Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Kristy Lorson hasn’t emptied the bin in 2 months
NEW ZEALAND – Kristy Lorson​ strives to live waste free. For the past year she has been taking steps to reduce the amount of rubbish her household of three produces. The Glen Eden, Auckland, resident has not had to empty their 15 litre kitchen rubbish bin for the past two months choosing instead to buy non-packaged products using reusable bags and containers to transport the items home.

Energy and Climate Change

April rainfall so low it resembles lead into summer
NEW ZEALAND – The weather lately has been so dry, it resembles signs of a coming summer, farmers say… Niwa put the drier weather down to the prevalence of high pressure systems during the month, which contributed to a lack of meaningful rainfall in many parts of the country.

Winter may be returning to Westeros, but our next ice age is on hold
The epic television series Game of Thrones makes compelling viewing for many reasons. Exotic locations and cutting edge visual effects have spectacularly translated George R R Martin’s vision onto the small screen. These production values have made the series one of the most expensive ever made and allowed the attention to detail required to build an immersive world of humans, dragons, the old gods and the new. But as fantastic as this conjured world is, recent research seems to prove the old adage that fact can indeed be stranger than fiction. Because while the lands of Westeros and beyond experience dramatic shifts in weather and seasons, changes in climate here on Earth are even weirder.

Environment and Biodiversity

How Darwin’s iconic mangroves are fighting back against rising sea levels and climate change
AUSTRALIA – Darwin’s mangroves appear to be fighting back against climate change, but it is unclear if the spindly plants will win their unique race to grow above rising sea levels. Mangrove forests are mostly found in the subtropics and grow in the tidal regions between land and sea. More than 40 per cent of Australia’s mangroves are found in the Northern Territory, with Darwin Harbour’s 20,000-hectare system supporting many species of fish, crabs, birds and even the odd possum. But the harbour’s mangroves have been under threat by an annual average sea level rise of 8.3mm. This sea level rise is one of the highest in the world.

Islands draw record backing to protect sharks from fin trade
A global campaign to protect sharks and rays from the fin trade is gaining record backing, vindicating initial efforts by island nations such as the Maldives that benefit from ecotourism. Proposals to add 13 species of sharks and rays to a list of conserved creatures will be submitted to a September meeting in South Africa by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora [Cites], an agreement by 182 member countries. If adopted, this would double the proportion of the shark-fin trade Cites regulates to 20 per cent, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Wave of dead sea creatures hits Chile’s beaches, experts blame El Nino
Piles of dead whales, salmon, sardines and clams blamed on the El Nino freak weather phenomenon have been clogging Chile’s pacific beaches in recent months. Last year, scientists were shocked when more than 300 whales turned up dead on remote bays of the southern coast — it was the first in a series of grim finds. A surge in algae in the water earlier this year choked to death an estimated 40,000 tonnes of salmon in the Los Lagos region — equal to about 12 per cent of Chile’s annual production of the fish.

Leopards have lost 75% of their historical habitat
The area of the world roamed by leopards has declined by three quarters over the last two and a half centuries, according to the most comprehensive effort yet to map the big cat. Researchers said they were shocked by the shrinking of the spotted hunter’s range, and that the decline had been far worse for several of the nine subspecies of leopards and in some parts of the world.

The Famous Jellyfish Lake Is Running Out of Jellyfish
Swimming with golden jellyfish swarms in a saltwater lake in Palau has long been on the bucket lists of adventurous travelers. But that singular experience may be in jeopardy, scientists warn, as these famous jellyfish have all but disappeared.

Economy and Business

Global water shortages to deliver ‘severe hit’ to economies, World Bank warns
Water shortages will deliver a “severe hit” to the economies of the Middle East, central Asia, and Africa by the middle of the century, taking double digits off their GDP, the World Bank warned on Tuesday. By 2050, growing demand for cities and for agriculture would put water in short supply in regions where it is now plentiful – and worsen shortages across a vast swath of Africa and Asia, spurring conflict and migration, the bank said.

First fuel cell car-sharing programme launching in Germany
Hydrogen fuel-cell cars are getting more competitive in terms of costs and they are seemingly becoming more and more viable in their performance characteristics as well. However, the infrastructure challenge continues to be a barrier, on the one hand, users don’t buy hydrogen cars because the filling stations don’t exist, on the other, companies don’t build filling stations because few people have hydrogen cars. Enter a new business model.

First bulk-buy program launched to slash costs of battery storage in Australia
AUSTRALIA – The first bulk-buy program for battery storage in Australia has been launched by a group of prominent consumer advocates, who aim to lower the price of battery storage for individual and community projects, and to make installation easier. SunCrowd is the first initiative of a new group that brings together Simon Sheik, the former head of Get-Up and founder of fossil-free super fund Future Super, and energy economist and community energy pioneer Chris Cooper. The group is launching its first trial in Newcastle this week, liaising with a local community energy group Climate Action Newcastle, before launching across New South Wales in July and the rest of the country in 2017.

