Sustainable Development News

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

Colgate-Palmolive, Johnson&Johnson, and PepsiCo fail to keep palm oil promises
Companies behind everyday products such as toothpaste, packaged bread and chocolate are failing to eliminate the use of palm oil linked with deforestation, research by an environmental group shows. A survey of 14 companies that made “no deforestation” promises shows none of them can say with certainty there is no deforestation involved in their palm oil supply chain, and none has published a full list of suppliers.

Energy and Climate Change

What To Know About February’s Satellite Temp Record
Global warming, it isn’t just for the surface. It’s also lurking in the atmosphere and new satellite data shows the incredible heat that’s building on the planet. February marked the biggest atmospheric temperature spike observed, with the monthly reading running 1.5°F above normal, a new record.

Did global warming really slow down? Have a large injection of nuance and a side-order of abuse
Did global warming really slow down for a decade or so in the 2000s and does it really matter if it did? New analysis written by a group of well regarded climate scientists appeared in a journal a couple of weeks ago, arguing that global warming did slowdown. Those first two sentences are about as straightforward as this post gets. So I suggest that you either get out now while you can or you buckle in.

Ted Cruz’s favorite temperature data just got a lot hotter | Dana Nuccitelli
In a new paper, Carl Mears and Frank Wentz at Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) have revised their data set estimating the temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere. At his recent congressional hearing, Ted Cruz presented the RSS data to incorrectly claim that there’s been no global warming in over 18 years.

Greenland’s ice melt accelerating as surface darkens, raising sea levels
Greenland’s vast ice sheet is in the grip of a dramatic “feedback loop” where the surface has been getting darker and less reflective of the sun, helping accelerate the melting of ice and fuelling sea level rises, new research has found.

US agency says it has beaten Elon Musk and Gates to holy grail of battery storage
A US government agency says it has attained the “holy grail” of energy – the next-generation system of battery storage, that has has been hotly pursued by the likes of Bill Gates and Elon Musk. Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (Arpa-E) – a branch of the Department of Energy – says it achieved its breakthrough technology in seven years.

Oil rigs are built to withstand decades at sea – taking them apart is as tough as they are
More than 40 years since oil first flowed from the Forties oil field, many North Sea fields are coming to the end of their productive lives. This means that platforms must be decommissioned and dismantled, the wells capped. But when a rig is built to withstand all the elements can throw at it, they’re not going to come apart easily.

Environment and Biodiversity

Mud Shortage Eroding California’s Climate Defenses
As agencies and nonprofits toil to restore and conserve San Francisco Bay Area marshlands, aiming to defend against rising seas and nurture wildlife, and as voters consider introducing a property tax to support the effort, a bewildering crisis has emerged. There’s not enough mud.

The owl man: saving the incredible bird you’ve probably never heard of
It’s not easy studying an endangered species few people have ever heard of: it’s difficult to raise money, build awareness, or quite simply get people to care. But still, Jonathan Slaght – one of the world’s only experts on the massive, salmon-eating, frog-devouring Blakiston’s fish owl – insisted there are upsides.

Jonathan Slaght holds a Blakiston’s fish owl in his arms. He is one of a handful of researchers studying this massive raptor, which is threatened by human activity. Photograph: Jonathan C. Slaght/WCS Russia

Jonathan Slaght holds a Blakiston’s fish owl in his arms. He is one of a handful of researchers studying this massive raptor, which is threatened by human activity. Photograph: Jonathan C. Slaght/WCS Russia

Research points to Australian birds of prey using bushfires to their advantage
AUSTRALIA – Preliminary research from an ornithologist in the Northern Territory suggests that Australian birds of prey actually spread fires in order to force their prey out into the open.

Exclusive Video May Be First to Show Blue Whale Calf Nursing
Gorgeous new footage may shed light on one of the mysteries of the largest animal that ever lived: How do blue whales nurse? National Geographic Explorer and marine ecologist Leigh Torres made the likely discovery of nursing while on a research cruise in the South Taranaki Bight off the western coast of New Zealand. On February 5, the Oregon State University professor got video that she thinks shows a mother blue whale and her calf nursing beneath the waves

Poaching for ivory stabilises but elephant decline continues
The number of elephants being killed for their ivory has stabilised but overall species numbers have continued to decline. Data produced for 2015 shows that poachers are still killing more elephants than are born every year.  The report also highlighted a rising trend in poaching in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, considered one of the safest havens.  But there was positive news from Eastern Africa where elephant number have outpaced poachers for the fourth year in a row.

Facebook wildlife trade prompts fears among environmentalists
Environmentalists say they are worried about the emergence of Facebook as an online marketplace for trade in endangered species.  Wildlife monitoring network Traffic found hundreds of protected animals for sale on Facebook groups in Malaysia, including sun bears, gibbons, and binturongs, also known as bearcats.  It says this type of illegal trading is a growing threat around the world.  Facebook said it “will not hesitate” to remove content promoting such trade.

Brazilian beetles released to control wandering willie
NEW ZEALAND – Brazilian beetles will be released into Wellington’s town belt today to help control the wandering willie. The willie, or pernicious weed tradescantia, is one of the country’s “dirty dozen” weeds for 2016, Conservation Minister Maggie Barry said. “It’s an invasive, hard-to-kill weed, originally from South America, which forms a dense, thick carpet on the ground, smothering other plants and preventing native species from establishing themselves,” she said.


It takes a lot of water to feed us, but recycled water could help
Australians eat a lot of water – the water that is used to produce our food. New findings from our Foodprint Melbourne study estimate that more than 475 litres of water is used to grow each person’s food every day. This is just the irrigation water used to grow our food. We consume much more than 475 L if you include rainwater (which isn’t tracked in national water accounts) or water used in processing and manufacturing.

