Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Paris 2015: COP21

The key players at the Paris climate summit
As ministers from countries around the world fly in for the crunch second week of the UN climate talks in Paris there are still significant areas of disagreement, but also optimism at the talks that a deal can be done. The negotiating text has been pared back to just over 20 pages – a much better position than at the equivalent point at the Copenhagen talks in 2009. Here are some of the key individuals who will decide the outcome of the talks.

Paris UN climate conference 2015: Warning ‘clock ticking to catastrophe’, Ban urges strong deal
Warning that the “clock is ticking toward climate catastrophe”, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged governments on Monday to agree to a strong deal to limit global warming and transform the economy to greener energy. “Outside these negotiating halls, there is a rising global tide of support for a strong, universal agreement,” Ban told environment and foreign ministers at the start of an intense home stretch of the talks, due to end on Friday.

COP21 Monday review: Energy pledges hit the headlines
A packed first day of week two at COP21 saw businesses, nations and organisations take aim at the cause of two thirds of global emissions – energy generation.

Global Solar Council launched at COP21
A new international trade body has been launched for the solar industry today (7 December) at COP21 in Paris. The Global Solar Council (GSC) has been set up by 17 regional and national solar associations from around the world, including China, India, Europe and Brazil… The Council says it aims to unify the solar power sector at an international level, share best practice and accelerate global market developments.

Coalition of business leaders challenges 2C climate change target
A group of high-profile business leaders has challenged governments to set strong targets and not slam the door on limiting warming to 1.5C. On Monday, a Paris meeting aimed at reaching a global deal to fight climate change kicks up to a gear, with government ministers taking charge of negotiations. As ministers arrived in Paris, the chief executives of companies such as Virgin, Marks & Spencer, L’Oreal and Unilever said it was critical for governments to reach for stronger targets that would free the world’s economy from carbon emissions by 2050 and avoid dangerous warming.

Arnold Schwarzenegger says climate campaigns need to focus on ‘right now’ not 2050
Green campaigners should stop talking about the risks from climate change in 2050 and talk about “right now”, the former governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has said. “It drives me crazy when people talk about 30 years from now, rising sea levels and so on,” he told the Guardian in an interview at the Paris COP21 climate conference. “What about right now? Thousands of people are dying from pollution. People are living with cancer [because of air pollution].”

Russia pledges not to stand in the way of Paris climate deal
Russia has pledged not to stand in the way of a deal at the Paris climate change conference, removing another obstacle to a potential agreement, the Guardian has learned. President Vladimir Putin is understood to have given his personal assurance to Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, that his negotiators will not block an agreement that has the backing of other major countries. The final week of negotiations in Paris opened with the French foreign minister and UN secretary general imploring ministers to reach an ambitious agreement and reminding them what was at stake. Ban Ki-moon said: “Seven billion people want to know that you, the world’s leaders, have their interests at heart and those of their children.”

Feted by Hollywood, city mayors take starring role in Paris climate talks
In the industrial northern suburbs of Paris, 195 countries are locked in talks to reduce national climate emissions. They sweat it out 24/7 in anonymous, hangar-sized buildings, protecting their interests, giving away as little as possible – exhausted by the 20-year struggle to make even marginal cuts. Meanwhile in Paris’s palatial Hôtel de Ville, 450 mayors from around the world have been listening to movie stars like Leonardo di Caprio and Robert Redford. The mayors are confident, quaff the best wine and congratulate themselves on committing their cities to doing far more to combat climate change than any central governments could ever hope.

World Mayors Call For Fossil Fuel Divestment At COP21
A group of mayors from around the world have published a letter calling on other mayors and cities to follow suit in divesting from fossil fuel investments. The group of 12 mayors from five different countries issued its letter last week, calling on other cities around the world to divest from fossil fuels. The letter was signed in conjunction with the COP21 Climate Summit for Local Leaders being held in Paris alongside the United Nations climate negotiations. The mayors called for “our colleagues to follow our steps and divest their city’s assets away from fossil fuels.”

Pacific must stand united: Tuvalu
Tuvalu has issued a stern warning to its Pacific Island neighbours, urging countries not to do deals outside of the like-minded group at major climate talks in Paris. Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga called for the small island developing states to band together and fight off “serious attempts” to drive a wedge between them. The call highlights the tensions emerging between even the most tight-knit collections of countries in Paris after days of lengthy and slow negotiations.

