Sustainable Development News

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

Sustainability leadership – we don’t know what we’ve got ’til it’s gone
NEW ZEALAND – Ireland and other countries are moving fast to claim the clean green mantle that has long been associated with New Zealand. We have become complacent, and our most valuable national asset is at risk. Ireland has a national project to drive towards sustainability of their farming system and to market it aggressively. By the end of this year, virtually all their beef and dairy farms will be audited to meet the agreed standards. As Kiwis, we still recognise this story about our country – clean flowing rivers, pristine beaches, fresh air and a fair go for all. But we are polluting our environment and widening inequities in our society.
Barry Coates is leading Sustainability Week, a series of events at the University of Auckland Business School this week. All are welcome: 

Energy and Climate Change

Massive carbon capture investment ‘needed to slow global warming’
Combating climate change successfully will require massive investments in technologies to capture and store carbon dioxide, new research has found. Myles Allen, professor of climate dynamics at Oxford University, said carbon disposal technologies would be needed as “backstop” options because they would be the only way to reduce net carbon emissions into the atmosphere to zero, and thus stop temperatures from continuing to rise.

How exploring Mars could help us fight climate change on Earth
The surface of Mars is a cold desert. Scars in the landscape point to a history of flowing rivers, standing lakes and possibly even planetary oceans. Yet the current Martian atmosphere has a density that’s around 0.6% of Earth’s, making it far too thin to support liquid water – or life – on the barren surface. At some point in the planet’s history, however, there must have been a thicker, denser atmosphere, probably dominated by carbon dioxide (CO2). And working out what happened to all that CO2 could help us deal with the increasing amount of the gas in our own atmosphere, which is pushing us towards dangerous climate change.

Ecuador drills for oil on edge of pristine rainforest in Yasuni
Ecuador has started drilling for oil on the edge of a controversial block of pristine rainforest inhabited by two of the last tribes in the world living in voluntary isolation. The well platform known as Tiputini C, which is now operational a few kilometres from the Peruvian border in the Yasuni national park, is expected to be the first of nearly 200 wells needed to extract the 920m barrels of crude thought to lie below the Ishpingo Tambococha Tiputini (ITT) block.

Tiputini river and rainforest in Yasuni national park in Ecuador’s Amazon forest. Oil companies are given permit to drill for 920m barrels of crude believed to be beneath the forest floor. Photograph: Pete Oxford/Corbis

Tiputini river and rainforest in Yasuni national park in Ecuador’s Amazon forest. Oil companies are given permit to drill for 920m barrels of crude believed to be beneath the forest floor. Photograph: Pete Oxford/Corbis

Environment and Biodiversity

Coral bleaching worse than first thought
The worst Great Barrier Reef coral bleaching event on record extends further south than first thought, a marine expert says. Professor Terry Hughes, convenor of the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce, is doing an aerial survey of the reef and says the most recent images show damage up to Townsville. ‘There’s no way to sugar coat this … the pictures don’t lie,’ he told AAP.’ We were hoping to find a southern boundary somewhere between Townsville and Cairns. We now know that boundary is further south.’

Banning fishing has helped parts of the Great Barrier Reef recover from damage
One often-used way of protecting marine ecosystems is to close parts of the ocean to fishing, in no-take marine reserves. From research, we know that by reducing fishing you end up with more and bigger fish (and other harvested species such as lobsters). But other benefits of protection might be more surprising. In a new study, we show that no-take reserves helped the Great Barrier Reef’s corals to resist a range of disturbances, such as bleaching, disease and crown-of-thorns starfish, and to recover more quickly from damage.

Cocky count: how Perth’s ‘green’ growth plan could wipe out WA’s best-loved bird
Carnaby’s black cockatoo lives only in southwestern Australia. Although a much-loved cultural icon, it is now facing a major threat to its persistence: urban growth. Will Western Australia’s favourite bird survive Perth’s expansion?

