Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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In today’s top story, researchers say that we need to be strategic about the areas we decide to protect in order to protect biodiversity (they talk about ‘key species’). In other environment news, an expert gives his ten favourite facts about bees that might make you more appreciative of the unpaid work that goes into producing your honey; coral reefs are moving south on the east coast of Australia, and quickly; and the UN has plans to protect large areas of the high seas, which are outside any one country’s control. In societal news, an opinion piece says everyone is a potential leader because you influence those around you and create change through collective action; and a report on Australia’s progress towards the SDGs.

Top Story

Will protecting half the Earth save biodiversity? Depends which half | Mongabay
Adding large swaths of “wild areas” to the current network of protected areas in order to protect half of the Earth doesn’t mean more species will be protected, or that a larger portion of species’ ranges will be covered, a new study has found. Researchers say it’s important to not be seduced by the idea of protecting areas simply because they’re big and politically easier to protect, but instead to prioritize areas because they’re special and/or have key species in them. The study also revealed a surprising trend: existing protected areas around the world are good at covering at least some of the range of most of the world’s birds, mammals and amphibians.

The glittering starfrontlet, a species of hummingbird. The bird has a global range of only 25 square kilometers (10 square miles) in the Western Andes of Colombia, but over half of that is protected, including by a private nature reserve at La Mesenia. Image by Luis Mazariegos.

The glittering starfrontlet, a species of hummingbird. The bird has a global range of only 25 square kilometers (10 square miles) in the Western Andes of Colombia, but over half of that is protected, including by a private nature reserve at La Mesenia. Image by Luis Mazariegos.

Climate Change

Farm vs town in climate debate | Newsroom
NEW ZEALAND – Farmers look set to be given a reprieve, as the second of two reports shoots down the call for New Zealand to reduce its methane emissions to zero. A report from the Productivity Commission released on Tuesday recommends placing methane within a dual cap emissions trading scheme or an alternative methane quota system to “incentivise reductions of biogenic methane” in recognition of its nature as a short-lived greenhouse gas.

Related: Editorial: Time for politicians to step up on climate change |

Heatwave: 2018 was the joint hottest summer for UK | BBC News
UK – 2018 was the joint hottest summer on record for the UK as a whole, and the hottest ever for England, the Met Office has announced. It said highs for summer 2018 were tied with those of 1976, 2003 and 2006 for being the highest since records began in 1910. England’s average temperatures narrowly beat those seen in 1976, they added.

Environment and Biodiversity

UN treaty would protect high seas from over exploitation | BBC News
The first significant steps towards legally protecting the high seas are to take place at the UN in New York. These waters, defined as the open ocean far from coastlines, are threatened by deep-sea mining, over-fishing and the patenting of marine genetic resources. Over the next two years, government representatives aim to hammer out a binding agreement to protect them against over-exploitation.

Monitoring the ambitious land restoration commitments in Africa | Mongabay
Burkina Faso and Tanzania announced at the just-concluded 2018 Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) Africa Conference that they are committed to restoring 5 million and 5.2 million hectares of their degraded forest landscapes, respectively, by 2030. The pledges are those countries’ intended contributions to the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100), the ambitious land restoration goal that seeks to restore some 100 million hectares (247 million acres) of degraded land by 2030. Making pledges is one thing, however, while monitoring and tracking progress in actually achieving these restoration goals is another.

10 crazy things you didn’t know about our bees | NZ Herald
Think you work hard? Inside a beehive, only seniors get to rest, and about 1000 bees can die each day just from exhaustion. It’s Bee Aware Month – a campaign dedicated to the industrious insects and the irreplaceable role they play in our orchards, crops and natural ecosystems. Auckland bee expert Steve Leslie, who will be giving free talks at Kings Plant Barn garden centres throughout September, shares his 10 favourite facts about them.

