Sustainable Development News

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

New Climate Economy: 10 ways to generate low-carbon economic growth
Low-carbon economic growth can become the new normal and limit the impact of climate change, according to a new report released today (7 July).  The report from the New Climate Economy, part of the Global Commission on the Economy and the Climate, identifies ten economic opportunities that could close 96% of the gap between business-as-usual emissions and the level needed to stop dangerous effects of climate change.

Energy and Climate Change

10 climate actions to curb global warming, lift GDP
More efficient energy use and investments in greener cities are among 10 measures that can help the world to slow global warming while also spurring economic growth, an international report said on Tuesday. Action across the 10 areas could achieve between 59 and 96 per cent of the cuts in greenhouse gas emissions needed by 2030 to keep global warming below a U.N. maximum of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, it said.

Critics slam Govt goal on greenhouse gas cutback
NEW ZEALAN D- The Government has set what it says is an achievable, fair target for cutting atmosphere-warming emissions, but critics say the new target is “100 per cent pure spin” and a paltry increase on past commitments. All countries are expected to set new targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions before crucial climate change talks in Paris in December, which will establish a road map for the period after 2020. Minister for Climate Change Issues Tim Groser confirmed yesterday New Zealand’s target would be to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.

Direct action won’t work, new policy needed
AUSTRAL IA – Direct Action can only reduce Australia’s emissions by 11 per cent by 2025 based on 2000 levels, according to a new report by energy market analysts RepuTex. The news comes as figures show both electricity emissions and demand have risen under the Abbott government.  The 11 per cent figure is well short of the 24-28 per cent cut the government is reportedly considering, and less than a third of the 36 per cent cut recommended by the statutory Climate Change Authority.

Australia’s Pacific neighbors facing unaffordable climate change bill study funds
Australia’s small island neighbours in the South Pacific face an enormous bill to protect their coastal buildings and infrastructure from the impacts of climate change and extreme weather, one they are unlikely to afford. Research out of the University of New England has for the first time sought to determine the extent of coastal buildings at risk across 12 South Pacific island nations, including Vanuatu and Samoa, putting the cost of replacing those in harm’s way at almost $24 billion.

UNSW solar cell to drive cost falls and become global standard
Solar cell technology developed by Australia’s world leading University of NSW solar research team is likely to become the standard for global manufacturers within 5 yers, ushering in new dramatic falls in the cost of solar technology. Professor Martin Green, the head of the UNSW solar research team, says the PERC technology developed by UNSW was likely to become standard in more than half of all solar cell production across the globe by 2020.

Billions in gas projects stranded by climate change action, says thinktank
More than $280bn (£180bn) of liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects being planned over the next decade risk becoming “stranded” if global action is taken to limit climate change to 2C, according to a report by the thinktank Carbon Tracker. LNG projects allow gas to be compressed into tankers and sold around the world, making it key to hopes in the US, Canada and Australia of fully exploiting their gas reserves.

Doubt cast on new WA gas projects as global surplus predicted to continue
A new report has cast doubt on the need for some of Western Australia’s proposed LNG projects, with supply predicted to continue outstripping demand for the next decade. The report was compiled by London-based think tank Carbon Tracker Initative, a team of financial, energy and legal experts focused on limiting future greenhouse gas emissions. The report’s author Andrew Grant said the research found some of the projects planned for WA and Queensland sit higher on the cost curve compared to proposals elsewhere around the globe.

Abbott government’s ‘blue tape’ costs consumers billions, report finds
A drop in energy use by Australians has slashed billions of dollars from energy bills since 2010, but those savings are threatened by the introduction of “blue tape” policies by the Abbott government and some conservative state governments, a report by The Australia Institute finds. Businesses taking part in the federal Energy Efficiency Opportunities (EEO) were on track to save $786 million a year from implemented or intended investments to curb energy use, the report notes, citing Industry Ministry figures.  However, the 2014 axing of the EEO by the Abbott government – for an annual saving in regulatory burden worth just $17.7 million – and other moves to cull efficiency efforts mean future energy savings are likely to fizzle out.

NSW change to mining rules could block planned projects; hopes boosted in Bulga coal mine fight
A proposed change to mining policy in New South Wales could force changes to planned projects, or even block them, by giving greater weight to social and environmental factors during the approval process. The amendment to the Mining State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) has been proposed by Planning Minister Rob Stokes. It has angered the mining industry while giving hope to campaigners fighting contentious projects, such as a controversial Rio Tinto coal mine expansion in the Hunter Valley.

Brown coal wins a reprieve in Germany’s transition to a green future
…The three regional coal-fired power plants — Jänschwalde, Boxberg, and Schwarze Pumpe — are among the largest point-sources of CO2 emissions in the world. In recent months, Welzow-Süd and other lignite mines have become the subject of heated controversy in Germany as their continuing operations clash with the country’s ambitions of being a green energy powerhouse. That conflict has sparked a battle over imposing a special “climate fee” on coal-fired power plants.

