Sustainable Development News

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Top Story

An economic system that supports people and planet is still possible
For 30 years the New Economics Foundation has been working with others to shift our economic system away from the current model – growth no matter the cost – to one where the primary goal is maximising human wellbeing, fairly, and without destroying the environment on which we all depend. We’ve had successes. We helped reform the EU Common Fisheries Policy for the better and created over 800 businesses in the most deprived parts of the UK. We coordinated the Jubilee 2000 debt coalition that lead to the cancellation of $100bn (£62.5bn) unpayable poor country debt. And we really thought our moment had come when we persuaded the UK government to start measuring human wellbeing. But when the financial crisis exposed plainer than ever the failings of today’s economic status quo, it wasn’t our vision that rose out of the ashes. In six short years the banks responsible have gone back to business as usual, while the dominant political narrative insists it is the public sector that should pay the price.

Energy and Climate Change

Unpacking the IPCC Fifth Assessment Synthesis Report
Climate Council of Australia – The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the most authoritative international body on climate science. The IPCC’s Assessment Reports provide a comprehensive summary of climate change, from the physical science to its impacts and how to tackle it. These reports inform our understanding of climate change and its implications for nations around the world, including Australia.  The IPCC’s latest report – the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) – is the most comprehensive assessment of climate change undertaken. Ever. It involved thousands of contributing experts, including over 800 Lead Authors from more than 80 countries. AR5 is made up of four parts, each considering different aspects of the climate change challenge. On 2 November 2014 the fourth and final instalment of AR5 was released. Here is our summary of the four reports.

How does the IPCC know climate change is happening?
Greenhouse gases absorb and re-emit some of the heat radiation given off by the Earth’s surface and warm the lower atmosphere. The most important greenhouse gas is water vapour, followed by carbon dioxide and methane, and without their warming presence in the atmosphere the Earth’s average surface temperature would be approximately -20°C. While many of these gases occur naturally in the atmosphere, humans are responsible for increasing their concentration through burning fossil fuels, deforestation and other land use changes. Although carbon dioxide is released naturally by volcanoes, ecosystems and some parts of the oceans, this release is more than compensated for through the carbon absorbed by plants and in other ocean regions, such as the North Atlantic. Had these natural carbon sinks not existed, CO2 would have built up twice as fast as it has done. Records of air bubbles in ancient ice show us that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are now at their highest concentrations for more than 800,000 years. The IPCC presents six main lines of evidence for climate change.

A record growth in electricity sector emissions
One hundred days on from the repeal of the carbon tax, we now have a new framework for emissions abatement (the Emissions Reduction Fund) and the odds are firming that we will smash previous records with an unprecedented rise in our electricity sector emissions, by around 9% this financial year. Across the National Electricity Market (NEM) we are tracking towards an extra 14 million tonnes CO2 for FY2014-15 compared to FY2013-14. If we get lower than average rain, electricity sector emissions might grow by a few more million tonnes and exceed 10% over the year.

Environment and Biodiversity

Plan bee: New measures to protect pollinators
The government has made an agreement with landowners including Network Rail and the Highways Agency to restore bee-friendly habitat throughout England.  It is part of a 10-year National Pollinator Strategy. But some conservation groups say the plan does not go far enough. It includes countryside stewardship schemes, worth a total of £900m, to provide financial incentives for farmers to plant pollinator-friendly crops and let meadows grow.

Economy and Business

Hyundai, Kia Pay Record $100M GHG Fine
Hyundai and Kia will pay a record $100 million penalty to resolve alleged Clean Air Act violations based on their sale of close to 1.2 million vehicles that will emit approximately 4.75 million metric tons of greenhouse gases in excess of what the automakers certified to EPA. In addition to the civil penalty — the largest in Clean Air Act history — the automakers will spend about $50 million on measures to prevent any future violations. Hyundai and Kia will also forfeit 4.75 million greenhouse gas emission credits that the companies previously claimed, which are estimated to be worth over $200 million.

Isuzu, Other Truck Manufacturers Call for Regulatory Cooperation · Environmental Management & Sustainable Development News
Isuzu and other global truck and engine manufacturers have called for regulatory harmonization and closer cooperation among European, North American, and Japanese regulators to improve energy efficiency and reduce fuel consumption associated with on-road freight transport. Meeting in Tokyo, the chief executives of more than 10 global truck and engine manufacturers discussed key issues facing their industry. It was the chief executives’ 12th meeting of this type. When asked, a spokesman refused to say what other companies attended the meeting. Susumu Hosoi, president of Isuzu and chair of the meeting, said that accelerating efforts aimed at harmonization of test procedures and standards are needed to further advance the global objective of greenhouse gas reductions.

#SB14London: Why Brands Should Be Talking Sustainability
What if 15 of the biggest Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) companies decided they really wanted to change the world? How would they go about communicating their sustainability commitments to the millions of consumers they need to persuade to live more sustainably? At present, even though FMCG companies are starting to understand the need to explain sustainability directly to consumers, they continue to put most of their communication efforts into their Sustainability and CSR corporate sites — an obvious destination for NGOs, shareholders and academics but not the first place the general public go to get information. So what’s the best way for them to affect consumer behaviour change? The obvious answer is through their brands — specifically utilizing the millions in marketing and advertising dollars that these companies already spend to persuade consumers to buy their products.

