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Sustainable Development News, Tuesday 06 May 2014

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

Greg Hunt optimistic about Direct Action deal with crossbench senators
Greg Hunt, the environment minister, said he hopes to strike a deal with crossbench senators to implement the Coalition’s key climate policy, although he indicated he may allow it to be amended to allow it to pass.  Hunt said he has had “brief, friendly” discussions with independent senator Nick Xenophon, DLP senator John Madigan and Clive Palmer, whose Palmer United Party will hold the balance of power in the new senate from July.

Wind energy surges to record share as coal ebbs
Wind energy’s share of Australia’s main electricity market jumped to a record last month, helping to curb emissions from the power sector even as hydro output shrank, according to energy consultancy Pitt & Sherry.  Wind farms, derided last week by Treasurer Joe Hockey as “utterly offensive” blights on the landscape, increased their share of the market to a record 4.6 per cent, up one percentage point from a year earlier, the company said in its monthly CEDEX report.  With major black-coal fired plants such as Liddell and Bayswater in NSW continuing to operate well short of capacity, greenhouse gas emissions from the National Electricity Market for the month were 5.8 million tonnes lower than a year earlier, or down 3.5 per cent.

Climate change is clear and present danger, says landmark US report
Climate change has moved from distant threat to present-day danger and no American will be left unscathed, according to a landmark report due to be unveiled on Tuesday.  The National Climate Assessment, a 1,300-page report compiled by 300 leading scientists and experts, is meant to be the definitive account of the effects of climate change on the US. It will be formally released at a White House event and is expected to drive the remaining two years of Barack Obama’s environmental agenda.

East Antarctica ice more at risk than thought to long-term thaw, study finds
Part of East Antarctica is more vulnerable than expected to a thaw that could trigger an unstoppable slide of ice into the ocean and raise world sea levels for thousands of years, a new study showed.  The Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica, stretching more than 1,000 km inland, has enough ice to raise sea levels by 3 to 4 metres if it were to melt as an effect of global warming, the report said.

Short Of Land, Singapore Opts For Floating Solar Power Systems
In the absence of vast expanse of land the Singapore national water agency has decided to utilize the country’s water reserves to tap solar power resources.  The PUB, formerly the Public Utilities Board, plans to set up a floating solar power system on the Tengeh Reservoir. This project will be in addition to a rooftop solar power project it plans to set up at Choa Chu Kang Waterworks.

Environment

Fishermen catch rare pink goblin shark
Fishermen have pulled a rarely seen bright-pink goblin shark from the Gulf of Mexico before throwing the thrashing creature back into the water fearing its “wicked” teeth.  The prehistoric-looking shark, estimated to be 5.5 metres long, was caught by fishermen trawling for shrimps. It is only the second sighting off the Key West coast of Florida, the Houston Chronicle reported.The last sighting in that area was 10 years ago.  The shark usually lives in deep waters off the coast of Japan, but the Florida Museum of Natural History says it has also been seen in Australian waters.

Economy and Business

Peruvians can no longer afford local ‘superfood’
Quinoa farmers in South America have seen a dramatic increase the the price for their crop but it’s not all good news for their urban counterparts.  International demand for Quinoa has driven the price up to a point where it’s now out of reach for many people in South America.

Politics and Society

Budget 2014: Joe Hockey moves to assure miners over diesel fuel rebate
Treasurer Joe Hockey has moved to head off a damaging fight with Australia’s mining industry, assuring them there will not be any cuts to the diesel fuel rebate in next Tuesday’s budget.  Leaked confidential correspondence between top mining chief executives, obtained by the ABC, reveals deep anxiety within the resources sector.

Mining industry says diesel rebate is not a subsidy
A mining lobby group denies the diesel fuel rebate means taxpayers are subsiding miners.  Chief executive of the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies, Simon Bennison, says if the rebate was scrapped, miners and farmers would effectively be subsiding all road users.  An excise of 60 cents a litre was imposed on diesel decades ago to fund road building and maintenance.  But as miners and farmers generally don’t use public roads, they’re given a rebate of 38 cents for every litre they buy.

QCoal’s James Mackay developing environmental policy for Newman Government in Queensland
The head of corporate affairs for a mining company at the centre of an environmental dispute has been in charge of developing policy on the environment for Queensland’s ruling Liberal National Party (LNP) since 2012.  James Mackay also worked full-time for the LNP during the 2012 election, while he was being paid $10,000 a month by the company, QCoal.   QCoal is embroiled in controversy over plans to divert Coral Creek in north Queensland to mine the coal underneath.  The company’s owner, reclusive billionaire Chris Wallin, is one of the LNP’s biggest donors.  The ABC’s 7.30 program revealed last week that farmer Garry Reed faces financial ruin after losing a legal battle to stop the creek diversion and having costs awarded against him.

Food Systems

Free lunch, anyone? Foodsharing sites and apps stop leftovers going to waste
If you’re stuck with a half-eaten pizza and can’t face throwing it away, a startup originally from Seattle has the solution. Leftoverswap’s app lets you offer your leftovers to locals, who sign up to be notified when there’s free food to be had in their area.  “Some people are shocked and find the concept absolutely disgusting while others love it and some wonder whether it’s real,” says co-founder Dan Newman. But with some 10,000 users in US cities like New York and San Francisco as well as in Europe, Australia and Asia, Leftoverswap is very real indeed. It is, in fact, part of a growing trend: the food-sharing economy.

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