Sustainable Development News

Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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Top Story

The return of Britain’s otters offers a glimpse of rewilding’s great rewards
Last month I travelled with my family across the Scottish highlands, meeting land managers to discuss possibilities of rewilding. The speed of change there is astonishing, and opportunities for a mass restoration of living systems are emerging faster than I could have imagined even a year ago. I’ll be writing about this in a few weeks, when the Rewilding Britain charity is launched. But for now I want to talk, not about the practicalities of rewilding but about its essence: the reason why this idea excites and inspires me so much that I’ve chosen to devote much of the rest of my life to it. During our tour across the Highlands we stopped for a few days in the village of Shieldaig, at the head of a sea loch on the west coast. We took a cottage overlooking Shieldaig Island, partly because, for the past few years, white-tailed eagles have been nesting there…

Energy and Climate Change

Tesla’s Musk says Powerwall sold out for 12 months, demand “just nutty”
The hoopla around Tesla’s battery storage device continues apace, with Tesla founder and chairman Elon Musk saying that demand for the stationary energy storage is “just nutty,” and the Powerwall home system is already sold out through mid-2016. Musk told analysts in a phone hook-up after his electric vehicle manufacturer’s first quarter results that around 38,000 reservations for the battery system system had been received. Interestingly, it was not just the home system that was gaining attention, but the commercial and grid level Powerpack, which analysts suggest is already economic. Some 2,500 companies had put in expressions of interest, around 10 units each.

Coal investments are increasingly risky, say Bank of America
Coal mining companies pose an increasingly risky investment, according to the Bank of America, which has said it will continue to reduce its financing of the sector. “The dynamics around coal are shifting,” said the bank’s new coal policy published on Wednesday, which cited pollution regulations, changes in economic conditions, increased competition from shale gas and renewable power.

Government vague on climate targets
A consultation document on New Zealand’s post-2020 climate target released by the Government yesterday is silent on what sort of numbers it has in mind but is clear that any commitment will be highly conditional and provisional. The timeframe for a new agreement to be struck in Paris in December requires the Government to give some indication by the middle of the year of what New Zealand might be able to commit itself to out to 2030, the document says. The current target is to reduce emissions to 5 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020 and a “more ambitious” target is expected beyond that. Current emissions are about 21 per cent above 1990 levels.

New Zealand mulls carbon markets to meet climate targets
New Zealand is eyeing up international carbon markets to meet any climate commitments, the government revealed in a consultation this week. It claimed for the same level of cost as the European Union’s 40% reduction from 1990 to 2030, New Zealand would allow emissions to grow 10-20%… The average New Zealander emits 17 tonnes of greenhouse gases a year, compared to a world average of 8 tonnes. Unusually for a developed country, half of New Zealand’s emissions are from agriculture, described as “our hardest problem to address”.

Solar could get New Zealand back into clean energy race
According to new figures released by the government, New Zealand’s net carbon emissions rose by a staggering 42 percent between 1990 and 2013. The energy sector is responsible for almost a third of this increase. Set against that background, the government has bewilderingly decided to exclude greenhouse gas emissions from its new national environmental report system this year. Meanwhile, more than 50 cities across the world including Sydney, Vancouver, San Francisco and San Diego are officially aiming to be powered by 100 percent renewable energy from as early as 2020. Nearly 200 countries are expected to publish strategies to combat climate change in time for the United Nations climate conference in Paris in December this year. Thankfully, New Zealand still has the chance to pick up on this global trend.

Public asked to submit on Govt emissions targets
Climate Change Issues Minister Tim Groser has called for public submissions on New Zealand’s post 2020 climate change target. Having missed the deadline to submit its ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions’ ahead of this year’s critical UN climate summit in Paris, Groser has invited Kiwis to have their say on what they think those targets should be. The National Government has come under pressure for greenhouse gas emissions rising strongly during its term in office, stalled international efforts for climate deals such as the Kyoto Agreement, the watering down of the Emissions Trading Scheme and the current trajectory looking like emissions will increase up to 50% in the next decade.

Modi: India can offer “natural leadership” on climate change
India’s prime minister has stressed his commitment to finding a global solution to climate change, but declined to reveal if his government was willing to specify an emissions peak year.Speaking to Time magazine Modi said he was “acutely conscious and aware” of his responsibility to help guide the world towards a deal on curbing greenhouse gases in Paris this December.

Activists aim to block Shell’s Arctic drilling rigs from Seattle waterfront
Royal Dutch Shell wants to park two massive Arctic oil drilling rigs in Seattle’s waterfront – but the petroleum giant will have to get around protesters in kayaks and a mayor determined to take on climate change. The fast-approaching battle with so-called kayaktivists is unfolding in the northwestern coastal city well known for embracing environmental causes, laying bare the high-stakes feud over oil exploration in the icy waters off Alaska.

