Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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The USA Supreme Court has ignored Trump and allowed kids to go ahead and sue the US government for violating their rights to life, liberty and property while the Department of Justice says “there is no right to ‘a climate system capable of sustaining human life’”… what?!! Meanwhile we have a series of articles in the Politics and Society section on the state of the world with commentary ranging from a discourse on why we need global cooperation to how global cooperation resulted in the healing of the ozone layer. Also, a couple of personal stories today on the end of plastic bags in NZ (via a trip to Bora Bora) and on a challenge to every individual to include a bit more nature in their lives (via a trip to Cyprus).

Top Story

US Supreme Court allows historic kids’ climate lawsuit to go forward | Nature
USA – A landmark climate-change lawsuit brought by young people against the US government can proceed, the Supreme Court said on 2 November. The case, Juliana v. United States, had been scheduled to begin trial on 29 October in Eugene, Oregon, in a federal district court. But those plans were scrapped last month after President Donald Trump’s administration asked the Supreme Court to intervene and dismiss the case. The plaintiffs, who include 21 people ranging in age from 11 to 22, allege that the government has violated their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property by failing to prevent dangerous climate change.

Environment and Biodiversity

Strict Amazon protections made Brazilian farmers more productive, new research shows | The Conversation
Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s new president, will make many decisions during his four-year term, from combating violence to stimulating a stagnant economy. Those decisions will have large impacts on Brazilians, who remain deeply divided over the controversial election of this far-right populist. But some of Bolsonaro’s decisions will affect the entire world, namely his promises to cut environmental protections in the Brazilian Amazon.

Agriculture is the main cause of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. Nacho Doce/Reuters

Agriculture is the main cause of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. Nacho Doce/Reuters

How we arrived at a $1 billion annual price tag to save Africa’s lions | The Conversation

A billion dollars. That’s approximately what it would cost, to save the African lion. That’s a billion dollars each year, every year into the foreseeable future. The startling price tag comes from a calculation we did, starting with a new database we compiled of available funding in protected areas with lions. Critically though, we’re not talking about lions in isolation. This price tag is for securing most of Africa’s protected areas that still contain lions – 282 massive “lionscapes”. The parks are also home to thousands of additional species, everything from dung beetles to elephants and the plants that sustain them. They also support communities living adjacent to them, and provide jobs to a much wider pool of people.

Related: Lion poaching: the brutal new threat to Africa’s prides | The Guardian

There’s a need to secure Africa’s 282 massive “lionscapes”. Shutterstock

There’s a need to secure Africa’s 282 massive “lionscapes”. Shutterstock

Sighting of sperm whales in Arctic a sign of changing ecosystem, say scientists | The Guardian
A rare sighting of sperm whales in the Canadian Arctic is the latest sign of a quickly changing ecosystem, say scientists, as a growing number of species expand their range into warming Arctic waters.

Economy and Business

For us to tackle climate change, companies need to pay their tax | Wayne Swan | The Guardian (Opinion)
It’s been a year of natural disasters. After Irma, Maria, Harvey, hurricane Florence left a devastating landscape in the Caribbean. Extreme temperatures across the northern hemisphere have caused devastating fires from Europe to the US. Dozens have been killed in the Philippines after typhoon Mangkhut triggered landslides. And the worst consequences of climate change are yet to come. It is a huge challenge for rich countries and for developing nations, a sisyphean task: how to collect enough revenue to respond to major catastrophes, while at the same time trying to lift billions of people out of poverty?

State cap-and-trade systems offer evidence that carbon pricing can work | The Conversation
USA – The latest UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report argues that carbon pollution must be cut to zero by 2050 to avoid devastating levels of climate change. Achieving that goal will require swiftly transforming the energy, transportation, housing and food industries, and more. Although these tasks are daunting and the Trump administration is dismantling federal regulations aimed at reducing climate-changing emissions, cost-effective policy tools that could help do exist. And individual U.S. states and regions are using them to make significant progress to reduce emissions.

Waste and the Circular Economy

With a great deal of reluctance, a large paper bag was discovered underneath a shelf |
NEW ZEALAND – A couple of years ago, in a decadent, inheritance-depleting act of madness, my wife and I elected to enjoy New Year’s in Bora Bora, Tahiti. As its fairytale reputation suggests, the place was picture-postcard perfect. Or rather, those portions of paradise devoted to the resort lifestyle were. The only quibble, a minor point, but if you hail from a country so given over to dairy production that it befouls its own waterways, one you have a sensitivity to, was an absence of milk. Well, not exactly an absence. More a paucity.

Air pollution: everything you should know about a public health emergency | The Guardian
Nothing is more vital to life than breathing: in a lifetime, about 250m litres of air passes through your lungs. Yet walk along a busy city street and you will inhale something like 20m particles in a single lungful. Toxic air is now the biggest environmental risk of early death, responsible for one in nine of all fatalities. It kills 7 million people a year, far more than HIV, tuberculosis and malaria combined, for example. Dr Maria Neira, the World Health Organisation director with responsibility for air pollution, is blunt: “It is a global public health emergency.”

