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Energy and Climate Change

Illegal coal mine encroaching on nature reserve in north-west China
A Chinese coal company has been operating illegal open-pit mines in alpine meadows on the far-western Qinghai plateau, potentially endangering one of the country’s largest rivers, a new investigation has found. Four opencast mines on the Muli coalfield, operated by the private corporation Kingho Group, could seriously endanger a fragile ecosystem high on China’s far north-western Qinghai-Tibetan plateau, according to an investigation by Greenpeace East Asia released on Thursday. The coalfield is 14 times larger than the City of London, Greenpeace said. Two of its mines overlap with a protected nature zone, making them illegal, and another two are preparing to expand into the zone.

Coal seam gas well fugitive emissions lower than previous estimates: CSIRO
A CSIRO report has revealed fugitive emissions from coal seam gas facilities are ‘significantly lower’ than previously estimated. The study recorded measurements from 43 CSG wells – six in New South Wales and 37 in Queensland – out of more than 5,000 wells currently operating in Australia. Of the sample size, 37 wells produced methane emissions of less than three grams per minute, a rate ‘much lower than those that have been reported for U.S unconventional gas productions’.


Public asked to rescue young sea turtles washed up on Perth and south-west beaches
Rough winter weather is stranding juvenile sea turtles stranded on beaches in WA. The two-month-old turtles, which are only 10 centimetres long, are born in the north-west but cannot fight the strong currents and end up drifting south. The turtles are being found on metropolitan and south-west beaches. The Department of Parks and Wildlife is asking people to pick turtles up if they spot them.

Nat Geo: Weather Pictures From Your ShotSupercell stormcloud
A supercell thunderstorm descends over Severy, Kansas, at sunset in this photo by Your Shot member Colt Forney. Forney submitted this picture to Your Shot as a #Weather photo. Your Shot managing editor Monica Corcoran selected these eight pictures from among our recent submissions with #Weather hashtags.

Scientists at work: capturing beautiful millipedes in Ohio
Millipedes aren’t particularly well known by the general public, or even by most scientists for that matter. They are not as showy as birds or butterflies, and millipede identification can be tricky. Despite this lack of recognition, millipedes go about their daily routines as recycling machines on the forest floor. They power through the undergrowth with their many legs – two pairs on most segments, but not quite the 1,000 implied by their common name – bulldozing through the dirt and feeding on dead leaves and other detritus that accumulates on the forest floor. Millipedes return nutrients to the ecosystem and keep dead leaves from piling up in the forest.

European Union still failing to control illegal timber trade, says WWF
An investigation conducted by the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) has concluded that after a year of a supposed crackdown, the EU is still failing to uphold its own law to stop the trade of illegal timber. According to the report, only 11 member states have passed laws effective enough to maintain adequate checks on the importing of illegal timber, normally sourced from environmental conservation zones.

Economy and Business

Eliminating palm oil from Golden North ice cream not enough to secure Adelaide Zoo deal
South Australian ice cream maker Golden North is upset Zoos SA has ditched it in favour of a deal with a multinational, despite the local company avoiding use of palm oil in its foods. Golden North marketing manager Trevor Pomery says the SA company spent a year eliminating palm oil from its products and Adelaide and Monarto Zoos had heavily promoted their Golden North treats as being free of palm oil. Now the zoos organisation has struck a deal to sell Streets ice creams despite the fact they have palm oil in them.

Al Gore: economic case for coal divestment as strong as moral one
The economic case for divesting from coal is growing and investors need to understand the risks associated with fossil fuel assets, as the world attempts to limit carbon emissions and global warming, according to Al Gore, former US vice president and chairman of Generation Investment Management, and David Blood, a senior partner at the investment firm.

Cost of natural disasters could double in next six years, researchers say
The cost of natural disasters could double in the next six years, research by the Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) has suggested. More than 130 police, firefighters and State Emergency Service (SES) officers have heard from some of Australia’s leading natural disaster experts about the latest research on responding to natural disasters. Many of those at the conference have recently dealt with disasters caused by severe weather around Tasmania. Emergency workers were told the wild weather the state has been experiencing in the past few weeks could become more common.

Tomato farmer plants biodiesel trees to secure more income and tap into renewable fuel market
A tomato farmer on Queensland’s Fraser Coast is ploughing in 16 hectares of land to plant trees that are used to make biodiesel. Several trial sites have been set up in Queensland to grow the native pongamia tree, a large, leafy, seed-producing legume which can produce 10,000 litres of oil per hectare. That oil is used to run modified diesel engines, or be converted to biodiesel.

Bouncing back and bounding ahead: Kees Kruythoff on resilience at Unilever
For Kees Kruythoff, Unilever’s president in North America, a sustainability moment of truth occurred when his company faced an expensive recall… It’s easy to talk about sustainability in the abstract, but as Kruythoff’s experience demonstrates, swift and effective implementation requires strong will and constancy of purpose. When companies face concrete choices of how to implement their financial, environmental, and social ideals, their fundamental resilience comes into play. Resilience refers to an organization’s ability to remain cohesive and composed under persistent internal or external stress, and to effectively overcome resistance. In a resilient organization, people take responsibility for their actions – especially when things go wrong – knowing that the organization has their back.

