Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Top Story

Humans now drive evolution on Earth, both creating and destroying species
When scientists examine the impact of humans on the planet, the focus is mainly on the extinction of species. But increasingly researchers are looking at the idea that humans, through animal domestication, relocation and hunting, have become an evolutionary driving force that has led to new species, new traits and novel ecosystems.

Energy and Climate Change

Ten things New Zealand can learn about climate change
Climate change is already redefining coastlines and the weather here in New Zealand and around the world. How will it affect us and what can we do about it? Two of New Zealand’s leading climate change experts, Professors Tim Naish and James Renwick of Victoria University, are heading out on the road this month on a nationwide speaking tour. They shared 10 facts people might not know about climate change.

New research: climate may be more sensitive and situation more dire | Dana Nuccitelli
When comparing apples to apples, a new study finds energy budget climate sensitivity estimates consistent with climate models.

Environment and Biodiversity

Are we smart enough to know how smart animals are?  (Audio 22:40)
Animal intelligence has been underestimated for centuries according to world renowned biologist Frans de Waal. He says the human ego has gotten in the way of studying animal behaviour and we’ve underestimated animals, who often behavioural research [sic], human intelligence is the touchstone and our belief that we are top dog on the evolutionary ladder. Dr de Waal believes that a different approach will help us better understand animals and ourselves. His new book is called Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?

Protecting the animal that eats lemurs — why it’s important to conserve Madagascar’s largest carnivore
Unfortunately for fosa, their first major big-screen appearance came in the form of the fictitious villains in the widely popular 2005 animated film, Madagascar. Most people don’t realise that these strange cat-like creatures are alive and living across Madagascar today, however. Cryptoprocta ferox, more commonly known as fosa (pronounced foo-sah), is Madagascar’s largest predator… It is an elusive, revered and mostly feared carnivore that evokes memorable stories in Malagasy folklore. They’re distributed widely across Madagascar and are currently facing an array of pressures, most notably habitat destruction and retaliatory killing for poultry depredation.

Exclusive: This Is Africa’s New Elephant Poaching Hot Spot
As the slaughter of Africa’s elephants continues for their ivory, the Great Elephant Census (GEC), a landmark, continent-wide aerial count of the survivors, has just been completed for another country: Angola. According to ecologist and lead survey investigator Mike Chase, when the Angolan overflights began, in October 2015, he was hopeful that the country—once a bastion for elephants—had escaped the killings that have convulsed the rest of the continent. Instead, he says, the news was grim: The rate of elephant poaching in Angola is among the highest in Africa.

Koalas are feeling the heat, and we need to make some tough choices to save our furry friends
Koalas are a much-loved Australian icon and a tourism moneyspinner too, contributing more than A$1 billion each year to Australia’s economy. Worringly, however, there is growing evidence that koala populations are declining rapidly in many parts of Australia. They are thought to be declining in all but one bioregion (a way of classifying ecosystems) in Queensland and New South Wales.

Why degraded reefs could be the future of ocean conservation
When you think of a nature preserve, chances are you picture a tract of pristine, healthy wilderness, set aside in order to protect a functioning ecosystem. But what if not much remains of the ecosystem you want to protect? A new proposal by an international group of scientists and conservationists is challenging traditional ideas about what’s worth saving when it comes to coral reefs… The solution, they say, is to create new MPAs around degraded reef habitat, building opportunities for restoring and reconnecting reefs instead of simply abandoning these areas as lost forever.

Mining considered on Cape York station bought by Queensland Government to protect reef
AUSTRALIA – The Queensland Department of Natural Resources is considering two controversial applications to mine a river on a sprawling Cape York cattle station, the ABC can reveal. This is despite the same cattle station being bought last month by the state’s environment department in an effort to ensure conservation of the Great Barrier Reef.

Turtles increasingly at risk, say experts, as concern for wider health of Great Barrier Reef grows
There are reports that turtle numbers are dropping, with starvation and abandoned fishing nets causing havoc, as concern for the wider health of the Great Barrier Reef grows. The Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre has been looking for new larger premises to cope with the increasing number of turtles brought to them suffering injuries from fishing nets and boat strikes.

Turtle herpes outbreak hints at Great Barrier Reef contamination
It’s a turtle tragedy. Tumours are crippling an increasing number of green sea turtles on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, with pollution being investigated as the prime culprit. The animals have a turtle-specific herpesvirus that causes fibropapillomatosis – a condition in which disfiguring tumours grow on the eyes, flippers, tail, shell or internal organs.

Can public-private partnerships preserve the dwindling biodiversity of Lagos?
“When you’re dealing with organisations that are destroying the environment, you should not be antagonistic,” says Adeniyi Karunwi, the director general and CEO of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF). “You need to engage them.” Karunwi points to the fruits of NCF’s engagement with Chevron, one of the world’s largest oil giants and a key player in Nigeria’s petroleum industry.

Economy and Business

Climate bonds market grows as investors look for Paris alignment
The Climate Bonds market grew to US$694 billion (AU$925b) over the past year, an increase of 16 per cent, with more growth expected as investors respond to the agreement to limit global warming struck in Paris last year. According to the latest Climate Bond Initiative’s Bonds & Climate Change: State of the Market 2016 report released this week, there were US$694 billion of climate-aligned bonds outstanding, an increase of $96 billion on the 2015 data. The figure includes US$118 billion of labelled green bonds, which now comprise 17 per cent of the total, up from 11 per cent in 2015.
Read: Bonds & Climate Change: State of the Market 2016

What does energy productivity mean?
What happened to prioritizing energy efficiency projects such as investing in LED technologies or investing in power-sipping equipment and technologies? Technically speaking, nothing at all. In fact, the two concepts are intimately related. The idea of “efficiency” appeals to those obsessed with cutting costs. By contrast, the notion of improving “productivity” speaks to the grander potential for evolving how your organization sources and consumes energy while simultaneously expanding economic growth.

