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Sustainable Development News, Wed 06 Aug 2014

Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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Energy and Climate Change

Beijing to ban coal use to curb pollution: Xinhua
Beijing will ban coal use in its six main districts by the end of 2020, state media cited the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau as saying, as the Chinese capital steps up efforts to combat air pollution. Beijing and the surrounding area in China’s northeast is often wreathed in noxious smog, which has been cited as a factor in high rates of lung cancer.

Tuvalu climate family granted New Zealand residency on appeal
A Tuvalu family has been granted New Zealand residency after claiming they would be affected by climate change if they returned home. It is the first successful application for residency on humanitarian grounds when climate change has been a factor.  Environmental law expert Vernon Rive, of Auckland University of Technology, says climate change was one of several factors the Immigration and Protection Tribunal took into account. He says the family was granted residency on “exceptional humanitarian grounds” under a provision in New Zealand’s immigration legislation.

Agriculture sector’s greenhouse gas emissions rise 7pc
The emissions trading scheme has failed to cut carbon emissions [in New Zeland], a new report suggests. Yesterday the Environmental Protection Authority issued details of the scheme’s activity last year. For most industries, greenhouse gas emissions had stayed level or increased. The biggest commercial emitter is agriculture and its greenhouse gas outputs must be reported, though this sector is exempt from paying carbon emission units. Its gas output rose 7 per cent last year.

Environment

Bottoms up: how whale poop helps feed the ocean
Centuries of over-exploitation of whales for their meat and blubber has seen populations of most species plummet. But with no small amount of irony, the tables have turned with research discovering that we need whales for a healthy marine ecosystem, or at least their poop.

Driven by Climate Change, Algae Blooms Behind Ohio Water Scare Are New Normal
The toxic algae bloom in Lake Erie that provoked last weekend’s tap water ban in Toledo, Ohio—where nearly half a million people were told not to use water for drinking, cooking, or bathing—is a preview of similar problems to come around the world, scientists say, thanks in part to climate change. Northwest Ohio’s water ban was lifted Monday morning, but experts say harmful algal blooms that can turn tap water toxic and kill wildlife are becoming more common in coastal oceans and in freshwater across the United States and around the globe.

As oysters die, climate policy takes central stage in US state
Billions of baby oysters in the Pacific inlets here are dying and Governor Jay Inslee of Washington is busy spreading the bad news. “It used to be the canary in the coal mine,” Inslee said in a recent interview. “Now it’s the oyster in the half shell. You can’t overstate what this means to Washington.” Or to Inslee’s ambitions. The Democratic governor, aided by what is expected to be millions of dollars from his billionaire friend Tom Steyer, is using the story of Washington’s oysters – scientists say a rise in carbon levels has spiked the acidity of the Pacific and is killing off shellfish – to make the case for passing the most far-reaching climate change policies in the nation.

South Island land gets lifelong protection
A big chunk of South Island high-country land will be protected forever under New Zealand’s largest private land protection agreement. The Queen Elizabeth II National Trust and Soho Property Limited announced this afternoon about 53,000 hectares of land would be protected by covenants. With this proposal, the total area protected by covenants across New Zealand will grow to more than 178,000ha. Soho Property Limited’s director is Robert ”Mutt” Lange – a Zambian-born British record producer and songwriter and the ex-husband of Canadian pop singer Shania Twain. Conservation Minister Nick Smith said the covenant would protect a wide variety of  ecosystems from wetlands, tussock grasslands, native shrub lands, alpine cushion fields and stunning mountain peaks.

Waste and the Circular Economy

What our love affair with coffee pods reveals about our values
Mornings just aren’t the same. Late sleepers, once troubled only by the quiet gurgle of the boiling kettle, are now shaken from their slumber by the guttural sounds of steaming water being forced through aluminium or plastic coffee pods. Conveniently secreted into the coffee machine’s collecting receptacle, the pangs of guilt from the latte socialists (and others) are only tweaked when the dank pods require emptying – generally well after the coffee has been consumed.

