Sustainable Development News

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

The Carmichael mine lease shows that decisions on coal need a much wider perspective

AUSTRALIA – …[The current] approach to environmental assessment may work when monitoring the mine’s impact on its immediate vicinity, but it is patently ineffective when dealing with the environmental damage from burning huge amounts of coal. The fundamental problem with the existing environmental approval processes, at both the Commonwealth and state levels, lies in their failure to address properly the impacts of fossil fuel emissions that contribute directly to global warming.

Energy and Climate Change

Australia’s electricity emissions jump 5.5% since Coalition dumps carbon price
Australia’s electricity emissions continue to rise and are now 5.5 per cent higher than they were before the carbon price was dumped, putting Australia against the global trend which is seeing energy emissions flat-lining even as the global economy expands. Pitt & Sherry analyst Hugh Saddler says in his latest monthly survey that total emissions from electricity generation in the National Electricity Market (all but Western Australia and the Northern Territory) increased again in the year to March 2016.
See also: Electricity emissions surge by 5.5% since removal of carbon price

Thousands of Canberra homes to receive subsidised battery storage
AUSTRALIA – More than 5,000 homes and businesses in Canberra will get subsidised battery storage under new scheme taking ACT towards 100% renewable energy. Already, 12 battery storage companies bid into the first pilot round.

Solar PV Price Index: What does solar cost in your state?
Since 2012, Solar Choice has been tracking residential solar PV system installation price trends in Australia’s capital cities (with the exception of Darwin). The data that we publish has been referenced by a wide range of organisations both inside and outside Australia – from government bodies, not-for-profits and academics to financial services companies and – of course – residential solar PV system shoppers and installers. We are excited to be sharing our insights with RenewEconomy readers from this month onwards.

Oxford Researchers Warn World’s Energy System Already Committed To 2°C By 2017
A new report from the Oxford Martin School has warned that the world’s energy sector is “uncomfortably close” to pushing global warming above 2°C. A new study from the Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School and the Smith School for Enterprise and Environment, University of Oxford, published in the journal Applied Energy, has revealed that “we are uncomfortably close to the point where the world’s energy system commits the planet to exceeding 2°C.”

Farmland Could Play Key Role in Tackling Climate Change
The earth’s soil stores a lot of carbon from the atmosphere, and managing it with the climate in mind may be an important part of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to curb global warming, according to a paper published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

Environment and Biodiversity

Threats to nature in the city (Audio 15:08)
A joint study by researchers from Australasia and the UK has identified some of the current trends and the associated future threats facing urban ecosystems. Dr Margaret Stanley, a senior lecturer in Biological Sciences at Auckland University, was involved in the research. “Often it’s the biodiversity aspects that get left behind,” she tells Nine To Noon’s Kathryn Ryan.

Half of world heritage sites threatened by development, says WWF

"The main cause of death to adult kiwi is dogs."

“The main cause of death to adult kiwi is dogs.”

Close to half of the sites around the world designated for special protection as areas of outstanding importance for nature are now being threatened by industrial development, a new survey has shown.

Hidden housemates: Australia’s huge and hairy huntsman spiders
You’re driving along and you open the sun visor. You’re cleaning at home and bump a painting hanging on the wall. Suddenly, out runs a huge, hairy spider. Australia’s huntsman spiders are the stuff of myths and nightmares. But these are also the most interesting of their family, and deserve their place in the pantheon of Australian wildlife. I study the behavioural ecology of these remarkable spiders. Elsewhere in the world I don’t tell people that I study spiders for a living, but in Australia, I confess that I do brag a little about being a huntsman specialist.

Whakatane dog attack claims another bird in country’s ‘kiwi capital’
NEW ZEALAND – Whakatane’s trade-marked status as the “Kiwi Capital of the World” is in growing doubt, following a series of fatal dog maulings of the small, flightless birds. The latest attack last week was on a young kiwi chick in bush near Whitehorse Drive – close to the famed Bird Walk track through the Mokorua Scenic Reserve that borders the Eastern Bay of Plenty town. The chick named Mackie was the focus of the New Year celebration at Ohope Beach School on January 9 attended by about 200 people.

Hector's dolphins are the world's smallest dolphin, by length, measuring just 1.2-1.4 metres. photo Alison Balance

Hector’s dolphins are the world’s smallest dolphin, by length, measuring just 1.2-1.4 metres. photo Alison Balance

Three decades on the tail of Hector’s dolphins
NEW ZEALAND – After 32 years and thousands of hours in the company of the world’s smallest dolphins, cetacean experts Professors Liz Slooten and Steve Dawson haven’t lost their boundless enthusiasm and drive to learn more about Hector’s dolphins.

Economy and Business

Economies Rise as Emissions Fall? Yes, It Can Work
Throughout the 20th century, the global economy was fueled by burning coal to run factories and power plants, and burning oil to move planes, trains and automobiles. The more coal and oil countries burned — and the more planet-warming carbon dioxide they emitted — the higher the economic growth. And so it seemed logical that any policy to reduce emissions would also push countries into economic decline. Now there are signs that G.D.P. growth and carbon emissions need not rise in tandem, and that the era of decoupling could be starting.