Environment and Biodiversity

Critical eye cast on species re-introduction
Although New Zealand has a long history of attempting to reintroduce native species into their former habitats, projects have been poorly conceived, poorly monitored and had poor success, say a group of New Zealand’s leading reintroduction biologists. A new book, titled Advances in Reintroduction Biology of Australian and New Zealand Fauna, casts a critical eye on species re-introduction – releasing some of our most vulnerable native wildlife back to into their former habitats.

15,000 sq km of coral reef could be lost in current mass bleaching, say scientists
A massive coral bleaching event currently ravaging coral reefs across the globe could destroy thousands of square kilometres of coral cover forever, US government scientists have said. In figures exclusively released to the Guardian, scientists from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) said about 12% of the world’s reefs have suffered bleaching in the last year. Just under half of these, an area of 12,000 sq km of coral, may be lost forever.

Australian scientists part of global study to understand threats to sharks in reefs
Australian scientists are joining a global study that is trying to get a better idea of shark populations in reefs. The three-year study will gather underwater video from 400 sites including the Great Barrier Reef off Queensland and the Ningaloo Reef off the West Australian coast. Dr Mark Meekan from the Australian Institute of Marine Science said the data would give scientists a better understanding of how threatened sharks are. “We know that sharks are in trouble, we just don’t know how much trouble they are in,” he said. “Booming markets for shark fin around the world means sharks are declining in abundance.”

Marine reserves may go begging under Sea Change
NEW ZEALAND – People want more marine reserves in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park under proposed marine spatial planning, but are unlikely to get them. That’s the view of marine reserve expert and biodiversity and biosecurity round table member Dr Roger Grace. Round table members talk about wanting to increase gulf marine life, particularly fish, but there is very little agreement on how to do that, he says.

Hume Highway rope bridges help revive squirrel glider population
A four-lane interstate freeway is no barrier for amorous squirrel gliders in search of a roadside rendezvous, with new research showing “animal bridges” have resulted in a glider generation with parents from both sides of the bitumen. The results of a study by researchers from the Australian Research Centre for Urban Ecology is good news for the threatened species’ gene pool, which was at risk of shrinking due to habitat loss and fragmentation.

Economy and Business

This endless quest for growth will see Greece self-destruct
For many following the crisis for the last five months, it has become clear that it is not just about Greek debt. Beneath the cultural tensions and ugly stereotypes, an ideological war is taking place. This battle is happening because the current economic system has only two answers to debt crises, recessions and slow economic growth: stimulus and austerity.

Top Five things we learnt from Waikato University’s sustainability report
NEW ZEALAND – Released today the report shows that businesses want the government to take the lead around carbon, waste and water issues. The report surveyed 520 business owners and conducted 24 in-depth interviews with managing directors.  The report’s the fourth survey of its kind carried out in order to examine New Zealand’s sustainability practices over the course of a decade (from 2003 to 2014).

Can a Book Help to Market Your Mission?
TerraCycle has always approached marketing in an unconventional way. We have to, really, considering the success of our business model is dependent on how engaged and motivated our consumers are. In a world with so many conflicts and globally relevant issues, getting people to realize the scope and scale of some of our most serious environmental issues is always an uphill battle. Throughout the years, we have found that one of the best communications strategies to combat this has been writing content.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Plastic Free July, take the challenge
Plastic Free July is a month long challenge with a simple question at its core: can you say no to single use plastic for one month?  The Plastic Free July challenge aims to raise awareness around how much plastic is used every day and then discarded without a second thought. Everything from Gladwrap to takeaway coffee cups (which are lined with plastic) to bottles and straws will be under the microscope.

Politics and Society

Climate change is a human rights issue, says UN
The UN’s Human Rights Council (HRC) has unanimously adopted a new resolution that stresses the importance of addressing the impact of climate change on the human rights of some of the world’s most vulnerable people. The Human rights and climate change resolution, championed by the Philippines and Bangladesh and co-sponsored by more than 100 countries, highlights the importance of considering the “direct and indirect” impact of climate change on a wide range of human rights, including the right of life, and the right to adequate food and housing.

Built Environment

Almost all London boroughs failed EU air pollution limit for toxic NO2 gas
All but two of London’s boroughs are exceeding EU limits for a toxic gas linked to respiratory problems, ministers have admitted. Bromley and Sutton were the only two boroughs to meet the annual mean limit for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in 2013, the latest year for which data is available. NO2 is a pollutant created by diesel vehicles.

Food Systems

Pride of NZ: Biofarm beats weeds, pests
The once weedy and pest-infested pastures of Motutapu Island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf have undergone an incredible transformation. Where wallabies once grazed, 20 takahe now forage; where soil was stripped of nutrients, plant roots now reach deep into the earth, creating self-sustaining pasture. Over a period of more than 20 years, Rick Braddock – leaseholder of the 1340ha farm – has brought a biological and natural approach to farming.


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