Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
If you like what you see, you are welcome to sign up (on the right) for free sustainable development news delivered direct to your inbox each weekday morning.

Top Story

Turnbull government orders CSIRO U-turn towards climate science
AUSTRALIA – New Science Minister Greg Hunt has ordered a major U-turn in the direction of the CSIRO, reviving climate research as a bedrock function just months after the national science agency slashed climate staff and programs. Mr Hunt, the former environment minister, told Fairfax Media he has instructed CSIRO’s executives and board to “put the focus back on climate science”, adding: “This is not an optional component, it’s critical”.


Energy and Climate Change

New Documentary Examines Hidden Human Consequences of America’s Oil Dependency
Mark Manning, former oil industry insider and director of acclaimed Iraq war documentaries The Road to Fallujah and Caught in the Crossfire, has turned his lens to another battle taking place in the Gulf, this time on the U.S.’ Gulf Coast. The upcoming feature-length documentary, The Rising, details the devastating effects not only of BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, but of the company’s cleanup efforts following the spill and the apparent large-scale cover-up of their health impacts on the coastal communities.

Environmental licence for São Luiz do Tapajós hydroelectric dam denied
Brazil’s environmental agency, Ibama, has decided not to give an environmental licence to the São Luiz do Tapajós hydroelectric dam, the first of a series of dams planned for the Tapajós river basin. The project’s rejection is seen as a significant victory by the Munduruku indigenous people — whose livelihoods and lands would have been impacted, and by environmentalists.

Mining town Coober Pedy shows the rest of Australia how to turn to renewables
Coober Pedy is the epitome of the Australian mining town. Located in the South Australian outback, it is as famous for its opals as it is for the extraordinary underground housing that has become a feature of its way of life. Now the township of 3,500 people may be about to make a name for itself in another way – abandoning its total reliance on expensive, imported diesel fuels for its electricity, and forging a path to a point where most of its power comes from wind and solar with the support of battery storage.

Solar generates more energy than coal for 2nd month this year
For the second month this year in the UK, solar has generated more electricity across a month than coal. Earlier this year, UK-based Carbon Brief revealed that solar power had set new records by generating more electricity during the month of May than coal.

Number of cities disclosing climate action passes 500 globally
A record number of cities around the world are now measuring and disclosing environmental data on an annual basis in order to better manage emissions and build resilience against climate change impacts, according to the CDP. The non-profit organisation, formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project,  revealed today that 553 cities globally representing 621 million citizens have this year reported on the climate actions they are taking, representing a rise of 70 per cent since 2015.

Environment and Biodiversity

As a worker on the Great Barrier Reef I’m ashamed to look my children in the eye  (Opinion)
As a marine ecologist who has been working on the Great Barrier Reef for 30 years I am today still stunned, often tearful, and ashamed to look my children in the eye. The Great Barrier Reef is undergoing change that means it will never be the same again in my lifetime. It will take decades to regrow.

Safe passage: we can help save koalas through urban design
So-called urban exploiters tend to share a number of characteristics such as rapid habituation to the presence of people, a generalist diet and an ability to be innovative. When it comes to behavioural creativity though, Australia’s marsupials don’t seem to score very well. It was thought that koalas, in particular, were not good candidates for innovation. But our new study of koalas near roads may provide some hope for an iconic species under very serious threat from urbanisation.

Twice as many Hector’s dolphins as previously thought
NEW ZEALAND – A three-year study has revealed there could be twice as many endangered Hector’s dolphins in New Zealand waters as previously thought. The Cawthron Institute led the largest marine aerial survey conducted in the country which showed there could be between 12,000 and 18,500 hectors dolphins.The last published estimate, in 2003, put the population at just over 7000. The institute’s marine mammal ecologist, Deanna Clement, said the findings were unexpected.

Councillors vote for cat micro-chipping
NEW ZEALAND – Wellington councillors have voted to pass a revised animal bylaw that requires cats to be micro-chipped. The Environment Committee passed the bylaw today. It will then be recommended to a full council meeting later in August when a final vote will be made.

