Sustainable Development News

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

New Zealand is drying out, and here’s why
Over 2012 and 2013, parts of New Zealand experienced their worst drought in nearly 70 years. Drought is the costliest climate extreme in New Zealand; the 2012-2013 event depressed the country’s GDP by 0.7-0.9%. The drought of 1988-1989 affected 5,500 farms, pushing some farmers to the wall. But what does a climate-changed future hold? Recent evidence confirms that New Zealand on the whole is getting dryer. And we’re beginning to understand why — increasing greenhouse and ozone-depleting gases are driving changes in the atmosphere, with impacts far beyond New Zealand.

EU scraps plan to label tar sands oil as highly polluting
The European Commission on Tuesday proposed scrapping a mandatory requirement to label tar sands oil as highly polluting after years of industry opposition.  The new proposal abandons one obstacle to Canada shipping crude from tar sands to Europe and is likely to draw strong criticism from environmental campaigners and Green politicians.  It is suggested in a revised draft law on how refiners report the carbon intensity of the fuel they supply.  The debate about labelling tar sands, also known as oil sands, dates back to 2009 when EU member states approved legislation with the aim of cutting greenhouse gases from transport fuel sold in Europe by 6% by 2020, but failed to agree how to implement it.

Environment and Biodiversity

Top marks for local beaches, but pollution brings down Lake swimming spots
The latest report on the state of New South Wales beaches shows outstanding results for the Hunter’s coastline, but water quality is mixed in Lake Macquarie. The state government’s Beachwatch program has assessed all the Hunter’s ocean beaches during 2013/14.  The Port Stephens region was the outstanding performer, with all four beaches assessed – Zenith, Box, Fingal and One Mile – all classed as very good. In Newcastle, four beaches were rated very good – South Stockton, Nobbys, Newcastle and Bar Beach… But the results were not as clear for swimming spots within Lake Macquarie. Eleebana, Swansea, Speers Point, Bolton Point and Kilaben Bay were all rated as poor.

Should donors peg aid to the environment?
It was recently announced that Norway will give Liberia up to $150m (£92.1m) over the next six years to fight illegal logging. We talk to government ministers, NGOs, climate change experts and thinktanks to ask whether donors should attach environmental conditions to aid, and whether it could be a viable model for the future of development.

Economy and Business

Divestment campaign starts to bite
Australian National University is divesting from coal. Local Government Super, HESTA, UniSuper and University of Sydney are doing the same. The mining industry says it doesn’t care. No wait, it does care. This movement, only three years old, led by and Market Forces, was initially dismissed by coal and its supporters as an insignificant micro-movement that would soon go away. There would never be a significant challenge to the supremacy of coal, the fossil fuel coalition said. Renewables would not be able to provide enough power to run an economy. But this week saw an outpouring of near hysteria on the financial press, with ample and fulsome coverage of why the movement from coal would cost investors some extra superannuation earnings.

Home-Brew Innovators Prove Simple, Plant-Based Remedies Could Revolutionize Skincare
For most people with skin problems, the solution is to try every possible remedy and product out there until they find one that works. But when the alternatives don’t work, some enterprising patients decide to make their own. Anita Redd took matters into her own hands when conventional remedies were no match for her infant son’s eczema — a painful condition causing inflamed and itchy skin. From birth, Kevin suffered from flaky and blistered patches on his body. When doctors recommended putting him on creams and steroids with potential side effects such as stunted growth, infections and hypertension, Redd decided to look elsewhere for alternatives.

Politics and Society

Nobel laureates call for a revolutionary shift in how humans use resources
Eleven Nobel laureates will pool their clout to sound a warning, declaring that mankind is living beyond its means and darkening its future. At a conference in Hong Kong coinciding with the annual Nobel awards season, holders of the prestigious prize will plead for a revolution in how humans live, work and travel. Only by switching to smarter, less greedy use of resources can humans avert wrecking the ecosystems on which they depend, the laureates will argue.

If he were alive today Alfred Nobel would have wanted an environment prize (Opinion)
If Nobel’s reward the greatest benefit for mankind, then a sustainability prize is key. The Nobel Foundation has previously made awards within the area of sustainability – most famously the 2007 peace prize jointly awarded to Al Gore and The IPCC. But if the foundation is primarily tasked with rewarding those individuals and organisations that have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind, then a Nobel Prize for Sustainability should be central to that aim.

