Sustainable Development News

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

Europe unlikely to meet 2050 climate goal, study finds
The European Union will fail to meet an ambitious goal of significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 unless it takes more aggressive measures to limit the use of fossil fuels and adopts new environmental policies, according to a new report. Although European countries are on track to meet, and even surpass, the goal of reducing 1990-level greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, existing policies are not robust enough to ensure that the 2050 targets are met, the European Environment Agency report said. Those targets, scientists have said, are critical to forestalling the most catastrophic effects of climate change, which are linked to carbon emissions caused by human activity.

MPs slam ‘capacity market’ scheme for raising energy costs
A government scheme to keep the lights on could lead to unnecessarily high energy costs because it favours fossil fuel plants over smart technology which cuts demand, MPs have said. The “capacity market”, which aims to ensure there is enough power generation in the system to meet peak demand, could also result in higher carbon emissions because it is skewed towards paying coal fired power plants over reducing electricity demand. The market provides payments for power plants that would otherwise be closed or mothballed to stay online, as well as for new generating capacity and “demand-side response” schemes that cut demand when supplies are tight.

See also: BBC News – Power plants paid to stay idle, MPs say

Cheap Oil Won’t Stop Gulf of Mexico’s Resurgence
Neither low oil prices nor the worst oil spill in U.S. history seem likely to stop oil production from rising in the Gulf of Mexico. That finding comes from data unveiled Tuesday by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, which expects the area’s production will increase to 1.5 million barrels per day this year and 1.6 million next year. The EIA attributes the increase to the long timelines associated with Gulf projects, some of which were launched last year and others are expansions of older fields. It says four companies—Stone Energy, Chevron, Murphy Oil and Hess—began five deepwater projects in the last three months of 2014.

UPS Routing System to Save 10M Gallons of Fuel Annually
UPS says that it expects its On-Road Integrated Optimization Navigation (ORION) routing system to reduce by 100 million miles annually the distance driven by its drivers, when fully implemented in 2016. The company is accelerating its implementation to complete all planned US routes in 2016. The deployment will result in a 100,000 metric ton reduction in CO2 emissions. The company expects additional benefits including annual savings of 10 million gallons of fuel and more than $300 million when its ORION system completes US implementation.

Environment and Biodiversity

New threats to wild bees identified
Wild bumblebees are infected with many of the diseases found in honeybees looked after by bee keepers, according to a national survey. With wild bees already under threat from habitat loss and pesticides, diseases could have a profound impact on populations, say scientists. In Britain, bumblebee species are declining, and two have become extinct. Conservation groups are calling for tougher regulations on importing bees for commercial use. Researchers at Royal Holloway, University of London, collected hundreds of free flying honeybees and wild bumblebees in 26 areas of England, Wales and Scotland.

Pictures: 8 Amazing Animals at Risk From Wildlife Crimes
Illegal wildlife trafficking is a multibillion-dollar-a-year business with ties to organized crime and terrorism. In an effort to combat this threat to wildlife, the United Nations General Assembly declared March 3 World Wildlife Day. This year’s observance highlights the need to “get serious about wildlife crime.” Countries such as the U.S. and the U.K. have taken steps to beef up laws combating illegal wildlife trafficking and expanding awareness of the issue. The Indonesian Council of Ulama, the country’s top Muslim clerical body, even declared a fatwa against wildlife trafficking last March. But the appetite for products or “cures” made from elephant tusks, rhino horns, or bear bile keeps rising, leaving Earth’s wildlife to bear the brunt of our demands.

Prince William in China: illegal wildlife trade a ‘vicious form of criminality’
Speaking at the Xishuangbanna Elephant Sanctuary in Yunnan Province, Prince William said: “it is appalling that elephants – and many others – may be extinct in the wild in our lifetimes”. The prince has been campaigning to save endangered animals for several years and in December he mentioned in a speech how in China the wholesale price of ivory had increased from $5 (£3) to $2,100 per kilogram in 25 years and poaching has increased as a result.Today he praised China for its “contribution to the protection of wildlife in Africa” but he said that there is much more to be done including reducing the demand for products made from endangered animals. “Demand provides traffickers with their incentive. It fuels their greed, and generates their vast profits,” he said.

Economy and Business

The economic system is a permeable membrane we can pierce at any moment
We can talk endlessly about the grip the globalised economic system has over us, but it is a myth that we are facing an impregnable monolithic structure we are powerless to change. The system has been built around the ideas and thoughts of a few powerful individuals that have, over time, been systemised into rules and institutions that hold it together. But once enough people in positions of influence start to change their minds, or when the public mood significantly changes, systems that look solid are always shown to be built on shifting sands.

Australian cleantech stocks fall behind ASX200, stay ahead of Small Ords
The Australian CleanTech Index gained 7.8 per cent in February 2015 and again outperformed the Small Ordinaries Index, rising from 43.66 to 47.07 over the month. This compared to the S&P ASX200 gain of 8.3 per cent and the S&P ASX Small Ordinaries Index gain of 6.3 per cent. The quarterly and 12 month performances of the Index remain ahead of both benchmarks with 13.5 per cent and 22.6 per cent gains respectively.

Triodos drives up profits as lending to sustainable businesses grows
Ethical bank Triodos saw profits soar 17 per cent over 2014, after adding almost 60,000 new customers and increasing lending to sustainable businesses. The bank, which has branches in the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Germany and an agency in France, posted net profits of €30.1m in results published yesterday, up from €25.7m last year, which in turn marked 14 per cent growth on 2012. Lending to sustainable businesses, projects and mortgages increased 12 per cent, while customer numbers grew 13 per cent to 530,000.

