Sustainable Development News

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

Reducing food waste would mitigate climate change, study shows
Reducing food waste around the world would help curb emissions of planet-warming gases, lessening some of the impacts of climate change such as more extreme weather and rising seas, scientists said on Thursday. Up to 14% of emissions from agriculture in 2050 could be avoided by managing food use and distribution better, according to a new study from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).

Energy and Climate Change

Global warming may be far worse than thought, cloud analysis suggests
Climate change projections have vastly underestimated the role that clouds play, meaning future warming could be far worse than is currently projected, according to new research. Researchers said that a doubling of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere compared with pre-industrial times could result in a global temperature increase of up to 5.3C – far warmer than the 4.6C older models predict.

European diplomats criticise UN plan to curb airline emissions
A draft UN plan to offset the air industry’s surging growth in emissions contains too many exemptions to be credible and too little detail to be trustworthy, European diplomats say. Aviation is one of only two sectors not covered by the Paris climate agreement and many diplomats are optimistic that the UN International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) blueprint can be whittled into shape before a Montreal conference this September.


A China Eastern Airlines plane, bottom, is seen taxiing as the Beijing Capital International Airport is shrouded by pollution haze in Beijing on March 24, 2014. Photograph: Andy Wong/AP

A China Eastern Airlines plane, bottom, is seen taxiing as the Beijing Capital International Airport is shrouded by pollution haze in Beijing on March 24, 2014. Photograph: Andy Wong/AP

Liebreich State of the Industry Keynote BNEF Summit 2016 – Bloomberg New Energy Finance (PDF or Video 44:50)
Always one of our most-watched presentations, BNEF’s Chairman of the Advisory Board, Michael Liebreich gives his energy outlook for 2016 and beyond.

Australia to sign Paris agreement on climate change
Australia will be among the first countries in the world to sign the Paris agreement on climate change, with a “very senior” representative being sent to a signing ceremony in New York later this month, according to government sources.

Environment and Biodiversity

Coral Bleaching Taskforce: more than 1,000 km of the Great Barrier Reef has bleached
With extensive coral bleaching having been predicted as far back as October last year, Terry Hughes at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies convened the National Coral Bleaching Taskforce to document the bleaching, both from the air and at close quarters. With our survey work still ongoing, a bleak picture is emerging: more than 1,000 km of the Great Barrier Reef shows signs of significant bleaching. In the worst-affected areas, in the GBR’s previously pristine far north, many corals are now expected to die.

Penguin Watch: Public asked to aid Antarctic research
British scientists who have set up a network of penguin-monitoring cameras in Antarctica are asking the public to help them carry out their research.  The Oxford University team is launching a new version of their ambitious project, PenguinWatch, on Thursday.  This is now the largest Antarctic citizen science venture in the world.

How to Rescue These Adorable Tree Frogs
High in the misty mountains of Honduras, the world looks primeval, with glistening pine trees draped in moss and leafy bromeliads. This is ideal habitat for tree frogs, and some of the species hiding in the foliage are found nowhere else in the world. Unfortunately, a virulent fungus is also lurking in the region, and if it can’t be stopped, these frogs may disappear forever.


The Cusuco spike-thumb frog (Plectrohyla dasypus) is one of several endangered species from the cloud forests of Honduras that scientists hope to save from extinction. Photograph by Jonathan Kolby

The Cusuco spike-thumb frog (Plectrohyla dasypus) is one of several endangered species from the cloud forests of Honduras that scientists hope to save from extinction. Photograph by Jonathan Kolby

Gareth Morgan a ‘polarising figure’ on feral cat issue
NEW ZEALAND – Gareth Morgan’s daughter says her father’s ‘polarising’ nature is why communities need to lead feral cat control. Morgan Foundation project manager Jessi Morgan, daughter of businessman Gareth Morgan who is also a campaigner for tougher controls on cats, spoke at the Horizons Regional Council pest management plan hearing this week. The Morgan Foundation has submitted to the council’s plan in the hopes of getting a clear definition of feral cats as any cat without a microchip, collar or harness.

