Wednesday 04 March 2015
Sustainable Development News
Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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Energy and Climate Change
Carbon crash, solar dawn: Deutsche Bank on why solar has already won
Deutsche Bank has produced another major report that suggests solar will become the dominant electricity source around the world as it beats conventional fuels, generates $5 trillion in revenue over the next 15 years, and displaces large amounts of fossil fuels. In a detailed, 175-page report, the Deutsche analysts led by Vishal Shah say the market potential for solar is massive. Even now, with 130GW of solar installed, it accounts for just 1 per cent of the 6,000GW, or $2 trillion electricity market (that is an annual figure). But by 2030, the solar market will increase 10-fold, as more than 100 million customers are added, and solar’s share of the electricity market jumps to 10 per cent. By 2050, it suggests, solar’s share will be 30 per cent of the market, and developing markets will see the greatest growth.
Bank of England warns of huge financial risk from fossil fuel investments
“As the world increasingly limits carbon emissions, and moves to alternative energy sources, investments in fossil fuels – a growing financial market in recent decades – may take a huge hit,” Fisher told an insurance conference. He said there “are already a few specific examples of this having happened”, but did not name them, and added that it was clear his concerns had yet to “permeate” the sector. The new warning from one of the world’s key central banks follows a caution from its head Mark Carney that the “vast majority of [fossil fuel] reserves are unburnable” if climate change is to be limited to 2C, as pledged by the world’s governments. The bank will deliver a report to government on the financial risk posed by a “carbon bubble” later in 2015.
US Congress considers cap-and-dividend system
The US Congress is being asked to adopt a bill that will cap fossil fuels and make the “first sellers” of fossil fuels pay for the carbon pollution their products create, with the proceeds of carbon permit auctions to be distributed quarterly to every US citizen in the form of a “healthy climate dividend”. The Healthy Climate and Family Security Act bill has been introduced by Maryland Democrat representative Chris Van Hollen, with a number of co-sponsors including members of congress from California, Vermont, Washington State, Arizona, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York State and Michigan. It also has the backing of climate change campaigners including the Sierra Club and 350.org’s Bill McKibben.
India doubles coal tax to promote renewables
India is set to double tax on coal production and use the revenues to promote clean energy and electric vehicles. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley made the announcement in his budget speech, indicating India’s growing commitment to tackling climate change. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has set ambitious targets for clean energy since it swept to power in May and has raised taxes on coal, petrol and diesel. The administration has embarked on a high-profile “solar mission” to deliver up to 100GW of solar power by 2019, as part of 175GW of clean energy it aims to install by 2022.
Emissions from power sector still climbing as coal use rises
Carbon emissions from [Australia’s] main electricity network continue to rise, undermining the Abbott government’s efforts to curb the global warming pollutants, according to sustainable infrastructure consultancy firm Pitt & Sherry’s latest Cedex report. Emissions to the end of February had increased by an annual rate of 4.1 million tonnes compared with the end of June when the government scrapped the carbon price, the energy consultancy said, citing figures from the National Electricity Market.
No more big power plants? Civic energy could provide half our electricity by 2050
What would our energy system look like if the move to a low-carbon society wasn’t left to governments and big energy companies but was instead led by civil society? We are all used to the debate between states and markets, private vs public provision in shaping the direction of the energy sector; but communities, citizens and local authorities together can form a “civic” energy sector that could revolutionise the way we generate and use energy.
Environment and Biodiversity
Europe shouldn’t be afraid of leading the world on environmental regulation
Over the past 40 years Europe has developed the most comprehensive, ambitious and binding environmental legislation existing anywhere today. And with good reason: these standards should be seen as a unique economic advantage. They have improved the environment and quality of life, as well as driving innovation, job creation and growth. This is one of the main messages to come out of the latest edition of The European environment – state and outlook (SOER2015) report published by the European Environment Agency (EEA) today. Coming at a time when Europe is still growing out of the economic crisis, and debating where to spend scarce resources to stimulate the economy, the report illustrates that investing in strong environmental standards is the right choice.
Video: Africa’s poaching crisis – the game changers
This World Wildlife Day (March 3, 2015) it’s important to acknowledge that the war on poaching is a war on greed, but what we stand to lose is priceless. I’ve spent the last few months traveling through Southern Africa, writing stories from the frontline, and interviewing global thought leaders engaged in the poaching crisis. The wheels of morality turn slowly, but thanks to public pressure, all these different pieces of the puzzle that could bring an end to the poaching crisis are now coming together. Some of these solutions I discuss in the ‘Game Changers’ video interview, produced by Youth 4 African Wildlife. I believe 2015 will be a defining year for justice.
Deforestation could shift monsoons, leaving India high and dry, study finds
Large-scale deforestation could cause monsoon rains to shift south, cutting rainfall in India by nearly a fifth, scientists say. Deforestation has long been known to cause temperature increases in local areas, but new research published on Tuesday shows a potentially wider impact on monsoon rains. While releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, deforestation also causes changes in how much light reflects off the earth’s surface and the amount of moisture in the atmosphere from plants transpiring. Researchers from the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore used a model simulating atmosphere circulation, as well as photosynthesis, transpiration, warming of the ocean surface and ice melt.
Economy and Business
Sustainability network The Crowd reaches investment target
The Crowd, a network of corporate sustainability experts, has reached its investment target of £300,000 in its equity crowdfunding campaign and is now overfunding to launch two sustainability platforms. The funding will be used to develop two digital platforms designed to revolutionise the way companies draw up their sustainability strategies. The first platform, The Curve, is an interactive, online database where companies and public sector organisations can share their carbon and energy investment data, enabling them to make smarter decisions. The platform is due to launch in April this year.