World Bank approves $1bn for India’s solar programme
The World Bank has approved $1 billion in funding for India’s ambitious solar power programme. The World Bank and the State Bank of India, the country’s largest bank, will work together to disperse the funds, which will be targeted at rooftop solar power projects.

Could Hemp Disrupt the Energy Industry?
In West Virginia, residents will soon be seeing a lot more green than they’re used to. And it may come in the form of dollar bills, too. Researchers from West Virginia University are teaming up with a new startup called Agri Carb Electric Corporation to investigate the farming infrastructure benefits of hemp. This will mark the first time West Virginia has allowed hemp cultivation in 70 years… Hemp is a resilient plant. It’s capable of phytoremediation, a process in which the plant leaches pollutants from the soil, hyper-accumulates them, and metabolizes them.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Plastic waste dumped in UK seas ‘carried to Arctic within two years’
Plastic dumped into the seas around the UK is carried to the Arctic within two years, scientists have revealed, where it does “extreme harm” to the fragile polar environment… the fate of plastic pollution from the UK was little understood until Erik van Sebille, an oceanographer at Imperial College London, analysed the issue. “What we found, quite shockingly and unexpectedly, is that most UK plastic ends up in the Arctic. It does extreme harm there we think,” he told the Guardian.

Politics and Society

Blind recruitment aims to stamp out bias, but can it prevent discrimination?
The Victorian government-initiated project is introducing the concept of anonymous hiring (also known as blind recruiting), which removes identifying details from resumes so jobseekers get a chance to slip past the biases – conscious and unconscious – of those who are hiring. The program will be trialled by 29 large public and private sector organisations including Westpac, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, Australia Post, Dow Chemical, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Victoria Police.

Here’s what would have happened if Brexit vote was weighted by age
Britain’s youngest voters will spend about 60 years living with the consequences of Brexit – even though the majority of them voted Remain. Wouldn’t it be fairer if their vote was worth more than the vote of someone with only a decade left to live?

Hidden climate report could help Malcolm find the middle
The Climate Change Authority report that some suspected was buried by the Australian government to save it from policy embarrassment during the election campaign, could now make it easier for prime minister Malcolm Turnbull to find the middle ground in a minority government, or one ruling with a razor-thin majority.

Miners look to new senators to pass changes to the Environment Act to streamline the approvals processes
AUSTRALIA – The resources sector is hopeful a new senate line-up will allow it to again pitch the benefits of a ‘one-stop shop’ legislation for environmental approvals. It is meant to reduce bureaucratic red tape, streamline the approvals process and reduce duplication of processes, by giving state governments greater say over developments.

Epileptic children to get cannabis-based drug ahead of trials, NSW Premier says
AUSTRALIA – New South Wales children with the worst cases of drug-resistant epilepsy will be the first children in Australia given access to a cannabis-based treatment. The NSW Government has announced it has secured the medicine from the United Kingdom for 40 child patients. The oral drug known as Epidiolex has already been trialled overseas.

Let gang members volunteer in prisons – Greens
NEW ZEALAND – The Green Party wants Corrections Minister Judith Collins to apologise to a gang member for stopping him from volunteering in a prison. Ngapari Nui had been helping out at Whanganui Prison for five years without a reported problem, but Ms Collins said earlier today that was wrong and the only place for patched gang members in prison was behind bars.

Built Environment

Policy gap thwarting the shift to green cities
A lack of both federal policy and explicit support from rating tools like Green Star, NABERS, NatHERS and ISCA are two of the biggest obstacles to increasing the level of greening in urban areas, according to new research by Josh Byrne & Associates for the 202020 Vision. Gregory Priest, project manager – policy & strategy, Josh Byrne & Associates, said the gap in federal policy had been acknowledged by the Australian Infrastructure Plan, the Smart Cities Plan and The Sustainable Cities Investment Fund, however, they did not provide concrete recommendations for action.

Barangaroo gets an Aussie-first “breathing wall”
Lendlease’s new headquarters at its Barangaroo South development has become the first to install a new green wall technology researchers say absorbs carbon dioxide faster than any other plant system. Dubbed a “breathing wall” by its developers Junglefy, the 5000-plant, two-storey system at Barangaroo is designed to remove pollutants as well as cool the indoor environment, helping to reduce airconditioning costs. For a typical office, simulations have estimated the technology could cut HVAC energy use by 33 per cent. Noise reduction is another benefit, with a 41 per cent reduction in reflected noise compared to a conventional building wall.

Electric vehicle boom driving EVs to 35% new car sales in Asia by 2040
Electric vehicles could make up 35 per cent of new car sales in Asia by 2040, driven by a significant reduction in battery prices and a rapidly changing mindset among consumers, industry and governments, a new global investment report has predicted. The Asia Equity Strategy report, released by HSBC Global Research on Monday, details 10 investment themes for the next decade that are expected to generate above-average growth, “irrespective of the macro backdrop”.


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