Politics and Society

Grappling with Globalization 4.0 | World Economic Forum
After World War II, the international community came together to build a shared future. Now, it must do so again. Owing to the slow and uneven recovery in the decade since the global financial crisis, a substantial part of society has become disaffected and embittered, not only with politics and politicians, but also with globalization and the entire economic system it underpins. In an era of widespread insecurity and frustration, populism has become increasingly attractive as an alternative to the status quo.

Ozone layer finally healing after damage caused by aerosols, UN says | The Guardian
The ozone layer is showing signs of continuing recovery from man-made damage and is likely to heal fully by 2060, new evidence shows… The results, presented on Monday in a four-year assessment of the health of the ozone layer, represent a rare instance of global environmental damage being repaired, and a victory for concerted global action by governments. Scientific evidence of the depletion of the ozone layer over the Antarctic was first presented in 1985, and in 1987 the Montreal protocol was signed, binding world governments to reduce and phase out the harmful chemicals identified as causing the problem.

Related: More Evidence Points to China as Source of Ozone-Depleting Gas | The New York Times

UN Security Council Examines the Connection Between Water Risk and Political Conflict | World Resources Institute
The UN Security Council recently turned its attention to the relationship between water risks and conflict within and between countries. At an October 26th Arria-formula meeting organized by the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Security Council members and UN member countries convened on the topic of water, peace and security. The goal: Explore ways for the UN system to systematically address water scarcity as a root cause of conflict.

Related: Colombia: Dying of thirst, Wayuu blame mine, dam, drought for water woes | Mongabay

Lessons from Cyprus: We can all pledge to not harm nature and make regenerative cities | The Fifth Estate (Opinion)
We have two years to prevent an ecological meltdown that threatens the existence of the human species. That is according to someone who should know: Cristiana Pasca Palmer, the chair of the world’s secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Cristiana Pasca Palmer told a story recently about how on the beautiful Micronesian nation of Palau, tourists have polluted and damaged the coral reefs, poached the island’s tropical wildlife and caused much other environmental damage. She asked the question: “Can a nation continue to welcome tourists while simultaneously protecting itself from them?”


Snowy Hydro smashes price benchmarks for “fair dinkum” wind and solar | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – The federal government-owned utility Snowy Hydro has announced stunning new prices for “firm” wind and solar power after awarding contracts to eight new wind and solar projects as a result of the largest completed renewable energy tender held in Australia. The average price for this 888MW of mostly new wind and solar capacity will allow Snowy Hydro to deliver “firm” renewables at a price of less than $70/MWh – significantly below the current wholesale price of electricity in the National Electricity Market, and below the cost of “baseload” coal generation pushed by its shareholder.

‘We want to do everything we can’: NSW readies for renewables surge | SMH
AUSTRALIA – New solar and wind farms being planned for NSW have twice the capacity of the state’s coal-fired power stations, prompting the state government to set aside $55 million to help smooth their introduction. The market… is going to need some near-term help to smooth the exit of most of the state’s existing power plants – particularly the 10,160MW of coal-fired power stations, said Amy Kean, director of the Energy Infrastructure and Emerging Technologies unit at the Department of Planning.

Korean banks tell traditional owners they won’t back Adani’s Queensland mega-mine | ABC News
ajor Korean lenders have ruled out any role in funding Adani’s contentious Australian coal project, just months after the miner was reportedly in talks to win backing from lenders in Seoul. Traditional owners fighting the mine have secured pledges from a trio of lenders including the Export-Import Bank of Korea, a critical conduit for Korean lenders, which said it believed there was no longer any interest in the mega-mine.

Food Systems

Can we meet a growing need for food without destroying our environment? | Ensia
Debates over the future of food and farming are often framed as a choice between two seemingly diametrical approaches. One, conventional agriculture, aims to produce as much food as possible with vast monocultures dependent on irrigation systems, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. The other, organic farming, prioritizes sustainability, using natural inputs and processes to make farms more hospitable to nature. An evolving concept called sustainable intensification seeks to bridge this gap by taking the best ideas from both sides and minimizing their weaknesses, such as conventional agriculture’s fertilizer overuse and organic farming’s tendency toward lower yields.

Five ways to encourage people to reduce their meat intake – without them even realising | The Conversation
Meat makes a meal, so goes the saying. But with more people than ever before ditching meat for plant-based alternatives, it seems meaty dishes are starting to go out of fashion. An estimated 29% of evening meals contained no meat or fish in 2017, according to UK market research. And the reason for this is often linked to health. Research shows that eating red and processed meat is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and bowel cancer. Livestock production is also bad for the environment. It leads to deforestation, pollution of water, and emits greenhouse gases that heat up our planet.

Local fishers oppose $2.7 billion deal opening Madagascar to Chinese fishing | Mongabay
MADAGASCAR – Two months ago, a little-known private Malagasy association signed a 10-year, $2.7 billion fishing deal — the largest in the country’s history — with a group of Chinese companies that plans to send 330 fishing vessels to Madagascar. Critics of the deal include the country’s fisheries minister, who said he learned about it in the newspaper; environmental and government watchdog groups; and local fishers, who are already struggling with foreign competition for Madagascar’s dwindling marine stocks.