Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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In a stunning display of non-partisan leadership, today’s top story shows what can be done when politics is played by grown-ups.  A mixed bag in other news with a poll showing children think adults are not doing enough to tackle climate change, and some are willing to take governments to court to make them act.  Also, the seriousness of kauri dieback is brought home with Tane Mahuta in danger; Australian politicians play dirty again on a couple of counts; and hippies and non-hippies celebrate 30 years of community on the Sunshine Coast.

Top Story

Netherlands proposes 95% emissions cut by 2050 in draft climate law | Climate Home News
The Netherlands could set one of the world’s most ambitious climate laws, under a draft presented to parliament on Wednesday. The proposal is backed by seven political parties, who between them hold 113 of 150 seats in the Dutch parliament. There will be opportunities for lawmakers to amend the text before it is finalised, likely in 2019. It would set a 49% greenhouse gas emission reduction target by 2030 compared to 1990 levels and a 95% cut by 2050, with a carbon neutral electricity system.

Climate Change and Energy

Battery-backed solar power to undercut coal in China by 2028: report | Climate Home News
Wind turbines or solar panels with batteries will be able to provide on-demand power cheaper than old coal plants in China by 2028, analysts at Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) predict. In the US, the combo can outcompete gas generation by 2027, according to the same New Energy Outlook report, presented in London on Friday.

Solar and battery “hydrogen hub” planned for W.A. micro-grid | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – The Australian Renewable Energy Agency has announced funding for a $3.3 million “green hydrogen” innovation hub in Western Australia, adding to the growing list of renewable hydrogen projects across the country. The latest announcement from ARENA is for $1.5 million in funding for a $3.3 million project to trial the production, storage and use of renewable hydrogen to energise a commercial-scale microgrid.

See also: Green homes give glimpse of renewable hydrogen future | ABC News

Discovery that could help save the world – new diet to make cows burp less methane |
New Zealand could be the first country in the world to change a cow’s diet so it burps out less methane. Dutch nutrition company Royal DSM is developing a commercial feed additive which it hopes will be on the market in two years’ time. Studies had shown it could reduce up to 30 per cent of cattle methane in intensive farm systems.

Environment and Biodiversity

Weatherwatch: wildfires highlight importance of UK’s peatlands | The Guardian
UK – Peatlands may not look glamorous but they are a hugely important national treasure. They help prevent floods by soaking up rain like a sponge, and can hold about 20 times their own weight in water. And more than 70% of Britain’s drinking water comes from peatlands, feeding into supplies for 28 million people.

Most of Europe’s rivers and lakes fail water quality tests – report | The Guardian
UK – The vast majority of Europe’s rivers, lakes and estuaries have failed to meet minimum ecological standards for habitat degradation and pollution, according to a damning new report. Only 40% of surface water bodies surveyed by the European Environmental Agency (EEA) were found to be in a good ecological state, despite EU laws and biodiversity protocols. England was one of the poorer performers to emerge from the State of Our Waters report, which studied 130,000 waterways.

Tane Mahuta could soon be infected with fatal Kauri dieback disease |
NEW ZEALAND – Tāne Mahuta, New Zealand’s largest remaining Kauri tree, could be infected with the fatal dieback disease in less than a year and management of the crisis needs to be taken away from MPI, one scientist says. The tree is a significant part of Northland’s tourism offering and has stood in Waipoua forest for over two millennia. The name Tāne Mahuta (Lord of the Forest) goes back to the Māori legend of the creation of the earth and refers to the separation of the earth from the sky.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Plastic bags: How are Australians coping in this brave new world without them? | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – It’s been a few days since Coles axed single-use plastic shopping bags from its stores across the country, so we wanted to find out how everyone was coping. Of course, if you shop at Woolworths you’ve already been living in this brave new world for weeks — for Aldi shoppers, years — and bans had already been introduced in multiple states and territories (in fact, New South Wales will soon be the only place you’ll still be able to get these bags anywhere). Nevertheless, the latest reports of customer “bag rage” have made international news, so we asked our audience on Facebook Messenger (why not join them?) about how they feel about the latest ban.

