Sustainable Development News

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

The Paris climate deal has come into force – what next for Australia?
The Paris climate agreement comes into legal force today… At the time of writing, the Agreement has been ratified by 94 parties, including the world’s four largest emitters: China, the United States, the European Union and India. As Climate Analytics reports, these nations account for 66% of greenhouse emissions. Even if the United States were to withdraw its support under a Trump presidency, the Paris Agreement will remain in force… Modelling suggests Australia’s emissions are projected to rise to 21% above 2005 levels by 2030 – rather than fall by the 26-28% proclaimed in its official target.


Energy and Climate Change

Your carbon footprint destroys 30 square metres of Arctic sea ice a year
The average westerner’s carbon emissions destroy 30 square metres of Arctic sea ice every year, according to new research.  The work indicates that, even with current efforts to cut emissions, the Arctic will lose all its ice in summer within about 20 years. Plummeting Arctic sea ice cover is one of the most obvious signs of climate change and is increasingly linked to extreme weather events such as storms and floods in Europe and severe cold snaps in the US.

Climate Change Captured in Stunning Antarctic Ice Photos
Climate change can be hard to visualize, because it tends to happen at a relatively creeping pace, not in one dramatic surge, as Hollywood often likes to depict. But new photos from NASA flights provide a fresh look at melting ice. For the past eight years, NASA has been flying Operation IceBridge missions in research planes over the poles, in order to gather more visual data on the impact of warming temperatures.

Ice is viewed near the coast of West Antarctica from a window of a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane on October 28, 2016. The cracks hint at how fragile the sheets really are. Photograph by Mario Tama, Getty

Ice is viewed near the coast of West Antarctica from a window of a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane on October 28, 2016. The cracks hint at how fragile the sheets really are. Photograph by Mario Tama, Getty

Greece set to win €1.75bn from EU climate scheme to build two coal plants
Greece appears on track to win access to a controversial EU programme that could earmark up to €1.75bn (£1.56bn) in free carbon allowances for the building of two massive coal-fired power plants. The 1100MW coal stations will cost an estimated €2.4bn, and emit around 7m tonnes of CO2 a year, casting doubt on their viability without a cash injection from an exemption under Europe’s carbon trading market.

UK climate targets at risk without government support for windfarms, says energy boss
The UK’s climate targets are at risk if the government does not reverse its decision to end support for windfarms, the head of one of the Big Six energy companies has warned. Keith Anderson of ScottishPower said onshore wind power should be opened up to the government’s new subsidy regime because the technology could be deployed quickly, help energy bills and cut carbon emissions.

Energy security not about ‘locking in status quo’, says chief scientist
Australia’s chief scientist has challenged the resurgent political alarmism about renewable energy, saying energy security isn’t about locking in the status quo, it’s about ensuring the successful decarbonisation of electricity generation.

Hazelwood is only the beginning of the end for coal power
AUSTRALIA – The truth about Hazelwood is that it was never meant to last this long. The giant power station’s closure is terrible news for its 750 workers and their families, and for a regional community that has already had more than it share of job losses. But if the Latrobe Valley is hit hard in the years to come it will be due to a failure by those in power to plan or respond, not a lack of forewarning.
Read also: Hazelwood to close in March, workers to pocket $330,000

Environment and Biodiversity

Uncovered: the mysterious killer triffids that dominate life in our oceans
Have you ever wondered where the foam in the ocean comes from? Or why the sea can look clear on some days and green, brown, or even pink on others? And how fish get the ingredients to make those omega-fatty acids that we’re told are so good for us? Well, the single word answer to all of these questions is: “plankton”.

Scientist Hugh Possingham quits over Baird government’s land-clearing plan
AUSTRALIA – A leading adviser to the Baird government’s proposed changes to native vegetation laws has quit in protest, warning the plans could lead to a doubling of broadscale land clearing in the state. Hugh Possingham, a Queensland University conservation biologist, submitted his resignation letter to Premier Mike Baird and key ministers, saying his advice and those from a panel he had sat on were being ignored.