Related: Beekeepers’ sweet gift to remote Laverton and its gardeners proves everything is going to bee okay | ABC News

Each worker, or female, bee produces around one 12th of a teaspoon of honey in her life. Photo / File

Each worker, or female, bee produces around one 12th of a teaspoon of honey in her life. Photo / File

Sydney’s marine life turning troppo as coral, other species head south | SMH
AUSTRALIA – Tropical corals have been identified off Sydney’s northern beaches and are “absolutely proliferating”, providing habitat for a range of other species typically found much further north, according to the diver who found them. Josh Sear, an underwater naturalist and photographer, has watched branching corals – whose scientific name is Pocillopora aliciae – gain purchase on large sandstone boulders in the Cabbage Tree Bay area near Manly in the past couple of years.

Newcomers: A headband damselfish swims amid a hard coral species now found off waters near Sydney. Photo: John Sear

Newcomers: A headband damselfish swims amid a hard coral species now found off waters near Sydney. Photo: John Sear

Shark cage diving an offence under the Wildlife Act. Here’s why |
NEW ZEALAND – The Court of Appeal has ruled shark cage diving is an offence under the Wildlife Act, a move being welcomed by paua divers. Shark diving began near Stewart Island in late 2007 in waters where great white sharks are common due to the large number of fur seal colonies. As it became more popular, it caused issues.

Related: Court ruling sinks teeth into shark cage diving | RNZ News

An industry group of Paua divers say the shark cage diving companies are "disturbing" the sharks. Photo: 123rf

An industry group of Paua [Abalaone] divers say the shark cage diving companies are “disturbing” the sharks. Photo: 123rf

Eight bird species are first confirmed avian extinctions this decade | The Guardian
Spix’s macaw, a brilliant blue species of Brazilian parrot that starred in the children’s animation Rio, has become extinct this century, according to a new assessment of endangered birds. The macaw is one of eight species, including the poo-uli, the Pernambuco pygmy-owl and the cryptic treehunter, that can be added to the growing list of confirmed or highly likely extinctions, according to a new statistical analysis by BirdLife International.

Nearly 90 elephants found dead near wildlife park in Botswana, conservationists say | ABC News
BOTSWANA – The carcasses of nearly 90 recently killed elephants have been found near a famous wildlife sanctuary in Botswana, conservationists say. An aerial survey located 87 elephants, many with their tusks removed, that were killed within the past three months. Five white rhinos were also poached in three months, the scientists who conducted the survey said. It is thought that poaching in neighbouring counties may have pushed the elephants across the border into Botswana, where those pursuing ivory appear to have followed.

Japan killed 50 whales in Antarctic protected area, data shows | The Guardian
Japanese whalers have killed more than 50 minke whales in an Antarctic marine protection area this year, WWF has revealed. The disclosure comes on the opening day of the International Whaling Commission’s annual meeting in Brazil, which Japan is chairing as it seeks to restart commercial whaling.

Economy and Business

Why Australia should invest in paying early childhood educators a liveable wage | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – Today, across the nation, educators who work in long day care centres are walking off the job for the fourth time in 18 months. In February this year, an attempt to bring a pay equity case through the Fair Work Commission was dismissed. Early childhood educators are seeking improved wages and recognition of the value of their work in early childhood education and care. Without a liveable wage many of these educators will be compelled to walk out the door of these centres – not just today, but forever. This comes at a high cost to Australia’s aspiration for world-class, high quality education for its youngest children.

Supermarket sales of organic food and drink continue to rise | The Guardian
UK – Supermarket sales of organic food and drink in the UK have risen by 4% this year, new figures reveal, marking seven consecutive years of growth. Despite an exceptionally cold winter and a hot, dry summer which have played havoc with crops, organic fresh produce and dairy sales remain the main drivers fuelling growth of the overall market, now worth a record £2.2bn.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Real Madrid’s third kit made by Adidas from recycled plastic | Climate Action Programme
Adidas and Parley for the Oceans have collaborated on the football team’s third kit. The kits, made from recycled ocean plastic, are being sold for £64.95 at the official Real Madrid Store and will be worn during the 2018/19 season. The coral colour of the strip is designed to reflect the various shades of coral to highlight the importance of protecting our oceans.