Labor environment ministers commit to decarbonisation
Labor environment ministers from the ACT, South Australia, Victoria and Queensland this week agreed to work to harmonise energy efficiency schemes across all Australian states and territories, and to increase the uptake of renewable energy, including utility-scale wind and solar… “There is a lot that can be achieved by state and territory governments taking the lead on climate change,” Mr Corbell said. “As Ms Figueres has rightly pointed out, international experience has shown that growth in GDP is no longer linked to growth in greenhouse gas emissions. Around the world countries are showing that they can grow their economies while decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.

Fossil Fuel Divestment

Keep it in the Ground divestment campaign attracts 200,000 supporters
The Guardian’s Keep it in the Ground campaign, which is calling on the world’s two largest health charities to move their investments out of fossil fuel companies, has amassed more than 200,000 supporters. Launched by the paper’s editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, in partnership with the global climate movement, it is asking the Wellcome Trust and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to divest from the top 200 oil, coal and gas companies within five years.

[Ed: You can sign the petition too by following this article link]

Environment and Biodiversity

World headed for an El Nino and it could be a big one, scientists say
The world is headed into a major drought-bringing El Nino event, which will lift global temperatures and lead to bushfires and water shortages in eastern Australia, climate scientists have confirmed. Fairfax Media understands that Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology will announce next Tuesday that the El Nino event is all but certain. Sea-surface temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific are recording anomalies of more than 1 degree, a combination that has not previously been seen in weekly data going back to 1991, according to a bureau climate forecaster.

Don’t forget to vote … for Britain’s national bird
The general election isn’t the only vote of national importance happening on Thursday. A poll to choose Britain’s national bird will close at midnight and 116,000 people have already cast their vote.  Astonishingly, the country has no unifying national avian symbol, a situation that ‘Urban Birder’ David Lindo has taken upon himself to resolve. Ten final candidates have been whittled down from a list of 60. The result is expected to be announced in June… vote now. It’s the only election that will end in a result anyone will understand.

These Long-Suffering Animal Mothers Deserve a Day Too
Our moms aren’t the only ones who deserve to be honored this Mother’s Day. From octopuses to elephants, plenty of animal mothers go above and beyond for their young, even before they’re born. While women carry a child for nine months, some animal species have pregnancies that last years. So as you toast your mom this Sunday for putting up with morning sickness, labor pains, messy rooms, and chauffeuring duties, think about raising a glass to these long-suffering animal mothers too.

[Ed: Also consider, when population of an animal are reduced, long pregnancies affect the species’ ability to repopulate]Pygmy Possum

One of Australia’s smallest marsupials secures a big legal win on the NSW Central Coast
After a ten-year battle, the Eastern Pygmy Possum has had a big legal win in the High Court of Australia. “The developer had appealed, and appealed, and appealed, and appealed – and finally we have won in the High Court of Australia.  “There’s no more avenues for appeal. We’ve won,” said Pauline Wright, the solicitor representing Gosford Council. The possum’s habitat is located in an industrial zone in Somersby, where a developer had been fighting for a decade to build a waste resource recovery facility.

Rescue plan for filthy city estuary
NEW ZEALAND – It has been called an ecological disaster – choked with mud and fouled by stormwater – but help is on the way for the Milford Estuary, which flanks one of Auckland’s most popular urban beaches and recreation reserves. “A good first step” is how resident Warwick Gair describes an Auckland Council move for a $20,000 study of how to filter out dollops of silt from stormwater upstream from Milford Beach. Mr Gair said silt particles washed from developments in the bustling Westlake and Wairau Valley areas have formed 2m-deep mud drifts.

Newly found microbe is close relative of complex life
A newly discovered life form could help resolve one of the most contentious conundrums in modern biology. All organisms on Earth are classified as either prokaryotes, which have simple cells, or eukaryotes, which have larger, more complex cells. But the two cell types are so divergent that understanding how one evolved from the other has foxed biologists. The new microbes, reported in Nature journal, go some way to bridging that gap.

Economy and Business

Top 5 Reasons to Communicate About Your Supply Chain Sustainability Efforts
Companies face a harder time today satisfying their customers. They expect their purchases to deliver as promised and, increasingly, they want to ensure the manufacturing process didn’t cause social or environmental damage along the value chain. They don’t want that imported, low-cost T-shirt or electronic gadget to be the product of dangerous or oppressive working conditions in Bangladesh or China, or that the metals in certain products also fuel military conflicts in the Congo. In this new economic landscape, transparency is the name of the game. So companies must ensure that every layer of their supply chain meets stringent regulatory requirements, or else leave their brand open to a reputational crisis.

Science, Certifications, Stories: 3 Reasons You Can’t Afford Not To Leverage Your Brand’s Sustainability Initiatives
Your company is doing all the right things: You’re making a product with sustainable attributes, your manufacturing process is diverting waste from landfill, and your products contain recycled content. But are these efforts translating into higher brand value at the shelf? If you’re not communicating your sustainability efforts in the right way, you might be missing the boat. Here are three key reasons you can’t afford to miscommunicate your sustainability initiatives.