Warning over invasive flatworm posing threat to UK wildlife
An invasive flatworm from Brazil that poses a threat to soil health and wildlife has made its way to mainland Britain. A 4.5cm Obama flatworm (Obama nungara) – not linked to the US president but named after the Brazilian Tupi words for leaf (oba) and animal (ma) – was discovered this summer crawling out of a Heuchera plant imported from the Netherlands at a garden centre in Oxfordshire… Flatworms prey on earthworms and land snails, and in areas where they have already colonised the soil they have reduced some earthworm populations by 20%.


Daily commutes are draining our water reserves
We found that cars are the most water-intensive mode of transport, using on average 6.4 litres of water per passenger, per kilometre. Diesel trains use 5.2L per passenger-kilometre (pkm) and electric trains use the least, at 3.4L per pkm.  This means that a typical commuter can use between 140L and 350L of water per day to travel to work and back. This is at least as much as a Melbourne resident’s daily household water use of 160L.  Water use is thus a significant part of transport sustainability, but it is often ignored in favour of focusing on energy use and greenhouse emissions. So what can we do to stop transport draining our water resources?

River clean-up battle hailed with top award
NEW ZEALAND – A grassroots community effort to clean up a South Auckland waterway has been hailed with a national award naming the Puhinui Stream the country’s “most improved river”… The stream, which flows through Totara Park, the Auckland Botanic Gardens and industrial Manukau before emptying into the harbour not far from Auckland Airport, rates poorly on most water quality indicators. It rates in the bottom quarter of rivers for E.coli, ammoniacal nitrogen and total phosphorus, and the former Auckland Regional Council not long ago ranked it the dirtiest of all 31 streams it monitored.

Economy and Business

Can digital ecosystems save species from extinction?
Much of the value that biodiversity and ecosystem services provides to business and society goes unaccounted for. UNEP-FI (PDF) estimates that in 2010, the cost of environmental damage to the global economy hit $6.6 trillion — 11 percent of the global GDP. At this rate, environmental damage will amount to $28 trillion by 2050. Notably, one-third of global environmental destruction (equivalent to $2.2 trillion) was carried out by the world’s top 3,000 public companies.

How will the Paris climate agreement change your day-to-day life?
It should be a momentous occasion for the environment. In early October 2016, 55 countries with 55% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions ratified the Paris climate change agreement. On November 4, it comes into force. The main long-term goal is to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. But what does meeting the Paris aims look like in the short-term, within our lifetimes?

Commitments to build resilience: we’d like your views
What commitments should business make to build resilience internally, across supply chains and within vulnerable communities? These are the questions we will be asking over the coming weeks, and at COP22 in Marrakech. Alongside in-depth work with our business network and policy partners, we would like to ensure your ideas are included… How can you get involved? Join our Twitter chat on November 7th 5pm GMT / 1pm ET

Politics and Society

Breaking down barriers: how a Syrian refugee turned his good luck into jobs for others
AUSTRALIA – Just 14 months ago Nirary Dacho was a penniless refugee, landing at Sydney airport with a dream of being able to continue his career as an IT analyst in a country where he would be safe from Isis. Today the 29-year old Assyrian sits in a comfortable office as the cofounder of Refugee Talent, a fast-growing digital platform that exists to get refugees into work.  This has been a rapid turnaround in fortune – especially considering 48% of those on humanitarian visas remain unemployed 18 months after arriving.

DiCaprio’s documentary calls for a green future, but his vision isn’t radical enough
As exciting as it is to see an A-list Hollywood star train his celebrity spotlight on [climate change], it is important to critique some of the film’s underlying assumptions. Chief among these are the idea that “green growth” will allow us to have economic growth without environmental damage, and the notion that the politicians and corporations who helped compromise our planet can now be trusted to save it.

Diesel vehicles face charges after UK government loses air pollution case
Drivers of polluting diesel vehicles could soon be charged to enter many city centres across Britain, after the government accepted in the high court on Wednesday that its current plans to tackle the nation’s air pollution crisis were so poor they broke the law.

Built Environment

Jamie Durie: hot trends in landscape design
Design has the power to engage everyone in wanting to save our environment, according to environmentalist and landscape designer Jamie Durie. And he’s a man on a mission to make it happen, from launching entry-level environmental design products through to demystifying biomimicry for the masses.


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