Sustainable Development News

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

Way of the water lilies: Where science meets the billabong
Aboriginal people in remote Northern Territory’s Arnhem Land are teaming up with a scientist to protect billabongs from feral animals. But they come at the problem from very different perspectives so how exactly do they work together?

This is 72-year-old Cherry Daniels. She was born and raised in the remote Northern Territory town of Ngukurr, on the banks of Arnhem Land’s Roper River.  As a child her elders would take her out bush with them to practice their traditional ways. Among other things Cherry’s people — the Ngandi language group — would swim among the water lilies in billabongs, collecting bush food and bush medicine and having ceremonies nearby.

Water lily seed pods and stalks are a favourite billabong bush food (Gillian Towler)

Water lily seed pods and stalks are a favourite billabong bush food (Gillian Towler)

Energy and Climate Change

Australia wind energy industry turns a corner – thanks to states
The large scale renewable energy market in Australia appears to have taken off again, finally bringing to an end the three year investment drought that was the main legacy to the industry of the Abbott government. But the industry has state governments to thank, not the feds.

Dong Energy to build world’s lowest cost offshore wind farm
DONG Energy has been awarded the concession to build the 350 MW Borssele 1 and 2 Offshore Wind Farms off the coast of the Netherlands at a price of €72.70/MWh ($A108/MWh) – the cheapest in the world.

June swoon: US breaks another monthly temperature record
The US experienced its warmest ever June last month, with a scorching summer set to compound a string of climate-related disasters that have already claimed dozens of lives and cost billions of dollars in damage this year. Worldwide, heat records have been broken for 13 months in a row, an unprecedented streak of warmth that has stunned climate scientists and heightened concerns over the future livability of parts of the planet.

A chart highlighting the rise of billion-dollar disaster events in the US. Photograph: NOAA

A chart highlighting the rise of billion-dollar disaster events in the US. Photograph: NOAA

Fracking ‘will break UK climate targets unless rules are made stricter’
Shale gas production will break the UK’s climate change targets unless there is stricter regulation now, according to the government’s official advisers… But the government says it will take no regulatory action in response to the report from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), arguing that the current regime is “adaptive” and will change if fracking companies go into full scale production. It says it is important to take advantage of the “fantastic opportunity” of fracking and that it is determined to meet its carbon targets.

Environment and Biodiversity

Reducing water pollution with microbes and wood chips
Beneath fields of corn and soybeans across the U.S. Midwest lies an unseen network of underground pipes. These systems, which are known as tile drainage networks, channel excess water out of soil and carry it to lakes, streams and rivers. There are over 38 million acres of tile drainage in the Corn Belt states. These networks play a vital role in farm production… But drainage systems are also major contributors to water pollution. The water they remove from fields contains nitrogen, which comes both from organic matter in rich Midwestern soil and from fertilizer.

Conservation efforts can’t afford to shy away from high-risk conflict zones
Between 1950 and 2000, 80% of the world’s armed conflicts took place within biodiversity hotspots. These are places that contain unusually high concentrations of animals and plants. The correlation between biodiversity hotspots and conflicts is striking. It has complex beginnings, and gives rise to both opportunities and challenges.

‘Utterly unsustainable’: Scientists warn koalas at risk as bulldozers let loose
Australia is reverting to “a frontier mentality”, with rising rates of deforestation lifting carbon emissions and placing at risk almost 2000 species including the country’s iconic koala populations, scientists say. As many as 400 scientists and four scientific societies are expected to sign a declaration on Friday warning that land-clearing rates are again picking up. Eastern Australia has become the only rich nation to feature among the 11 global deforestation hotspots, they will say.

Scientists urge tightening of land-clearing laws in Australia
Hundreds of high-profile scientists have issued a warning to state and territory governments to tighten land-clearing laws or risk losing precious native species. The leading conservationists, from Australia and around the world, have issued a declaration to raise the alarm about the potentially deadly impacts of habitat loss.

Forests of the sea in Western Australia slashed by marine heatwave
Great swathes of the temperate kelp forests on Western Australia’s reefs that underpin tourism and fisheries industries worth $10 billion annually are gone. And the demise of these remarkable “forests of the sea” is likely permanent, researchers say in a study published today.

