Tuesday 07 October 2014
Sustainable Development News
Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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E nergy and Climate Change
Tougher energy efficiency target would boost UK economy by £62bn – study
A 40% cut in energy use by 2030 through efficiency measures would increase the UK’s GDP by £62bn and create 40,000 new jobs, according to unpublished EU figures. Hitting a lower target of 30% would create 13,000 jobs and boost the economy by £17.3bn, says the study by independent consultancy Cambridge Econometrics, obtained by WWF after an access to information request. The study underlines the impact of engineering the economy to use less energy. “The benefits of energy efficiency are impressive and we need to be ambitious,” said Brook Riley, a spokesman for Friends of the Earth. “GDP gains are three times higher with a 40% reduction target than with 30%. It is significant that the countries which were hardest hit by the financial crisis – Greece, Portugal, Ireland – are among the strongest advocates of going as far as we can.”
China’s economic growth undermining carbon-cutting efforts
Despite climate change commitments and improvements in its approach to greenhouse gas emissions and pollution, China’s massive economic growth is jeopardising its efforts to build a low-carbon economy, new research has found. The study, published in Nature Climate Change, found for instance that in the province of Guizhou, carbon efficiency has improved by 98% but industrial production caused a 125% efficiency loss at the same time, leading to a 27% net fall in efficiency.
Environment and Biodiversity
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The world has lost nearly three quarters of its wetlands in the last century. The figures are revealed in a study published in the Marine and Freshwater Research journal, which also says nearly 90 per cent of wetlands have been lost since the 1700s. Adjunct Professor at Charles Sturt University, Nick Davidson, says the decline is due to other priorities being seen as more important to society than the environment. “The evidence that comes out is the twentieth century we were destroying wetlands almost four times as fast as beforehand with the conversion to agriculture and crop production.”
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International efforts to meet targets to stem the loss of wildlife and habitats are failing miserably, according to a UN report. The Global Biodiversity Outlook 4, published as nearly 200 countries meet on Monday in South Korea in a bid to tackle biodiversity loss, paints a damning picture of governments’ efforts to meet a set of targets agreed in 2010 to slow the destruction of species’ habitats, cut pollution and stop overfishing by the end of the decade. Conservationists said the lack of progress, nearly halfway to the 2020 deadline for the targets, was a troubling sign and a reality check.
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Feral cats are a huge threat to our native wildlife, hunting and killing an estimated 75 million animals across Australia each and every night. But the killing spree doesn’t end there. There’s a parasite lurking in kitty’s litter that continues to kill wildlife long after the perpetrator has left the scene of the crime. The killer is toxoplasmosis, a disease caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. The parasite is spread by cats but it can infect any bird or mammal. Around one-third of humans worldwide are infected with the parasite. But the deadly effects on our wildlife are often overlooked.
Economy and Business
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Boll & Branch, makers of socially conscious home textiles, has announced that its full line of products — including bed sheet sets, duvets, shams and bed covers — will be the first of their kind to sport Fair Trade USA’sFair Trade Certified™ label. Since January, Boll & Branch has become one of the fastest-growing brands in the home textiles category. The new bedding brand sold thousands of sets of organic cotton sheets under the premise that Fair Trade costs are a moral obligation that shouldn’t be passed on to the customer, as well as by accepting a healthy 50-60 percent margin, versus the 400-600 percent markup that is customary among many leading textile brands. This business model enables the customer to actually pay less than they would for designer products that often do not maintain acceptable ethical and environmental standards.
Waste and the Circular Economy
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Experts told us that GDP is a meaningless measurement, bioplastics might do more harm than good and it is possible to go too circular.
Politics and Society
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During his reign from 2,450-2,400BC, King of Lagash set about building boundary canals around his territory. The result was a gradual reduction in the water flowing to nearby Umma (modern-day Iraq). Fisticuffs followed. Violent tensions over water are certainly nothing new, but they are on the rise. “We see thousands of years of examples where water has been a source of tension in one form or another … but violence related to water is growing, not shrinking”, says Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, an independent US research centre that publishes a chronology of water-related conflicts.
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Tackling climate change and restoring the public finances both require a long term view, but politics continues to be driven by short term considerations. A lack of long term thinking in government undermines effective policy making, and that really matters when it comes to the environment. The threat of climate change demands action now but, by its very nature, we won’t see many of the benefits of that action – or the consequences of inaction – for decades to come.
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India is set to host a meeting of international investors willing to pour billions into realising the country’s great clean energy potential, after India’s energy minister promised to turn the nation into a ‘renewable superpower’. In February, the Renewable Energy Global Investors Meet and Expo – ‘RE-INVEST’ will take place in New Delhi, with the aim of raising finance for India’s renewable energy projects. The initiative was launched by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, which was created after the election of prime minister Narendra Modi. The summit hopes to attract large-scale investment – quantified as around $35 billion (£21bn) per year – and it will be held each year for the next five years, or until 900 MW of clean energy capacity has been developed.
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A top expert on the Great Barrier Reef says the agency given the job of protecting it no longer has a single member of staff working full-time on the effects of climate change. The reason: budget cuts which have slashed 17 staff with five of its senior directors agreeing to take voluntary redundancies. It’s being described as the greatest loss of expertise from Australia’s most important natural wonder and it comes at the very time the Great Barrier Reef is facing the greatest threat to its survival.