Economy and Business

Climate change will wipe $2.5tn off global financial assets: study
Climate change could cut the value of the world’s financial assets by $2.5tn (£1.7tn), according to the first estimate from economic modelling. In the worst case scenarios, often used by regulators to check the financial health of companies and economies, the losses could soar to $24tn, or 17% of the world’s assets, and wreck the global economy. The research also showed the financial sense in taking action to keep climate change under the 2C danger limit agreed by the world’s nations. In this scenario, the value of financial assets would fall by $315bn less, even when the costs of cutting emissions are included.

World headed to recession if climate change ignored, John Hewson warns
The world is headed for another global financial crisis unless the risk of climate change is properly considered, former Liberal leader John Hewson has warned. Professor Hewson, now Professorial Fellow in economics at the Australian National University, is chair of the Asset Owners Disclosure Project, which surveys global companies on their climate change risk and management.

Bloomberg climate taskforce targets financial filings
Climate risk information should form part of companies’ routine financial filings, a taskforce led by Michael Bloomberg is recommending. As companies like Peabody Energy and Exxon Mobil face legal probes over allegedly lying about their exposure, it reinforces moves for greater transparency. In its first report on Friday, the taskforce emphasised the need to incorporate global warming threats into financial reports.

Clean energy creates 2.5 million jobs in the US, with energy efficiency paving the way
NEW YORK: More than 2.5 million Americans work in the clean energy sector, with the vast majority employed in the energy efficiency sector, a new study shows. The ‘Clean Jobs America’ report, written by Environmental Entrepreneurs and based on an extensive survey and US Bureau of Labor Statistics data, indicates that to date 1.9 million US citizens are employed in the energy efficiency sector.

The B Team Launches ‘Born B’ to Support Purpose-Driven Entrepreneurs
New companies have the opportunity to manage their business in progressive and innovative ways from the start, but it is not always easy – their hands are full just maintaining viability. The B Team, a group of influential business leaders, believes that the integration social and environmental purpose into a company’s core business model from the very start will allow the company to realize significant benefits for their investors, shareholders and customers. To that effect, they have launched “Born B,” a “movement of entrepreneurs and business leaders” building their companies with people and planet alongside profit.

Panama Papers: remarkable global media operation holds rich and powerful to account
With the Panama Papers exposé perhaps we can now say the fortress walls of offshore secrecy are finally cracking. Such havens allow corruption and tax avoidance to take place on a massive international scale by some of the richest and most powerful people on Earth. Meanwhile, the poor get poorer. Western politicians have huffed and puffed about clamping down on offshore havens but in reality their collective breath would not have knocked over a little piggie’s straw house let alone bastions of vested interest. It is thanks to investigative reporters, whistleblowers and unprecedented international media collaboration that the matter is being forced.

Tesla Motors’ Elon Musk just killed the petrol car
“Adios gas-powered cars.” That was the reaction of Barclays analyst Brian Johnston over the weekend to news that Tesla Motors had received orders for nearly 200,000 of its Model 3 electric vehicle in less than two days. By nightfall on Saturday, that order tally had jumped to 276,000. That’s more than $US280 million in zero-cost capital to Tesla, from the $US1,000, $A1,500 and €1,000 deposits, and total orders for more than $A13 billion of electric vehicles.

Giant Queensland coal mine will carry hidden cost, US investor predicts
AUSTRALIA – The approval of a giant new coal mine for Queensland is likely to deliver only short-term economic benefits and may carry a hidden cost if its demise triggers a bailout for miners needing new jobs, a leading US investor says. The Palaszczuk Labor government on Sunday announced the approval of three mining licences for the $20 billion-plus Carmichael coal mine and rail project planned for the Galilee Basin.

