Sustainable Development News

Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
Sign up to the newsletter if you would like the news direct to your inbox each weekday morning.

Energy and Climate Change

German solar ambitions at risk from cuts to subsidies
German ambitions to generate the vast majority of its power from the sun, wind and other renewable sources by the middle of the century are at risk from cuts to solar subsidies and weak EU clean energy targets, industry and experts say.  The country’s target of getting 80% of energy from renewable sources by 2050 is one of the few to match the scaling-up of renewable power that the UN’s climate science panel said on Sunday was needed to avoid “severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts” from global warming.

Germany looks to fast-track exit from coal, as well as nuclear
Germany is looking to achieve exactly what Australia says is not possible – and wean one of the world’s largest manufacturing economies off coal – as well as shutting down nuclear. The conservative government of Chancellor Angela Merkel last week issued a discussion paper proposing to implement the strictest controls on coal fired generation yet to be seen in Europe, and to redesign its energy system around renewables, which will account for around two thirds of supply within two decades.

World’s first solar cycle lane opening in the Netherlands
The bike path that connects the Amsterdam suburbs of Krommenie and Wormerveer is popular with both school children and commuters: around 2,000 cyclists ride its two lanes on an average day. But next week Krommenie’s cycle path promises to become even more useful: on 12 November a 70-metre stretch will become the world’s first public road with embedded solar panels. Costing around €3m (£2.4m) and funded mostly by the local authority, the road is made up of rows of crystalline silicon solar cells, encased within concrete and covered with a translucent layer of tempered glass.

Environment and Biodiversity

Explaining Rare ‘Hole Punch’ Cloud With Rainbow in the Middle
Residents of Wonthaggi, Australia (map) snapped pictures of a rare, rainbow-filled “hole punch” cloud on Monday. By the next day, the photos had gone viral with speculation about the unusual phenomenon overhead. Clouds are made of water droplets, and hole punch clouds—also known as fallstreak hole clouds—occur when part of that cloud falls out, leaving behind a hole. That opening in the cloud is the result of an extremely localized snowfall.

Will the UK’s pollinator strategy be enough to stop bee decline?
The government’s strategy for protecting pollinating insects, including bees, fails to adequately address one of the major threats to their health say scientists, environmentalists and opposition politicians. The national pollinator strategy (NPS), launched on Tuesday by environment secretary, Liz Truss, focuses on measures that will provide insects with “food and a home”. But scientists, environmentalists and rival politicians, while broadly welcoming of the strategy, say the government is wilfully downplaying the issue of pesticides.  Experts also raised concerns about the lack of specific targets and mandatory actions in the policy.

Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas are in Danger
There are 12,000 sites in the world classified as Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs). Sadly, many of these sites are in danger of losing the habitat and biodiversity that makes them globally important. In Australia, we’ve identified fourteen IBAs under levels of threat rated as Very High. Five of these have been designated as ‘in Danger’ as part of BirdLife International’s global campaign. Each of the IBAs in Danger provides habitat for species that are at high risk of extinction should the current threats continue. Fortunately, the value of these IBAs can be recovered through straightforward actions.

Economy and Business

Small and medium-sized businesses can lead the agenda on sustainable growth
SMEs are already the bedrock of most domestic economies. With the right tools and support, they could well become the foundation of sustainable economic growth too. In 2013, more than 99% of the 4.9m registered businesses in the UK were SMEs. They employ more than 14 million people and account for an estimated gross value added of £376bn, equivalent to half (49.8%) the UK economy. “Our model of the big company that employs thousands of people based in huge offices isn’t necessarily the way the world is moving,” explains Stephen Pegge, external relations director at the Lloyds Banking Group. Lloyds’ annual survey of SMEs last year revealed that a quarter of businesses thought of sustainability as their top priority in 2014, while 52% recognised the cost benefits of implementing sustainable business practices.

Speakers Reimagine Business Models, Stakeholder Engagement, Product Sustainability
In her opening address Tuesday at SB ’14 London, Sustainable Brands founder KoAnn Skrzyniarz confronted the audience with a challenge: Reimagine what an economy might look like if it was based on trust. “The big root of the conversation we’ve been having this year is about connecting head and heart,” she said. Reflecting that it had been “an explosive year” on many fronts, with key battles on ideology taking place across the world, Skrzyniarz said the passion for interlinking sustainable business with social value was growing: “As we continue to have this conversation around the world, more communities are coming to us, asking us to localise the conversation,” she revealed.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Why metals should be recycled, not mined
There is no denying that the sustainability impacts of the extractive sector are serious – sometimes even tragic and catastrophic. But they are not without solutions. Technology, which is the source of so much destruction in the mining and metals industry, can also be its saviour. The most obvious opportunity for the sector is to embrace the circular economy. Many metals can be recycled – and in some cases, actual recycling rates are already high. For example, 67% of scrap steel, more than 60% of aluminium and 35% of copper (45-50% in the EU) (pdf) is already recycled. Apart from resource savings, there is often also a net energy benefit. Energy accounts for 30% of primary aluminium production costs, but recycling of aluminium scrap uses only 5% of the energy of primary production (pdf).

