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 3 greenwash myths enabling corporate self-destruction
A new book by two Australian university business professors launched in Melbourne on Tuesday warns that the corporate world is on a path towards “creative self-destruction” because it prioritises profits over the wellbeing of the planet.  Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations, by the University of Sydney Business School’s Professor Christopher Wright and the University of Newcastle’s Professor Daniel Nyberg, critically examines the corporate world’s response to climate change. The authors claim that the corporate world has taken a “business as usual” stand in the face of a looming climate catastrophe, and that the efforts of sustainability managers are “rooted in futile compromise”. Research undertaken for the book examined the extent to which companies claim to value the environment while still pursuing profit-driven policies that contribute to ecological harm.

Energy and Climate Change

Paris 2015: Draft flags five-year climate reviews, leaves Australia ‘flat-footed’
Countries should agree to review their carbon emission reduction policies every five years to ensure dangerous global warming can be avoided, according to a draft United Nations agreement being circulated before the Paris summit due to start late next month. The provision for regular revisions in the draft accord – which has been slashed from 80 to 20 pages – is a sign UN organisers are increasingly resigned to the fact any pledges in Paris will not be enough to keep temperature rises to less than 2 degrees of pre-industrial levels. Even so, the first “comprehensive draft” by the event’s co-chairmen for some 200 nations demonstrates “the inevitable trend to stronger action” that will be strengthened over time, said Erwin Jackson, the deputy chief executive of the Climate Institute.

Victoria sleepwalking towards renewable energy goal of 20% for 2020
An initial renewable energy target of 20 per cent set by the Andrews government for the end of the decade could be reached by barely lifting a finger, energy market analysts have found. New analysis of the proposed goal reveals that wind farms already under construction and projected rates of rooftop solar installations will alone lift renewable energy’s share in the Victorian electricity mix to 18 per cent by 2020. Last month the Andrews government said it would pursue at least 20 per cent of the state’s electricity generation coming from renewable energy, such as wind and solar power, by decade’s end. Premier Daniel Andrews said at the time that if the state could do better, it would.

Renewables could supply nearly a quarter of Africa’s energy by 2030: report
Almost a quarter of Africa’s energy needs could feasibly be supplied by renewables within the next 15 years, according to a new report released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) yesterday. The report, which provides a roadmap for renewable energy deployment on the continent, found that a variety of modern renewable technology options could more than quadruple the contribution of renewables to Africa’s energy mix compared to the five per cent used in 2013, taking renewables share to 22 per cent of the mix.

Environment and Biodiversity

France has a great plan for its soil – and it’s not just about wine
French wine lovers have always taken their soil very seriously. But now the country’s government has introduced fresh reasons for the rest of the world to pay attention to their terroir. As industrial emissions of greenhouse gases continue to increase and concerns about climate change grow, scientists and policy wonks are searching for potential solutions. Could part of the answer lie in the soil beneath our feet? French agriculture minister Stéphane Le Foll thinks so.

Hold the spray: some garden weeds are helping native wildlife
Think of a weed and that annoyingly stubborn plant you can never quite rid from the veggie patch inevitably springs to mind. We are accustomed to viewing weeds as the ultimate pests of the plant word, apparently existing only to give gardeners and conservationists a headache. It may even be tempting to distinguish between native plants and weeds as a simple case of good versus bad. But is this distinction accurate, or even useful? A look at the complex nature of weeds can shed some light on this issue.

‘Walking’ fish, sneezing monkey among more than 200 new species found in Himalayas, WWF says
WWF compiled a survey of wildlife discovered by scientists across Bhutan, north-east India, Nepal, north Myanmar and southern Tibet in a bid to raise awareness of the threats facing the ecologically sensitive region. The species include what the WWF described as a blue-coloured “walking snakehead fish”, which can breathe air, survive on land for four days and slither up to 400 metres on wet ground. Others include an ornate red, yellow and orange pit viper that could pass for a piece of jewellery, a fresh-water “dracula” fish with fangs and three new types of bananas. In the forests of northern Myanmar, scientists learned in 2010 of a black and white monkey with an upturned nose that caused it to sneeze when it rains.

