Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
If you like what you see, you are welcome to sign up (on the right) for free sustainable development news delivered direct to your inbox each weekday morning.

Top Story

Report: Climate Impacts Causing Billions in Economic Damage, El Niño Making It Worse
As El Niño continues to intensify in the coming months, it is expected that global drought losses will surpass the current forecast $8 billion in economic damage, according to a new report by Aon Benfield, the global reinsurance intermediary and capital advisor of risk management firm Aon.

Energy and Climate Change

Climate stalemate prompts call for world leaders to intervene
World leaders must step into the ongoing UN climate change negotiations, to remove roadblocks and ensure their negotiating teams can lay the groundwork for an agreement at landmark talk in December, an influential group of former leaders has urged. The Elders – a group including former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, Graca Machel, the Mozambican politician and widow of Nelson Mandela, and Mary Robinson, formerly president of Ireland and a UN high commissioner – made their call on Friday, as the latest round of pre-Paris negotiations ended with many key issues left open. That stalemate leaves only five official negotiating days left before the Paris climate conference, at which governments are supposed to forge a new global climate change agreement to take effect from 2020.

‘Snail’s pace’ row over progress at UN climate talks
UN officials have reacted sharply to criticism from their Secretary General that climate talks are going at a “snail’s pace”. Ban Ki-moon has been concerned that the negotiations are moving too slowly to deliver a new global deal in December.  His views were echoed by many delegates at this latest meeting in Germany. But one of the men tasked with drafting a new text said that even going at the pace of a mollusc, a draft agreement would be ready for Paris.

Australia’s carbon emissions extend rebound, led by coal-fired power
Greenhouse gas emissions from Australia’s main sources of energy use jumped by almost 10 million tonnes in the first year after the end of the carbon price, making it harder for the Abbott government to meet its goals of reducing carbon pollution. Total annualised carbon emissions in the 2014-15 financial year from the National Electricity Market (NEM) supplying about 80 per cent of the Australian consumers, all petroleum products consumed nationally and natural gas use in south-east Australia, rose by 9.6 million tonnes, or 3.3 per cent, consultancy Pitt & Sherry said… “CEOs are much more motivated by national governments putting in climate legislation, whether it comes from Paris or somewhere else. If and when it comes, that’s what they will respond to,” Williams says.

Environment and Biodiversity

4 Ways Polar Bears Are Dealing With Climate Change
It’s a tough time to be a polar bear. The Arctic predators—which depend on constantly diminishing amounts of sea ice to catch marine mammals such as seals—are declining in number, and fast. There are fewer than 25,000 polar bears left in the wild, according to the nonprofit organization Polar Bears International. Near the southern Beaufort Sea (map), for instance, the population has dropped about 40 percent between 2001 to 2010, from 1,500 to 900 bears. And as their habitat shrinks, they’ve have been acting strangely. On Wednesday, five bears surrounded a team of scientists at a weather station in Russia, trapping the people inside.

Poo transplants can eliminate two superbugs from the gut: mice study
Two of the most common antibiotic-resistant bacteria circulating in hospitals can be wiped out by transplanting faeces from a healthy animal into the gut of an infected one, a study on mice has found. The study, published today in the journal PLOS Pathogens examined two antibiotic resistant bugs: vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium (VRE) and multi-drug resistant Klebsiella pneumonia… Mark Morrison, Chair of Microbial Biology and Metagenomics at the University of Queensland said the study revealed some new insights into how these bacteria colonise the gastrointestinal tract.

Economy and Business

To Develop Long-Term Sustainability Plans, Look to Oil Companies
When thinking of climate change and sustainability, most don’t first think of oil companies as the heroic protagonists. But these companies, in particular Royal Dutch Shell, are renowned for their long-term vision. Shell has been using scenario planning for nearly 50 years and has been renowned for its strategic foresight into periods of turmoil and disruptive change (such as OPEC oil price crises of the 1970s and, not surprisingly, climate change).

Business leaders shift strategic investments in light of green growth
Three quarters of CEOs claim they are developing new products and services to respond to climate change – and a third say it’s already helping them grow their business.  That’s according to new analysis from PwC, which surveyed 142 CEOs during June and July, asking them how their companies were adapting to climate change less than one hundred days before the UN climate talks in Paris.