Timberland, Omni Recycle Tires into Footwear · Environmental Management & Sustainable Development News
Timberland and tire manufacturer and distributor Omni United have created tires designed to be recycled into footwear outsoles at the end of their life on the road. The co-branded line of tires was unveiled at the Specialty Equipment Market Association automotive trade show in Las Vegas earlier this week. The tire and footwear industries are two of the largest users of virgin rubber. The majority of tires on the market today have a limited life span; ecologically sound disposal at the end of that life span presents yet another challenge. Timberland and Omni United envisioned — and then built — a partnership to create a more sustainable lifecycle for rubber.

Politics and Society

CDP Identifies 853 Water Risks Threatening Growth For World’s Largest Companies
Two-thirds of the world’s largest companies are reporting exposure to water risks, some of which have potential to limit growth, according to a new report by CDP. The news comes amid mounting shareholder concern around the business impacts from water scarcity, accessibility and poor water quality. CDP’s latest annual global water report… finds that 68 percent of businesses report exposure to water risk that could generate a substantive change in their business, operations or revenue. 22 percent of companies anticipate that issues around water could actually limit the growth of their business.

Amid Terror Attacks, Iraq Faces Water Crisis
TELSKUF, Iraq—Viewed from afar, the two-mile-long Mosul Dam is an impressive sight on the flat, sunbaked northern plains. Move closer, though, and its appearance has a menacing air. The bullet-riddled causeway and abandoned guard posts tell of the dam’s seizure by Islamic State terrorists in early August, and the bomb craters and flattened armored vehicles are evidence of its recapture by Kurdish fighters 12 days later.

Flood defending ‘insufficient’, NAO warns

Spending on flood protection in England is “insufficient” to maintain defences, the National Audit Office (NAO) has warned. It said half of the country’s defences were being maintained to a “minimal level”, and were likely to “deteriorate faster”. The NAO also said spending on them had been cut in real terms between 2010/11 and 2014/15. The government said it was spending “more than ever before” on resources.

Carbon capture and storage research budget slashed despite PM’s coal focus
The government has cut almost half a billion dollars from research into carbon capture and storage – which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) deems crucial for continued use of coal – despite the prime minister insisting coal is the “foundation of our prosperity”. In the budget the government cut $459.3m over three years from its carbon capture and storage flagship program, leaving $191.7m to continue existing projects for the next seven years. The program had already been cut by the previous Labor government and much of the funding remained unallocated. The coal industry has “paused” a levy on black coal producers, which was supposed to build a $1bn industry fund to also finance research and demonstration into clean coal technology. It cited low coal prices for the halt.

G20 or G20th century? Leaders blind to the next wave of disruption
Two decades of globalisation and the internet have underpinned an exponential curve of change in how economic activity is created, valued and exchanged. This transformation has initially occurred in industries like publishing, communications and retail that have been more amenable to digital transformation. But as digital-driven change migrates big time into other areas like manufacturing, the disruption we’ve seen to date will be nothing compared to that likely to emerge over the next 20 years and beyond.

Chemical Concerns Drive Natural, Organic Cosmetic Sales
Ninety percent of buyers of natural and organic personal care products in the UK are going out of their way to avoid products that contain synthetic chemicals, according to a Consumer Insights report by Organic Monitor. When asked to name specific chemicals they look to avoid, almost two-thirds of buyers said parabens. Since 2007, awareness of synthetic chemicals in personal care products has increased significantly, as this year’s survey showed 19 percent of buyers wished to avoid phthalates and lanolin, compared to just 3 percent in 2007. The report also reveals that certification has become more important to consumers.

Food Systems

Are seaweed snacks the future as the tide turns on meat consumption?
When Lisette Kreischer created the Dutch Weed Burger, a plant-based burger, she and her co-founder Mark Kulsdom didn’t just want it to be a vegan alternative to meat; they wanted to encourage people to rethink their consumption habits through the promotion of a food source that’s at the bottom of the food chain – seaweed. “We are now seeing that this method [of meat as a source of protein] is no longer sustainable towards the ecological system. The population is growing and so is the demand for proteins, but the Earth remains the same size; so we need to look at other sources,” says Kreischer, who believes that investing in synthetic, lab-grown burgers will only encourage people to keep wanting to eat meat. “Beans and other plant-based products are good sources of protein, but you still need agricultural land and fresh water to grow them … Seaweed can be harvested in the sea.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.