Economy and Business

World’s top PR companies rule out working with climate deniers
Some of the world’s top PR companies have for the first time publicly ruled out working with climate change deniers, marking a fundamental shift in the multi-billion dollar industry that has grown up around the issue of global warming. Public relations firms have played a critical role over the years in framing the debate on climate change and its solutions – as well as the extensive disinformation campaigns launched to block those initiatives.

General Motors: why companies should buy more renewable energy
GM’s director of sustainability asks how we can frame up the needs and challenges for NGOs and corporate buyers, to ultimately make renewables more affordable for all companies. When the World Wildlife Fund and World Resources Institute approached General Motors, along with 12 other companies, to collaborate on renewable energy, my first thought was: “We’re in.” Even though GM is already halfway to its public goal of using 125 megawatts of renewable energy by 2020, there are still major roadblocks along the way.

Portland City Council to create socially responsible investment committee
Portland City Council is expected to create a permanent socially responsible investment committee on Wednesday. The council says it is determined to seek out investments that are in line with its policies and the values of taxpayers. The move would see Portland lead the way in ethical investment for US councils, and builds on the success of a temporary committee created last October. In May, Portland City commissioner Steve Novick said in a statement, “From what I can tell, no other US city has looked at socially responsible investing in quite the same way as Portland. “I’m hopeful other cities and states take note and adopt similar investment principles to hold companies accountable and align our investment policies with our values.”

Politics and Society

India must chose to be champion or villain for climate and development
Sabka saath, sabka vikas: development for everyone. That was the campaign slogan of India’s new prime minister Narendra Modi during the recent elections. In about two months, Modi will join other business and political leaders in New York to pledge what they will do to battle climate change. India is a climate lynchpin, as it has historically argued that southern countries cannot take action on climate change because they need to develop first. But countries like India can – and should – develop and tackle climate change at the same time. Two villages in central India are demonstrating a choice between very different models of development: one, a person-centred approach based on zero emission clean energy; the other, corporate-centred and based on climate-wrecking coal.

Vanuatu climate worries rise as aid cut off
The Gillard government granted Vanuatu’s climate change adaptation efforts $2 million over three years, as part of a $599 million “Fast Start Finance” plan agreed with the United Nations for the 2010-2013 period. The scheme included $134 million for the Pacific but the Abbott government ended support in its May budget and existing funds run out in December, Oxfam said.

Oxfam, CARE and other international agencies have been encouraging farmers to grow crops such as capsicum, beans and tomatoes which are less susceptible than island cabbage to rotting after heavy rains. Market gardens and coconut plantations – which help provide Vanuatu residents with income for school fees and other costs – are being lost to rising seas and storm surges.  “It’s a struggle to survive as the storms reduce the size of plantations,” Ms Laban said.

Arctic explorer to swim seven seas for greater protection of oceans
British endurance swimmer Lewis Pugh is to undertake seven swims in the Seven Seas to highlight the need for protected areas in oceans around the world. He will be the first to undertake a long-distance swim in each of the classical Seven Seas, the Mediterranean, Adriatic, Aegean, Black Sea, Red Sea, Arabian Sea and the North Sea, ending with an 100km (62 miles) swim up the Thames to Parliament.

Food Systems

Beyond quinoa: five European grains to add to a healthy diet
These days it seems like the most popular grains and seeds are those from afar. There is quinoa, the grain of the Andes, chia, the super seed of the Aztecs and Mayans, and from west Africa comes fonio, hoping to be the “new quinoa”. The story of quinoa is a cautionary tale: its popularity internationally drove up prices in South America, making the staple grain for the people of Peru and Bolivia too expensive for them to buy any longer, and turning once diverse crops into a monoculture. So does Europe have any grains to compete?

Clean Technology

Green MashUP: building materials of the future
Move over concrete and steel, there are new building materials in town transforming the industry and creating more sustainable buildings. These materials promise to lead to stronger, lighter, more sustainable buildings, and could even allow buildings to repair themselves from wear and bad weather, much in the same way that the human body can heal itself. This isn’t science fiction, it’s happening now.

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