Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Energy and Climate Change

Auckland drivers fill up with beer-based biofuel
NEW ZEALAND – Cars were bumper-to-bumper at an Auckland petrol station as they waited to fill up on a beer-based biofuel. Brewtroleum was unveiled at Gull Kingsland on July 6 with the public invited to a free $50 fill to mark the launch. Following extensive testing and research, DB Export claims to be the first company in the world to make beer-derived biofuel commercially available and is selling the product at 60 North Island Gull service stations from today.

Power sector’s emissions accelerate one year after carbon tax’s demise
Emissions from Australia’s main power sector are rising at an increasing rate one year after the end of the carbon price, with plants in Victoria fired by brown coal the biggest contributors, according to an energy consultancy.  In the year to June, emissions from the National Electricity Market (NEM) jumped by about 6.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, or about 4.3 per cent, according to Pitt & Sherry’s monthly Cedex report.

Australia emissions 2015-07

Investors Worth $1.5 Trillion Support Federal Methane Emissions Reduction Plan
Leading investors representing $1.5 trillion in assets under management released a statement of support on Thursday for a strong federal standard to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas industry, according to Ceres. The White House’s proposal, released in January 2015, would cut methane emissions from the oil and gas industry by 45 percent below 2012-levels by the year 2025. A draft rule is expected this summer.

No plan B if Paris climate summit ends in failure, says EU climate chief
There is “no plan B” if the Paris climate conference ends in failure, Europe’s climate chief has warned, urging world leaders to intervene to force their ministers to agree a landmark deal this December. In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, Miguel Cañete, commissioner for climate action, said he was very concerned about the lack of negotiating time remaining before the conference.

12 tools for communicating climate change more effectively
Uncertainty is an unavoidable feature of the climate change debate – just like any other complex scientific and societal issue. But sceptics have used (and in some cases abused) the presence of uncertainty in climate projections to argue that the science is not sufficiently settled to warrant policies to cut carbon. In response, scientists – who naturally tend towards nuance, caution and tentativeness in their communicative style – have often felt compelled to foreground the uncertainties and caveats in their work instead of focusing on the many aspects of climate science on which there is strong consensus.  Sadly, the norms that govern dialogue between scientists are often in direct conflict with the tenets of effective communication. Simple, concise messages are difficult to extract from messy, complex data.

James Cameron’s Plan to Fix Solar Panels
When Avatar came out, James Cameron boasted that it would be the first solar-powered movie franchise in history. Now the director, deep-sea explorer, NASA advisor, and all around badass has turned his attention to designing cinematic-quality solar panels for the rest of us.

National Trust to invest £30m in renewable energy sources
The National Trust is to invest £30m in solar panels, woodchip boilers and innovative technology that can extract heat from a lake, in a bid to supply half of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020. The significant investment in renewable power by Europe’s largest conservation organisation is an eightfold increase on the £3.5m the trust has already invested in five pilot green projects.

Fossil Fuel Divestment

Divestment campaign swells as 100 trusts worth $5 billion sign up
Over 100 foundations and trusts with assets worth in excess of US $5 billion have committed to ditch fossil fuel holdings and invest in the green economy.  New members of the Divest Invest initiative include the Roddick Foundation and a group of holdings linked to the Sainsbury’s dynasty, including the Mark Leonard Trust and Ashden Trust, which already funds green energy projects.

How to divest your pension fund: steps to take and arguments to face
“We can’t divest from fossil fuels unless you tell us,” Meryam Omi of Legal and General Investment Management, the UK’s largest pension asset manager, told the Guardian recently. Her words came as we teamed up with the responsible investment charity ShareAction to encourage Guardian readers active on fossil fuel divestment to do just that – to write to their pension fund asking if their money could be moved out of coal, oil and gas companies.  Hundreds took the action – using our template letter or online tool – and sent us the responses they received back from their fund.

Many have not yet received a response, but readers should not underestimate the difference contacting your pension provider could make, Sophia McNab of ShareAction told us. “Pension funds aren’t used to hearing from their members so when savers do get in touch, it makes a difference. We’ve heard first-hand from pension funds that these emails spark important internal discussions,” she said. We’ve now picked out the most common responses and rebuttals and suggested how readers might want to respond. Here are the steps those who want to divest their pension fund could think about taking.

Environment and Biodiversity

Drugs including painkillers, anti-depressants found in tests on Sydney Harbour water
Significant levels of strong painkillers and anti-depressants have been found in tests conducted on water samples in Sydney Harbour. The drugs were found by analysing samples of marine water from 30 sites adjacent to stormwater outlets across the entire Sydney estuary. Scientist Greg Birch from the School of Geosciences at the University of Sydney said it was the first time this kind of research had been done in Australia.