Nature Is Speaking in New, Star-Studded Campaign … and She Is Not Amused
Nature doesn’t need people. People need nature. That’s the message of the provocative, celebrity-studded campaign that CI is launching today. Nature Is Speaking aims to raise awareness that people need nature in order to survive. The campaign features a series of short films voiced by Hollywood elite including Penélope Cruz, Harrison Ford (who is also CI’s Vice Chairman), Edward Norton, Robert Redford, Ian Somerhalder and Kevin Spacey. In the series, Nature reveals serious misgivings about the way humans are treating the Earth from the viewpoint of a cast of characters — from Mother Nature to The Ocean to The Rainforest.

First goal of UN sustainability targets should be to not conflict with each other (Opinion)
The UN’s proposed sustainability targets are riddled with conflicts that could make them ineffective or outright harmful. In theory, there is nothing wrong with such targets. After all, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) had mixed success on health, education and poverty but established the principle that measuring key indicators was a good way to at least begin tackling major issues. Now, with increasing concern over environmental degradation and climate change the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are currently being negotiated as the successors to the MDGs. Despite a huge effort in setting these goals, the compartmentalisation of major areas such as energy, water and the economy means that they are already in conflict – and this is before climate change is even added.

Volunteering must be recognised in UN Sustainable Development Goals (Opinion)
This time last month I was in New York, filing my last piece as a UN youth blogger at the 65th United Nations conference for civil society. I’d been selected to write about disability and inclusion, gender and volunteering – my three interest areas in my current role as a VSO volunteer in Rwanda. I was interested to see how volunteering would be incorporated into the new framework, especially as it didn’t feature in the Millennium Development Goals, despite its key role in delivering and implementing them. The post-2015 dialogue is people-focused, so it makes sense to include volunteering when it comes to fleshing out how to implement the goals, especially as volunteering can of course support social, economic and environmental change and is a driver of civic engagement. Yet the current draft of the new goals does not include volunteering. This may be shortsighted as the International Forum for Volunteering in Development states that countries with high levels of volunteers are more economically and socially vibrant and better placed to meet global challenges.

Rival corporate giants join forces to get millennials acting on climate change
A coalition of otherwise rival global corporations announced on Tuesday they have jointly created a digital platform for young people to take action against climate change. Many of the 29 partners behind are fierce competitors – such as drinks giants Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, consumer goods companies Unilever and Nestle, and global advertising groups WPP and Omnicom – but they have set aside their differences in a bid to engage and activate so-called millennials between the ages of 18 and 30.

‘Inspiration, not just grim reality, needed to engage millennials on sustainability’ (Opinion)
A new website on sustainable innovation, backed by the likes of Coke and Google, launches Tuesday. Jonathon Porritt, one of its creators, says it will galvanize young people.  [From the article:] “All but a tiny minority of reasonable people now acknowledge that we need to learn how to live much more sustainably on this stressed-out planet of ours… The fact that something is necessary – incontrovertibly necessary, I would argue – doesn’t necessarily make it politically “sellable”. And it certainly doesn’t make it desirable… The fact that something is necessary – incontrovertibly necessary, I would argue – doesn’t necessarily make it politically “sellable”. And it certainly doesn’t make it desirable… Happily, beyond the grim reality and beyond the limitations of science, lies a very different impulse: unconstrained excitement at the rising surge of brilliant organisations and people already crafting the solutions to today’s converging crises…”

Forget moral decline: Aussies might be getting kinder
The world today is often portrayed as being less kind, friendly or giving than it used to be. So-called Gen Me, today’s teens and young adults, are the poster-children of moral decline, routinely characterised as narcissistic, selfish and hedonist. Despite such concerns we know relatively little about the social composition of kindness and how it is changing across generations. Our research provides new evidence that Australians exhibit a strong attachment and commitment to kindness as a moral value – and that generation may shape understandings and the practice of kindness in a powerful way.

Changing relationship with clothes: granny chic to cutting edge technology
Be it the UK’s knitting revival, the proliferation of DIY sites like P.S I made this and I Fix It, US brand Patagonia’s garment repair kits for customers or new technological innovations that make our relationship to clothes more intimate – a more creative, individual and sustainable approach to clothing is emerging. Whether it’s making garments by hand or understanding our surroundings more through our clothes, the future looks fun for fashion.


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