Hog-nosed rat: Victorian scientists among team to discover new mammal species in remote Indonesia
A new species of mammal dubbed the hog-nosed rat has been discovered in a remote area of Indonesia, researchers say. The rat, which has features never before seen by science, was found in a mountainous region of Sulawesi Island by a team of international scientists, that included members from Museum Victoria. The long-snouted, big-eared rat is so unique it has been recognised, not only as a new species, but as a new genus. “I am still amazed that we can walk into a forest and find a new species of mammal that is so obviously different from any species, or even genus, that has ever been documented by science,” Museum Victoria researcher Dr Kevin Rowe said.

Frogs face mass extinction: Macquarie University report
Frogs face mass extinction with new research showing hundreds of species have been lost over three decades due to factors such as pollution and habitat destruction. If extinction rates continue unabated, hundreds more frog species could be lost within the next century. John Alroy, study author and associate professor at Macquarie University’s Department of Biological Sciences, analysed international data on the decline in frog populations for his research, to be published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA on Tuesday. Dr Alroy found 200 of the world’s 6355 known frog species died out in a 30-year period from the 1960s to the 1990s.

Listen: Nature Is Quieter Than Ever Before
The next time you’re out in nature, stop, close your eyes, and listen. That’s what Bernie Krause would like us all to do, before it’s too late to hear the full symphony of the natural world. Founder of the scientific field called “soundscape ecology,” Krause has been recording the noises of our wild places, whether it’s on land or at sea, since 1968… Sadly, increasing human interference is muffling nature’s voices—from bird songs to wolf howls to insect footsteps. And many of an ecosystem’s sounds, which he calls biophonies, have ceased playing forever. (Listen to recordings from Lincoln Meadow, in California’s Sierra Nevadas, before logging (1988) and after (1989).)

Pest-free plans for Stewart Island sets benchmark to become world’s biggest eco-sanctuary
New Zealand’s third largest island could become the world’s biggest eco-sanctuary if proposals to make the island pest-free get the green light.  And some locals are digging the idea. The plan is to remove all pests from Stewart Island, which has an area the size of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch cities combined. Residents on the island will this week have their say on several contentious issues, including the use of poisons and the logistics of maintaining a “pest-free” status.

The countdown is on at the Million Metres Streams Project
New Zealanders care about the health of our waterways, but it can be hard for many people to get involved in stream restoration. The Million Metres Streams Project has a crowdfunding campaign running until 31 October to make it easy to donate.  It only takes a moment to get online and support the projects currently listed on the Million Metres website: The Million Metres Streams Project has three streams fundraising for critical stream planting works in the Hawke’s Bay and Wellington regions that will restore native wildlife and ecosystems, protect freshwater and secure a healthy environment for future generations, and prevent erosion of the stream bank and pollution of the stream.


Perth’s water worries: how one of the driest cities is fighting climate change
Perth, the capital of Western Australia, is not only one of the most isolated cities in the world, it is also becoming one of the driest in Australia.  Since the gold rush of the 1890s, impressive engineering schemes have transported enough water to make Perth a city of lush lawns and eye-catching flowerbeds, to the surprise of some visitors. But a drop in average annual rainfall in recent years, along with some truly dire climate change projections, have required government and business to focus on water security. Australia’s Climate Council estimates that water flow from rainfall into Perth’s dams has slumped by 80% since the 1970s, with precipitation in the south-west corner of Australia forecast to drop by up to 40% by the end of the century.

Economy and Business

Five things you need to know about the Trans-Pacific Partnership
After eight years and 19 rounds of negotiations that began in Melbourne in 2010, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement has been concluded in Atlanta. The agreement will create a free trade zone among 12 nations, including Australia, the US, Japan and New Zealand. Together, the TPP nations account for 40% of global GDP and 24% of the world’s trade in services. The multilateral trade deal will eliminate 98% of all tariffs levied by signatory countries, on products including beef, dairy, wine, sugar, rice, horticulture and seafood. It also extends to manufactured goods, resources and energy, and services. Here are five of the key things you need to know about it.

Winners and losers in the Trans-Pacific trade deal: experts respond
Australia is among 12 nations signing the historic Pacific rim trade and investment pact, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The agreement, eight years in the making, is one of the largest free-trade agreements in history, encompassing countries that represent 40% of the global economy. We’ve asked our experts to explain some of the winners and losers.

HP and Dell suspend use of interns in Chinese factories
According to an investigation released this week by DanWatch, a Danish human rights research group, …thousands of Chinese students sent by their schools to the assembly lines of some of the world’s biggest electronics manufacturers in China to make servers that will most likely end up at European universities. The investigation took DanWatch to the assembly lines of Wistron Corporation in Zhongshan, which manufactures servers for HP, Dell and Lenovo, where it found Chinese students working against their will – they won’t graduate otherwise – often between 10 to 12 hours a day for up to five months.

