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 outlines the importance of a holistic approach to climate emissions with figures showing how much of an impact tropical forests have on emissions. More on deforestation, with scientists saying a halt to deforestation around the world would have a significant impact on emissions reduction, and Global Forest Watch finds that even Brazil’s protected areas are not safe. Elsewhere, two articles on how to love bacteria: how to look after your internal colony with a good diet and why we shouldn’t destroy external colonies with anti-bacterial products (which is not to say we shouldn’t be clean).

Top Story

By the Numbers: The Value of Tropical Forests in the Climate Change Equation | World Resources Institute
Protecting tropical forests is essential for achieving the climate goals of the Paris Agreement. Global Forest Watch Climate recently released estimated carbon dioxide emissions associated with the 2017 tropical tree cover loss data, and the numbers demonstrate more of what we already knew. If tropical tree cover loss continues at the current rate, it will be nearly impossible to keep warming below the pledged two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). [Included] are five numbers that demonstrate just how important tropical forests are in preventing further climate change, and how much more visibility they need on the global climate change mitigation agenda.

Climate Change

Coal binge puts Paris climate targets further out of reach, study finds | SMH
The capacity of the world’s coal-fired power stations would increase by a third if all 1380 plants planned or under development are built, making it tougher to meet Paris climate goals, a leading German non-profit group says… In a sign national promises to cut greenhouse gas emissions aren’t being matched by action, a net 92 gigawatts in new coal plant capacity has been added since the Paris climate accord was signed in 2015. That’s an increase equivalent to the combined fleets of Russia and Japan, or about four times Australia’s total.

Indigenous views crucial in climate change debate | RNZ News
PASIFIKA – Climate change experts and Pacific Islands leaders say indigenous views must be included when it comes to creating regional policies on the issue… Despite being on the frontline of climate change impacts, Pacific Islanders’ own views on the issue are often absent from the current policy-making process.

Ngadeli village in Temotu Province, Solomon Islands, is threatened by sea level rise. Photo: Britt Basel

Ngadeli village in Temotu Province, Solomon Islands, is threatened by sea level rise. Photo: Britt Basel

Environment and Biodiversity

Scientists say halting deforestation ‘just as urgent’ as reducing emissions | The Guardian
The role of forests in combating climate change risks being overlooked by the world’s governments, according to a group of scientists that has warned halting deforestation is “just as urgent” as eliminating the use of fossil fuels. Razing the world’s forests would release more than 3 trillion tons of carbon dioxide, more than the amount locked in identified global reserves of oil, coal and gas. By protecting and restoring forests, the world would achieve 18% of the emissions mitigation needed by 2030 to avoid runaway climate change, the group of 40 scientists, spanning five countries, said in a statement.
See also yesterday’s article: Great Barrier Reef: forest three times size of ACT cleared in past five years | The Guardian

Pasture expansion driving deforestation in Brazilian protected area | Mongabay
Climate scientists were wary when the Brazilian government announced in August that its 2020 goals for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions had already been met. Brazil has certainly reined in deforestation and associated climate-cooking emissions since the early 2000s, but scientists warned that, with large-scale deforestation on the rise in the country once again, it might be too early to declare those 2020 emissions reduction targets a foregone conclusion. Lending credence to those concerns, it appears even Brazil’s protected areas aren’t currently safe from forest destruction.

New CSIRO diet: love your guts for improved health | CSIRO
With a growing body of research linking gut health with conditions such as cancer, obesity, and auto-immune diseases, Australia’s national science agency has launched a new diet focused on improving gut health. Based on decades of research from CSIRO, the CSIRO Healthy Gut Diet includes a series of meal plans based on wholefoods with higher amounts of fibre, especially resistant starch, for improving gut health.

How capitalism ruined our relationship with bacteria | The Conversation
There are many rational reasons that motivate consumers to spend US$65 billion annually on household cleaning products. But non-rational mechanisms are nevertheless still at work in the cleaning products market, as in all others. Advertisements for domestic hygiene products usually follow the same simple yet powerful structure: the threat of bacterial contamination looms large, but anti-bacterial gels, soaps, fluids, powders or foams can offer protection against it. We are encouraged to think of bacteria as entities that threaten our secluded, sovereign cleanliness. This has led us to a limited, and dangerous relationship with bacteria.

Satellites could hold key to stopping water theft in Murray-Darling Basin | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Free satellite images beamed from the European Space Agency have been accessed by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) in a year-long trial to ensure water wasn’t stolen during environmental releases into the Northern Basin. The images were provided by Geoscience Australia to track water flows in the Barwon and Darling River systems during the major water release into northern rivers between April and June.

Macroinvertebrate health of New Zealand’s waterways ‘likely or very likely degrading’ at two out of five sites | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – A new indicator included in a national freshwater monitoring programme paints another sorry picture for the state of New Zealand’s waterways. Land, Air, Water Aotearoa (Lawa) has analysed and released 10-year trends for river macroinvertebrates for the first time, showing two out of five monitored sites were “likely or very likely degrading”. The dataset had close to one million data cases from sites monitored by New Zealand’s 16 regional and unitary councils and the Niwa National River Water Quality Network. Macroinvertebrates are small animals – including insects, worms, and snails – that live on or just below the stream-bed, and are an important food source for fish.