Yes, You Can Learn From a Regulator: The Pitfalls of Sustainable Business Metrics, Part 17
In 16 earlier parts of this series, Claire Sommer and I developed 29 pitfalls in the sustainable business metrics field, based on the experiences of many mostly non-business fields. (Find them
True confession time — one of us used to be a high-level regulator, the kind you thought of as a major part of your business success (Well … maybe not). Now she’s a sustainability consultant and lecturer at Rutgers University. She learned a lot as a regulator, with a surprisingly long history with internal metrics debates, development, and use in government even before it became so topical in business. And she is finding — believe it or not — that a lot could be applied within business.

Peter Wilson: South Westland highway proposal doesn’t stack up
NEW ZEALAND – There seems to be something in the water in South Westland, that wild fringe land of legends on the edge of Fiordland. Something that consistently generates uneconomic transport projects designed to funnel people to Milford Sound. And funnel the tourist dollar into private pockets. In the past ten years the area has seen proposals for gondolas, tunnels and monorails, all on or under protected public conservation land and national parks, and now, a resurrected Haast Hollyford Road proposal. None of the proposals were good, or necessary, but a road is the worst. It would carve a scar for 120 kilometres through a World Heritage Area and two national parks, cross New Zealand’s largest unbridged river, and destroy a successful iwi-run tourism operation on the Hollyford Track

Waste and the Circular Economy

Soap-making fail inspires use of eco products
NEW ZEALAND – After a failed attempt at making soap, staff at the Cawthron Institute have switched to using more environmentally friendly products. Cawthron scientist Jonathan Puddick created a liquid soap from grated bar soap, water and glycerin that was then trialled in the lab at Cawthron to show that there were alternative soap options available.  While Puddick’s soap did the job and felt nice, it became gluggy and broke down quickly. Community development manager Cherie Johansson said the sustainability taskforce then looked for an alternative to the products they had been using.

This “Leather” Purse Didn’t Kill A Cow–It’s Made From Fruit
What if you could enjoy the best of leather—its feel, the way it wears and gets better with age, and the fact that it’s a renewable resource—without having to kill any animals to get it? That’s the promise of “fruit leather,” which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Original Rotterdam Fruitleather, reports Boing Boing, is made from waste fruits and vegetables from the Rotterdam market. Market stall holders have to pay about 10 cents per kilo to dispose of spoiled fruit waste, so a lot of illegal dumping goes on, according to the team behind the project.

MP to put forward Ten Minute Rule Motion on reducing food waste
UK – Labour’s MP for Bristol East is to introduce a Food Waste (Reduction) Bill in the House of Commons on 9 September. The Ten Minute Rule Motion from Kerry McCarthy MP will seek to ensure that more wasted food is available to charities for redistribution to people living in poverty.

Politics and Society

This Wouldn’t Be The First Time a Child’s Photo Changed History
Any photo of any child makes us think of our own, or the child we once were. When the photos show children suffering or lost, we quiver with a grief that feels personal. That sensation can trigger a response in the heart, a sudden attention to a faraway issue that was abstract and unending, too many words, too often the same. When the photo goes viral, millions of hearts can be touched. People whose hearts are touched talk about it, even in high places. Changed hearts can change minds and ultimately policy and history. On Wednesday the world saw images of a Syrian refugee, three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, washed up on a Turkish beach, as his family fled the civil war. He lay there face down as if sleeping, the surf stroking his face.

New hope: Govt to allow more Syrian refugees to come to NZ
The Government will today announce a package allowing hundreds of Syrian refugees to come to New Zealand and agreeing extra financial aid for refugee camps in countries bordering Syria. It is understood the Cabinet will sign off on a special intake of Syrian refugees on top of the 750 refugees New Zealand takes under its total annual quota.

Lack of science and maths skills ‘can hamper adults’
Adults who lack basic science and maths skills risk being “bamboozled” and making bad decisions, according to a leading scientist.  Teaching maths and science to all up to 18 would “produce a wiser population”, says new British Science Association president Dame Athene Donald.  Prof Donald will use her address to next week’s British Science Festival to urge major changes to UK education.  In particular, pupils are asked to specialise too young, she will argue.