Citigroup, citing climate change, will cut financing for coal
Citigroup Inc., the third-biggest U.S. bank, said it will cut back on financing for coal mining projects, in the latest blow to the industry that’s viewed as a key contributor to global warming. Citigroup said its credit exposure to coal mining had “declined materially” since 2011 and that the trend would continue into the future. The policy applies to companies that use mountaintop removal methods as well as coal-focused subsidiaries of diversified mining companies, according to the New York-based company’s Environmental & Social Policy Framework guidelines posted online Monday.

ANZ ‘will not finance’ dirty coal plants and pledges $10bn for clean energy
ANZ bank has pledged not to finance traditional coalmining projects and to provide at least $10bn in funding for renewable energy, reforestation and energy efficiency. In the most significant steps yet by one of Australia’s big four banks on climate change, ANZ said its new policies would help a “gradual and orderly transition” from fossil fuels to clean energy such as solar and wind. The bank has ruled out funding “conventional coal-fired power plants” that do not use commercially proven technologies that significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions below 800 kilograms per megawatt hour.

Business should be backing renewables – fossil fuels don’t make economic sense
The Conservative leadership once advocated powering 21st-century Britain with a green industrial revolution based on the smart, internet-linked, decentralised technologies being invested in by Silicon Valley, China, and others.  Now, unified in majority government, they seem intent on the reverse: exploiting shale gas, building new nuclear facilities, and actively undermining clean-energy competition. It is the new Labour leader who offers the vision of a renewable-powered UK economy today, one maximally efficient and optimally wired, allowing avoidance of both shale and new nuclear. Which vision should the business community be backing?

Renewables becoming ‘fully cost-competitive’ with fossil fuels
Onshore wind is now fully cost-competitive with both gas-fired and coal-fired generation in the UK and Germany, once carbon costs are taken into account.  That’s according to new research published today (6 October) by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), which reveals that world’s the two most prominant renewable technologies – onshore wind and solar – have seen average costs per Mwh fall in the second half of 2015, as the costs of gas and coal fire generation continue to rise.

Wind energy generates £1.25bn for UK economy, provides 30,000 jobs
Wind energy drove £1.25bn of investment into Britain’s economy last year, with the industry now employing 30,500 people, according to a new report from RenewableUK.   The ‘Wind Energy in the UK’ report reveals that wind power has grown to generate 10% of the UK’s electricity needs, as more than 2GW of capacity was installed in 2014/15 – a growth of 18%, bringing total UK capacity to over 13GW.

SunEdison targets Australian market with exclusive panel offering
After a horror month of plummeting share prices and deep job cuts, UB-based global solar giant SunEdison has chosen this week to launch onto the Australian market, with an exclusive offer of a low-cost, high efficiency polycrystalline solar panel. SunEdison, whose stock has tumbled from a 52-week high of $33.45 down to $11.50 over the last few months, says it expects the 265W panel to play a significant role in Australia’s solar revolution. The SE-P265NPB has a model efficiency of 16.2 per cent and, according to SunEdison, offers a better return on investment for Australian consumers based on the higher volume of watts per module.  It is also considered to be a “greener” panel, in terms of embodied energy, due to the fact that its cells are fired in furnaces at triple the density of other systems.

5 Types of Sustainable Products to Follow in 2015 and Beyond
The global Sustainable Brands community continues to impress and inspire with the growing levels of creativity companies are applying in their sustainability efforts, especially when it comes to elevating the level of priority of environmental and social criteria in product innovation processes. Products with a purpose are popping up in many shapes and forms, and many of them are proving they can perform really well financially. Indeed, the world’s first several billion-dollar purpose-driven brands are now a reality, as long-time analyst of the space Freya Williams observes in her brilliantly-put-together new book Green Giants: How Smart Companies Turn Sustainability into Billion-Dollar Businesses.