How Starting a Charity Changed My Business (and My Life)
For me and my brother, helping families in need has been a lifelong endeavor. When we started FLO Cycling, it seemed only natural to add a charitable component to our business. We decided to create our own program called Bike for a Kid… Since launching Bike for a Kid, we’ve learned that even the simplest concepts can have dramatic impacts. This act of charity has created benefits for our business that span beyond tax breaks and positive publicity. There have been far more rewarding bonuses worth noting… Ready to give back? Here are three tips to help you launch a charity initiative of your own.

M&S Launches Companywide Campaign to Engage Employees in ‘Making Energy Matter’
UK retailer Marks & Spencer has launched a new employee engagement campaign to help the company cut energy use by 50 percent across its UK operations by 2020.  According to a recent blog post by Energy Program Coordinator Kate Neale, employee participation is key to M&S reaching the ‘ambitious targets’ laid out in its latest Plan A report — a 50 percent cut in energy and 35 percent cut in water use by 2020. So Neale says the Making Energy Matter campaign will communicate tips and targets to employees “in a multitude of different formats: from presentations to posters, displays to desk-drops, web banners to booklets, emails to in-house magazines.”

Politics and Society

Why it matters that left-wingers just won in oil-rich Alberta
American environmentalists are frustrated that our adorable neighbor to the north is surprisingly retrograde on climate change. The reason is that Canada has a Conservative government. Right-leaning governments almost always have worse records on environmental protection, but this is especially so in present-day Canada because Prime Minister Stephen Harper hails from, and draws a lot of support in, the interior province of Alberta. Oil-rich Alberta — home to notorious tar-sands operations — is just north of Idaho, and has the politics to match. The right-leaning party has been in power there for 44 years. But not anymore. On Tuesday, the lefty New Democratic Party (NDP) won the provincial elections on a platform that promises to diversify Alberta’s fossil fuel–dependent economy.

Lead poisoning lawsuit tests China’s resolve over pollution
Shanghai: A lawsuit filed by residents of a Chinese town against a chemical plant that they say is responsible for high levels of lead in the blood of local children is shaping up as a test of the central government’s resolve to tackle pollution. Of the more than 50 residents from in and around the rural town of Dapu, in central Hunan, province who originally agreed to join the lawsuit, only 11 remain, their lawyer, Dai Renhui, told Reuters. Hu Shaobo, another lawyer advising on the case, said some plaintiffs had withdrawn under pressure from local government officials. The lawsuit, described by lawyers as one of the first of its kind to be accepted by a Chinese court, is scheduled to be heard next month.

Built Environment

Councils take lead in sustainable building design after state failure
AUSTRALIA – A lack of state leadership in setting a sustainable building standard has caused a group of councils in Melbourne to push for innovation from the ground up. The Council Alliance for Sustainable Built Environment will next week launch an online rating tool to help planning applicants meet higher sustainability standards in building design. The Built Environment Sustainability Scorecard, or BESS, assesses energy and water efficiency, thermal comfort and overall sustainable performance of a variety of buildings and renovations. The tool is designed to help people meet the criteria of a new Environmental Sustainable Design policy the alliance submitted to the Victorian state planning department last year. If approved, the policy would give councils a statutory mechanism in the planning scheme to require a sustainability assessment. It would be compulsory – instead of voluntary – for developers and builders to submit a sustainable design assessment or management plan for most developments and some extensions.

Electric car charging or no parking at all – Piccolo’s take on the green agenda
The owner-occupier residential market has a much greater appreciation of sustainable design than the investor sector, according to Melbourne-based developer Michael Piccolo. His company’s most recent project, Elwood House, is taking up a new angle on green initiatives, with electric car charging points being installed for all 60 parking bays. Piccolo told The Fifth Estate this was first Melbourne multi-residential development to install the charging infrastructure throughout…  “To retrofit the charging infrastructure would be expensive. I thought it was important to have a sense of responsibility to people in terms of future-proofing,” Piccolo says.

Green sleep – Accor hotel group and sustainability
New Zealand was the first country within the global Accor hotel network to celebrate the launch of the hotel giant’s Planet 21 sustainability strategy.  Evolving out the 1992 Earth Summit’s Agenda 21, a voluntary plan of action for sustainable development, Planet 21 aims to address ‘seven pillars’ of sustainability across the more than 3600 hotels, apartments and resorts in nearly 100 countries, and stimulate behaviour change in its more than 180,000 employees globally.

Food Systems

Farm to Table – Changing Where Produce is Grown
A rooftop farm in the middle of New York City, growing a million pounds of produce every year, would have been unimaginable a short time ago. It is now a reality. There are some amazing trends emerging in a variety of farming operations that will affect where and when your produce is grown. Six key forces are driving those trends, and they are creating amazing business opportunities. Here’s a brief description of the forces that are at work.

Geelong Star trawler to be evicted from fishery if it kills another dolphin
AUSTRALIA – The freezer factory trawler the Geelong Star will only be allowed to fish during daylight hours following the deaths of dolphins and seals on the vessel’s second fishing trip. The Australian Fisheries Management Authority has imposed the new restrictions on all mid-water trawlers in the small pelagic fishery. The 95-metre Geelong Star has killed a total of eight dolphins and four seals on its first two voyages in Australian waters.


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