Paris, COP21: Australia ignoring energy transition as emissions soar
Australia is being put on the spot at the Paris climate talks about its treatment of surplus credits from the Kyoto Protocol, and the fact that it will more than likely meet its short- and mid-term targets without actually reducing its industrial emissions. Indeed, it seems that the Turnbull government – like those before it since the Kyoto Treaty was first signed in 1997 – is insisting that its focus remain on accounting and ticking boxes, rather than reducing industrial and energy emissions and preparing the country to decarbonise its economy. That rise in industrial emissions is one reason why Australia will not be following the example of five European countries and cancelling their Kyoto surplus.

Australia commits to limiting global warming as countries cite impacts on food production
Australia has signed on to a pledge to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius at UN climate talks in Paris, but only after arguing for recognition of the country’s stricter land clearing laws.  More than 100 countries are signatories to the ‘Manilla Declaration,’ with many saying they’ve already seen reduced food production from droughts, new diseases and intense storms. Professor Lesley Hughes of Australia’s independent Climate Council said limiting warming to 1.5 degrees was a safer option than two degrees of warming, which would be far too damaging.

Indigenous activists take to Seine river to protest axing of rights from Paris climate pact
Indigenous groups from across the world staged a paddle down the Seine river in Paris on Sunday, calling on governments to ensure Indigenous rights are included in the United Nations climate pact currently being negotiated in France. The United States, the EU, Australia and other states have pushed for Indigenous rights to be dropped from the binding parts of the agreement out of fear that it could create legal liabilities.

Energy and Climate Change

Global emissions to fall for first time during a period of economic growth
Worldwide greenhouse gas emissions will fall in 2015, researchers have said, in what would mark the first time they have declined while the economy has grown substantially Emissions have fallen in previous years but only because of financial crashes, such as the global slump in 2007. But a decline in coal consumption by China, the world’s carbon juggernaut responsible for more than a quarter of emissions, means global levels are projected to fall 0.6% this year. China’s own emissions are expected to drop 3.9% in 2015, after a decade of rising by nearly 6.7% a year.

Africa plans renewable energy drive that could make continent world’s cleanest
An Africa-wide mega-scale initiative backed by all African heads of state should see the continent greatly increase its renewable energy over the next 15 years. The African Renewable Energy Initiative (Arei) plans to develop at least 10 GW of new renewable energy generation capacity by 2020, and at least 300 GW by 2030, potentially making the continent the cleanest in the world.

Ice and the Sky: the cold truth about climate change (Film Talk)
Claude Lorius sits on a rocky outcrop and gazes pensively across a vast, white vista. Next to him a penguin patters past, hesitates and plops into the icy water. It is hard to tell who is most at home. One of the most poignant moments in Luc Jacquet’s breathtaking documentary, Ice and the Sky (La Glace et le Ciel), it is a beautiful scene of quiet contemplation. But then Lorius, 83, has much to reflect on. Fresh-faced and eager, he set out during the International Geophysical Year, nearly 60 years ago, a pioneer on one of the ambitious scientific expeditions to study Antarctica

Environment and Biodiversity

Big business: are deforestation goals at risk of failing?
Companies are starting to see the clear risks from production of commodities such as timber, soy, beef and palm oil, but it is unclear whether they will act… The good news is that the private sector – the biggest land user globally – is starting to recognise its role in keeping our forests standing… But with the world still losing millions of hectares of forests each year, the real test is not how many businesses are recognising risks and promising to act, it is how these pledges are being enacted. CDP’s data suggests that supply chain implementation could be a real stumbling block.

Hong Kong’s pink dolphins at risk of disappearing (Video 2:12)
As Hong Kong seeks to expand its international airport and with a major new bridge project under way, campaigners warn that the dwindling number of pink dolphins in the already busy surrounding waters may disappear altogether.

Japan whale hunt tensions to flare as Australia considers court action
Australia is considering taking a high-stakes legal gamble by dragging Japan back to the international court in an attempt to halt the killing of whales. The Turnbull government is also examining plans to send surveillance aircraft to monitor the Japanese whaling fleet, which set sail last week with plans to hunt up to 330 whales in the Southern Ocean in the coming weeks. Sea Shepherd activists departed Williamstown docks in Melbourne on Monday with hopes of confronting the Japanese vessels and disrupting the hunt.

Pest numbers slashed after 1080 drop
No rats or mice have been found in the Hunua Ranges kokako management area since 1080 was dropped. Auckland Council has monitored the 1150-hectare area twice since the first aerial drop in August and no pests have been spotted in any of the 100 tracking tunnels. For the first time ever, a pair of kokako has been found sitting on a nest outside the management area.


A pair of kokako has been found sitting on a nest outside the management area for the first time ever.

A pair of kokako has been found sitting on a nest outside the management area for the first time ever.