Does renewable energy need subsidies?
The short answer to this important question is actually yes. But perhaps not for the reasons that most suspect. Renewable energy sources are not technically or economically infeasible without government subsidies. They need subsidies to be competitive because they are so unsubsidised compared to fossil fuel and nuclear power sources.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Ellen MacArthur on how the circular economy will transform business (Audio 23:04)
In a world where only a fraction of products are recycled, the idea of “keeping the molecules in play” by constantly cycling materials back through supply chains might seem far fetched. Still, that’s the cornerstone of the “circular economy” movement, where sustainability advocates are trying to sell businesses on resource cost savings and efficiency gains.  Ellen MacArthur, world-renowned sailor and founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, discussed her organization’s mission at the recent GreenBiz 16 conference in Phoenix, Arizona.

How old mattresses are giving Canberrans new starts
AUSTRLAIA – In a dusty shed at Hume, both men and mattresses are being given second chances.  More than 18,000 mattresses will be diverted from landfill under a new scheme which links disadvantaged jobseekers in with roles in Canberra’s recycling industry. Each worker employed with Soft Landing will slice, strip and dismantle about 45 discarded mattresses a day, in order to convert the territory’s waste into wages.

Politics and Society

Adani and Carmichael: what the traditional Aboriginal owners of this land say
AUSTRALIA – Adrian Burragubba, representative of the Wangan and Jagalingou Traditional Owners of land where on Sunday the Queensland government approved mining leases for Adani  to build the Carmichael coal mine on Monday issued a promise to fight the mine all the way to the High Court and under international law if necessary.

Doctors call for brown coal power shutdown plan in the Latrobe Valley
AUSTRALIA – More than 300 doctors and other medical professionals have signed an open letter demanding the state government develop a plan to retire the Latrobe Valley’s brown coal power plants because of the health damage they cause in the local community.

Climate change a serious threat to public health, warns White House
USA – Climate change poses a serious danger to public health – worse than polio in some respects – and will strike especially hard at pregnant women, children, low income people and communities of color, an authoritative US government report warned on Monday. The report, The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment, formally unveiled at the White House, warned of sweeping risks to public health from rising temperatures in the coming decades – with increased deaths and illnesses from heat stroke, respiratory failure and diseases such as West Nile virus.

World’s Leading Companies Agree: Clean Power Plan Is Necessary Part of U.S. National Climate Plan
On Friday, the biggest players in technology and some of the largest consumer brands submitted separate friend-of-the-court briefs providing resounding support for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan, which the Supreme Court placed a hold on in February while the D.C. Circuit Court reviews the legality of the regulations.

India joins Norway and Netherlands in wanting 100% electric vehicles
India’s Road Minister says the country will have 100 percent electric vehicles by 2030 to become the first “100 percent electric vehicle nation.” He may not have heard of Norway’s plans – or the Netherlands’. Shortly after Norway began looking into requiring all new cars to be fully electric starting in 2025, the lower house of Dutch Parliament supported a motion last month to ban sales of new petrol and diesel cars starting in 2025. Like the Norwegian plant, the Dutch proposal is not yet law – and it still faces some opposition domestically.

The similarities between Trump support and climate denial | Dana Nuccitelli
It’s long puzzled climate realists: why do free market supporters oppose free market solutions to climate change? The answer may be related to another puzzling question: why does Donald Trump have such unwavering support among a certain segment of American conservatives?

Built Environment

Energy efficiency key to unlocking huge emissions reductions in cities: Frances Downy, C40
Building energy consumption is a major source of GHG emissions, constituting nearly 50% of emissions in C40 cities on average, and rising to over 75% in cities such as New York and London. This is why half of C40’s member cities have identified energy efficiency in existing buildings as one of their top priorities and are working through the two building focused networks to tackle the problem.

Panasonic Hits 50,000 Mark In Quest To Distribute 100,000 Solar Lanterns In Poor, Rural Communities Throughout World
The electronics giant Panasonic recently hit the 50,000-solar-lanterns-distributed mark in its quest to distribute more than 100,000 solar lanterns throughout the world’s poor, rural communities that don’t have reliable access to electric light, according to recent reports.


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