Rare Persian Leopards Released Into Wild Near Olympic Town
Sochi, Russia—One by one, the three leopards emerged from their cages and moved lithely down the hill, away from the cameras and to the safety of the green canopy of the Caucasus Nature Reserve. That moment, captured in July by Russian state TV, would be the last time they see humans—or so scientists hope. Akhun, Killy, and Victoria became the first captive-raised Persian leopards released into the wild anywhere in the world.

A Persian leopard walks through the grounds of the reintroduction center in Sochi. Photograph by Umar Semenov

A Persian leopard walks through the grounds of the reintroduction center in Sochi. Photograph by Umar Semenov


Deputy Mayor Vicki Buck hits out at ‘massive over-allocation’ of water
Farmers with consents to take groundwater in drought-stricken parts of Canterbury will be able to continue doing so for at least another 15 years. Representatives of the region’s water management zone committees provided an update to the Christchurch City Council’s infrastructure, transport and environment committee on Thursday. The update followed the early release of Environment Canterbury’s drought update on Wednesday, which showed 86 per cent of Canterbury’s shallow water bores were at “very low” or record low levels.


Economy and Business

National Trust calls for complete reform of British farm subsidies
The National Trust has called for complete reform of the British farm subsidy system after Brexit, by ending payments for owning land and only rewarding farmers who improve the environment and help wildlife. “The subsidy system is broken. It is not working. Farmers are going out of business. The state of wildlife is in steep decline and large parts of that is because of intensive agriculture. The vote to leave the EU allows us to think radically about the future of the entire system,” the trust’s director general, Dame Helen Ghosh, told the Guardian ahead of a speech at Blenheim Palace on Thursday.

Virgin Media hails ‘biggest carbon reduction ever’ following major efficiency drive
UK – Telecoms giant Virgin Media has recorded its “biggest ever” annual carbon reduction, with emissions falling by 6.1% between 2014 and 2015 as a part of the firm’s ‘Digital for Good’ sustainability programme launched last year.

Unilever announces new partnership to scale up sustainability
AUSTRALIA – Global personal products and food industry giant Unilever is expanding its zero-waste achievements deeper into its supply chain through a new collaboration platform it’s developing with shared value consultancy 2degrees, expected to become active in the next few months.

Australian banks have made a mockery of Paris Agreement, Market Forces says
Australia’s big four banks have gone against their 2°C commitments made at the Paris COP21 by funnelling $5.6 billion into fossil fuel projects since December 2015, Market Forces has said. The financial activism and divestment group says its latest analysis, Fueling the Fire 2016, shows that the banks have “made a mockery” of their commitments to keep global warming below 2°C.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Italy passes sweeping legislation to tackle food waste mountain
Italy has this week passed a wide-ranging new law designed to make it easier for shops and restaurants around the country to give away unwanted food. Facing a food waste mountain which is thought to cost businesses and households more than €12bn every year, Italy’s lawmakers on Tuesday hit back with a law to provide tax incentives for companies to cut down on food waste, and sweep away regulatory hurdles that block the distribution of waste food to charities and those in need.

Marae waste initiative wins international award
NEW ZEALAND – A zero waste programme designed specifically for marae and Māori organisations has been given an international environmental award. Para Kore received the Energy Global award for New Zealand on Tuesday night for its marae-based programme that cuts waste going to the tip by up to 85 percent. Its general manager Jacqui Forbes said they helped marae set up recycling and composting systems, and the programme was established after they saw the amount of rubbish being collected at a Koroneihana.

Politics and Society

What teaching kids about energy efficiency can teach us
According to a past Green Living Pulse study (now part of our annual Eco Pulse study), just over one-third of Americans have been encouraged successfully by someone else to become more environmentally friendly or adopt a new sustainable habit. And the strongest social influence on sustainable behavior we found was “encouragement from children/grandchildren” (32 percent). In fact, kids had a stronger impact on respondents than “seeing others they admire making changes” or “getting encouragement from friends.”

Surviving on wild seeds after failed harvests in Chad – in pictures
In drought-prone Chad, 4.3 million people – more than a third of the population – are food insecure, and 176,000 children have severe acute malnutrition, after erratic rains led to ruined crops.