Economy and Business

Can large companies lead the low-carbon revolution?
Not long ago, David Crane and David Steiner were among a handful of Fortune 500 CEOs admired by environmentalists. A climate hawk and the chief executive of NRG Energy, Crane led the company as it invested $1 billion in solar power, wind energy and electric-car charging. Steiner, chief executive of Waste Management, was an evangelist for recycling.

Naturally hard-working infrastructure
AUSTRALIA – There are multiple urban ecosystem services and built environment benefits provided by vegetation, particularly when it can replace or reduce investments in traditional infrastructure such as storm water systems. However, there is still a way to go in terms of treating green infrastructure as physical and financial assets on balance sheets. Professor Tony Wong, chief executive of the CRC for Water Sensitive Cities, says the federal government needs to truly recognise

Australia takes the lead on responsible steel certification
AUSTRALIA – The global steel industry this week converged on Sydney to lay the foundations for a new global certification scheme that has been five years in the making. To be launched in 2017, the Responsiblesteel scheme will extend well beyond environmental criteria to take into account ethical and community considerations as well as reporting, product design and biodiversity.

Anti-insect paint and electric planes: can technology make aviation sustainable?
Insects may not seem the most obvious problem to tackle when trying to make aviation more sustainable. But avoiding them on takeoff could help cut airlines’ fuel bills and emissions by up to 10%. It’s already an idea that NASA has explored. Last year it tested hi-tech coatings to make dead insects slide off wings, with one design delivering a 40% reduction in insect residue.  This is just one of many attempts to meet the huge challenge of making aviation more sustainable.

Waste and the Circular Economy

How to defuse the Easter egg ‘arms race’
How do we stop the “arms race” in Easter egg packaging? Every year, supermarket shelves fill with garish, unnecessarily big boxes to exploit our shallow desires for the fanciest-looking chocolate eggs. The bigger the front face of the packaging, the more attractive it is, the more shelf appeal it has, and the more likely it is you’ll buy it. But more packaging also means more plastic, cardboard, energy – and waste afterwards.

Discovery Coast environmental group campaigns for local ban on plastic bags
AUSTRALIA – An environmental group on Queensland’s Discovery Coast is handing out reusable calico shopping bags as part of their campaign to ban plastic shopping bags. The Discovery Coast Environment Group is calling for Agnes Water and Town of Seventeen Seventy on the central Queensland coast to ban single-use plastic bags. The bags are already banned across the Northern Territory, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT… In Agnes Water, the Discovery Coast Environment Group has raised funds to buy 3,000 re-usable calico shopping bags.

#PerfectlyGood Campaign Aiming to End Label Confusion, Save the UK £50M in Food Waste Costs
The UK is the epicenter of the circular economy movement, with both the public and private sectors making sweeping commitments and headway toward eliminating waste of all kinds throughout its economy… But recent research by Approved Food, the largest online retailer of short-dated and residual stock food and beverages, has revealed a significant stumbling block where these efforts are concerned: More than 50 percent of people across Scotland throw away food that is approaching or past its best-before date despite it being perfectly safe to eat.

Sam Judd: Hungry kids? Start with waste minimisation
The issue of child poverty has become a real point of contention for New Zealand… Radio New Zealand reported on research that says that Kiwis throw away nearly $1 billion of edible food each year. This was calculated at 120,000 tonnes – enough to feed 260,000 people each year. This is not far from the number of 300,000 kids that are classed as being in poverty.

Politics and Society

Is it more sustainable to buy online?
Is it more sustainable to buy online or from a bricks-and-mortar store? The results of a comprehensive new study show that the real world is preferable – especially if you go shopping with friends and engage in more than one activity at a time. The new study, conducted by Deloitte Consulting, shows that shopping at a mall has a seven per cent smaller environmental impact than online shopping.

“Tomorrow’s economy won’t be built using today’s tools”: CEOs, policymakers agree green growth key to delivering Paris Agreement
Political and economic leaders from around the world shared their collective spirit to capitalize on green growth and deliver on the Paris Agreement goals, at the International Green Growth Forum in Cardiff, UK today.

Climate change is a potent element in the deadly brew of disaster risk
The Hyogo framework for action (HFA), adopted in January 2005 by UN member states, was an unprecedented move to promote saving lives and livelihoods from disasters over a decade. Has there been progress? The Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters and major insurance companies agree that, in 2015, figures for deaths, numbers of people affected and economic losses from disasters were below the 10-year average. But are we getting better at managing disasters, or are we actually reducing disaster risk? There is a significant difference between the two, and addressing that difference should have a profound impact on development.

Canada Accepting Public Comments on Draft Sustainable Development Strategy
Last week, the Government of Canada released the 2015 Progress Report and 2016-2019 draft of the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS). The government is inviting input on what environmental sustainability targets it should aim for over the next 3 years, and how those targets can best be measured and reported, through a 120-day public consultation period.

Food Systems

Factory farming divestment: what you need to know
The fast food chain Subway is latest to join the backlash against antibiotic use in the farm sector. It has launched a new chicken sandwich in the US made with meat from animals raised without antibiotics. The move is a sign of the growing consumer and business interest in the welfare and environmental impact of animals reared for meat, dairy and eggs, with most of the blame directed at intensive, factory-style farms.

More than half a million could die as climate change impacts diet – report
Climate change could kill more than 500,000 people a year globally by 2050 by making their diets less healthy, according to new research published in the Lancet. The research is the first to assess how the impacts of global warming could affect the quality of the diets available to people and found fewer fruit and vegetables would be available as a result of climatic changes. These are vital in curbing heart disease, strokes and diet-related cancers, leading the study to conclude that the health risks of climate change are far greater than thought.


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