Economy and Business

Companies pledge support to vulnerable supply chains through Fairtrade Carbon Credits scheme
Companies can purchase Fairtrade Carbon Credits from vulnerable communities in developing countries which are implementing sustainable initiatives. Buying these credits allows the business to lower its own carbon footprint while providing climate finance for the rural developers. Sustainable projects such as reforestation, improved cook stoves and renewable energy production will be developed in areas exposed to climate risks, under the Fairtrade scheme. Carbon that is removed or reduced as a result will be manifested into credits to be sold to companies. The Fairtrade aspect means that a minimum price has been placed on the credits that at least covers the costs of the projects. 

Waste and the Circular Economy

Food Plus: A ‘Smart’ Marketplace For Food Waste
Many food manufacturers fail to sell their stock and after a certain time goods become known as ‘dead stock’. Once that happens, it has become waste and has to be disposed of (at a cost). The FoodPlus platform, designed by Slovenian-based Smart Futuristic Innovations, acts as an online marketplace that allows suppliers to list their stock as it reaches its expiry point. The discounted food is listed on the platform for potential buyers, where price and logistics are organised (some provision for transportation is offered by FoodPlus). The system saves money for both parties involved and eliminates food waste.

Politics and Society

Guilt-free tourism: would you pay $11 for a carbon-neutral holiday?
Travelling carbon free for about the cost of a salad in New York? Yes, please. This is the good news that’s emerged from a study that found the damaging effects of tourism emissions could eventually be eliminated if travellers paid an average of just US$11 per trip. Our research, published recently in the Journal of Sustainable Tourism, was a collaboration between researchers from the universities of Waterloo (Canada), Lund (Sweden), Canterbury (New Zealand), and NHTV Breda (Netherlands).

How journalists can start winning the battle against politicians’ lies
Politicians lie. To varying degrees, they always have. But it is starting to seem that that truism is more true than it has ever been. In 2012, American political commentator Charles P. Pierce claimed that the Republican Party was setting out in search of the “event horizon of utter bullshit” at its national convention that year. It wanted “… to see precisely how many lies, evasions, elisions, and undigestible chunks of utter gobbledegook the political media can swallow before it finally gags twice and falls over dead.” And then along came Donald Trump and Ben Carson, who proceeded to knock things up a notch or two. These two candidates for the Republican presidential nomination for 2016 have appeared to reach entirely new levels of political indifference to the truth.

Myanmar’s new leaders could end Rohingya conflict by tapping into reserves of goodwill
Beset by communal violence and frequently denied their human rights, life for many in Myanmar’s Rakhine State is desperately grim. But our fieldwork suggests there is a path towards peace.

Built Environment

How do we create liveable cities? First, we must work out the key ingredients
Liveable communities and resilient cities are buzzwords of the moment. But exactly how do you define a “liveable” community or city? Our research focuses on this exact question. In an extensive review of liveability definitions used in academic and grey literature in Australia and internationally, we found some consistent factors. Critical factors for liveable communities are:

  • residents feeling safe, socially connected and included;
  • environmental sustainability; and
  • access to affordable and diverse housing options linked via public transport, walking and cycling infrastructure to employment, education, local shops, public open space and parks, health and community services, leisure and culture.

Beijing declares first-ever red alert for pollution, anticipates new wave of choking smog
China’s capital has issued its first-ever red alert for pollution, as a new blanket of choking smog was projected to descend on the city. From Tuesday morning, half of Beijing’s private cars will be ordered off the road, with an odd-even number plate system in force, and 30 per cent of government vehicles also garaged. A red alert, issued when severe smog is expected to last more than 72 hours, is the highest of Beijing’s four-tiered, colour-coded warning system.

How the world is falling in love with e-bikes
The world of e-bikes is a fast growing one with international courier companies and the super rich yachting set amongst their fans. In China e-bike use has gone from virtually zero in 2005 to an estimated 230 million this year. This represents the largest adoption of an alternative fuel technology in the history of motorisation.

Food Systems

Three food companies with a climate footprint bigger than the Netherlands
They may not be household names but collectively global food companies Cargill, Tyson and Yara have a bigger climate footprint than the Netherlands, Vietnam or Columbia, according to a new analysis. The startling revelation from the NGO Global Justice Now comes at a time when fossil fuel companies such as Shell and BP continue to dominate discussions about climate change. Far less attention has been paid to the agri-food sector, despite as much as 29% of global emissions being associated with food production.

New pig regulations in place
NEW ZEALAND – New pig regulations have just come into play. Mated sows and gilts – young female pigs expecting their first litter – must not be confined in stalls during pregnancy and the regulation changes allow mating stalls to be used for service for no longer than one week. New Zealand is one of few countries in the world operating to the standards. NZPork has put in place a traceability system so that consumers can be sure that the pork they buy meets the requirements. [Ed: A step in the right direction, but this is not free range]


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