Scientists amazed by discovery of baby fish in ocean eddies far off shore – New South Wales Country Hour
Australian researchers on the CSIRO’s new research ship RV Investigator, have discovered eddies spinning off the Eastern Australian Current, that are providing a haven for young fish.  Previously researchers thought fish only developed in coastal estuaries, but these huge cauldrons of nutrient rich cold water, welling up from undersea canyons, are full of baby fish. Professor Iain Suthers, from the Sydney Institute of Marine Science, said the research on marine eddies shows a whole new way of understanding the early life of fish.

Mozambique burns world’s largest rhino horn seizure
Mozambique burned the world’s largest ever seizure of rhino horn on Monday in what ministers and officials said was a demonstration of their commitment to tackle poaching. The largely symbolic destruction of 193.5kg of horn and 2,434.6kg of ivory came as neighbouring Zimbabwe confirmed that around 20 elephants it captured from a national park had been exported to China despite pleas from conservationists to release them.

11 Ways Technology Stops Crime Against Endangered Animals
Wildlife smuggling is a global epidemic. Worth billions of dollars a year, the illicit trade is driving animals such as rhinos, elephants, pangolins, abalone, and sharks toward extinction. With criminal networks getting more sophisticated than ever, new high-tech approaches are being developed to identify them and bring perpetrators to justice. National Geographic is partnering with the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Smithsonian, and TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, to support the “Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge,” a competition that’s awarding multiple prizes of up to $500,000 for innovative techniques to combat animal trafficking. In the meanwhile, here are 11 of the most promising new technological tools for detecting wildlife crime, nabbing poachers, and stepping up law enforcement

Pride of NZ Awards: Reluctant hero the heart of reserve
A once-dangerous stand of pine trees on Waiheke Island has been transformed into a beautiful botanic reserve thanks to a small group of dedicated locals. The Friends of the McKenzie Reserve was formed in 2003 and has been the driving force behind the regeneration of the 4ha plot. While the group works together cohesively, and has done for 12 years, one member, Penny Ericson, has been credited as pivotal in creating successful partnerships with Auckland Council, the local board and other organisations. For her dedication to the McKenzie Reserve, Mrs Ericson has been nominated for a Pride of New Zealand Award, in the Environment category.

Economy and Business

Building a brighter future
India’s urban slums aren’t generally renowned as career destinations, yet for some with a more entrepreneurial bent, they are becoming just that. For 19-year-old Krishna Bala the slum communities of Hyderabad have become his workplace. Driven by a desire to help those less fortunate, Krishna has recently joined Australian social enterprise Pollinate Energy to help thousands of families living in the slums of makeshift tents throughout the city. Founded by six young Australians just two-and-a-half years ago, Pollinate is providing renewable energy solutions to the city’s urban poor to help alleviate energy poverty.

The Business Case for Zero Deforestation
The recent announcement by McDonald’s, which outlines its approach to combatting deforestation across its main commodity supply chains, is perhaps the most comprehensive environmental commitment of any major restaurant group. It sets an example for all global organisations in how they should be ensuring sustainability throughout their supply chains, and reflects how a Zero Deforestation agenda is becoming the new normal for international business.

Collinsville solar power plant to go ahead thanks to Renewable Energy Target decision says Ratch
AUSTRALIA – The company behind a proposed solar power project in north Queensland says it hopes to start construction next year. Ratch Australia is planning to build a $100 million solar plant in Collinsville. It will create up to 80 jobs in the construction phase and two to three once operational. Ratch general manager of business management, Anil Nangia, said the recent Federal Government deadlock on the Renewable Energy Target put the project on hold.

Green energy measures add value to shopping centres, retail council says
Shopping centres could boost their market value by more than five per cent by investing in green energy measures, such as renewable energy and extra insulation. That is the finding of new research from the British Council of Shopping Centres (BCSC) and global real estate adviser CBRE. The report, entitled Sustainable Shopping Centres: Energy, performance and value, published last week, claims that a greater understanding of energy usage can deliver a better return on assets.

Biogen announces carbon neutral status
Global biotechnology company Biogen claims to have achieved carbon neutrality across all of its sites in Europe, Oceania, South America and Asia. The business, which focuses on health treatments and research, announced the goal last week, which it said had been largely met by improving the efficiency of its manufacturing processes and buildings. Biogen claims it has reduced its energy consumption by 35 per cent in the past five years, while also generating energy from landfill gas and supporting renewable energy projects, among other sustainability initiatives. The company reckons its initiatives have saved the equivalent in 150 tonnes of carbon dioxide over the past five years, and 600 trees not felled since 2011.

