Sustainable Development News

Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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Energy and Climate Change

NZ can do more to combat climate change – researchers
Taking action on climate change could give New Zealand a chance to demonstrate its green clean reputation, a group of top Auckland University academics have told the Government as it sets its new climate target. Twenty-five faculty members of the university made the call in its submission to the Government on its proposed Intended National Determined Contribution (INDC), or climate change target, ahead of global December talks in Paris in that aim to set new emissions reduction goals post-2020. When the public submissions period closed this week, more than 10,000 had been received, while 1700 people had attended meetings around the country.

Tim Naish: If emission talks focus only on short-term costs, we will pay dearly
NEW ZEALAND – Our Government and 197 others are deciding on their contributions towards emissions reductions beyond 2020 for the United Nations climate negotiations in Paris later this year. As part of this process, the Government has framed the discussion around short-term cost, asking “what level of cost per household are we prepared to accept in order to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions?”… But limiting the conversation to short-term costs avoids dealing with the much greater long-term consequences of missing the 2C target.

Australia singled out as a climate change ‘free-rider’ by international panel
Australia has become a climate change “free-rider”, dropping off the list of nations taking “credible” action to curb greenhouse gas emissions, according to a panel led by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. In the Africa Progress Panel’s 2015 report, Australia is named along with Canada, Japan and Russia as appearing “to have withdrawn from the community of nations seeking to tackle dangerous climate change”. Australia, with one of the world’s highest per capita emissions, “has gone from leadership to free-rider status in climate diplomacy”, it said.

Brown coal leads 5.2 million tonne jump in power sector emissions: Pitt & Sherry
Carbon emissions from Australia’s main electricity network have jumped by an annual rate of 5.2 million tonnes since the Abbott government scrapped the carbon price in July last year, according to energy consultants Pitt & Sherry. Emissions in the National Electricity Market, which serves about 80 per cent of Australians, rose by an annualised rate of 3.3 per cent for the year to May, compared with the 12 months to June 2014, the firm’s monthly Cedex report said. Brown coal again grabbed share from other energy sources, rising to 24.15 per cent of the NEM, its highest rate since August 2012.

Fossil Fuel Divestment

Norway confirms $900bn sovereign wealth fund’s major coal divestment
Norway’s parliament has formally endorsed the move to sell off coal investments from its $900bn sovereign wealth fund, the world’s biggest.  It is the largest fossil fuel divestment yet, affecting 122 companies across the world, and marking a new success for the fast-growing and UN-backed climate change campaign. A new analysis said the fund would sell off over $8bn (£5bn) of coal-related investments as a result.

EU utilities caught in ‘coal death spiral’
Sticking with coal rather than clean energy wiped €100bn (£73.5bn) off the value of Europe’s five biggest utilities between 2008 and 2013, a new study claims. E.On, RWE, GDF Suez, EDF and Enel, which provide 60 per cent of Europe’s electricity, lost 37 per cent of their stock market value partly because of a continued reliance on coal-fired generation, the paper from the Carbon Tracker Initiative says. These big five firms increased their reliance on coal by nine per cent during the period against the prevailing trends – Europe’s coal use fell by 4.7 per cent from 2008 to 2013 despite GDP growing by more than four per cent. All five have since been downgraded by Moody’s credit rating agency and significantly underperformed Germany’s stock market, which grew by 18 per cent in the same period.

#WorldEnvironmentDay, Friday 5 June

Seven billion dreams. One planet. Consume with care
WED 2015 News and Highlights

World Can Avert Financial and Environmental Costs of Resource Depletion and Save Millions in Efficiency Gains – New UN Report Shows How
As the financial and environmental costs of resource depletion begin to affect economic growth worldwide, countries need to find ways to manage finite resources while meeting the needs of a growing and increasingly urban world population. By integrating sustainable consumption and production (SCP) patterns into national development planning and implementation, policy makers can make it easier and cheaper to produce goods and services more efficiently, with lower risks to humankind and the environment.

World Environment Day 2015: 21 aerial photos show humanity’s impact on Earth
World Environment Day is observed annually on 5 June. The theme this year, “Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care”, aims to raise awareness of how humanity, the environment and societies all rely on the responsible management of the planet’s natural resources. One of the ways in which we are spending our natural capital faster than it can reproduce is climate change… To mark World Environment Day 2015, IBTimes UK shares aerial photos showing some of the ecological challenges faced by our planet – thanks to the people living on it.

