Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Adani's White Elephant. Illustration: John Spooner

Adani’s White Elephant. Illustration: John Spooner

Adani’s Carmichael mine is just not going to happen
Adani is not going to happen; the construction, that is, of the leviathan Carmichael mine, the world’s largest thermal coal mine in the hinterland of the Great Barrier Reef. Much is the wailing and gnashing of teeth at the move by the Queensland government to approve the project but this approval is entirely political. It is all about the appearance of commitment to jobs, jobs that will never occur unless the coal price doubles, and it is about the government not getting bashed up by the opposition for being anti-jobs and abandoning its election commitments.

Energy and Climate Change

This summer’s sea temperatures were the hottest on record for Australia: here’s why
While summer on land has been dominated by significant warm spells, bushfires, and dryness, there is a bigger problem looming in the oceans around Australia. This summer has outstripped long-term sea surface temperature records that extend back to the 1950s. We have seen warm surface temperatures all around Australia and across most of the Pacific and Indian oceans, with particularly warm temperatures in the southeast and northern Australian regions.

Airline emissions and the case for a carbon tax on flight tickets
After years of delay, the international aviation industry is inching its way towards bringing its greenhouse emissions under some form of regulation. Last month the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) released a draft resolution that would, for the first time ever, regulate aviation emissions on a global basis.

Scrapping Hinkley for renewable alternatives would save ‘tens of billions’
Scrapping plans for new nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset and building huge amounts of renewable power instead would save the UK tens of billions of pounds, according to an analysis that compares likely future costs. The Intergenerational Foundation thinktank calculated that Britain would pay up to £40bn less for renewable alternatives that would generate the equivalent power to Hinkley over the plant’s planned lifetime.

US Dept Of Energy OKs Clean Line Energy’s $2.5 Billion Plains & Eastern Line Transmission Project
USA – Clean Line Energy’s Plains & Eastern Line $2.5 billion transmission project — which will deliver electricity generated by wind energy projects in the Oklahoma and Texas panhandle area throughout the southeastern US — was recently approved by the US Department of Energy, according to reports.

Environment and Biodiversity

Catalyst: Tassie Fires
AUSTRALI A – We like to think Tasmania is a refuge from climate change – a cool green island at the bottom of a warming world. But this summer may have seen a tipping point. The unprecedented number and size of fires ignited by dry lightning in Tasmania are no longer ‘natural’ events. Conditions are so dry that the soil itself is burning. Ecosystems normally too wet to burn are going up in smoke. 1000 year old World Heritage forests face irreversible loss. Is this what climate change looks like?

Tony Abbott’s harmful legacy lives on in climate silence
It took 6000 years or more for nature to grow the world’s biggest living structure, the Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven wonders of the natural world.  So big that it can be seen from the moon, so lovely up close that the poet Kenneth Slessor described it as “flowers turned to stone”. And it’s taken us a scant few decades to inflict major damage on this priceless asset. It’s a dazzlingly beautiful ecosystem whose beauty we are bleaching out.

Polar bears losing weight as Arctic sea ice melts, Canadian study finds
Three decades of melting sea ice has led to significant weight loss among the world’s southernmost population of polar bears, new data from Canadian researchers suggests. “It’s a red flag,” said Martyn Obbard, a scientist with the Ontario provincial government and co-author of a recently published study in the journal Arctic Science.

Some Whales Like Global Warming Just Fine
In May 2009, Ari Friedlaender, an ecologist with Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute, was cruising along the Western Antarctic Peninsula when he encountered something he’d never seen. In Wilhelmina Bay, the water was so thick with humpback whales that “we couldn’t count them fast enough,” he recalls.   In the end, he and his colleagues counted 306 whales feeding on an immense aggregation of krill. It was the highest density of humpbacks ever documented in the region.   The humpback population has been recovering ever since commercial hunting was banned in 1966. But the whales are also being helped by another factor: climate change.

Grauer’s gorilla: world’s largest great ape being wiped out by war
Numbers of the world’s largest great ape have dropped dramatically from a population of 17,000 in 1995 to 3,800 today, according to new research.  The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Fauna and Flora International believe their findings in a report published this week justify raising the status of the Grauer’s gorilla (G. b. graueri) to “critically endangered” on the IUCN’s red list of threatened species. The subspecies of gorilla – also known as the Eastern lowland gorilla – is only found in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Weighing up to 180kg, they are closely related to mountain gorillas.

Thailand seizes African ivory tusks worth $1.18m
Officials in Thailand say they seized 315 kilograms of African elephant tusks worth an estimated US$800,000 (NZ$1.18m) at Bangkok’s international airport. Kulit Sombatsiri, director-general of the Thai Customs Department, said Tuesday that the haul of 87 ivory tusks was found March 27 in a dozen barrels sent from Mozambique on a Kenya Airways flight.

Dust to dust: animals lost in an African apocalypse – in pictures
Nick Brandt built lifesized panels depicting Africa’s great creatures and placed them in scenes where they used to roam. The resulting photographs serve as a potent reminder of what poaching, habitat loss and climate change put at stake

Underpass With Elephants (Lean back, your life is on track), 2015

Underpass With Elephants (Lean back, your life is on track), 2015
‘Keep going at this pace, and the unique megafauna of Africa will be rapidly gone the way of the megafauna of America and Europe, which was wiped out by far fewer men, with far less technology, many centuries ago’

Economy and Business

The idea that conservatives are better economic managers simply does not stand up
Conventional wisdom holds that conservative politicians are more prudent stewards of the economy. These politicians are often happy to reinforce this view by citing their business acumen and denigrating the experience – or lack thereof – of their opponents. Think of Mitt Romney as multi-millionaire businessman versus Barack Obama, former community leader. Donald Trump also highlights his business “experience”, although his track record suggests he’s done far worse at managing his father’s wealth than a monkey throwing darts at The Wall Street Journal. In Australia, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has positioned himself as a successful manager of economic transition in advance of the next election. But what if we were to take the business metaphor seriously and hold politicians to account with a performance review in terms of “measurable outcomes”? Would there actually be any evidence for the view that conservatives are better managers of the economy?

