Thursday 05 November 2015
Sustainable Development News
Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Five of the most common questions about climate change
A CSIRO report this week revealed the close link between an Australian’s political ties and their understanding of climate change. It found that barely one in four Coalition voters accepts climate change is mostly caused by humans, while 59 per cent of Labor voters and more than three-quarters of Greens voters said humans were mostly to blame for the warming planet. The report canvassed five surveys of Australian attitudes between 2010 and 2014 and the diverse results could point to one question: If we are still so divided in our thinking, what do Australians still not know about climate change?
Energy and Climate Change
US ‘playing catch-up to China’ in clean energy efforts, UN climate chief says
China is now leading the world when it comes to fighting climate change – handily beating the US’s efforts under Barack Obama to move to a clean energy economy, the United Nations climate chief said on Tuesday. In a swipe at the US president, who has embraced the fight against climate change as his legacy, Christiana Figueres, the UN’s leading climate official, said that when it came to getting off fossil fuels America was still relegated to an also-ran. “The United States is actually playing catch-up to China,” Figueres said.
China underreporting coal consumption by up to 17%, data suggests
China, the world’s largest carbon emitter, has been dramatically underreporting the amount of coal it consumes each year, it has been claimed ahead of key climate talks in Paris. Official Chinese data, reported by the New York Times on Wednesday after being quietly released earlier this year, suggests China has been burning up to 17% more coal each year than previously disclosed by the government. The revelation – which may mean China has emitted close to a billion additional tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year – could complicate the fight against global warming ahead of the United Nations climate change conference in Paris, which begins on 30 November.
End to onshore wind subsidy could cost customers £500m
Government plans to block the development of new wind farms could derail attempts to lower household bills and reduce UK greenhouse gas emissions, according to new analysis released today by the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB). The new report claims excluding onshore wind – the cheapest renewable technology in the UK – from upcoming Contract for Difference (CfD) auctions and future renewable subsidies could result in more expensive renewable technologies receiving higher subsidies instead, adding £500m to electricity bills over the next 15 years
Environment and Biodiversity
UK government axes plans for fracking in protected nature sites
The government has backed down on its plan to allow fracking in some of England’s most important nature sites. The controversial technique for extracting shale gas will not be allowed in Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) after all, ministers said on Wednesday, after previously opening the door to fracking in such sites in July. However, campaigners said the double U-turn – the government had initially promised in January to ban fracking in SSSIs – would not provide enough protection for the sites.
Monogamous lizards under attack as urban sprawl forces them out
As the urban sprawl continues across the south-west of Western Australia, one of the region’s original inhabitants is having a tough time adapting to change. Wildlife rehabilitators are being called out to attend to a high number of bobtails that have been forced into new territory by housing estates and subdivisions. The nimble-footed but otherwise harmless reptiles join kangaroos and native bird species in danger, but it is the bobtails that have Jess Berry, of Caring for Reptiles South West, most worried.
Economy and Business
Apple, Google, Microsoft among companies with biggest climate change credentials
Apple, Microsoft and Google’s parent Alphabet are among the companies doing the most to fight climate change, according to a global ranking that grades corporations according to their environmental credentials. The three US tech giants, worth a combined $US1.6 trillion ($2.2 trillion), are among the 113 corporations awarded an ‘A’ grade for their efforts to reduce heat-trapping emissions, according to the report Wednesday from the UK nonprofit CDP. That list was whittled down from a larger pool of 1997 companies around the world that submitted data to the group formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project.
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Businesses’ commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions has reached a tipping point, claims a new report, despite a rise in emissions over the past five years and a lack of transparency by some high-profile brands. Just weeks ahead of a critical UN summit on tackling climate change in Paris, an analysis of data from 2,000 of the world’s largest listed companies has found a rise in action on climate change. It shows that 44% of the companies have set targets for reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, up from just 27% in 2010.
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The crisis at Volkswagen has deepened after the carmaker found “irregularities” in the carbon dioxide levels emitted by 800,000 of its cars. An internal investigation into the diesel emissions scandal has discovered that CO2 and fuel consumption were also “set too low during the CO2 certification process”, the company admitted on Tuesday night. The dramatic admission raises the prospect that VW not only cheated on diesel emissions tests but CO2 and fuel consumption too.
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Investment giant AXA has set a new goal to certify around two thirds of its property assets with sustainability labels, such as BREEAM, by 2030. Europe’s leading real estate portfolio and asset manager yesterday announced the goal, saying it would curb operating costs and improve the long-term value of assets. The Real Assets arm of AXA Investment Management said 21 per cent of its properties, including hotels, homes and offices, currently hold a sustainability label.
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Waste and the Circular Economy
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Ask people about environment and economy, and many feel the two are opposites. So compromise is necessary: ‘It’d be nice to have both, but…’ It’s no surprise. The last generation lived through times when the environmental movement pointed at the problem with a familiar graphic (but no solution): a set of scales – dollar signs on one side, planet on the other. It’s a simple belief that runs throughout our society and is even taught in schools to children, who grow up to pass on this narrative. There are a lot of issues with this.
Politics and Society
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The CSIRO has released the results of a five-year study it has conducted into Australians’ views on climate change, and the findings paint a worrying picture.… A huge 38.6 per cent of respondents said they believed climate change was happening, but was just part of natural fluctuations in the earth’s temperatures. And when you combine that number with those who don’t think it’s happening at all, and those who are undecided, you have a total of 54.2 per cent – more than half of those surveyed – who aren’t convinced by the science.
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Most Americans know the climate is changing, but they say they are just not that worried about it, according to a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. And that is keeping the American public from demanding and getting the changes that are necessary to prevent global warming from reaching a crisis, according to climate and social scientists.
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America has the highest rate of obesity in the world. A third of American adults are defined as obese (meaning they have a body mass index score of 30+). And three times as many children (17%) are obese as three decades ago… Obesity-related health care costs are $147 billion to $190 billion a year—costs that we all, one way or another, end up paying. In a new paper, Stanford legal professor Deborah Rhode weighs the costs and benefits of 10 anti-obesity policies, including bans on certain marketing to kids, increased public education, and litigation against food manufacturers. She concludes that “public education, or access to parks and quality PE programs” are the best approach, especially if they’ve paid for by taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages.
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The first mass production hydrogen cars, billed for more than a decade as a clean alternative to petrol and diesel vehicles but only glimpsed as concepts at automotive trade shows, have arrived on British roads. The most abundant element in the universe has added allure for carmakers in the wake of the Volkswagen pollution scandal and revelations about the gap between lab and real-world emissions tests.
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Vancouver’s Renewable City Strategy has been released. The city currently obtains 31% of its energy from clean energy sources. Though the Acting City Manager says he finds it “hard to imagine a city without fossil fuels,” he “enthusiastically supports” the plan for Vancouver to adopt 100% green energy by 2050.
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NEW ZEALAND – The Ministry for Primary Industries is warning consumers to take care when drinking raw unpasteurised milk, which is considered a high-risk food. The MPI has seen a number of recent cases of foodborne illnesses linked to raw milk and believes it is important for consumers to remember and understand the associated risks. MPI Animal & Animal Products director Matthew Stone explains raw milk has not been pasteurised to kill harmful bacteria like Campylobacter and Salmonella, that are potentially present in the milk.
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Demand for bush food in Western Australia is growing too big for the available supply. Bushfood Association of Western Australia chairman Keith Smith said in recent years the demand had boomed, largely due to the rise of cooking shows that encouraged people to explore alternative food options.
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