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Monday 05 November 2018

Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Today’s top story is about a new report launched last week examines Australia’s the energy transition – it’s happening, and it’s crazy not to plan for it; the Australian government needs to grow up and take responsibility for smoothing the path. Meanwhile, Adani is pushing ahead with plans for the Carmichael mine.

The extinction crisis is highlighted today with stories on the horseshoe crab and the orange-bellied parrot; China allows trade in tiger bones and rhino horn; countries are resorting to militarisation to protect fish stocks; a commentary from Jane Goodall; and a warning from the UN that we need an agreement to protect our natural resources. Other commentary highlights problems with economic inequality; how business is stepping in to create social good; the changing world order with the rise of Asian economies and an ice-free Arctic; and an argument on why the circular economy must be part of this new world order (basically because there’s not enough to go around vis a vis our extinction crisis).

Top Story

Instead of ‘fair dinkum’ power, how about some ‘fair dinkum’ action? | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – Seven years ago, Greg Combet, then a Labor minister, implemented a carbon price in a minority parliament, an experience so arduous it helped curtail his political career. Now, safely outside political life, he looks on with bemusement about where the climate and energy debate has washed up. On Tuesday, Combet launched a new report by the Industrial Relations Research Centre at the University of New South Wales investigating how countries such as Australia can achieve a fair transition for coal workers displaced as the economy decarbonises.

Climate Change

Weather: UK experiencing hotter days and ‘tropical nights’ – Met Office | BBC News
UK – The UK has experienced more weather extremes over the last 10 years when compared with previous decades, a Met Office report has said. The hottest days have become almost 1C hotter, warm spells have increased, while the coldest days are not as cold. The number of so-called tropical nights – when temperatures stay above 20C – is increasing. The Met Office says these changes are consistent with warming driven by human activities.

Where Americans (Mostly) Agree on Climate Change Policies, in Five Maps | The New York Times
USA – Americans are politically divided over climate change, but there’s broader consensus around some of the solutions. New data from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication – in partnership with Utah State University and the University of California, Santa Barbara – show how Americans across the country view climate and energy policies.

Environment and Biodiversity

Stop biodiversity loss or we could face our own extinction, warns UN | The Guardian
The world must thrash out a new deal for nature in the next two years or humanity could be the first species to document our own extinction, warns the United Nation’s biodiversity chief. Ahead of a key international conference to discuss the collapse of ecosystems, Cristiana Pașca Palmer said people in all countries need to put pressure on their governments to draw up ambitious global targets by 2020 to protect the insects, birds, plants and mammals that are vital for global food production, clean water and carbon sequestration.

‘The most intellectual creature to ever walk Earth is destroying its only home’ | Jane Goodall | The Guardian
During my years studying chimpanzees in Gombe national park in Tanzania I experienced the magic of the rainforest. I learned how all life is interconnected, how each species, no matter how insignificant it may seem, has a role to play in the rich tapestry of life – known today as biodiversity. Even the loss of one thread can have a ripple effect and result in major damage to the whole. I left Gombe in 1986 when I realised how fast chimpanzee habitat was being destroyed and how their numbers were declining.

Goodall studying chimpanzees in Tanzania. Over the last 100 years chimpanzee numbers have dropped from perhaps two million to a maximum of 340,000. Photograph: Michael Nichols/National Geographic/Getty Images

Goodall studying chimpanzees in Tanzania. Over the last 100 years chimpanzee numbers have dropped from perhaps two million to a maximum of 340,000. Photograph: Michael Nichols/National Geographic/Getty Images

This crab could save your life – if humans don’t wipe it out first | The Guardian
Few people in the world are aware their wellbeing may one day depend on a blue-blooded crab that looks like a cross between the facehugger from Alien and a gigantic louse. Fewer still realise this ancient creature now faces its greatest threat in more than 450m years. The American horseshoe crab outlived the dinosaurs and has survived four previous mass extinctions, but is now menaced by the pharmaceutical industry, fishing communities, habitat loss, climate change and, most recently, choking tides of red algae off the east coast of the United States.

Experts fear impact of China lifting trade ban on tiger and rhino parts | The Guardian
China’s decision to loosen a 25-year ban on the trade of tiger bones and rhino horn will put pressure on poor foreign nations as well as endangered global wildlife, according to experts on the illegal trade in animals. Government officials in Beijing say the introduction of quotas for these body parts to be used in traditional Chinese medicine will allow them to manage legal demand, but conservationists say the move will cause more conflict in African and Asian countries that are trying to limit the illegal suppl

‘Eagle Man’ teams with remote outback school’s two-way science program to boost attendance | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Most teenage love stories do not involve raptors, but that is how it happened for one man whose passion became his career. At age 15, Simon Cherriman fell in love watching a pair of eagles soaring above a treehouse he had just built… As well as collecting data for his PhD, he shares his knowledge with local students and Indigenous rangers. He has joined forces with the Wiluna Remote Community School and its two-way science program, which builds on the students’ Aboriginal cultural knowledge to teach the Australian Curriculum.

Photo: Mr Cherriman and student Nakisha Barnes examine bones found in an eagle's nest. (ABC Goldfields: Rhiannon Stevens)

Photo: Mr Cherriman and student Nakisha Barnes examine bones found in an eagle’s nest. (ABC Goldfields: Rhiannon Stevens)

Mating season looking positive for highly endangered orange-bellied parrot | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – The highly endangered orange-bellied parrot has started returning to Tasmania’s remote south-west to breed, and experts are hopeful the wild population could be significantly boosted this season.

