Sustainable Development News

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

To deal with climate change we need a new financial system
When it comes to global warming, we know that the real problem is not just fossil fuels – it is the logic of endless growth that is built into our economic system. If we don’t keep the global economy growing by at least 3% per year, it plunges into crisis. That means we have to double the size of the economy every 20 years, just to stay afloat. It doesn’t take much to realise that this imperative for exponential growth makes little sense given the limits of our finite planet.

Energy and Climate Change

Nicholas Stern: cost of global warming ‘is worse than I feared’
A lot has happened since Nicholas Stern, then a permanent secretary at the Treasury, produced his landmark review of the impact of climate change 10 years ago. His work was quickly recognised as the definitive account of the economic dangers posed to the planet by global warming… So, a decade on, is Stern plunged in despair over our prospects? Not quite. While the picture is certainly grim, the world’s top climate economist still believes there are grounds for modest optimism.

Global climate talks move to Marrakesh: Here’s what they need to achieve
The 22nd conference of the parties (COP22) to the U.N. climate change convention in Marrakesh will not result in a grand agreement or the grandiose chest-thumping that characterized its Paris predecessor. Yet, this meeting is a critical test of whether the parties to the Paris Agreement are willing to realize, or capable of realizing, the promise of Paris and creating a momentum for action.

Marrakech climate talks: giving the fossil fuel lobby a seat at the table
As the world gathers in Morocco for the historic first meeting under the Paris agreement – called “COP22” but now also “CMA1” – it does so with the unprecedented involvement of corporate interests who have fought climate action around the world, funded climate change denial and whose fundamental interest is in extracting and burning as much fossil fuel as possible.

Stratosphere shrinks as record breaking temperatures continue because of climate change
Those warning of climate change impacts have been likened to Chicken Littles, scuttling around, warning the sky is falling. That worry, it turns out, is based on fact too. Cooling in the stratosphere is causing it to shrink, lowering that layer by “a number of kilometres”, NASA noted recently.

The hydropower paradox: is this energy as clean as it seems?
In July, UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon highlighted the role of hydropower in boosting the use of renewable energy globally, when he visited a nonprofit institute in China that helps emerging nations develop and build hydropower plants. Many countries consider hydroelectricity a clean source of power because it doesn’t involve burning dirty fossil fuels. But that’s far from true. Hydropower is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions: a new study shows that the world’s hydroelectric dams are responsible for as much methane emissions as Canada.

‘The heat is there’: is there a future for geothermal energy in Australia?
Although geothermal energy is a mainstay of electricity generation in countries such as Iceland and El Salvador, the ancient, slumbering strata of Australia presents a more challenging landscape.  Since 2009 Arena has funded seven geothermal projects at a cost of more than $40m. Only one is still active.

Environment and Biodiversity

Watch Sharks, Whales and Other Predators Swarm a Massive Fish Run
Once a year, South Africa is home to a stunning natural event that allows people to see thousands of marine and seabird species up close—pods of dolphins, flocks of gannets, and much more—as they descend upon millions of fish in a performance that only Mother Nature can provide. It’s known as the KwaZulu-Natal sardine run, or the greatest shoal on Earth.

Attempts to enforce rahui on north Taranaki waterways a personal crusade
NEW ZEALAND – As Robbie Taylor patrols the Waitara waterways, he carries his late father’s environmental legacy on both his shoulders. In August, Robbie Taylor, of the Ngatiawa ki Taranaki Trust, announced a rahui [ban] would be in place from the Herekawe Stream to the Mokau River, to  prevent people from fishing and collecting shellfish.

Iwi resolute in protecting waterways
NEW ZEALAND – By working together, Ngati Kahungunu and other iwi hope to send a strong message about the state of Hawke’s Bay’s waterways. Today Ngati Kahungunu will be presenting evidence to the Waitangi Tribunal at Waiwhetu Marae in Wellington, as part of stage two of the National Freshwater and Geothermal Resource Inquiry.

Mid Canterbury town to use treated stock water as drinking water
NEW ZEALAND – Residents of a small town in Mid Canterbury are outraged at plans for the town’s water supply to be sourced from stock water. Mayfield’s water supply is running low following three consecutive winters of low rainfall and the Ashburton District Council is concerned the bore will run dry in the next few weeks.