Lifespan of consumer electronics is getting shorter, study finds
Electronic product life spans are getting shorter, an investigation of built-in obsolescence for the German environment agency has indicated. But consumers’ desire to replace products such as flat-screen TVs with newer model is also a major factor in what the research identified as increasingly wasteful consumption of electronic goods. The environment agency asked Öko-Institut researchers to examine consumers’ reasons for replacing electrical and electronic appliances with a view to establishing whether manufacturers are purposefully shortening product life spans to prop up sales, a phenomenon known as built-in obsolescence.
The benefits of rent-a-kakapo (Opinion)
New Zealand’s wildlife – whales, dolphins, red deer, tahr, albatross, kiwi, tuatara, and fish – attract tourists. And the tourists who come to see or hunt our wildlife stay for longer and spend more, especially in our provinces and small towns, than those who come for our casinos and high-end hotels. In Australia the economic value of koala alone was estimated at A$1.1 billion (NZ$1.13b). There are no estimates for how much wildlife contribute to New Zealand’s economy, but if they contribute as much to our NZ$10b tourism industry as they do to Australia’s, then our wildlife are worth about NZ$1b in tourist spending.
Waste and the Circular Economy
Air pollution will kill thousands in Europe, EEA warns
Hundreds of thousands of Europeans will suffer a premature death in the next two decades as the result of governments’ failure to act on air pollution, Europe’s environmental watchdog has warned. In 2011, the latest year for which figures have been reliably collated, more than 400,000 are estimated to have died prematurely as a result of breathing toxic fumes, despite recent improvements in some countries
Forget about cotton, we could be making textiles from banana and pineapple
Cotton makes up a third of fibre consumption in the textile industry, according to a global apparel fibre consumption report (pdf) published in 2013. The cotton production industry is labour intensive and involves a lot of sweat, chemicals and fresh water. Could a number of innovations from natural sources and raw materials compete with the unsustainable product of the cotton plant?
Plastic fantastic? Get real this Seaweek
NEW ZEALAND – This week is Seaweek. We derive so much benefit from the ocean – food, recreation and spiritual fulfillment – and yet we are filling it with our junk. So why not use Seaweek (28 February to 8 March) to take a stand against plastic? Here are some ways that inspirational businesses are working at the frontline of plastic reduction.
Environment Minister Greg Hunt foreshadows ban on plastic bags
Plastic bags could soon be history as federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt signals he’s ready to use the “bully pulpit” of national government to enforce an Australia-wide ban. Single-use plastic bags can still be used in Sydney, despite being banned in Canberra, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory. “It’s a little bit hard under federal law to do that, but you can use the bully pulpit of the national role to make sure we get rid of these non-biodegradable bags,” Mr Hunt said.
Politics and Society
Financial Inclusion: The Most Important Question for Business Leaders
The philosopher Tony Judt, while dying of ALS three years ago, wrote a final essay, “Ill Fares the Land.” [Here] is its opening paragraph: “Something is profoundly wrong with the way we live today. For thirty years we have made a virtue out of the pursuit of material self-interest: indeed, this very pursuit now constitutes whatever remains of our sense of collective purpose. We know what things cost but have no idea what they are worth. We no longer ask of a judicial ruling or a legislative act: is it good? Is it fair? Is it just? Is it right? Will it help bring about a better society or a better world? Those used to be the political questions, even if they invited no easy answers. We must learn once again to pose them.”
Climate Change Helped Spark Syrian War, Study Says
A severe drought, worsened by a warming climate, drove Syrian farmers to abandon their crops and flock to cities, helping trigger a civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people, according to a new study published Monday. The research provides the most detailed look yet at how climate change may already be helping spark violent political unrest. “Up until now we’ve understood and established that changes in climate may affect human conflict in the future. But everything until now has stopped short of saying climate change is already having an effect,” says Solomon Hsiang, a University of California, Berkeley professor who has studied the role of climate change in violence.
Slushy waves amaze
Cold weather in the United States is creating slushy waves. The unusually cold and snowy winter in southern New England has broken records and resulted in many incredible photographs, including a frozen Hudson River in New York. But photographer Jonathan Nimerfroh has captured a new set of stunning cold-related images: slushy waves (known in the US as slurpee waves).
Grattan Institute report finds long commutes drive up stress, cost of living; workers move to inner-city
The long distances between where people live and work are forcing some to consider a move to inner-city suburbs to reduce commute times and cost of living pressures. The book, City Limits: Why Australia’s cities are broken and how we can fix them, explains how our cities are no longer keeping up with changes in how we live and how our economy works.
South Australia to limit sprawl and renew social housing
The South Australian government is imposing a firm boundary on urban sprawl, with plans to legislate an outer limit for urban development to prevent the loss of prime agricultural land. The move is part of a comprehensive overhaul of the planning system that aims to prioritise urban infill projects close to existing infrastructure and improve the overall sustainability of Adelaide. The government has also committed to renewing all social housing stock constructed before 1968 within the next 15 years, with an initial plan announced for the renewal of 4500 South Australian Housing Trust homes in areas within 10 kilometres of the CBD by 2020.
Green MashUp: 7 transport trends reshaping cities
Nothing will reshape cities more than transport. The sector is buzzing with trends that will reshape urban design, lifestyles and sustainability. Here are some to watch out for.