Coca-Cola Invests an Additional US$5 Billion for Long-Term Sustainable Growth in Africa
The Coca-Cola Company and its African bottling partners today announced a new investment of US$5 billion during the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit here. The investment, to be made over the next six years, increases its total announced investment in Africa to $17 billion from 2010 to 2020. The Company and its bottling partners anticipate that this investment will fund new manufacturing lines, cooling and distribution equipment and production; create additional jobs and opportunities across Coca-Cola’s African supply chain; and support key sustainability initiatives and programs focused on safe water access, sustainable sourcing, women’s economic empowerment, community well-being and operational efficiency improvements.

Politics and Society

Will these sustainable development goals do the job?
The UN working group responsible for crafting the sustainable development goals (SDGs) has handed down its final proposal, adding a goal to address domestic and global inequality. The recommendations include 17 goals and 169 targets to be achieved by 2030. The list includes a reworking of the eight millennium development goals that expire next year, such as eradicating poverty and hunger, improving education, and achieving gender equality, as well as new goals on water and sanitation, affordable energy, safer cities and climate change. [The proposed SDGs are listed for comment.]

France unveils $US13.4bn energy plan to focus on renewables, efficiency
Tax credits and low-interest loans will be used to generate about €10 billion ($13.4 billion) for a new energy plan in France. About half the money will be loaned by Caisse des Depots et Consignations, a government-owned lender, and some will also come from non-state banks. French President Francois Hollande wants France to reduce its reliance on atomic power from 75% to 50% by 2025. Such an investment is necessary to help with this transition. France is one of the most nuclear-dependent countries in the world.

We mustn’t waste water while taking action on climate change
As our new research published in Climatic Change shows, some activities aimed at tackling greenhouse emissions can also consume large amounts of water. In a water-poor country like Australia, this can make a real difference in the relative economic attractiveness of these strategies. In particular, wide-scale planting of trees to store carbon can be very water-intensive, and we should therefore consider carefully where we do it. However, there is good news too. Reducing our electricity demand through energy efficiency and shifting to renewable sources can not only reduce our carbon footprint, but also our water footprint too. Burning coal for electricity consumes water, so if we can reduce this demand and shift to more sustainable technology, more water may become available for the environment and other uses.

Documentary explores the humanitarian aspect of engineering
Is engineering fundamentally a humanitarian profession? That’s the question that took graduate mechanical engineer Sheena Ong on an eight-month journey of interviews and filmmaking throughout 2013 while participating in the Engineers Without Borders Australia’s Mickey Sampson Leadership program. A volunteer with EWB since 2008, Ong explored two different aspects to the topic in The Humanitarian Engineer. The first is what she describes as “normal humanitarian engineering which serves disadvantaged people with science and technology”. The second is the type of engineering she says is essentially also serving humanity through providing water, buildings, transport, power, technology and communications systems.

Croppa Creek land clearing resumes after environment officer fatal shooting, footage shows
Footage has revealed bulldozers again clearing land on a property owned by the son of a man accused of shooting dead an environment officer in NSW’s north last week. Ian Robert Turnbull, 79, was charged with the murder of Glen Turner at Croppa Creek, north-east of Moree. Turnbull was involved in a long-running dispute with the Environment Department over land clearing which had previously taken place in the region.

Labor confirms support of Victorian Energy Efficiency Target
The Victorian Labor Party has committed to re-establishing the Victorian Energy Efficiency Target, which the incumbent Coalition government is intent on axing. The Victorian government was criticised by those in the energy efficiency sector earlier this year for announcing the end of the VEET, a move the government said would save households money on bills. The modelling, however, was later called “dodgy”, with the benefits of scrapping the target shown to largely accrue to electricity companies. However, in parliament yesterday Labor moved amendments to the government’s Statute Law Amendment (Red Tape Reduction) Bill 2014 to prevent the VEET target being cut next year and the abolition of the scheme at the end of 2015.


Rwanda: Activists Take Environment Awareness Drive to Schools
More than 300 secondary school students in Rwanda were trained in environment protection and sustainable development during the previous term. The two-day workshop was conducted at 11 secondary schools across the country. It was organised by Partnership Rhineland-Palatinate/Rwanda with the aim of promoting ecology and sustainable development. “It is our responsibility to protect the environment and address problems caused by humankind. The country has to develop in the right direction but without knowledge this is not possible,” said Jean-Marie Zirimwabagabo, head of school partnerships at Partnership Rhineland-Palatinate/Rwanda.

Built Environment

Aquaint Capital eyes Australian property for green transformation
Singapore-based international ASX-listed property investment firm Aquaint Capital is in shopping mode and eyeing prospects in Perth, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. And the current or potential green qualities of any property is at the top of its mind, chief executive Yang Po Tan told The Fifth Estate on Thursday.

Brisbane’s City Plan missing green metrics
Brisbane City Council’s City Plan, which came into effect on 30 June, sets the city’s course to 2031, designating growth and urban renewal zones, highlighting the role of transport nodes and activity centres as locations that suit higher density residential development, and defining zones where the existing urban fabric is to be protected and maintained. However, it sets no firm metrics or enforceable mechanisms for achieving results in waste, water and energy beyond minimum standards required by national policies and the National Construction Code.


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