Economy and Business

Green Investment Group: Bank confirms £1.6bn of backing for green energy projects since privatisation | Business Green
The Green Investment Group (GIG) has invested or arranged more than £1.6bn of capital for green energy projects since the formerly-state owned bank was sold into private hands last year, according to the group’s first progress report published today. Originally set up by the UK government as the Green Investment Bank (GIB) in 2012, the institution was controversially sold for £2.3bn in August 2017 to Australian banking giant Macquarie.

Neoen launches €640m renewables IPO | Business Green
Neoen has emerged as a major player in the global renewables market, having seen its portfolio of projects installed and under construction projects in France and Australia [including the ‘big battery’ in SA] double over the past two years. As a result revenues grew 71 per cent in 2016, providing a further boost for a company that has remained profitable since 2011.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Most Australians believe household recycling sent to landfill, survey finds | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – Two-thirds of Australians believe their household recycling is sent to landfill and 72% said they would recycle more if they knew that their household waste was reliably recycled, a survey has found. But despite the desire for better recycling, the survey, released on Friday by the University of New South Wales, also found that only half of the respondents were prepared to pay more for better recycling services.

Politics and Society

‘This is a call to arms’ – the musicians making drama out of a crisis | The Guardian
UK – Brutal heatwaves and forest fires, species extinction and biodiversity loss, melting ice caps and rising sea levels. Every week it seems new and terrible environmental records are being set. Staving off the worst impacts of this reality is one of the defining challenges of our time. I have committed the last 15 years of my life to addressing this as part of the environmental movement. From policy meetings in 10 Downing Street and direct action, to closing coal-fired power stations, I have tried to drive change through any and all means. I also have a great love for traditional music and perform as one half of a folk duo with Sid Goldsmith. Until recently, my professional and musical life were unrelated.

‘The environmental movement needs songs that are rallying cries to help the cause’ ... Jimmy Aldridge and Sid Goldsmith. Photograph: Paul Blakemore

‘The environmental movement needs songs that are rallying cries to help the cause’ … Jimmy Aldridge and Sid Goldsmith. Photograph: Paul Blakemore


The bush powers the city as Sydney councils sign deal to buy solar energy from Moree | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – A coalition of 18 urban New South Wales councils has signed off on a renewable energy agreement to buy electricity from a solar farm around 600 kilometres away. The plan, in which energy from the Moree Solar Farm will power council buildings in Sydney, has been touted as the first of its kind in the state. The deal was coordinated by the Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils, which estimated the councils would have up to 35 per cent of their retail power supplied by the solar farm by July 2019.

Built Environment

On why Victoria is picking sustainability as a vote winner and why others should pay attention | The Fifth Estate
AUSTRALIA – While the federal government behaves like the perennial loser at the footy finals, cheering on the death throes of the fossil fuel industry with all its dying might – despite the electoral damage – other governments are not so silly. Sustainability Victoria is bracing for a busy 2019 with a raft of programs to manage on behalf of the state government. With a looming state election on 24 November, the Andrews government has made it abundantly clear it knows what side its electoral bread is buttered on: sustainability.

Building sea walls is a small bandaid on a gaping wound | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – The Kingscliff seawall, in the Tweed Shire in northern New South Wales, is an engineering marvel. It is 300 metres long and 6 metres deep, with a projected cost of between A$3 million and A$5 million. Its depth enables it to be covered in sand. When beach erosion occurs, the wall’s large concrete steps should, in theory, allow the public to carry on using and enjoying the waterfront. The main purpose of the wall is to protect a beachfront caravan park, the main street, and the beach itself, from coastal erosion. But while the seawall is innovative, it symbolises a major problem with how we approach coastal erosion and rising sea levels. Councils around Australia must choose between long-term adaption to a changing coastline, or fighting an expensive rearguard battle to protect mainly private property.

Memo to Carmakers: The Future Is Electric | World Resources Institute
USA – Electric car sales hit U.S. records this year, with almost 66,000 sold in July and August, more than double the number sold during the same period in 2017. One reason for the boom is the success of the Tesla Model 3, now the fifth best-selling U.S. passenger car. Globally, more than 4 million Electric Vehicles (EVs) are on the road with an additional one million anticipated by March. Strong growth in electric car sales appears poised to continue, with many new models able to go more than 200 miles on a charge expected to come on the market in the next few years.

Food Systems

Fish ethically and sustainably processed ‘from sea to serve’ | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – We’ve all heard of ‘paddock to plate’ when talking about serving farm fresh food, but how about ‘from sea to serve’? It’s all about dishing up wild, local, fresh seafood. When you eat the fish smoked and processed by Luke Truant and Lincoln Kirchner, they can tell customers where it was caught, how it was caught and the name of the individual who hauled it in.

Photo: Obtaining fish in an ethical way is a heartfelt project for fish smokers Lincoln Kirchner and Luke Truant. (ABC Wide Bay: Brad Marsellos)

Photo: Obtaining fish in an ethical way is a heartfelt project for fish smokers Lincoln Kirchner and Luke Truant. (ABC Wide Bay: Brad Marsellos)

‘Don’t call it a disaster’: how to change the conversation about drought | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – Central to the Australian meaning of drought is the idea of a rainfall deficiency, a term that suggests less than “normal”. But what is normal and how should it govern drought policy? In this part of our series The New Normal, we look at the history of drought policy and how the conversation is changing. Away from the glare of nightly television reports showing farmers feeding starving stock, there is a more complex conversation going on among landholders. It discards the idea that policy should be built on the notion of average rainfall, and instead accepts Australia has a drying climate where wet seasons are the exception rather than the rule.

Related: Rain brings respite to parts of NSW, but not enough to break the drought | The Guardian