Mars tries to share benefits of business without parting with profits
Cocoa farmers in the Ivory Coast work on small holdings of as little as two hectares of land. Using traditional farming techniques, their tiny businesses trap them in a life of poverty, with most unable to earn enough to make a sustainable living for themselves and their families. Meanwhile, some of world’s wealthiest confectionery companies make huge profits on the back of insufficient wages. Mars is one such organisation. Tracking its supply chain back to 150,000 of these impoverished growers, it decided it had a responsibility to share the benefits of its global success with all those involved in the business. The company invested in new technology for the farmers which has revolutionised their way of life.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Walmart, CleanPath Bottle Cuts Packing Waste 90%
Walmart has partnered with sustainable packaging technology firm Replenish on CleanPath, a line of concentrate household cleaning and personal care items that the companies say reduce carbon emissions, plastic waste and prices. Replenish CEO Jason Foster came up with the now-patented Replenish Refill System when he realized that a large disposable bottle with cleaning solution was more than 90 percent water and less than 10 percent actual ingredients. He envisioned a sleek reusable bottle with an integrated measuring cup that attached to concentrate refill pod. Consumers flip the bottle upside down, squeeze concentrate from the refill pod into the measuring cup inside the bottle, then add water.

Climate politics

Direct Action could deliver a useful outcome: carbon trading
There’s little point in getting too excited just yet about the details of Direct Action and its merits (or otherwise) as compared with emissions trading.Why? Because all of the current debate about Australia’s response to climate change is focused on paths that are completely inadequate compared with the action that climate science tells us we must take. If we were really serious, we would no longer be trying to expand our fossil-fuel production.

Coal is the future, insists Tony Abbott as UN calls for action on climate change
The Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, has stood by his defence of coal, saying it is the foundation of Australia’s foreseeable future, just days after a United Nations climate report called for an urgent reduction in carbon emissions. “For the foreseeable future coal is the foundation of our prosperity. Coal is the foundation of the way we live because you can’t have a modern lifestyle without energy,” the prime minister said on Tuesday. “You can’t have a modern economy without energy and for now and for the foreseeable future, the foundation of Australia’s energy needs will be coal. The foundation of the world’s energy needs will be coal.”

Climate change hopes for G20 diminished
Climate change will remain all but absent from the G20 summit, with a related energy efficiency plan omitting mention of global warming as a motivation for curbing energy use, according to a draft.  Hopes had been raised when a paragraph on dealing with climate change was added to the draft communique being circulated among the world’s leading economies, who will all attend this month’s G20 summit in Brisbane. However, the latest details – a draft of the “energy efficiency” section of the talks in which climate change is to be relegated – have dashed hopes the issue will get much, if any, focus. The Energy Efficiency Action Plan does not make any mention of climate change, and instead stresses the role of efficiency in boosting energy security and improving “environmental outcomes”.

IPCC report on fossil fuels “too conservative”
A University of Newcastle sociologist has criticised the latest global report on the threat of climate change for not doing enough to highlight the problem. The United Nations’ (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the world must triple its use of renewable energy by 2050 and stop its use of fossil fuels by 2100, if dangerous climate change is to be avoided. Dr Terry Leahy said this level of urgency is not consistent with the targets. “We would be reducing emissions by between 50 and 80 per cent globally by 2050,” he said.

Other Politics and Society

Beijing attempts to cut air pollution for Apec summit
To Beijing’s 21 million residents, the city’s air pollution is a health hazard. To the city’s leaders, it’s an embarrassment. So as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit (Apec) begins this week in the city, authorities have been scrambling to keep the air clean, temporarily restricting the operation of cars, factories, construction sites — and even crematoriums. More than 20 world leaders, including Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin and Shinzo Abe of Japan, will attend the major international meeting to discuss regional trade and investment deals. Beijing officials will not stand to see them photographed in masks.

University researchers suggests levying farmers to clear invasive species planted for pasture
Should farmers pay a levy for controlling weeds originally introduced as pasture? That’s one suggestion made by scientists from the Australian National University in paper released today.  Co-author Don Driscoll said agri-businesses and farmers aren’t considering the true cost of plants like phalaris, buffel grass, gamba grass or African lovegrass. “The industry that generates them are not accountable for the environmental impacts that their products cause.” Mr Driscoll says the invasive weeds not only take over ecosystems but also pose serious fire risk, meaning groups like Landcare end up spending enormous amounts battling to control their spread.

Help! I need eco-friendly party favors — on a budget
By Ask Umbra: A reader wonders if there’s a better alternative than the dreaded, plastic-filled goodie bags. Umbra reaches into her huge bag of tricks.

Built Environment

Autodesk Tools Help Cost-Justify Sustainability Strategies (Video)
Autodesk’s energy analysis tools — featured at Greenbuild 2014 — have tighter integration between Building Performance Analysis (BPA) and Building Information Modeling (BIM) workflows and financial calculators integrated within design environment to help cost-justify sustainability strategies.

Food Systems

App Lets You Peek Inside 80,000 Foods At Your Grocery Store
Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. The package contains just a few ingredients. Milled corn. Sugar. Malt flavor. Salt. And BHT “for freshness.” Seems innocuous enough. But is it? Entering the product into Food Scores, a new iPhone and web app by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG), only rates Kellogg’s Corn Flakes as a 5 on a scale of 10 (10 being the worst). I see this in a dashboard of meters that break down food into three parts: nutrition (the standard calories, fat, and protein stuff); ingredients (including undisclosed pesticides, contaminants, or antibiotics); and processing (how far has that product come from its source whole foods).

Want to feed the world? Tackle pollution from ozone and soot
Researchers have long known that man-made climate change will harm yields of important crops, possibly causing problems for the world’s food security. But new research shows air pollution doesn’t just harm crops indirectly through climate change; it seems to harm them directly. Pollution from soot and ozone has caused a major decrease of crop yields in India, with some densely populated states experiencing 50% relative yield losses. To ensure the world has enough food, we need to look directly at air pollution.




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