Sustainable Development News

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

‘Sleeper issue’ of leaking coal seam gas fields may blow hole in emissions goals
Gas has long been touted as cleaner than coal and marketed as a “transition” fuel until the mass take-up of renewable energy becomes viable. But a growing chorus of voices from Australia and overseas is warning that any perceived benefits could easily be lost with just small leakages. Professor Peter Rayner from the University of Melbourne says it takes just 1-2 per cent of gas leakage for any advantage to be lost.

Energy and Climate Change

Argentina to launch landmark renewables programme
Argentina will launch an innovative renewable energy programme on 22 August with a public auction to buy 1,000 MW of renewable energy. The “RenovAR” initiative will involve a “green trust fund” to provide security and confidence to potential investors. Argentina is establishing the new programme to achieve its target of having 20 per cent of renewables in the national energy mix by 2025 compared to the current 1.8 per cent.

Worried about dirty energy? Get into an electric car
Working out how to use some of this country’s stores of renewable energy to fuel our transport sector is being described as New Zealand’s next big challenge… The Government wants New Zealand to hit 90 per cent renewable electricity by 2025. But while that means most of what use to power our houses is environmentally-friendly, the picture is not so rosy when you look at the country’s total energy use.

Environment and Biodiversity

Amazon fires: Humans make rainforest more flammable
Human disturbances are making the Amazon rainforest more flammable, according to researchers.  This is one of the conclusions of a two-year study of the Brazilian Amazon, which revealed that even protected forest is degraded by human activity. This activity includes selective logging and forest fragmentation, which increase the likelihood of wildfires.  The findings are published in the journal Nature.

Timber plantation licenses canceled as Mentawai fight off another threat to their traditional lands
First they staved off the palm plantations, now they’ve fought off the timber companies. It was reported just last month that the Mentawai peoples, who live on Indonesia’s Mentawai Islands about 150 kilometres (93 miles) off the west coast of Sumatra, were facing a new threat to their traditional territories: a company called Biomas Andalan Energi had received a principle approval letter to create timber plantations on a total of 200 square kilometers (77 square miles) of primary rainforest and indigenous lands on the biggest island of the Mentawai archipelago, Siberut.

Pollution guidelines leave a blind spot for assessing the impact of coal and oil
AUSTRALIA – Coal’s impact on the Great Barrier Reef by causing climate change is one of the reasons why environmentalists oppose the development of coal fields and exports in Queensland. But fossil fuels could have a more direct impact on the reef and the waters around it, through chemicals produced during their production and distribution. When coal dust is released in the marine environment it can damage marine ecosystems. Coal contains a number of different chemicals, but it is polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are known carcinogens, that are of most concern.

Shield kept sharks away from bait
AUSTRALIA – There are renewed hopes for the ability of the Perth-developed Shark Shield device to keep swimmers safe in the ocean after an independent university test revealed it repelled sharks by an average 1.3 metres. The University of WA-led research of 41 Great White Sharks showed all sharks were repelled on their first approach, and nine out of ten were repelled to just under one metre on subsequent approaches to the baited device.

Mass fish kill in Vietnam solved as Taiwan steelmaker accepts responsibility
A steel company owned by the Taiwanese giant Formosa Plastics has accepted full responsibility for a chemical leak that killed huge numbers of fish in Vietnam in April. The Vietnamese Government has also admitted that the steel factory was the cause of a the mass fish kill after denying any such link for months. The accident was one of Vietnam’s worst environmental disasters, a chemical spill that left 200 kilometres of coastline littered with dead fish.

Dried Seahorses Seized—All Eight Million
Four years ago Peruvian authorities seized 16,000 dried seahorses abandoned on a street near an airport in Lima, the nation’s capital. If you think that sounds like a whole lot of fish, think again. This time they confiscated eight million of the little creatures at the Port of Callao in Lima—the nation’s largest seahorse haul.

Economy and Business

A Busy Week for Palm Oil Sustainability: Indonesia Cops Out, Singapore Steps In
It was something of a ‘two steps forward, one step back’ kind of week in the ongoing quest for sustainable sourcing of palm oil — potentially the most prolific and embattled ingredient in the consumer goods industry.

Under gov’t pressure, palm oil giants disband green pledge
The members of the Indonesia Palm Oil Pledge, a pact between six palm oil refiners to purge their supply chains of environmental destruction and human rights abuses, announced on Friday they were disbanding the agreement.