Reducing food waste can protect our health, as well as our planet’s | The Conversation
Globally, one-third of food produced for human consumption is wasted. Food waste costs Australia A$20 billion each year and is damaging our planet’s resources by contributing to climate change and inefficient land, fertiliser and freshwater use. And it’s estimated if no further action is taken to slow rising obesity rates, it will cost Australia A$87.7 billion over the next ten years. Preventable chronic diseases are Australia’s leading cause of ill health, and conditions such as coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, some forms of cancer and type 2 diabetes are linked to obesity and unhealthy diets. But we can tackle these two major issues of obesity and food waste together.

Processed foods promote over-consumption and leave packaging behind. from

Processed foods promote over-consumption and leave packaging behind. from

Why doesn’t Victoria have a container deposit scheme? | SMH
AUSTRALIA – In 1975, South Australia passed legislation – based on the world’s first “bottle bill” in Oregon in the USA – in a bid to curb littering. Under the scheme, which was been declared a heritage icon by the National Trust of South Australia, consumers received five cents for each drink container they returned. (The refund increased to 10 cents in 2008.) Fast forward 40 years and South Australia has one of the highest recycling rates in the country, with an overall return rate of 79.9 percent in 2016/17.

Politics and Society

Leadership & Sustainability: A match made on earth | Sustainable Business Network
Leo Tolstoy wrote, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” Leadership is exactly that: a journey into changing yourself. It doesn’t have a curriculum. It doesn’t come with a map (or scroggin). You cannot possibly predict where you will end up…but equally, it doesn’t ask that you already occupy a powerful decision-making position. It doesn’t demand you be an incredible orator, or a math genius (phew!) or the most persuasive human ever. It just requires you to show up.

Australia’s UN report card: making progress, could do better on inequality and climate | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – This week, the National Sustainable Development Council with the Monash Sustainable Development Institute published the Transforming Australia: SDG Progress Report. It examines trends between 2000 and 2015 to assess whether Australia is on track to meet the 2030 targets. The report highlights strong progress in health and education, but poor performance in addressing inequality, climate change and housing affordability. Of 144 indicators assessed across the 17 goals, 35% were on track, 41% needed improvement and 24% were off-track or deteriorating.

How will Indigenous people be compensated for lost native title rights? The High Court will soon decide | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – Today, the High Court of Australia will begin hearing the most significant case concerning Indigenous land rights since the Mabo and Wik native title cases in the 1990s. For the first time, the High Court will consider how to approach the question of compensation for the loss of traditional land rights. The decision will have huge implications for Indigenous peoples who have lost their land rights and for the state and territory governments responsible for that loss. For Queensland and Western Australia in particular, the outcome will likely provide clarity on the significant amounts of compensation they may be liable for in the future.

Reef foundation told to prepare to return $443.8m grant if Labor wins next election | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – Labor has warned the Great Barrier Reef Foundation to prepare to return a $443.8m grant in the event of change of government. In a letter to the foundation’s chair, John Schubert, the opposition’s environment spokesman, Tony Burke, said a Labor government would use a clause of the grant agreement to force the return of any unspent funds if it wins the next election.

Government faces court action over ‘illegal’ planning policy | The Guardian
UK – The government is facing a legal challenge over its new planning policy, which campaigners say was illegally adopted because the government failed to assess its environmental impact… Friends of the Earth says revised national planning policy makes it ‘virtually impossible’ for councils to refuse fracking schemes.


Controversial trial of banned gas technology gets tick of approval in South Australia | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – A controversial trial for a highly polluting mining technology has been given the green light in South Australia, despite being banned in Queensland for what was described as the worst contamination in the state’s history. Leigh Creek Energy yesterday announced it had received final approval from the state’s Energy and Mining Minister to commence a three-month trial of underground coal gasification (UCG) at the old Leigh Creek mine site in the state’s north.

Food Systems

Tail docking of cattle and dogs to be banned |
NEW ZEALAND – The Ministry for Primary Industries says new regulations which come into effect on October 1 will make it easier for authorities to take action against animal cruelty. MPI director for animal health and welfare, Dr Chris Rodwell, said the 45 new regulations covered a range of species and activities from stock transport and farm husbandry procedures to companion and working animals like dogs and horses.