Speaking with: Naomi Klein on capitalism and climate change (Podcast 21:24)
In her latest book, This Changes Everything (2014), the Canadian writer and activist Naomi Klein tackles the issue of climate change through a familiar prism: capitalism. She argues that unrestrained capitalism is the root of the problem and that the global response to climate change has, thus far, been shaped by wealth and power. Christopher Wright spoke to Naomi Klein on the eve of her appearance at the Sydney Festival of Dangerous Ideas about the impact of capitalism on the climate, and how grassroots movements – not market-based approaches – hold the key to tackling the all-pervading problem of climate change.

Kiwi climate change documentary premieres in New Zealand
Award-winning climate change documentary Thin Ice is showing in New Zealand for the first time with the backing of actress and activist Lucy Lawless. The director’s broadcast cut of Thin Ice: The Inside Story of Climate Science will make its New Zealand debut in Auckland on Sunday evening. The film, made by Victoria University of Wellington and Oxford University, has screened around the globe and is a finalist at the prestigious Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival 2015 – Now it’s time for the documentary to come home.

Why I donated my bike to people at Calais refugee camp
Critical Mass is not a conventionally political movement. In cities around the world, the monthly bicycle event sees cyclists – from London to New York and Sydney – convene in a regular place, on the last Friday of the month, and ride the streets of their city in the safety and camaraderie of a group. With its mildly anarchic origins in the idea that cities should be designed around human beings rather than motor vehicles, and that those human beings have a right to free movement on the roads of their cities, perhaps I should not have been so surprised to learn London’s August ride would see bicycles taken from the capital to Calais, where they would be donated to people at the refugee camp known as the Jungle.

Temporary migrants are people, not ‘labour’
More than one million temporary migrants are currently resident in Australia, making up approximately 6-8% of the workforce. The huge increase in temporary migration programs that we are seeing today represents a disruption of the “settler migrant” paradigm of old. Yet we don’t know enough about the lives of temporary migrants outside the workplace. What are the social circumstances of nearly one million residents living and working on temporary visas? And what are the consequences of temporary migration for these migrants’ families and for communities and Australian society overall?

Built Environment

Rio Olympics: How host city is using 2016 Games to become a better city
Patchy and slow internet, unreliable public transport, violent street gangs and polluted Olympic sites in Rio de Janeiro are no barrier in the mind of the city’s Mayor, Eduardo Paes. “We didn’t win the Games because we had better infrastructure than Chicago, Tokyo or Madrid. I mean, we won the games, we won the bid, because we were worse than them,” he told Lateline

In Africa, Chinese Developers Are Building A Mini-China
On the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya, a small sign points to “Beijing Road,” where a new housing development called the Great Wall Apartments looks like the concrete towers you’d find in a Chinese city. Across Africa, Chinese developers are building highways, light rail systems, apartment buildings, and entire cities. A new photo series from the Go West Project, a think tank focused on emerging megacities, looks at Chinese influence in seven African cities.

Food Systems

Life tough for pigs, say activists
Sow stalls are almost history, but the animal-welfare activist group Save Animals From Exploitation (Safe) says their campaign to improve the miserable lot of pigs on New Zealand farms is far from over. Last week, Safe’s executive director Hans Kriek said newly released video footage and photos from inside a New Zealand farm show that conditions for pigs are still appalling, even when farms are sticking to the letter of the law.

NZ irrigation and its guilty secrets
Two recent conferences analysed two very different views of Canterbury’s rush to irrigation. So is the trade-off between economic gain and environmental responsibility working out as promised?
After a decade of irrigation projects being stalled in the Environment Court by the green lobby, the transformation of Canterbury into the country’s premier agricultural province – its mini-California – is suddenly happening at speed.  Andrew Curtis, chief executive of Irrigation New Zealand, says Canterbury has plans to plumb 200,000 hectares of farmland over the next five to 10 years – a 45 per cent increase.

SPCA’s Blue Tick ruffles feathers
NEW ZEALAND – Shopping for eggs is taking a turn for the confusing. Every time I set foot in the egg aisle, it’s a moral conundrum: do I buy the cheapest, or pay the price to walk the ethical talk? I usually pay a little extra for the ones with the SPCA Blue Tick. The charity’s stamp of approval should be a mark of assurance. . SPCA says it’s worked hard over 14 years to improve standards and instil faith in its accreditation scheme but animals rights group SAFE and iconic free-range egg producer FRENZ say the scheme isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.