Pressure on water bottlers to pay up
NEW ZEALAND – Millions of litres of water is being sucked out of the Waikato and sold for massive profits but it’s looking like time to clip the ticket. Calls are mounting to make the companies that are benefiting actually pay for the raw ingredient.  NZ First leader Winston Peters said water is common property and exporters need to pay for every drop that goes offshore.

Is Your Board Competent and Proactive on Sustainability? It Should Be
It was the mid-‘90s. The Board of Directors at Vancity – a large regional financial institution based in Vancouver, Canada – was struggling to get management’s attention on its social purpose agenda. I and the other directors believed that marrying social goals with the company’s business could create a powerful vehicle for regional prosperity: attract customers, become a force for social progress and build business. The impasse continued until our Board identified a key leverage point: incorporating our social business objectives into the CEO’s incentive pay. That turned out to be the difference-maker.\

Politics and Society

Testing drugs on animals could soon be a thing of the past
Before a drug can be tested on humans, it has to be tested on animals. The drugs regulators demand it. Nobody – including researchers – likes testing on animals, which is why the race is on to find alternatives. For this reason – as well as the fact that animal models are often unable to correctly predict how a drug will react in humans – scientists are actively considering alternatives. Fortunately, rapid progress is being made in a number of areas which may soon, hopefully, render animal testing obsolete.\

Turnbull’s first budget ignores climate change, dumps clean energy
AUSTRALIA – Climate change, prime minister Malcom Turnbull once said, is the ultimate long-term problem that needs to be acted on urgently. But in his first budget as government leader, it is as though the issue does not exist. Climate change was not even mentioned as a word, or a concept, or even an issue – despite Tuesday’s budget apparently being about growth and jobs for the future. There was no new money for climate initiatives and the only mention renewable energy got was to confirm that $1.3 billion in funds would be stripped from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

Budget 2016: Funding hole may leave Emissions Reduction Fund out of money, think tank says
AUSTRALIA – The Coalition may be left without a functioning climate policy after no new funding was announced for one its flagship climate policies in last night’s budget, according to a think tank specialising in climate change. The Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) is the centrepiece of the Direct Action policy and is designed to do the heavy lifting in reducing Australia’s emissions.

Federal budget: Praise for tax cuts drowns out deafening silence on climate
AUSTRALIA – Judging by business community responses, last night’s federal budget hit the nail on the head…. Environmental groups were not so kind.
See also: Budget 2016 – Our list of winners, questionable winners and definite losers

Coalition MPs put tax-free donations for green groups in the gun
AUSTRALIA – Donations to environmental groups such as Greenpeace, the Wilderness Society and Friends of the Earth could be stripped of their tax deductible status under sweeping changes put forward by members of the Turnbull government. The proposals prompted claims by the environment movement and federal opposition that members of the Coalition were mounting an “anti-democratic” attack on free speech and were singling out those advocating for the protection of nature and the climate.


The Barkindji people are losing their ‘mother’, the drying Darling River
AUSTRALIA – As I left the outback New South Wales town of Wilcannia after some historical research last year, Woddy Harris, a Barkindji man I had interviewed, gestured across the town and said: “Mother Nature will outlive all of this.” He was talking about Aboriginal survival in the Wilcannia area since white settlement in the 1850s. Wilcannia is on the Darling River, about 200km east of Broken Hill. In Barkindji language, “Barka” means river. They are the “Darling River folk”, to use anthropologists’ terms; “people of the river”, to use their own. Last week, when I saw a recent photograph of the Darling River – central to Barkindji survival – I feared that perhaps Woddy was wrong. Maybe Mother Nature does need our help after all.

Self-immolation incidents on Nauru are acts of ‘hopeful despair’
AUSTRALIA – Immigration Minister Peter Dutton on Tuesday lashed out at refugee supporters following two self-immolations (one fatal) and multiple incidents of self-harm on Nauru. Dutton accused these people of encouraging refugees to self-harm and suicide. Dutton explained that the self-immolations of Omid Masoumali and Hodan Yasin were “not a complaint about the living conditions” on Nauru, but instead efforts to manipulate the Australian government and undermine its border protection policies. Karin Andriolo, an anthropologist who has studied protest suicides, describes such actions as “acts of hopeful despair”.

Healthy homes bill passes first reading
NEW ZEALAND – A bill requiring rental properties to meet a minimum standard of heating, ventilation and drainage has passed its first reading in Parliament. The Labour party’s Healthy Homes bill, which goes further than the government’s plan to insulate rental homes, had the support of Untied [sic] Future, Maori Party, New Zealand First and the Green Party. National and ACT opposed the bill.


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