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Wednesday 08 November 2017

Sustainable Development News

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

Sustainable shopping: how to rock white sneakers without eco-guilt
Nearly 800,000 Australians buy a pair of sporting shoes in any four-week period. This amounts to a staggering 10.4 million pairs sold every year. Globally, Nike sells 25 pairs of sneakers every second. But have you ever considered the environmental impact of your favourite sneakers? From materials to manufacturing, they have a hidden cost – but it is possible to find shoes that don’t cost the Earth.


Syria signs Paris climate agreement and leaves US isolated
Syria has decided to sign the Paris agreement on climate change, the world’s final functioning state to do so. The surprise decision, taken amid a brutal civil war in the country, will leave the US as the only country outside the agreement if it follows through on President Donald Trump’s vow to leave.

Fight Climate Change by Suing Pollutors, Says Climate Scientist James Hansen
Countries should sue the world’s biggest oil, coal and gas, and cement companies for damages resulting from climate change—says well-known climate scientist James Hansen, a former NASA scientist who warned Congress about the dangers of climate change in 1988… An enormous amount of money is urgently needed to dramatically slash emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), take existing CO2 out of the atmosphere, and for countries to cope with the impacts of climate change, Hansen argues. And that money should come from the companies that profited most from burning fossil fuels, Hansen will tell world leaders Tuesday in Bonn, Germany, at the annual United Nations climate negotiations.

Climate Change and Energy

Natural gas emissions will blow Europe’s carbon budget at current levels
Governments have drastically underestimated methane emissions from natural gas and will miss the Paris agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to 2C unless they urgently scale down its use, a major new study has found.

Is this the end for big wind and big solar in Australia?
AUSTRALIA – [A graphic] Released by the Clean Energy Regulator on Friday, …shows that the renewable energy target, which aims for 33,000GWh of large-scale renewable energy by 2020, is nearly complete. According to its data, the CER reckons there is room left for only about 846MW of large-scale projects, not yet committed, for the scheme to be met.

Graphs of the Day: A really bad day for so-called “reliable” coal
AUSTRALIA – A series of Tweets from Simon Holmes à Court, who is currently a senior advisor to the University of Melbourne-based Energy Transition Hub, has demonstrated that variability in energy generation on the National Electricity market is not the preserve of renewable resources. Far from it.

Chile solar auction sets new record low for solar PV
The latest energy auction in Chile has set a new record low for solar PV, with one bid by the local subsidiary of Italian outfit, Enel, coming in at just $US21.48/MWh ($A28/MWh). The result beats the previous record low of $US24.20 set in the United Arab Emirates earlier this year…

Environment and Biodiversity

Hunt for ‘super corals’ aims to help Great Barrier Reef survive climate change
AUSTRALIA – An unusual mix of researchers from Australia and abroad will set sail later this month in a bid to locate and then propagate “super corals” that appear best able to survive bleaching caused by climate change.

Chinese fishing boats found with piles of dead sharks linked to company accused of forced labour, torture
A Chinese company accused of financing forced labour, torture, and poaching has been linked to fishing boats found with “thousands” of dead sharks in Timor-Leste waters in September. Timor-Leste National Police (PNTL) and Sea Shepherd’s Ocean Warrior conducted a joint raid of 15 boats, which the team said revealed “thousands and thousands of [dead] sharks”, including protected species. After the September raid, the Timor-Leste Government suspended the fishing licences it had granted Hong Long Fisheries, a related entity of Pingtan Marine Enterprise

Photo: Sea Shepherd says the fishing vessels were using anchored gill nets to target bottom dwelling species such as sharks. (Supplied: Jake Parker/Sea Shepherd)

Photo: Sea Shepherd says the fishing vessels were using anchored gill nets to target bottom dwelling species such as sharks. (Supplied: Jake Parker/Sea Shepherd)

Endangered apes saved from pet trade
Conservationists are celebrating the arrival of a baby Javan gibbon – the first of this species to be born in the wild to parents that were rescued from the pet trade. Conservation International says the birth is a boost for the future of the apes on the Indonesian island of Java.  But illegal trade is still a threat, and is increasingly moving online.

The arrival of the new baby gibbon provides hope for the future of this endangered species

The arrival of the new baby gibbon provides hope for the future of this endangered species

Why we need a better philosophy of trees
UK – Only 2% of the UK’s ancient woodland survives; over half has been destroyed since the 1930s. Only 13% of the UK is covered with trees, compared to the European average of 37%. And so exactly 800 years on, in Lincoln Castle, home of the original charter, a new Charter for Trees, Woods and People has been launched by the Woodland Trust.