Economy and Business

Apparel Startup Forgoes Ad Budget to Plant Trees, Feed Kids, Provide Water
When you’re shopping for your next hoodie, this startup is hoping you’ll choose to plant as many as 93 trees: ch8se (choose) is a new experimental fashion brand from Amsterdam that has decided to donate its would-be advertising budget towards planting trees or providing food or water to those in need.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Fetzer Vineyards Using Regenerative Filtration, Worms, Microbes to Treat 100% of Winery Wastewater
Fetzer Vineyards, a leader in regenerative winegrowing, is revolutionizing the way U.S. wineries conserve water, announcing today that it will install the BioFiltro BIDA® System at its Mendocino winery. In doing so, Fetzer — a certified B Corp — will become the first American winery to use the  closed-loop biological wastewater treatment system to process 100 percent of its winery wastewater. Powered by billions of earthworms working rapidly in concert with beneficial microbes, the BIDA® System will begin processing Fetzer Vineyards’ wastewater during the 2016 harvest season, accruing energy savings up to 85 percent over current wastewater treatment technologies and optimizing water conservation measures in support of the fight against climate change.

Gibraltar ends annual balloon release on environmental grounds
Gibraltar has ended a 24-year tradition of releasing thousands of white and red balloons on its national day after campaigners warned of the impact on marine life. The British overseas territory’s balloon release each September was one of the biggest of its kind in the world.

Politics and Society

Comment: ‘Hunting permits me to connect with our natural environment’
AUSTRALIA – We can’t ignore that hunting is entwined in our history. Each of us is here today because we had successful hunters in our family lineage. At some point in our past hunting wasn’t optional: it was mandatory. On one level, it’s fairly simple – time spent in the Australian bush continuing the cycle of gathering seasonal wild food for my family. Yet the more I hunt the more I understand that hunting permits me to connect with our natural environment, and value the habitat and wildlife in a way no other activity can achieve.

Does bottling Canterbury water make economic sense?
There has been a lot of outrage that a water bottling plant is being set up in Ashburton. A similar one was built in Hastings last year. The plants draw water from the aquifer, put it in bottles, and sell it in Asia. Because New Zealand awards consents to draw water but nobody puts a price on water, critics see this as profiteering on an unpriced resource… But it will take many more litres of water to produce a litre of milk than it takes to produce a litre of bottled water. The milk is collected, the water extracted, and the powder is sold in China.

Built Environment

Zero carbon housing could add billions to the bottom line
Creating a national zero carbon housing standard could add billions to the economy while also improving occupant health and comfort, new CRC for Low Carbon Living research has revealed. The research, which used data from the South Australian Government’s Lochiel Park housing estate, a “near zero carbon” precinct development by Renewal SA with over 100 homes, found that the benefits of adopting a zero carbon standard for South Australia were “overwhelmingly positive”.

Food Systems

Arancha González: Sustainable farms do business – and good
A Maori proverb says ‘whatungarongaro te tangata toitu te whenua’. Roughly translated this means ‘As man disappears from sight, the land remains’. For a country like New Zealand built on agriculture and characterised by a symbiotic relationship with the land, ensuring sustainable practices and policies around agro-processing is as much a policy directive as it is part of the culture.

Kiwis take to organics as the sector goes mainstream
New Zealanders are eating and growing more organic produce than ever before, with a rise of 127 per cent sold through supermarkets since 2012. The total value of the organics industry, both domestic and exported, is estimated at between $457-467 million, according to the 2016 New Zealand organic market report. That compares to $350m in 2012, a 30 per cent increase.

NZ Hungry for organics, lack of certification hard to swallow
Are you hungry for organic food but find some of the labeling hard to digest? If you do, then you’re not alone. Latest research into New Zealand’s organic sector reports  an 11 percent growth rate year on year since 2012 –  driven by both domestic and overseas demand. But with no regulation to protect certified organic products most discerning shoppers can’t even name a brand they consider sustainable.

MPI decides not to prosecute Heyden Farms despite shocking hen video
NEW ZEALAND – A Waikato poultry farm where animal activists filmed graphic conditions will not be prosecuted even though the footage showed unacceptable practices, the Ministry for Primary Industries says. The video was shot last month at Heyden Farms, which uses bigger “colony cages” instead of the battery cages which are being phased out. The farm is owned by the Van der Heyden family and has former Fonterra chairman Sir Henry Van der Heyden as a shareholder.


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