Drought in the Sahel region of Africa has brought hunger to millions of people for the third time in seven years. In Chad, Abdoulaye Katir searches for clean water on a river bed near Hillé Bar village, Dabkere, near Oum Hadjer. The village’s crops are ruined and the community faces hunger.

Drought in the Sahel region of Africa has brought hunger to millions of people for the third time in seven years. In Chad, Abdoulaye Katir searches for clean water on a river bed near Hillé Bar village, Dabkere, near Oum Hadjer. The village’s crops are ruined and the community faces hunger.

Watch Villagers Save Drowning Leopard in Dramatic Rescue
After a big team effort, animal rescue experts and villagers saved a leopard from drowning in a large open well in India. The rescue took place Sunday in Pimpalgaon Siddhanath village, in the Junnar division of Maharashtra, in west-central India (the state is best known for the city Mumbai). That morning, a resident heard the distressed cries of an animal bellowing from the bottom of a 60-foot (18-meters) well.

Why are so many Indigenous kids in detention in the NT in the first place?
AUSTRALIA – The terms of reference for the royal commission into the Northern Territory’s youth detention regime are notably silent on the over-representation of Indigenous children in these systems… Across Australia, Indigenous children constitute at least 54% of children in juvenile detention centres. Indigenous children are 26 times more likely than non-Indigenous children to be in detention. A royal commission set up to examine this system must interrogate the failures of an interventionist law-and-order approach for Indigenous children and their families, and identify pathways for taking Indigenous children out of jail and returning them to their families.

Child scientists help north Queensland council monitor the environment
AUSTRALIA – Townsville City Council is using environmental data collected by primary school students to inform its development planning. Seventy-five students created electronic sensors to monitor the city’s priority development area along Ross Creek, measuring things like light, temperature, humidity and water quality around the mangroves.

FactCheck Q&A: as the climate changes, are 750 million refugees predicted to move away from flooding?
AUSTRALIA – Ethicist Peter Singer told Q&A that climate change-related sea level rises are “estimated to cause something like 750 million refugees just moving away from that flooding”. It is beyond the scope of a FactCheck to say with any certainty what will happen in the future.. That said, we can check how Singer’s figure of 750 million fits within the range of estimates that exist on this question.

Built Environment

Electric vehicle charge points to outnumber petrol stations by 2020, say Nissan
Public electric vehicle (EV) charge points will outnumber petrol stations in the UK by the end of the decade, marking a potential tipping point in the adoption of zero emission vehicles. That is the conclusion of a new analysis by auto giant and EV manufacturer Nissan, which argues that based on current trends EV charge points will overtake traditional petrol stations by August 2020.

China reveals futuristic “straddling bus”
A Chinese public transport project to reduce urban congestion and air pollution ran its inaugural test in Hebei province this week. The 2m-high Transit Elevated Bus (TEB) runs on electricity and simply straddles the cars below, allowing them to pass underneath uninterrupted.

Vancouver’s segue from sustainability to resilience
Vancouver has a rich history of homegrown environmental activism: In 1971, Greenpeace was founded there after a small group of activists set sail to the Amchitka island off Alaska to try to stop a U.S. nuclear weapons test. And in 1990, Vancouver became the first city in North America to attempt to address climate change when it published its “Clouds of Change” (PDF) report — with an aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through density and better development.

Council reneges on deal to protect trees
NEW ZEALAND – Christchurch City Council is being accused of shameful behaviour in going back on an agreement to protect the city’s notable trees. In February, it signed an agreement with heritage advocates to save more than 800 trees that faced losing their protected status because of changes to planning rules. It has now cancelled that agreement.

Food Systems

Quinoa isn’t a threat to food security. It’s improving Peruvian farmers’ lives
Trade in quinoa, the traditional Andean cereal loved by ethical foodies, has been accused of driving poverty in the region. In 2013, a Guardian article argued that rising prices, driven by western demand for the “super grain”, meant poor people in the region could no longer afford to buy quinoa and that trade was “driving poverty” and putting food security at risk.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.