Cost of stopping new coal and gas projects in freefall, costings reveal
AUSTRALIA – As the fossil fuel industry appears increasingly shaky, the cost to the federal budget of stopping all new coal and gas projects in Australia has plummeted – costing less than 20% of what it was estimated to just 2.5 years ago, according to official parliamentary costings seen by Guardian Australia.

Indian law requires companies to give 2% of profits to charity. Is it working?
India is the first country in the world to enshrine corporate giving into law. Following a change in company law in April 2014, businesses with annual revenues of more than 10bn rupees (£105m) must give away 2% of their net profit to charity. Areas they can invest this money in include education, poverty, gender equality and hunger.

What drives Eat My Lunch’s taste for success?
My partner and I used to work for big corporates, marketing high energy, unhealthy foods.  But it was giving us a guilty conscience because we weren’t feeding our own children any of the foods we were marketing. At the same time there was a lot of talk about child poverty in New Zealand, yet no one was really doing anything about it. So we thought it would be a good idea to put our commercial and marketing skills to something that would be meaningful.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Office Waste: A Guide for our Future (Free eBook)
… Waste suffers from a lot of bad press. When it comes to commercial waste streams, we keep hearing stories of poor measurement data, contamination, and a lack of focus and understanding about the opportunities. Things are changing. The corporate world is waking up to the potential for waste to become a resource, both materially and financially. But there’s a lot more to waste than separating recyclables and getting the waste contract right. This ebook, our latest in the Greening Your Office series we’re producing in collaboration with CitySwitch – and in this case with co-lead sponsor EPA NSW – is a guide to the best thinking and resources around.

168 million drink containers are littered in NSW every year
AUSTRALIA – The beverage industry has “finally acknowledged” that four per cent of all beverage containers in NSW are littered, green groups say. The admission came when representatives from Coca-Cola Amatil, the Australian Food and Grocery Council and the Australian Beverages Council appeared at the final public hearing of the Senate inquiry into marine plastics.

Marine farming rubbish removed during beach clean-up
NEW ZEALAND – Marine farmers have recovered almost 20 tonnes of rubbish, much of it non-industry related, from Marlborough Sounds and Tasman Bay beaches in the past five years. The total tonnage from the marine farming industry-led environmental programme was the equivalent of more than two weeks work every month over the past five years by volunteers cleaning up the region’s beaches, a Marine Farming Association (MFA) review of the programme showed. The programme had been operating since the early 1990s to help clean up beaches in the top of the South Island.

Politics and Society

10 global sustainability megatrends
Last year saw the adoption of two major global agreements on sustainability. There can a long way between political agreement and practical change, but there’s a feeling that momentum is building. Here are the key sustainability trends to watch for.

What to do when machines take our jobs? Give everyone free money for doing nothing
It was Groucho Marx who said, “While money can’t buy happiness, it certainly lets you choose your own form of misery.” Quite true, but what if there’s no money coming in from work because your job’s been taken over by a machine?

Farewell for Kaikoura’s best loved birds
NEW ZEALAND – As Kaikoura’s iconic seabird, the Hutton’s shearwater, makes its way on its first flight over to Australian waters, the month-long celebration comes to a close. Hutton’s Shearwater Charitable Trust and community members joined for a dawn ceremony at the Te Rae o Atiu Kaikoura peninsula colony on Sunday morning. The ceremony began with a walk up to the colony, which is surrounded by a predator-proof fence, and which houses about 160 nesting boxes for birds. These have been brought down from the mountain colonies in a series of translocation efforts.

Farewell ceremony for the Hutton's shearwaters from the Kaikoura peninsula, Te Rae o Atiu.

Farewell ceremony for the Hutton’s shearwaters from the Kaikoura peninsula, Te Rae o Atiu.

Built Environment

Vietnam warns of dire impact from planned Mekong dams
Vietnam has predicted “very high adverse effects” on the Mekong river environment and economy if 11 proposed dams are built on its lower mainstream.  The warning is the result of a 2 1/2 year study submitted by Vietnam to the Mekong River Commission comprising Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.  A commission statement released on Monday said the study, which includes 800 pages of impact-assessment reports, indicates “high to very high adverse effects on some of the key sectors and environmental resources in Cambodia and Vietnam.”

Victorian houses need better energy standards, and a scorecard might help
AUSTRALIA – Victoria could be one step closer to mandatory residential energy efficiency ratings, after extremely poor results were returned from a trial of a Residential Efficiency Scorecard designed for Victorian homes. The scorecard, to be launched into the market later this year, found that of 45 houses assessed during a three-month trial, average energy efficiency rating was three NatHERS stars out of a possible 10. Results showed 85 per cent of homes were uncomfortable in hot weather, and 55 per cent could be improved by installing external blinds and sealing cracks and gaps.

Food Systems

UK supermarkets begin seasonal homegrown asparagus race
UK supermarkets are battling to be the first to sell British-grown asparagus this year, a full two weeks before the start of the traditional but notoriously short season. Tesco and Sainsbury’s areworking to get the stocks on shelves this week, after the recent spell of cold and rainy weather delayed arrival in stores.


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