UK takes action against companies importing timber from Cameroon tied to illegal logging
UK authorities have taken action against 14 companies sourcing timber from Cameroon linked to illegal logging. Six companies received a notice of remedial action, seven received a letter of warning, and one company an advice letter, Greenpeace Africa reported yesterday. Official sanctions will follow if the companies fail to meet the terms laid out by the authorities charged with enforcing the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR).

How SABMiller Is Furthering the SDGs to Help the World ‘Prosper’
International brewing company SABMiller released its 2016 Sustainable Development Report this week, detailing cuts to environmental impacts and updates to its ‘Prosper’ sustainability ambition to align more closely with the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The strategy covers the “five shared imperatives” of creating a thriving, clean, sociable, productive and resilient world.

Waste and the Circular Economy

New World serves up discounts for customers who bring own bag
NEW ZEALAND – Forget billing the environmental bandits, New World stores are giving out discounts for customers who help them save on plastic. Five Wellington New World stores are giving customers money back for recycling – five cents off for each bag they bring in themselves, and fill.

Politics and Society

Elie Wiesel Taught the World How to Confront Atrocities
Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor, writer, and Nobel laureate who died Saturday at age 87, not only shaped how the world remembers the Holocaust, but how the memory of atrocity can help prevent future tragedies. Born in Romania in 1928, Wiesel was taken along with his family to the Nazi concentration camps Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Wiesel’s mother, sister, and father died in the camps. Wiesel was freed when Buchenwald was liberated in 1945. Ten years later, he wrote about his experience in his book Night. The book, as well as Wiesel’s subsequent writings and work as an educator, was influential in building the collective post-war memory of the Holocaust. It was a memory that Wiesel infused with lessons on the dangers of indifference.

The 6 commandments of successful collaboration (Book Excerpt)
Helping people collaborate successfully has been the core of my work for two decades. If things got difficult, if crises emerged, I found a way to get all the actors back into a collaborative space. If people refused to talk with one another or work together, I gently guided them into listening to others. If people were drowning in a cumbersome cooperation structure, I revived their passion for the larger goal. What intrigued me was discovering how little we actually knew about when collaboration worked and why. Could we identify which ingredients would lead to better co-creation? Rarely.

China Environmental Press awards winners – in pictures
From exposing environmental crimes to a campaign to save a wildlife reserve, the awards, created by chinadialogue and the Guardian in 2010, recognise journalists making outstanding contributions to the field in China.

Best green economy: Yan Xiaowang at Energy Magazine

Best green economy: Yan Xiaowang at Energy Magazine
Surplus power generation is a sensitive topic in the environmental sector. For the industry, “the ideal solution for dealing with urban waste is to incinerate it and produce electricity” but as China becomes greener it must look carefully at different options. The press has often written about local protests against waste-to-power plants, but it is rarer to see in-depth investigations. Yan Xiaowei gained access to a number of such plants and revealed the shady interests and unwritten rules at work.
Photograph: Xiao Lu Chu/Getty Images


Infographic: what we know so far about the results of Election 2016

Australians have voted, but with the result currently unclear, how are the numbers falling across the country? This post will be updated when we know more. As at 3:45PM Sunday, July 3.

See also: Explainer: what is a ‘hung parliament’, and how will a government be formed?


Higher education pays for itself many times over
The relative neglect of higher education investment in political debate is a missed opportunity. The economic evidence is that not only does higher education build the economy’s skills and knowledge, but that it pays for itself many times over.

Food Systems

The Global Demand for Protein Will Require a Sustainable Shift to the Sea
While feed production to raise cattle, chickens and pigs takes up half the world’s planted acreage, there is a more sustainable option: seafood. Harvested from oceans, rivers and lakes, seafood could replace other animal protein and meet global demand for meat at a fraction of the environmental cost of land-based proteins, according to an analysis developed by Steve Gaines, dean of the Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Under-performing salmon farms in Marlborough Sounds tackled
NEW ZEALAND – A group of industry, government and community heavyweights will look at ways to help bring salmon farms failing to meet strict environmentally sustainable standards up to scratch. The Marlborough Sounds Salmon Working Group has been set up after environmental monitoring revealed three New Zealand King Salmon farms in Queen Charlotte Sound were not meeting best practice guidelines.  The Cawthron Institute found pollution under pens and seabed enrichment, caused by fish waste falling on the seabed and uneaten fish food.


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