Ford Announces E-Bikes for Urban Commutes
The 2015 Mobile World Congress, which kicked off yesterday, has already dropped a few bombshells. The impending breakup of Google+, Ikea’s new wireless charging lamp displays and the (presumably) must-have facial recognition-blocking glasses from AVG are all the talk at the moment. Oh, and let’s not forget Twitter’s tiff with ISIS, which has threatened Twitter’s employees for blocking its account. But few gizmos seem as user-friendly as Ford‘s two e-bike prototypes, which are designed to almost read the minds of their riders. After years of testing, Ford on Monday unveiled the MoDe:Me and the MoDe:Pro, both of which are designed to work with the Apple iPhone6. The Me version is designed for the bike commuter, while the Pro is for couriers and others who use their bikes for work and need carrying capacity.

Waste and the Circular Economy

The natural refrigerant set to reduce supermarket energy use
Could the sugar you have in your morning coffee help prevent global warming? Sainsbury’s thinks the answer is yes and is putting the question to the test in its Portishead store in Somerset, where it is using a refrigerant derived from waste sugar beet in its fridges and freezers. Not only does the CO2-based refrigerant, called eCO2, have a global warming potential of one – 3,922 times less than R404A, the refrigerant most commonly used by supermarkets – it is also derived from a more sustainable source than other CO2-based refrigerants, which are often derived from hydrocarbons or ammonia.

Green burials growing in popularity as Australian filmmaker sheds light on eco-cemeteries
The number of green burial sites across Australia and the world are growing in both number and size, as environmental advocates push to reduce humanity’s carbon footprint. Filmmaker Amy Browne explored the concept of green burials in her documentary A Will For The Woods which goes to air in Australia this week. Ms Browne said more people were seeking to have a green burial and made this choice because of the reduced impact on the environment as well as the emotional and spiritual connection it offered.

New Partnership Promises Biodegradable Microbeads
…microbeads, often less than 1 millimeter in size, were not necessarily filtered out by wastewater facilities. Instead, they ended up in streams, rivers, lakes and oceans. Along the way, they have a knack for picking up pesticides and other toxins, and then becoming eaten by small creatures. If those tiny creatures did not starve to death because their digestive systems were clogged with plastic, then they were eaten by bigger creatures, then even larger creatures and then, eventually, humans, who thought they only ordered fish for dinner but had a good chance of also ingesting a small dose of microbeads… But a partnership between the bioplastics firm Metabolix and Honeywell, announced yesterday, could find a solution to the pesky microbead dilemma that in turn could benefit consumers, companies and the environment.

Politics and Society

Press Release – Environment report shows benefits of EU action
A new report published today shows that a coordinated EU environment policy has delivered substantial benefits for citizens over the past five years. Europeans enjoy cleaner air and water, send less waste to landfill and recycle more; while environmental policies drive jobs and growth. But the report warns that Europe’s long-term goal of “living well, within the limits of our planet” – the aim of the General Union Environment Action Programme (7th EAP)– cannot be achieved with the current level of ambition of environment and related policies.

Download the full report here: The European Environment — State and Outlook 2015 Report (SOER 2015)

George Marshall and six ways to stop climate inertia
On the basis of his very serious contention that “life is a focus group”, full of continuous conversation about what matters and what doesn’t, George Marshall’s talk in Sydney last week commenced with a video of a series of vox pops he undertook in the streets of Dublin in response to the question: what do you know about climate change? “The end of the world,” said one, all serious, who then gave a short laugh. What is going on here? Why are our responses so often not commensurate with the threat? Such questions have been fascinating George Marshall, a climate change activist who is trying to redesign the ways in which we communicate about climate change – to lift the climate change conversation to a level where we might actually and consciously do something about it.

Three Megatrends That Suggest the ‘Time is Now’ for Clean Tech – Jeremy Leggett (New Book)
For the last 25 years, I have fought hard against defenders of finite carbon fuels, careless of the impact they have on our world by clinging to coal, oil and gas. And I have lost battle after battle against the dark side. But in 2013, something changed and the tide began to turn. Now, as we build up to the Paris climate talks in December, an event described by many observers as something of a ‘last chance saloon,’ I’m genuinely hopeful the light side can win the war. The world has witnessed an extraordinary series of events that have combined to develop a ‘tipping point’ in the decline of fossil fuel industries, driven by three emerging mega-trends.

Food Systems

The Pacific islands ‘tuna cartel’ is boosting jobs by watching fish
I met Ali on a flight from Fiji to Funafuti, an atoll in the tiny Pacific island nation of Tuvalu. He was on his way home from Korea, having completed four months as a fisheries observer on a Korean tuna fishing vessel. Sitting across from Ali was another observer, also on his way home. He had been away for longer still (five months), aboard a Spanish vessel staffed by Ecuadorian crew, and was flying back from Kirimati island, part of another tiny Pacific nation, Kiribati. Ali is one of 50 Tuvaluan fisheries observers whose job it is to monitor the activities of fishing vessels from distant nations such as China, Japan, Korea, the United States, Taiwan, and the European Union.

Against the Tide
Illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing takes millions of tons of fish from the ocean each year, harming the environment—and the livelihoods of legitimate fishermen around the world – Just after dawn in the busy fishing village of Elmina, Ghana, andresidents are gathering on a bridge overlooking the town’s harbor to issue their daily fishing report. As the sun rises over low-slung roofs, the boats begin streaming in—burly, colorful canoes up to 140 feet long, each hull carved from a single tree. Locals clap as each catch-laden canoe passes below the bridge. The bigger the haul, the louder the applause.


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