Sustainable Development News

Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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Energy and Climate Change

Conservationists call for closure of worst-polluting power stations as UN report warns climate change will soon be ‘irreversible’
Conservationists are calling for the closure of the country’s dirtiest power stations [in Australia], in light of a new UN report outlining the clearest indication yet of the severe impacts of climate change.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report found the effects of climate change would soon be irreversible unless emissions are cut sharply and fast. Chief among the recommendations was that the world rapidly decarbonise its energy systems and stop burning coal by the end of the century.  But Australia’s energy system is using more coal than ever. While demand for electricity is falling, the carbon emissions from its generation have been steadily rising since June. In the electricity market, Victoria’s brown coal power stations are back on top, reaping the rewards of higher gas prices, an end to the carbon tax and the subsequent fall in hydro-electricity production.

Australias carbon emissions on the rise (Video)
Since the government scrapped the carbon price in June Australia’s coal-fired electricity generators have increased production and if the trend continues total carbon emissions may increase by nearly two percent by June next year.

Climate change report puts fresh pressure on Australian Government
The UN’s using some of its toughest language yet in its latest report on climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC, says the impact if the world doesn’t cut carbon emissions sharply and rapidly will be severe, widespread and irreversible. The UN’s call for urgent action has intensified calls on Tony Abbott to ensure that climate change is on the central agenda rather than a fringe issue at the coming G20 summit in Brisbane

IPCC’s ‘most important report’ sets stage for Paris climate talks
The report sums up the the key messages from the three larger IPCC reports released since September last year, which together form its landmark Fifth Assessment Report. It reiterates that climate warming is “unequivocal”, points out that atmospheric greenhouse gases are now at their highest levels for 800,000 years, and says human activity is “extremely likely” to be the dominant cause of the warming since the mid-20th century. “I don’t think politicians will have the excuse that they haven’t heard the evidence,” Professor Skea said. The report concludes that emissions need to fall by 40-70% by 2050 if the world is to give itself a good chance of staying within the 2C limit. European Union leaders recently pledged to cut emissions by 40% by 2030.

Algae oil test plant launched in South Australia
Australia’s first plant testing the commercial-scale production of algae-derived crude oil has been launched in South Australia. SA-based renewable fuels company Muradel officially opened the integrated biofuel demonstration plant on Friday, as a first step towards a commercial plant with the potential to produce 80 million litres of an environmentally sustainable fossil crude equivalent. The $10.7 million demonstration plant, located in coastal town of Whyalla, will produce 30,000 litres of oil a year using Muradel’s Green2Black technology that produces biofuel from naturally occurring marine microalgae.

Environment and Biodiversity

Chopping off the rhino’s horn and the war on wildlife crime
As the electric saw cuts into the base of the horn of the live rhino lying at my feet, I feel an uncomfortable guilt. The rhino shakes and judders and there is an unpleasant smell reminiscent of burning hair. I glance nervously at the friends around me, clad in khaki and camouflage. But luckily for this rhino, I wasn’t a poacher and there was no blood or bounty – I was there as part of a conservation drive. Just over a month ago I was involved in a local operation to de-horn white rhinoceros in South Africa. The idea is that by removing the horn, we remove the motive for poaching.

Quolls, goannas to be relocated in bid to help Kakadu’s endangered species
A selection of endangered species from the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park will be sheltered in an animal sanctuary on a remote island off Australia’s northern coast. The project is part of the Federal Government’s new Kakadu Threatened Species Strategy, a 10-year plan to tackle the rapid decline of some species in the park. The Endangered Species Commissioner, Gregory Andrews, said the refuge would be set up on Field Island, which is part of the national park.

Diaphanous, Sometimes Deadly, Jellyfish Pictures From National Geographic’s Archives
Beauty and agony often go hand in hand when it comes to jellyfish. However, in celebration of Jellyfish Day, we’re offering up a sting-free series of jellyfish images straight from the National Geographic archives.

Economy and Business

Renewables can cost 70% less than diesel power at mining sites
Mining is a huge industry, so the fact that renewable energy is now the most competitive option at mining sites is pretty big news. Electricity from solar and wind power can cost up to 70% less than when it is generated by diesel power at mining sites. This is especially true for sites that are located remotely. Diesel can be expensive and getting it to difficult locations also consumes fuel.

Water everywhere for profit in Nejapa, but few drops for local people to drink
Ana Luisa Najarro’s neighbours include some of the world’s largest corporations. Down the street from her house, giant drinks manufacturers have set up a series of factories and warehouses, bottling water and fizzy drinks for distribution across the country and export across central America. Coca-Cola is here, bottled by a subsidiary of SABMiller, the world’s second-largest brewer. A Mexican juice multinational has also moved in, as has a large bottled water company. Millions of dollars are made by major beverage businesses in Nejapa, an expanding industrial area in El Salvador near where Najarro lives. But despite living down the road, and on top of one of the country’s largest aquifers, she says she struggles every day to find enough clean water to drink.

Waste and the Circular Economy

8 ways to rethink resources: nappies to benches and food waste to biogas
Conscious consumers know not to use disposable plastic bottles, or single-use plastic bags, and try to use as little packaging as possible in order to save the planet. A growing number of companies are also developing innovative ways to give waste a second lease of life.

Politics and Society

Greens call for power buyback umpire
The Green Party is calling for an independent umpire to regulate buy-back prices set by power companies, after a major supplier slashed its rate for new customers generating solar or wind power. Users of renewable energy – such as solar or wind – use the electricity to power their home or business, and can sell back any excess electricity to their supplier to be used on the national grid.  Contact Energy announced on Friday it was cutting its buy-back rate for new customers by over half, dropping from 17c to 8c.

We must recognise the special needs of landlocked developing countries
Landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) face particular challenges that limit their potential gains from trade, and restrict their resources for investing in development. Although the world’s 32 LLDCs have recorded good economic gains recently – with the value of exports increasing almost fivefold between 2003 and 2013 (pdf) – their share of global trade hovers at about 1% (pdf).

Built Environment

Craig Roussac and infrastructure: think different
We all know what infrastructure is. It’s the big stuff in the economy like roads, railways, pipes, power lines and airports that help the little things—like people, parcels, electrons—get around. It’s good for the economy. And if infrastructure is good, more of it is better. Right? More money can bring wider roads and bigger pipes and cables. But, by itself, can this approach deal with the fundamental challenges? Let’s consider traffic jams. The first recorded traffic jams occurred in London in the late 1660s. Fast forward 350 years and the peak hour traffic in many of the world’s cities is no faster. And the cause of those early traffic jams? Ironically it was an improvement in the paving of roads!

Future forecasting: landscape architects might save the world
I predict we’re going to hear a lot more from landscape architects in the coming years. There has long been a misunderstanding about what they actually do – “something about gardens” being a common response. But the diversity and scale of work in landscape architecture is huge, and the mix of skills and expertise required shows real promise for dealing with the pressing issues facing Australian cities. Whether climate change or urbanisation, population growth or densification, landscape architects have ideas for how to make our future cities liveable, workable and beautiful.


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