Sustainable Development News

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

Packaged peeled oranges ‘convenience gone mad’, Clean Up Australia Day founder says
The founder of Clean Up Australia Day has labelled the sale of packaged peeled oranges in the United States as “convenience gone mad”. Twitter user Nathalie Gordon shared a photo of the peeled fruit online, after she spotted the new concept on the shelves of US upscale supermarket Whole Foods. Her tweet about the skinless citrus has since gone viral, attracting more than 80,000 retweets.

Energy and Climate Change

Why is 2016 smashing heat records?
Yet another global heat record has been beaten. It appears January 2016 – the most abnormally hot month in history, according to Nasa – will be comprehensively trounced once official figures come in for February.  Initial satellite measurements, compiled by Eric Holthaus at Slate, put February’s anomaly from the pre-industrial average between 1.15C and 1.4C. The UN Paris climate agreement struck in December seeks to limit warming to 1.5C if possible.

Utilities Cut Coal Use Amid Clean Power Plan Fight
Critics of the Obama administration’s most sweeping climate policy hailed the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in February to temporarily block it, saying the ruling on the Clean Power Plan could breathe new life into the flagging coal industry. But even as those critics await further rulings on whether the plan is constitutional, utilities are already looking far beyond coal — the nation’s largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change — and pressing ahead with investments in cleaner forms of energy, including renewable, natural gas and even nuclear power.

Sweden Takes Aim At 2045 Carbon Neutrality
A parliamentary committee in Sweden has created a proposal outlining how the nation could be carbon neutral by 2045. Mainly, it would achieve this huge goal by eliminating domestic emissions by 85% from 1990 levels. The last 15% could be offset by making investments in international projects which cut carbon emissions.

Improved energy storage could help save Britain £8bn a year, says report
Britain could save £8bn a year and slash its carbon footprint by using electricity better, a new report says.  The National Infrastructure Commission said a “smart power revolution” which improves the storage of power could transform the energy landscape. Its report, Smart Power, looks into ways the UK can better balance supply and demand in the energy market.

Is Nuclear Power Our Energy Future, Or in a Death Spiral?
Nuclear power is dead. Long live nuclear power. Nuclear power is the only way forward. Nuclear power is a red herring. Nuclear power is too dangerous. Nuclear power is the safest power source around. Nuclear is nothing. Nuclear is everything… Some experts and advocates argue that carbon-free nuclear power represents the only real hope of keeping the planet’s temperature in check. Others claim that nuclear is risky, unnecessary and far too expensive to make a dent.

Environment and Biodiversity

Queensland coal mines will push threatened finch closer to extinction
Australia has a bad record for losing species, and more are likely to follow: more than 1,700 species of animals and plants are listed by the Australian government as being seriously threatened. The extinction of a species usually comes about from several interacting threats, and the extinction process usually starts with losing a few populations, or a particular subspecies, until eventually there are only a few individuals remaining. The southern black-throated finch, Poephila cincta cincta, is a bird that has become endangered mostly through land modified by agriculture, resulting in the loss of around 80% of its former range.

Orangutan population up but threats remain
There are more Sumatran orangutans in the wild than previously thought, according to a new survey. The latest estimate puts the population at about 14,600 – more than twice the previous figure, based on a survey of nests where the apes sleep. Ecologists say the rise is not due to population growth but because some apes were missed in past surveys.

The week in wildlife – in pictures
Camera-shy gorillas, the world’s biggest owl and grey-shanked doucs are among this week’s pick of images from the natural world.

A pregnant female gorilla spots the camera trap – the first capture of the animals on camera as part of the Clubs des Amis des Gorilles (Gorilla Guardian Clubs) programme in Ebo Forest, Cameroon. The forest is currently unprotected and yet shelters 11 diurnal primate species, including the endangered Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee and a very small population of gorillas, which are thought to be a new subspecies, although this is yet to be confirmed. Photograph: Gorilla Guardian Clubs

A pregnant female gorilla spots the camera trap – the first capture of the animals on camera as part of the Clubs des Amis des Gorilles (Gorilla Guardian Clubs) programme in Ebo Forest, Cameroon. The forest is currently unprotected and yet shelters 11 diurnal primate species, including the endangered Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee and a very small population of gorillas, which are thought to be a new subspecies, although this is yet to be confirmed. Photograph: Gorilla Guardian Clubs

‘Casper the Friendly Ghost’ octopus found deep below the Pacific may belong to new species
An underwater research craft has spotted a “ghostlike” octopus that appears to belong to a previously unknown species on the ocean floor near Hawaii. The milky white creature, nicknamed “Casper the Friendly Ghost” by Twitter users, was caught on cameras mounted on the craft as it explored the Pacific Ocean.

