information, they often fail to notice errors and will even go on to use that incorrect information in other situations.

Senegal city races to move families as sea swallows homes | Thomson Reuters Foundation
SENEGAL – A scheme backed by the World Bank aims to resettle 10,000 residents from the crumbling coast of Saint-Louis… ” Mum, mum, get up – the water’s here!” Fatou Ndiaye’s children shook her awake in the night, as waves crashed against their house on the coast of Saint-Louis, a city in northern Senegal. They were used to sleeping with the sound of the ocean a few feet away – but this time Ndiaye stretched out her hand and felt water rising inside the room. They fled. Two weeks later, she told the story standing by a pile of rubble where her childhood home used to be. The disaster surprised no one in this crowded fishing neighbourhood. Since 2016, two or three times a year, the ocean has swelled and knocked another row of houses off the coast.

Only revolutionary new laws can stop Brexit harming the environment | The Guardian (Opinion)
UK – As the EU withdrawal bill inches its way through parliament, the environmental implications of Brexit are being revealed. Leaving the European Union could be the single most environmentally damaging act taken by government in the past half-century. Almost all of the UK’s environmental policy derives from our membership of the EU. Across the full range of issues – air and water pollution, habitats and species protection, waste management and recycling, energy efficiency, carbon emissions and energy policy – it is EU regulation that has raised standards.

Seven things we learned about China in March | World Economic Forum
Seven stories from China you might have missed in March

Built Environment

Driverless electric taxis would slash costs, energy and emissions | The Fifth Estate
Switching to a fleet of driverless electric taxis in Manhattan, New York would cut greenhouse gas emissions by 73 per cent and energy use by 58 per cent while reducing costs by an order of magnitude, a new study out of the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has found.

BMW unveils all-electric Mini, with plans to build them in China | RenewEconomy
As Australian consumers face an even longer wait for affordable electric vehicle models to appear on the market, another major global automaker has released yet another new, fully electric EV: the MINI. BMW Group said on Wednesday that it would begin production of its all-electric take on the iconic British car in the UK next year, in time to roll it out in conjunction with the car’s 60th anniversary.

Why good evidence is being ignored in the built environment | The Fifth Estate
AUSTRALIA – Mammoth efforts are being put into tools and materials to optimise the design and development of high-performance buildings, but new research out of the CRC for Low Carbon Living has revealed these resources are underutilised or even unknown to key decision-makers. The report, Building better decisions: Why good evidence is used (and ignored) in the built environment sector, which is based on a four-year research program, found opportunities to create better buildings were being lost through a lack of evidence-based decision making (EBDM).

Food Systems

‘Send in the drones’ to protect soil | BBC News
UK – Squadrons of drones should be deployed to locate and penalise farmers who let soil run off their fields, a report will say. A coalition of campaigners complains that the Environment Agency can only check soil on 0.5% of farms each year.  Their report says drones can help to spot bad farming, which is said to cost more than £1.2bn a year by clogging rivers and contributing to floods.

‘Greener’ pastures could help farms slash emissions | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – Shifting to “greener” pastures could help our farms slash their greenhouse gas emissions. Findings of a new Kiwi study suggest using an alternative plant type, like plantain, in grazed pasture could help cut nitrous oxide emissions from soils. The AgResearch study set out to compare emissions of the potent greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide, from soils containing different types of forage – perennial ryegrass, white clover, plantain and lucerne – over different seasons at a Waikato dairy farm.


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