Why river floodplains are key to preserving nature and biodiversity in the western US
Although they may not commonly be viewed as hotspots for biodiversity, gravel-bed river floodplains are by far the most important feature for nature across the landscapes of western North America.

Economy and Business

Industry leadership on the SDGs in 3 charts
Companies looking for the most effective ways to contribute to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) should prioritize pursuing collaborations with partner organizations and developing new products and services, according to a global survey of experienced sustainability professionals. Applying the SDGs as a lens for setting corporate sustainability goals and analyzing risks are also seen as effective pathways to engage on the global goals, whereas philanthropic contributions are believed to be significantly less impactful.

IKEA argues for businesses to go all-in on sustainability
In the business world… many companies rely on incremental improvements and short-term goals that are revised and updated every few years. But some firms are bucking the trend for step-by-step climate action, ditching incremental targets in favor of long-term goals for a complete green overhaul of their business strategies.  This, at least, seems to be the view of IKEA, which has promised that by 2020 the company will have a net positive impact on the environment. Steve Howard, chief sustainability officer at IKEA, describes this tactic as “going all in” — although he certainly doesn’t see it as gambling.

Waste and the Circular Economy

The Hubbub on Anti-Litter Campaigns: New Website Showcases Best Practices
Behavior change charity Hubbub has launched a new global website designed to aid councils and businesses who are looking for solutions in their fight to tackle litter. Complete with statistics on impact and costs per campaign, the charity hopes the website will help reduce wasteful spending by providing guidance on best practices and inspiration.

WRAP unveils action plan to boost food waste recycling in England
Waste agency WRAP has today unveiled England’s first comprehensive action plan for tackling food waste across the country. The strategy, launched at the Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA) annual conference, contains a five-point plan for improving the collection and use of food waste.

Politics and Society

Millennials: The Age of Entitlement is here
Millennials are often pilloried as lazy and entitled but, as Ben Peacock argues, they hold the power to tackle climate change and inequality.

NSW govt bans greyhound racing
AUSTRALIA – The New South Wales government has announced it will end greyhound racing in the state from 1 July 2017. It comes after a special commission of inquiry found overwhelming evidence of systemic animal cruelty, including mass greyhound killings and live baiting – allowing dogs chase and kill live animals. Premier Mike Baird said the report was damning and the industry was not capable in the short or medium term of reforming.

Greyhound rescue group questions continued government funding for local industry
AUSTRALIA – Alana Wade’s rescued greyhound Sugar flinched at her touch when she was first adopted. She would hide behind the couch and recoil from her new owners… Sugar is one of the many dogs that rescue groups say have been left traumatised by their treatment in the racing industry.  Now, Ms Wade and Canberra’s primary support base for ex-racing greyhounds, the ACT Greyhound Support Network, is calling on the ACT government to end its $1 million in annual funding to the local racing industry.

High health care costs for obese preschoolers
Obesity even at a very young age is costing the health system money, with obese pre-schoolers two to three times more likely to be admitted to hospital, a study has found.The study by the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health examined the total health care costs of 350 pre-school aged children over a three-year period and found those who were obese had 60 per cent higher costs than healthy weight children.

Built Environment

India confirms new smart village
Indian technology company SunMoksha has developed a Smart NanoGrid system to power its first smart village in Chhotkei, Orissa State. A $14.5bn flagship smart cities programme has been launched by the Indian government, but Ashok Das, founder of SunMoksha says the issue of remote villages was not addressed fast enough with around 200 million people living off-grid.

NSW to fund multi-million-dollar community housing upgrades
AUSTRALIA – The NSW government is teaming up with St George Community Housing to retrofit 1400 community housing developments across Sydney. The $5.4 million project, of which the government is contributing half the funds to, is expected to cut energy bills across the SGCH properties by about $800,000 a year.

Food Systems

Global fish production approaching sustainable limit, UN warns
Global fish production is approaching its sustainable limit, with around 90% of the world’s stocks now fully or overfished and a 17% increase in production forecast by 2025, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Overexploitation of the planet’s fish has more than tripled since the 1970s, with 40% of popular species like tuna now being caught unsustainably, the UN FAO’s biannual State of the world’s fisheries report says.


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