‘Test tube trees’: An insurance policy against extinction? | BBC News
As a back-up in the event of doomsday scenarios such as war, seeds of crops and wild plants are being stored in bomb-proof, flood-proof, radiation-proof vaults. The goal is to store at least 75% of threatened plant species by 2020. But new predictions suggest this is unlikely to be achieved, because many seeds cannot be stored using conventional means. According to models published in the journal Nature Plants, 36% of critically endangered plant species, 33% of all trees and about 10% of medicinal plants fall into this category.

Related: Seed banking no lifeline for kauri | Newsroom

Economy and Business

Joseph Stiglitz: ‘America should be a warning to other countries’ | The Guardian
It was a stark message from a Nobel-prize winning economist. “We were a very different country 40 years ago,” he said. “The downhill slide has been pretty fast. America, I think, should be an important warning to other countries not to take for granted their institutions. I worry that things in the United States could get much worse.” Joseph Stiglitz is coming to Australia next week. The renowned economist and Columbia University professor has been awarded the 2018 Sydney peace prize for leading one of the defining public policy discussions of our age – the crisis caused by economic inequality.

While politicians get protectionist, more businesses are pushing moral agendas | The Conversation
Donald Trump’s delayed reaction to the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi shows how the US president’s “America First” campaign is shifting the government’s role towards a more pragmatic, rather than moralistic, approach to global affairs. By contrast, some major investors and businesses are filling the gap by taking over the role of moral compass. Many, for example, withdrew from Saudi Arabia’s recent investment conference in protest.

The collision of these 3 geographies is creating a new world order | World Economic Forum
For the past seven decades, the world has been moulded by a strong, transatlantic relationship with the US and EU underwriting the terms of peace, stability and economic prosperity. The success of this order has created its own existential challenge. Its rising beneficiaries in Asia and elsewhere increasingly challenge the validity of these arrangements and the efficacy of rules that have managed global affairs. While the historian John Ikenberry described the liberal world order as a “hub and spoke” model of governance, with the West at its centre, it is now clear that the peripheries of the system are developing wheels and engines of their own.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Europe’s Sustainable Competitive Advantage | World Resources Institute
Europe feels a long way away from the vibrant and teeming Yokohama waterfront on the edge of Tokyo Bay. Since the 1970s, the story of the world’s economy has been dominated by vibrant and dynamic East Asia, from Japan and South Korea through to the earth-shaking rise of China. Europe, by contrast, can seem far less vital, a land of fading glories and interesting ruins far from the action. But does this ignore Europe’s coming great competitive advantage as we begin to build a post-carbon economy? This was a question in the air in Yokohama at the World Circular Economy Forum, co-hosted by the Finnish Innovation Fund, Sitra.

4 ways that cities around the globe are going circular | GreenBiz (Book Excerpt)
Reusing food waste — turning it into fuel or fertilizer — is one way that cities are experimenting with “circularity,” replacing the modern city’s linear take-make-dispose model with an approach that changes what and how things are taken, made and used so that nothing needs to be disposed of. “We transform a big problem, waste, into a massive opportunity,” explains William McDonough. Circular systems build on cities’ traditional recycling and reuse systems, of course, but go further “upstream” to the development and use of products. They look at how products can be initially designed for durability, reuse and repair. Circularity “is designed to mimic the material and energy flows in mature ecosystems where resources are continuously appropriated, used, redistributed, and recycled for future use,” notes Jeremy Rifkin.

Politics and Society

David Attenborough: too much alarmism on environment a turn-off | The Guardian
Sir David Attenborough, the world’s most famous wildlife storyteller, believes repeated warnings about human destruction of the natural world can be a “turn-off” for viewers – a comment that is likely to reignite the debate about whether the veteran broadcaster’s primary duty is to entertain or educate.

Episode five of the new BBC series Dynasties looks at the fight for survival of a tiger. Photograph: Theo Webb/BBC NHU

Episode five of the new BBC series Dynasties looks at the fight for survival of a tiger. Photograph: Theo Webb/BBC NHU


Adani yet to sign royalties deal despite claiming to be close to financing mine | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – The Adani mining company has still not signed a royalties agreement with the Queensland government, despite its claims to be just weeks away from green-lighting the Carmichael mine. This week, Adani’s Australian mining head, Lucas Dow, gave a series of interviews claiming the company was close to financing a slimmed-down, $2bn integrated Carmichael mine, rail and port proposal.

Built Environment

Swiss researchers set out how to decarbonise cement | Climate Home News
Achieving carbon neutrality in the cement and concrete sector won’t be easy but it’s technologically feasible and can be achieved with adequate investments, according to researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) and the Ecole Polytechnique de Lausanne (EPFL). If applied across the entire construction value chain, more efficient production methods can put the sector on track with the Paris Agreement on climate change, which commits signatories to keep global warming “well below 2C” and aiming for 1.5C, the researchers say.

Food Systems

Wars over fish increasingly likely as countries use military force to protect ‘critical commodity’ | ABC News
Every fifth fish caught worldwide is done so illegally, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization says. Meanwhile, sea-bordering countries are using military force to protect what they see as critical national assets. With growing demand for the resource and scarcer quantities, the fight for fish is likely to intensify.

Photo: Smaller countries find it harder to enforce treaties and laws governing their fishing boundaries. (Getty: In Pictures Ltd)

Photo: Smaller countries find it harder to enforce treaties and laws governing their fishing boundaries. (Getty: In Pictures Ltd)