Is this the end of the yellow all-in-one recycling bin? | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – It was supposed to be the more efficient solution. Now as governments and local councils search for answers to Australia’s unfolding recycling crisis, the household yellow bin has emerged as both the prime culprit and a potential remedy. The recycling industry has been in crisis mode since the beginning of the year. On 1 January, China stopped accepting 99% of Australia’s exported recycling due, in part, to their strict new rules on contamination. One of the major causes of contamination is commingled recycling, which is used by 91% of Australian households and accounts for 60% of all household waste.

Burning garbage for electricity gets ‘clean energy’ investment go-ahead but recycling remains priority | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Incinerating household waste using “best-practice” European combustion technology meets the criteria for investment by Australia’s national clean energy bank. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) — which has never invested in an incineration project before — has indicated it is open to financing such schemes.

Politics and Society

Poll: Children believe older generation not doing enough to combat climate change | BusinessGreen
Yet more evidence of the gap in climate concern between younger and older generations has emerged in a new UK poll of 1,300 children and young people, which demonstrates significant support for a low carbon shift towards renewable energy and electric vehicles. An overwhelming 95 per cent of prospective science and engineering students between the ages of seven and 19 surveyed by the Energy Institute do not believe enough is being done by adults to tackle the damaging effects of climate change.

See also: Court action to save young from climate bill | BBC News

As power prices soar, we need a concerted effort to tackle energy poverty | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – The growth in green technologies such as rooftop solar are welcome and should make energy more affordable and sustainable.  But our recent research shows that current market-based approaches to encourage these technologies risk inadvertently exacerbating energy poverty in the process. We need new policy approaches that tackle both energy injustice and help us transition to a low carbon society at the same time.

Social housing protects against homelessness – but other benefits are less clear | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – Social housing, managed by governments and the community sector, provides a safety net to vulnerable Australians. A person living in social housing is far less likely to experience homelessness than someone battling it out in the private rental market.  And some argue social housing comes with a host of other benefits, such as improvements to employment, education, incarceration rates and health outcomes.  But our research failed to find evidence of social housing residents achieving better outcomes in any of these other areas than similar residents in the private market – at least in the short run.

Turnbull’s fine line on climate: Capitulation or denial? | RenewEconomy
Tony Abbott is at it again. And so too are the rest of the crew – Matt Canavan, Judith Sloan, Nick Cater, and the endless cast of malcontents in the Murdoch media and the Coalition back-bench and ministry. For months we have lamented the stupidity of the debate around climate and energy, and the extraordinary push-back from conservatives against any new technologies such as wind, solar, battery storage, demand management, and electric vehicles.


Madonna or whore; frigid or a slut: why women are still bearing the brunt of sexual slurs | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – Senator David Leyonhjelm’s sexist slur on Senator Sarah Hanson-Young during parliamentary debate raises many issues about how women’s credibility can be undermined by implications that they are sexually more active than is deemed “acceptable”… Hanson-Young has hit back. Leyonhjelm has refused to apologise for his comments, and Hanson-Young is now seeking further action. “I have a responsibility now, I have a responsibility to call this for what it is,” she told ABC radio.

See also: View from The Hill: Parliament should care about its reputation even if Leyonhjelm doesn’t value his | The Conversation

Govt could appoint commissioner to improve animal welfare |
NEW ZEALAND – A commissioner for animals could be on the cards as the Government moves to improve animal welfare.  Meka Whaitiri, New Zealand’s first dedicated Minister for Animal Welfare, released the Framework for Action on Animal Welfare on Friday, a day after hidden camera footage showing a Northland contract milker abusing cows in a milking shed was made public.

Built Environment

Ethiopia’s dams threaten thousands of Kenyans – environmentalists | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Some 300,000 Kenyans who depend on Turkana – the world’s biggest desert lake – could run short of drinking water and fish if Ethiopia moves ahead with plans to construct two more dams on a river upstream, activists said. The United Nations cultural agency (UNESCO) put Kenya’s Lake Turkana, on its list of endangered World Heritage Sites last week because of the “disruptive effect” of an existing Ethiopian dam and irrigated sugar estates over Kenya’s northern border.

Sunshine Coast eco village turns 30 as pioneering permaculture ideas become mainstream | ABC News
Australia’s longest-running permaculture community was a radical departure from the standard suburban subdivision when it started, but 30 years on the rest of Australia is starting to catch on to some of its pioneering ideas.