Trucost, ASBC Report Outlines #BusinessCase for Safer Chemicals
Making the Business & Economic Case for Safer Chemistry builds a strong case for the growing market potential for safer chemistry — which can include reducing the use and generation of hazardous substances, reducing the human health and environmental impacts of processes and products, and creating safer products — based on an in depth examination of economic research, market trends, and interviews with businesses across the value chain.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Authorities fear giant wet wipe-filled ‘fatbergs’ could destroy Australian sewage systems
They might be cheap to buy on supermarket shelves, but disposable wipes are costing authorities tens of millions of dollars as more people flush them down the toilet, clogging pipes and polluting waterways. Manufacturers and sewage companies across the country are scrambling to fix the problem, fearing just one colossal blockage could cause hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage to a system already under strain.

Councils join forces to push for a plastic bag levy
NEW ZEALAND – A levy on plastic shopping bags could be just around the corner with council’s around the country prepared to band together together to force it on the central government agenda. Waikato Region council chairwoman Paula Southgate announced their support a proposal to the Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) conference later in July to push for a levy on single use plastic bags. In May, Regional Council waste minimisation facilitator Marianna Tyler said they had not considered the introduction of a levy but on Friday Southgate said its time had come.

Politics and Society

Pakistan policies to tackle climate a ‘joke’, says Imran Khan
Pakistan’s commitment to tackling climate change is a “joke” lacking proper funding and support from government officials, says cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan.  In an exclusive interview with RTCC, Khan praised the creation of a national climate change ministry, but questioned the level of support allocated to it by prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s administration. “They (the federal government) need to back it up with supportive funding and capacity which are both missing,” he said. “The paltry funds allocated to the ministry of climate change this year are a joke.

Inequality isn’t just bad for the economy — it’s toxic for the environment
The pope’s encyclical on climate change was received with both enormous enthusiasm and criticism, reactions that will only intensify as he continues to lead efforts to solve our climate crisis and generate momentum for the U.N. Climate Conference later this year. His latest move? Inviting Naomi Klein, author most recently of This Changes Everything, to help lead last week’s Vatican conference on climate change. The most consistent and profound message threaded throughout Pope Francis’ text is how disproportionately vulnerable the poor are to the escalating effects of climate change.

NZ disproves Barnaby Joyce’s claim gay marriage would hurt Asia trade
An Australian politician’s claims that gay marriage could affect Asian trade are being rubbished this side of the ditch. New Zealand’s trade with China – our biggest trading partner – has actually increased by about $3 billion annually since 2012, the last year before gay marriage was legalised in 2013. But that did not stop Australian Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce saying that his country could be viewed as “decadent” in Asia if it allowed same-sex marriage. Joyce has claimed that allowing same-sex marriage in Australia had the potential to damage negotiations and its trading relationship in Asia.

Climbing Parliament was no publicity stunt, says activist
NEW ZEALAND – OPINION: I was one of the four people who scaled the old Parliament Building in Wellington with some solar panels last week, to deliver the message that we need real action on climate change – now.   I am thankful for the opportunity to publicly share my reasons for doing this, and hopefully shift the perception of this act for those of you who may see it as a publicity stunt or a threat to security. What on earth would get a mother of two teenagers and small business owner to put her 40-year old body on the line like this? Why go to such lengths, break the law and risk a prison sentence?

Twelve Questions: Sam Judd
NEW ZEALAND – Sam Judd is the co-founder of Sustainable Coastlines, an organisation that works with businesses, school kids and criminals to educate, plant trees and clean up our coastlines.

Built Environment

State of Australian Cities is finally released (but not a word on climate…not one)
The federal government has reversed its decision to pulp the long-awaited State of Australian Cities 2014-2015 report and on Monday released the report to the public at last. It also released the Progress in Australian Regions – State of Regional Australia 2015 report. But there’s no mention of climate change in the documents. Not a word. And no mention of resilience, or sustainability.

Electric ‘robocabs’ would reduce US greenhouse emissions by 94% – study
Self-driving electric taxis could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from conventional car travel in the US by 94% in 2030, according to a study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. These future “robocabs” would be battery-powered and driven without human intervention, picking up and dropping off passengers using automated technologies.

Food Systems

Meat is a complex health issue but a simple climate one: the world needs to eat less of it
Climate change is the greatest challenge to human health, according to the recent Lancet Commission report which calls for action to protect the global population. The report says that tackling climate change could deliver huge public health benefits, largely through phasing out coal, embracing renewable energy, and moving to a low-carbon economy. There is however one crucial issue the report fails to address: meat.


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