Everyday Australians, unlike their politicians, care about the environment – Opinion
On World Environment Day the Australian Conservation Foundation’s CEO Kelly O’Shanassy says politicians need to start acting in the interests of the people they represent.

I SPENT PART OF my childhood in the city and part of it in the country. My love for the natural world was nurtured and fed in both places. And in my experience, whether people are city slickers or country folk, almost everyone is united in wanting a healthy environment and a safe future for themselves and those they love. The only exceptions to this general rule are the representatives of the most backward companies — the ones that profit from environmental degradation — and the politicians who listen to them.

World Environment Day 2015: meet our environmental partners (The Guardian)
In honour of this year’s World Environment Day, we want to highlight the organisations and associations we work with to ensure our activities are as environmentally sound as possible.  We have focused on three key partnerships that have each helped strengthen Anglo American’s environmental efforts across the world.

Environment and Biodiversity

Brian and Betty Bettong urge Australians to dig deep for a bigger and better home on the mainland
A nationwide campaign has been launched on World Environment Day in Canberra to expand a sanctuary that has allowed eastern bettongs to be reintroduced to mainland Australia, 100 years after they were declared extinct there. The ACT Woodlands and Wetlands Trust is hoping to raise $600,000 in donations from the community and private sector to expand a predator-proof fence at the Mulligans Flat Woodlands Sanctuary where the bettongs are now thriving.

Declining mammal population in the Grampians provides ‘a glimpse of the future of climate change’
AUSTRALIA – An eight-year study revealing the devastation of native animal populations in Victoria’s Grampians has given a glimpse of the future environmental threat posed by climate change, researchers say. Scientists from Deakin University, along with Parks Victoria, spent almost a decade camping in the bush to monitor the strength of native animal populations. The study began in 2008 to examine the small mammal population at 36 sites across the Grampians, where a number of severe bushfires have ripped through the national park over the past decade.

New tarantula discovered in Northern Territory national park by Adelaide PhD student
AUSTRALIA – A new type of tarantula has been discovered in the Northern Territory’s Judburra Gregory National Park by a PhD student from Adelaide. The University of Adelaide’s Sophie Harrison discovered the hairy, silvery brown specimen last week while on a survey expedition in the park, about 360km south of Darwin… Ms Harrison and expedition leader Dr Robert Raven almost immediately knew they had discovered a new specimen because the tarantula, which has a stocky build and is smaller than a human palm, has markedly unusual characteristics. “It’s got a unique arrangement of mouth parts, so we could see it was different to anything else described,” she said.

Threatened animals to be reintroduced into ‘predator-free’ NSW parks under plan to halt species’ decline
AUSTRALIA – Native animals such as numbats and bilbies will be reintroduced into national parks where they are no longer found under a New South Wales Government plan to halt their decline. The Government has appointed the Australian Wildlife Conservancy and the Wildlife Restoration and Management Partnership to reintroduce 10 species in several thousand hectares of new predator-free exclusion zones.

Roadside verges ‘last refuge for wild flowers’
More than 700 species of wild plants – almost half of the native flora of the British Isles – are found on road verges, according to a study. Many plants once found in meadows now only thrive beside roads, where they provide essential habitat for insects, says charity Plantlife International. But it says one in 10 of the plants is at risk of extinction, in part because councils cut verges too early. Local authorities say shorter verges are safer for drivers and pedestrians.

Environmental protection ‘just common sense’
NEW ZEALAND – Environmental care is simple common sense for Te Awamutu dairy farmers John Hayward and Susan O’Regan. It is not hard, but takes time, effort and commitment. The pair spent the best part of three years, planting riparians and protecting wetlands, planting 5000 native trees and retiring steeper, erosion-prone hill country … “Profitability of a business and environmental issues are not mutually exclusive. You just have to be creative how you do it.” Few farmers had the perspective of pillaging the land to make it unusable for the next generation. The work they had undertaken was simple common sense, she said.