New natural skin care company shortlisted for international awards
NEW ZEALAND – Founded by Georgina Langdale, formerly of the Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew and the United Nations, Archeus handcrafts plant-based skin care products from sustainably sourced ingredients, the majority of which are certified organic. Even though Archeus currently only sells in New Zealand, it has been recognised for innovation and efficacy by being shortlisted as a finalist for Best New Natural Product in the UK-based 2015 Pure Beauty Awards. The Archeus philosophy is simple: to work with nature, rather than against it, and to do this in a way that honours a long tradition of plant wisdom and artisan craftsmanship.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Afterlife: how hip replacements can end up in jet engines
Our bodies might not live forever, but the prospect of an afterlife beckons for the metal hips or knees we might be carrying. The recycling of prosthetics such as titanium hip replacements and cobalt chrome knee joints from crematoriums is a growing trend across the UK and in some parts of Europe where cremation rates are high.

Politics and Society

Sustainable classrooms: mud walls, rainwater and visits from lizards
Nestled among the swaying palms and lush jungle of Bali is an international school where children learn in bamboo pavilions and read from whiteboards made out of recycled car windows. The classrooms, which have no walls, are designed to help pupils feel more connected to their natural surroundings while studying a curriculum with an environmental twist. It has been hailed as the greenest school on Earth, but it is actually one of many adapting to the changing climate.

Australian children exposed to toxic mining metals do worse at school
Children in mining and smelting towns who are exposed high levels of lead, arsenic and cadmium are more than twice as likely to have developmental disorders than the national average. They also perform lower than neighbouring peers on school tests, our research, published today in the journal Environmental Pollution, reveals.

Mental As: Lack of face-to-face contact almost doubles risk of depression, study finds
Dropping a line to a loved one instead of catching up in person could double their risk of depression, new research shows. The study from Oregon Health and Science University showed little face-to-face social contact almost doubled the risk of someone having depression two years later. The team surveyed 11,000 adults aged 50 and older between 2004 and 2010 in two-year waves.

Creator of 5-hour Energy Wants to Power the World’s Homes—With Bikes
The man who created the 5-hour Energy drink says he has more money than he needs—about $4 billion more. So he’s giving it away, spending his fortune on a quest to fix the world’s biggest problems, including energy. Manoj Bhargava has built a stationary bike to power the millions of homes worldwide that have little or zero electricity. Early next year in India, he plans to distribute 10,000 of his Free Electric battery-equipped bikes, which he says will keep lights and basic appliances going for an entire day with one hour of pedaling.

Built Environment

Seven practical steps to protect our cities from the effects of climate change
…Urban areas mostly develop along coasts and rivers, making many city dwellers vulnerable to the effects of climate change. This has led to a growing discussion on how to make cities resilient to flooding, rising sea levels, heatwaves and other harmful results of our changing climate. However these discussions are not yet taking place on a practical level, and there is no blueprint for immediate action. To address this knowledge gap, the Overseas Development Institute is looking at practical examples from around the world, and our initial research shows that seven actions are key in helping towns and cities deal with climate change. What is more, we can start implementing them today

Cathy Casey: Electric bikes save time, money and the environment
Councillor Cathy Casey discusses the joys of commuting to the Auckland Town Hall by e-bike.

It’s all Sam Trowsdale’s fault. In April last year he invited me to go for a cycle ride with him down Dominion Road to check out some safety issues. He even lent me a bike. One ride and I was hooked. Who would have thought that a year and half later I would be commuting daily by e-bike and absolutely loving it. SO, I think it is now time to share what I have learned as a two-wheeled commuter.

Food Systems

Jenny Marshall on the food waste scandal
Every year Kiwis sling 20 million loaves of bread in the bin that don’t have to go to waste. The average family chucks away 79kg of food we could have eaten, making a $560 dent in the annual household budget. Across New Zealand, this adds up to $827m a year. These are just a few statistics from the latest New Zealand Food Waste Audits report from WasteMinz. “The main issue is that people don’t realise how much they are throwing away and how much it’s costing them,” says Jenny Marshall, standard bearer for action group Love Food Hate Waste New Zealand. “Once they become aware, we see a significant change in behaviour.”

John West accused of breaking tuna pledge to end ‘destructive’ fishing methods
John West has been accused of breaking a promise to consumers by continuing to use “destructive” fishing methods to catch tuna. The latest league table for tuna sold by supermarkets and companies produced by Greenpeace ranks the firm last because 98% of its tuna is caught using “fish aggregation devices” which kill other marine wildlife including sharks and endangered turtles. John West is using the fish aggregation devices in its fishing fleet despite a promise in 2011 that 100% of its tuna would be sustainable by 2016.


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