Economy and Business

Africa’s green energy challenge: Mega projects or off-grid?
A 310-megawatt wind farm sprouting up in a remote, barren landscape near Lake Turkana in northern Kenya has the clean energy world buzzing — and for good reason. Africa’s largest wind farm, with 365 towering turbines, is creating more than 500 stable jobs in an impoverished area where goat herding is often the only work available. It will boost Kenya’s electric grid capacity by about 15 percent, at a far lower cost than the imported oil the local utility now uses. And when it begins producing juice next year, it will signal to investors and companies that big clean energy projects like this are viable in sub-Saharan Africa…

Inside Walmart’s 2025 sustainability goals
Today, Walmart is taking the next step in its 11-year sustainability journey, as CEO Doug McMillon announces a series of 2025 goals. For the first time, the company is putting some hard targets and timetables on what had previously been largely aspirational goals. It’s a big step forward. Indeed, the company is promising nothing less than “a new era of trust and transparency,” as laid out by McMillon at the Net Impact conference in Philadelphia.

Politics and Society

Here’s what science says about populism, the rise of Donald Trump, and how to heal a fractured country
Commentators and analysts have offered many reasons for how the outspoken billionaire has come so far, but what insights can scientific research provide? And what can it suggest for how the US can move beyond the polarisation caused by this highly divisive election campaign once a new president has been elected?

On the line on election day: eight key issues decided by next US president
A panel of eight experts considers the challenges facing either a President Donald Trump or a President Hillary Clinton in major policy areas.

With opponents inside and out, there’s no plain sailing for Malcolm Turnbull
AUSTRALIA – Over the next few weeks two things are likely to happen. The Turnbull government appears likely to unveil a deal that will allow some of the wretched souls detained in Nauru and Manus to finally be settled in other countries. Assuming no outbreak of extreme crazy (which is a big thing to assume in the current climate, I’ll admit), it is also likely to ratify the agreement it signed up to in Paris last December, the one that produced commitments for all countries to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming to 1.5C to 2C. In normal political times, in that fantasy scenario where Malcolm Turnbull won the July election resoundingly, banked his personal mandate and was permitted to act more or less consistently as the politician voters have seen in the past, these things could be just transacted and presented to the public on their merits.

Ballina community divided over shark nets as hundreds attend rally in support of trial
AUSTRALIA – Hundreds of people have braved sweltering temperatures in Ballina, on the New South Wales north coast, to voice their support for a planned six-month shark net trial in the region. The debate has been raging for months following a number of shark attacks around Ballina and Byron Bay.

With a less confrontational approach to whaling, more whales could be saved
It is time for some new tactics. Legal and diplomatic skirmishes with Japan and other pro-whaling nations might feel like the right thing to do. But they deliver little benefit to the whales, and could potentially provoke pro-whaling nations into leaving the IWC altogether.

Koalas ‘under siege’ from policy changes set to destroy habitat, report finds
Koalas are “under siege” across NSW, with three separate policies poised to be implemented set to destroy their remaining habitats, according to a briefing paper written by the National Parks Association of NSW. In light of the increasing threats, the paper calls on the NSW EPA to protect koala habitats. “The NSW government is completely failing to conserve and protect koala habitat,” the report says. “Koalas can lay claim to be the most poorly managed species in eastern Australia at present – which is hugely disappointing in light of their beloved status.”

Beyond data collection — the social and political effects of environmental sensor proliferation (Book Talk)
Sensors are increasingly collecting data everywhere, changing how we relate to and manage the environment. These data answer researchers’ scientific questions but can also generate social, cultural and political effects, reinforcing the need for more data. In a new book, “Program Earth: Environmental Sensing Technology and the Making of a Computational Planet,” Dr. Jennifer Gabrys suggests that the future of environmental management is a question of how and whether to “program” the Earth.

Coming of age at the end of nature (Book Excerpt)
We’ve got tricks to get grub. We’ve specialized. We convene and share our food. We’re underemployed — staffers at local nonprofits because we believe in a more sustainable future with our hearts in the right places. And nonprofits know how to take advantage of youth. A white girl I know works with the homeless, and she has to cash in food stamps because her paychecks don’t cover the full cost of living under a roof. She wants to be social, though, like a normal 23-year-old, and she believes in fostering a sense of community, so she hosts potluck-style “Sunday Night Dinners” with standing, open invitations. She’s got interesting tastes, and she always buys products like prosciutto and ciabatta bread to add to the array and to show us what these foods are like. Each week, we can share our food and eat her food stamps, too.

Food Systems

Orchard by the Avon aims to bring people together
NEW ZEALAND – A Christchurch group wanting to make growing your own food fashionable has revealed plans for an edible garden and cafe in the middle of the city. Surrounded by tilt-slab concrete and glass office blocks, the Otakaro Orchard would sit on the banks of the Avon River. It is the first community group the government has given a long-term lease to for the land it owns in Christchurch’s CBD. Project co-ordinator Chloe Waretini is busy fundraising the $1.5 million needed to complete the project and hopes to have the orchard and garden planted in March.


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