Wellington wild cat colony ‘shows SPCA’s trap, neuter and release works’
NEW ZEALAND – A slowly dwindling colony of stray cats in a Wellington suburb is proof that SPCA’s policy of trapping, neutering and releasing strays is working, according to the Cats Protection League. On Thursday, Conservation Minister Maggie Barry called for the SPCA to stop the programme, claiming it was destructive for native birds. “I think that is one of the most foolish and counterproductive techniques I’ve ever heard of,” she said. Instead, she believed stray cats should be humanely euthanised. However, Cats Protection League Wellington president Iona Anderson said a well-managed colony of wild cats in Johnsonville showed the “TNR” method was effective, as long as people were responsible about feeding them and monitoring them for sickness.

Number of Starving Sea Lions in California ‘Unprecedented’
More than 3,000 starving sea lion pups have washed up on California’s beaches since January—easily 15 times more than in a normal year. “It’s unprecedented,” says Sarah Wilkin, national marine mammal stranding and emergency response coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And those are the lucky pups. The situation on California’s Channel Islands, where more than 90 percent of the U.S. sea lion population congregates to breed and nurse young, is even worse than in other parts of the state. The influx of weak, sickly pups—3,110 as of May 20—has overwhelmed rehabilitation centers for the third year in a row.

Economy and Business

World Economy To Gain By Over $900B From Better Protection Of Oceans
Protecting the planet’s oceans is not only an environmental imperative but also a sound business decision as it could add $900 billion to the global economy in a few decades, according to a study by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Creating marine protected areas (MPAs) will yield a three-fold return for every dollar invested in the exercise, the study suggests.

Waikato Regional Council’s Tui Mine remediation and koi carp control projects win Green Ribbon awards
NEW ZEALAND – The Tui Mine remediation project, carried out on the slopes of Mount Te Aroha, began in 2007 and worked to clean up a place once rated as one of New Zealand’s worst environmental hazards. The abandoned copper, lead and zinc mine had leaked toxic heavy metals and acids into local streams for decades. Leading the project was Ghassan Basheer, council’s principal technical advisor, who described the old mine site’s previous crater-like surface as a “bomb site”. He said the clean-up saved a potential $170 million disaster, had the nearby dam burst.

The second winner was Dr Bruno David, whose CarpN Neutral Project has seen pest koi carp trapped and turned into useful products such as plant fertiliser. David said the Carp-N Neutral Project was meant to “take an invasive organism and do something good with it”. Initially introduced as an ornamental fish, koi carp are now a major contributor to the decline of water quality in Waikato’s rivers and lakes. The bright orange fish pose a significant threat to the region’s freshwater ecosystems by uprooting water plants, lowering water quality and eating insects normally consumed by native fish.

‘The Art of Communicating Complex Ideas Simply’: How Organizations Are Inspiring Consumer Action
SB ’15 San Diego’s final day plenaries centered on what many would describe as the Holy Grail of sustainability engagement: reaching people’s hearts and minds to drive sustainable change. MC’d by Annie Longsworth, founder and CEO of The Siren Agency, the day’s speakers explored topics as varied and interconnected as employee and consumer engagement, stakeholder partnerships and activist visual art.

Trapped by Success: Thoughts on Sustainability in Business
Sustainable Brands founder and CEO, KoAnn Skrzyniarz, kicked off the SB’15 conference, and among the issues she addressed was the pace of change. She told the audience how she’s still surprised to hear in some circles that nothing is been done when it comes to sustainability in business and that things are going too slow. To figure out how to change this state, we need to understand the problem, and the problem I believe is that business is “trapped by success.”

Waste and the Circular Economy

Dirty cloud: warnings over online gaming industry’s environmental footprint
The video game industry, while dedicated to delivering hours of thumb-strengthening entertainment, hasn’t always shown a similar verve when it comes to giving Mother Earth an extra life. Greenpeace has slammed console makers Nintendo and Microsoft in the past for their attitudes towards hazardous materials and e-waste, with Nintendo again hitting bottom of the list in the group’s last ranking of environmentally responsible companies. Last year alone saw 42m tonnes of used up, burned-out technology unceremoniously discarded, and we can be sure that ditched consoles, scratched discs and obsolete controllers will make up some percentage of that rubble. Under scrutiny however, console makers promise they have the environment in mind.

Food Systems

Is Salmon Raised on Land the Future of Seafood?
The only land-based salmon farm in British Columbia, Kuterra is considered an eco-friendly alternative to traditional aquaculture. The farm recycles its water, converts its waste into fertilizer, and feeds its salmon mainly grains and soy.


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