Spectacular Photos Reveal Newly Protected Great Bear Rainforest
Long heralded as the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest, the Great Bear forest in western British Columbia is home to a stunning array of wildlife, from birds to wolves to the iconic white Kermode, or spirit, bears. Conservationists and First Nations peoples have battled logging interests in the unique landscape for decades, but now a deal has been struck to preserve most of the forest.

A new future for marine protected areas in New Zealand
NEW ZEALAND – Proposed new legislation for marine protected areas is ambitious in its scope, but lacking in several key areas, according to critics. Conservationists and commercial fishers alike have suggested that recreational fishing parks would be better managed under fisheries legislation, rather than under marine protected area legislation, while the omission of the Exclusive Economic Zone or EEZ is widely seen as a significant shortcoming. On the other hand, tools to allow the creation of a robust network of no-take marine reserves get the tick of approval, and as do broadening the scope of seabed reserves and species-specific sanctuaries.

Native fish at risk as Wairarapa’s Tauanui River dries up for second year in a row
NEW ZEALAND – A Wairarapa river which has not gone dry in 70 years has been barren for two summers running, threatening native fish, a landowner says. South Wairarapa farmer Vanessa Tipoki is appealing for volunteers to help rescue fish trapped in shrinking pools of the Tauanui River. The river passes her property south of Martinborough, and has begun drying out in the last few days.

Economy and Business

Off-Grid Solar Market Trends Report 2016
The 1.2 billion people living without access to the power grid spend about $27 billion annually on lighting and mobile-phone charging with kerosene, candles, battery torches or other fossil-fuel powered stopgap technologies. Solar-powered portable lights and home kits offer a better service at lower cost. This report takes stock of what the emerging off-grid solar industry has achieved, looks at the opportunities and challenges facing the sector and assesses the potential of off-grid solar to help achieve universal electricity access.

Your risk, my reward: is the sharing economy becoming less selfish?
In the early days of the sharing economy, players like Uber and Airbnb provided a platform for their services, but no such protection on the risks that came with them. They shifted the risk instead to the buyer’s side or the seller’s side — sometimes both… However, there is now a perceptible shift among players to provide at least “safety net” insurance cover… At the same time, leading insurance providers are starting to offer commercial products tailored to the sharing economy.

Why the sharing economy could have a hard landing in Australia
Last year Deloitte Access Economics reported the sharing economy contributes about A$504 million a year to the New South Wales economy, with about 45,000 people earning an income from the different platforms like Lyft and Uber for ride sharing, and Airbnb for accommodation. In the initial phases of their introduction, these platforms provided good money for providers, much to the annoyance of heavily protected suppliers such as the “official” taxi industry.

P&G Applauded for Fragrance Chemical Transparency
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) praised Proctor & Gamble (P&G) this week after the family, personal care and household products company expanded its chemical disclosure. P&G has listed the ingredients it uses in its fragrances and scents on its website since 2012, but a list of over 140 fragrance chemicals that it excludes from its products was added on Monday.


Runner Mina Guli tackles 40 marathons in seven weeks to raise awareness of global water scarcity
An Australian woman has committed to running 40 marathons, in just 49 days, across seven deserts around the world to raise awareness of global water scarcity. Mina Guli, the chief executive and founder of educational water conservation charity Thirst, has braved sub-zero temperatures in Antarctica to the searing heat in Central Australia.

Politics and Society

UN launches Global Coalition to end illegal trade in wildlife
The United Nations announced plans as part of World Wildlife Day on Thursday to launch a Global Coalition campaign to end the illegal trade in wildlife. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged UN agencies, CITES and partners to provide a coordinated response to wildlife crime and promote a zero tolerance approach to poaching.

Climate change could cause over 500,000 extra deaths in 2050
Climate change could cause over 500,000 extra deaths in 2050 from illnesses including cancer, heart disease and stroke, experts said on Wednesday. Extreme weather events including floods and heat waves are severely impacting harvests and crop yields, and food availability could be cut by a third by 2050, according to a study published in The Lancet medical journal.


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