Development banks threaten to unleash an infrastructure tsunami on the environment
We are living in the most explosive era of infrastructure expansion in human history. The G20 nations, when they met in Australia in 2014, argued for between US$60 trillion and US$70 trillion in new infrastructure investments by 2030, which would more than double the global total value of infrastructure.

Business voices come out in support of Clean Power Plan
Tech titans Apple, Google, Microsoft and Amazon as well as global brand companies Ikea, Mars, Adobe and Blue Shield Blue Cross Massachusetts told a U.S. court Friday that they need the federal Clean Power Plan for economic reasons.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Only a circular economy will lead to prosperity for all – Ellen MacArthur
The majestic swell of the Southern ocean provides an endless spectacle. This seemingly simple succession of crests and troughs is perhaps one of the most striking memories I keep of my life at sea. Over the years, in my mind, it ended up symbolising the subtle combination of constant change and continuity that characterises most living systems. Just as Heraclitus famously said that “One cannot step into the same stream twice”, one cannot witness two identical waves building up and receding. Each one is unique, so similar yet so different, a perpetually evolving landscape, a perfect illustration of feedback-induced unpredictability.

Plastic, China and how to drive your brand into the circular economy
As our seafood gets overfished, and with a growing global population that consumes many more products and plastic, we are facing a growing waste challenge which may lead us to having an ocean that has more plastic than fish by 2050. Part of me believes this tragic result will come much earlier, due to the vast underestimation of the amount of illegal fishing that is going on in the world today and the lack of global capacity for recycling and waste management. The other part of me believes that we will never reach this outcome, because we are moving into an era of greater corporate and community enlightenment which will propel technological solutions into existence in a way that we have not seen in the past.

Six things we know about the plastic bag charge in England
It is six months since the introduction of the 5p charge for single-use plastic carrier bags in England, the last part of the UK to implement a charge. Here are six things we have learned since then

Toilet paper scattered above remote alpine tarn in Nelson Lakes National Park
NEW ZEALAND – Department of Conservation senior community ranger Tracey Grose said campers were leaving human waste and toilet paper beside the Hinapouri Tarn, off the Robert Ridge, in the Nelson Lakes National Park.  People travelled from all around the world to see the beauty of the Nelson Lakes area, Grose said. “You’ve got this wonderful scenery and toilet paper fluttering in the wind.”…

Grose encouraged trampers to book a stay at Lake Angelus Hut instead of pitching their tents at the tarn, or small lake… She recommended carrying a small trowel to bury waste and toilet paper. It was important not to burn toilet paper, as this had started fires in the past.  Trampers should make sure they went to the toilet a reasonable distance from any tramping track and at least 50 metres away from any lakes or streams.

Politics and Society

Bangladesh coal plant protests continue after demonstrators killed
Bangladeshi villagers staged further protests on Tuesday after police opened fire and killed at least four people demonstrating against the planned construction of two large Chinese-financed coal-fired power stations. According to police and eyewitness reports, several thousand villagers gathered in the coastal town of Gandamara near Chittagong on Monday, to protest against the two power plants. These are expected to force the eviction of several thousand people in a fertile coastal farming areas and the demolition of temples and schools.

Twenty million people in Bangladesh drinking water contaminated with arsenic: Human Rights Watch
Twenty million people in Bangladesh are still drinking water contaminated with arsenic, two decades after the potentially deadly toxin was discovered in the supply, Human Rights Watch (HRW) says. A new report from the rights group said Bangladesh had failed to take the basic steps needed to tackle the problem, which kills an estimated 43,000 Bangladeshis every year, mostly in poor rural areas.

Built Environment

Neighbourhood design key to tackling inactivity pandemic
People living in densely populated, walkable and interconnected neighbourhoods with good access to public transport and parks do up to 90 minutes more physical activity a week than those in the least activity-friendly areas, a new study published in The Lancet has revealed.

A Wind Powered LED Street Lamp
Noordforce’s Proceed 1 wind generator comes with lithium batteries that are fully charged after a half day of moderate winds and do not require another charge for ten days. Company spokesperson Anna Wätjen said it is difficult to imagine there being ten days without wind in this blustery region. Their data shows that the coastal regions of Northern Germany have enough wind to recharge the batteries at least every 5-7 days.

Trees versus light rail: we need to rethink skewed urban planning values
AUSTRALIA – Looking out of the window on my morning bus journey from Kensington into Sydney’s CBD, I saw more trees being cut down to make way for the new light rail. This time, it was the historical fig trees that line Anzac Parade. Trees like these provide a host of important ecological, environmental and aesthetic benefits. I – like many Sydneysiders – am deeply saddened by their loss. It leaves me wondering, why can’t we have a modern transport system but also enjoy a nice view along the way?

Sea level rise makes WA’s love affair with coast a serious policy concern
AUSTRALIA – In many parts of WA, local governments are working together to understand the potential impacts of climate change on their coastal assets, to mitigate these where possible and develop adaptation plans for the future. North of Perth, the shires of Gingin and Dandaragan – whose coastlines are popular holiday destinations – have been working together on hazard risk management and preparing communities for the potential impacts of climate change to coastal areas.


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