Sustainable Development News

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

Without action, Asia-Pacific ecosystems could lose a third of their value by 2050
Ecosystem services – the natural processes that allow Earth to sustain life and provide us with everything we have and see – are facing an uncertain future… Our research shows that, in the Asia-Pacific region, [the] downward trend is likely to continue unless there are significant policy changes. By 2050, we predict that ecosystem service values could drop by 34% from their 2011 base value of US$13 trillion. But, more optimistically, we also forecast that ecosystems could grow in value by 24% by mid-century, if policies are put in place to safeguard these crucial environmental values.

Energy and Climate Change

Scientists warn world will miss key climate target
Leading climate scientists have warned that the Earth is perilously close to breaking through a 1.5C upper limit for global warming, only eight months after the target was set… figures – based on Met Office data – prepared by meteorologist Ed Hawkins of Reading University show that average global temperatures were already more than 1C above pre-industrial levels for every month except one over the past year and peaked at +1.38C in February and March. Keeping within the 1.5C limit will be extremely difficult, say scientists, given these rises.

The town that reveals how Russia spills two Deepwater Horizons of oil each year
The Komi Republic in northern Russia is renowned for its many lakes, but sites contaminated by oil are almost just as easy to find in the Usinsk oilfields. From pumps dripping oil and huge ponds of black sludge to dying trees and undergrowth — a likely sign of an underground pipeline leak — these spills are relatively small and rarely garner media attention. But they add up quickly, threatening fish stocks, pasture land and drinking water.

AGL invests in world’s largest battery storage virtual power plant
AGL Energy has announced plans to develop what it describes as “the world’s largest battery storage ‘virtual power plant’” in South Australia, in a foretaste of what many expect to be the energy system of the future. The project will comprise a centrally controlled network of 1,000 residential and business battery storage systems with a combined total of 7MWh capacity that will both store rooftop solar power and help manage grid stability in the state.

BP reveals plans to drill for oil in Great Australian Bight marine reserve
Oil giant BP has detailed plans to drill in the Great Australian Bight within a commonwealth marine reserve. As part of a re-submission to the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA), BP has pinpointed two areas – for which it holds permits – within the Great Australian Bight Commonwealth Marine Reserve.
See also: Great Australian Bight oil drilling protesters gather at Victor Harbor

Environment and Biodiversity

Queensland Government pushes for change as tree clearing increases
AUSTRALIA – Tree clearing in Queensland remains at unsustainable levels, the state government says. The Statewide Land Cover and Tree Study (SLATS) has revealed 296,000 hectares of woody vegetation was cleared in 2014-15. It is only slightly up on the previous year, but the Government points to the fact rates have nearly doubled since 2011-12.

NSW koala habitat lost as land clearing continues: ‘It would take the army to police these blokes’
AUSTRALIA – For the past five years, Alaine Anderson has watched with horror as great swathes of koala-friendly woodlands in their region of northern NSW have been smashed by bulldozers and then torched in bonfires. “We don’t have much time to tell the truth,” the 63-year-old farmer and grandmother said during a recent visit to her property at Croppa Creek. Time is indeed short, with the latest figures showing land clearing is accelerating in NSW, with much of it possibly illegal. And that’s before the Baird government introduces new laws later this year that many critics – including some officials – warn will increase the amount of vegetation destroyed.

How millions of trees brought a broken landscape back to life
UK – Twenty-five years ago, the Midlands villages of Moira, Donisthorpe and Overseal overlooked a gruesome landscape. The communities were surrounded by opencast mines, old clay quarries, spoil heaps, derelict coal workings, polluted waterways and all the other ecological wreckage of heavy industry. The air smelt and tasted unpleasant and the land was poisoned. There were next to no trees, not many jobs and little wildlife. Following the closure of the pits, people were deserting the area for Midlands cities such as Birmingham, Derby and Leicester. The future looked bleak. Today, a pastoral renaissance is taking place.

Can ‘climate corridors’ help species adapt to warming world?
If you flip over a log in a forest in the southeastern U.S., you are likely to find a squirming salamander. A healthy forest floor, full of fallen branches and rotting leaves, provides these amphibians with the moisture, protection and food they need to survive and thrive. If rain falters or if temperatures rise too high for these animals to survive, they would need to move to another cooler, wetter part of the forest.

Kiwi takes pure approach to underwater photography of ocean creatures
Using just the oxygen he can hold in his lungs Matt Draper dives alongside some of the world’s largest ocean animals to capture them in the most natural way possible. Now based in Byron Bay, Australia, the former Wellingtonian’s quickly growing international reputation as a master of underwater photography.  He uses only natural lighting and eschews scuba equipment in an attempt to disturb the animals as little as possible, and capture their natural behaviour.


Getting up close and personal with sharks comes naturally to Draper. Photo: Matt Draper.

Getting up close and personal with sharks comes naturally to Draper. Photo: Matt Draper.


Economy and Business

Human. Nature.
This is the challenge facing Myanmar—and many other countries. How can a nation grow without depleting its rich base of natural resources? And how can it do so now, before its natural resources are overexploited or degraded in exchange for short-term economic gains? In Myanmar—and in places like Mozambique, Belize, and the US—WWF scientists and policy experts are working with partners to create a new kind of global development road map: one that recognizes the fundamental ways in which nature provides for us all.

New index shows where countries stand on the SDGs
A new report from SDSN assesses how countries are performing across and on each of the 17 SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals]. The aim of the SDGs Index & Dashboards is to help countries identify priorities for early actions so they can get started with implementing the SDGs. The report was launched at the 2016 High Level Political Forum, the UN’s annual meeting on the SDGs. This year’s meeting was the first since the SDGs were adopted.

Politics and Society

Rio 2016: Opening ceremony features environmental rallying cry
A rallying cry to save the planet from environmental destruction has launched the Olympic Games as Rio de Janeiro put on a glittering opening carnival. The overwhelming theme of the evening was protection of the environment. “It is not enough to stop harming the planet, it is time to start healing it,” programme notes from the ceremony’s organisers read. An early opening sequence depicted the birth of life, culminating in the sprouting of a green entanglement of leaves from the stadium floor depicting the Amazon rainforest.

Local people to get cash payments from fracking
UK – The prime minister has intervened to allow people who live near sites used for shale gas exploration to be given cash payments so that they benefit from the developments. In rewriting George Osborne’s plans, Theresa May has ensured local people can share in proceeds from fracking projects. Previous proposals for the Shale Wealth Fund only included cash for community trusts and councils.

One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts is in denial about the facts of climate change
The notion that climate science denial is no longer a part of Australian politics was swept away yesterday by One Nation Senator-Elect Malcolm Roberts. In his inaugural press conference, Roberts claimed that “[t]here’s not one piece of empirical evidence anywhere, anywhere, showing that humans cause, through CO₂ production, climate change”. He also promoted conspiracy theories that the CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology are corrupt accomplices in climate conspiracy driven by the United Nations. His claims conflict with many independent lines of evidence for human-caused global warming. Coincidentally, the University of Queensland is releasing a free online course this month examining the psychology and techniques of climate science denial.
See also: New One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts champions climate denial

Where do you fit on the ‘amoeba map’? (Book Excerpt)
We have some good news and some bad news.  Let’s take the bad news first. When you approach a change process, you can be sure that some people are going to be less helpful to you than others. Some will want to slow you down. Some won’t care. Some might believe that change is too difficult, or even impossible, and not worth the effort. And of course, some people might actively oppose you. They might work hard — visibly or behind the scenes — to try to make your initiative fail.  It’s best not to ignore these uncomfortable facts.  But here’s the good news, and it has two parts.


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