Economy and Business

Bishops urge Church of England to divest from ExxonMobil over climate change
The Church of England should “show moral leadership” and immediately sell its investments in the oil giant ExxonMobil, according to a group of bishops and other clergy. ExxonMobil is accused of misleading the public for decades over the dangers of climate change – the oil company denies the allegations – and has funded climate change denial, making its presence in the church’s £7.9bn investment fund of particular concern, the group argues.

How to benefit from the global growth and harmonisation of EPDs
The global hype around Environmental Product Declarations is gathering momentum as businesses and governments demand to understand how their procurement choices impact on the environment… Though EPDs are still quite new in Australia and New Zealand there is a very strong pipeline coming through.

Waste and the Circular Economy

We’re pouring millions of tons of salt on roads each year
USA – If you live — and drive — in a northern or mountainous climate, you’ve seen highway trucks spreading loads of rock salt on snowy highways to melt the ice. But where does the salt go? A lot of it ends up in our lakes and streams. A recent study of 371 lakes in North America — most in the northern states and southern Canada — showed chloride concentrations rising in more than a third.

Politics and Society

Why Adani may still get its government loan
AUSTRALIA – Even though Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced she would be vetoing the around A$1 billion loan to Adani for a rail link to its proposed Carmichael coal mine, funds could still flow to the company.

Greens to ask DOC to investigate setting up South Taranaki marine mammal sanctuary
NEW ZEALAND – A marine sanctuary off the South Taranaki coast remains a priority for the Green Party, Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage​ says. “One of the goals in the Green Party’s confidence and supply agreement with Labour was to look at establishing a Taranaki blue whale sanctuary,” Sage said.

A baby blue whale filmed nursing off the Taranaki coast observed by Leigh Torres and her crew in 2016 was likely a world-first. Photo: Supplied

A baby blue whale filmed nursing off the Taranaki coast observed by Leigh Torres and her crew in 2016 was likely a world-first. Photo: Supplied

Why we are banning tourists from climbing Uluru
AUSTRALIA – The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park board of management has announced that tourists will be banned from climbing Uluru from 2019. The climb has always been discouraged by the park’s Traditional Owners (the Anangu people) but a number of tourists continued to climb the rock on a daily basis. Below, in English and Indigenous language, Sammy Wilson, chairman of the park board, explains why his people have decided to ban the climb outright.

Dear Prime Minister: we’d like you to join the call for a ban on killer robots
AUSTRALIA – Leading researchers in robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) from Australia and Canada have today published open letters calling on their respective Prime Ministers to take a stand against weaponising AI… Lethal autonomous weapons are often described as “killer robots”. This paints a deceptive picture in most people’s minds.  We’re not talking about a movie-style Terminator, but rather much simpler technologies that are potentially only a few years away. Think of a predator drone flying above the skies of Iraq but replace the human pilot with a computer. Now, a computer could make the final life or death decision to fire its Hellfire missile.

Built Environment

How do we turn a drain into valued green space? First, ask the residents
Informal green spaces represent a largely untapped opportunity to improve liveability and residents’ health and social well-being. Especially in lower socioeconomic areas that lack formal green spaces, improving the condition of informal green spaces can promote their use and enhance neighbourhood liveability.

The researchers surveyed residents about the Upper Stony Creek channel area. Author provided

The researchers surveyed residents about the Upper Stony Creek channel area. Author provided

Food Systems

Big Meat and Big Dairy’s climate emissions put Exxon Mobil to shame (Opinion)
Did you know that three meat companies – JBS, Cargill and Tyson – are estimated to have emitted more greenhouse gases last year than all of France and nearly as much as some of the biggest oil companies like Exxon, BP and Shell? Few meat and dairy companies calculate or publish their climate emissions. So for the first time ever, we have estimated corporate emissions from livestock, using the most comprehensive methodology created to date by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Some Agricultural Sectors Can’t Just Adapt to Climate Change—They Must Transform
We will not be able to “climate proof” our way out of every climate impact to protect development gains — especially in climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture. Eventually, in some circumstances, climate impacts will go beyond adaptation of existing systems to require fundamental changes in how food is produced, how land is used, who lives where and what economic activities occur in specific areas.

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