Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Energy and Climate Change

Climate change ignored in energy white paper that lets market rule future policy
Australia’s power generation and transport fuel use will be left to the market to decide, the Abbott government says in its long-awaited energy white paper, which does not discuss climate change as a driver of energy policy. The government promises a hands-off “technology neutral” approach to the electricity market and the future of transport fuels, saying it will not try to shut down old coal-fired power plants or push new technologies into the market to try to reduce greenhouse emissions.

A new website shows how global warming could change your town
What will Australia look like in 2050? Even if we significantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions as under an intermediate scenario, Melbourne’s annual average climate could look more like that of Adelaide’s, and Adelaide’s climate could be more like that of Griffith in New South Wales. These changes are captured in a new Climate Analogues tool released by CSIRO today. It’s not just capital cities – you can find climate analogues for more than 400 towns around Australia, under various climate scenarios.

Arctic research vessel set adrift to study sea ice decline
Ice cover across the northern ocean fell to a new low last month, reaching just over 14.5m sq km at its winter peak, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Centre, in Colorado.  That was 130,000 sq km smaller than the previous winter low set in 2011 – confounding scientific predictions about the decline of sea ice under climate change.  “We are obviously missing something,” said Harald Steen, a biologist from the Norwegian Polar Institute, and the leader of the international expedition. “We are underestimating the rate of ice disappearance in the north.”

New energy storage plant could ‘revolutionise’ renewable sector
Foundations for an energy storage plant in Ireland that could “revolutionise” the integration of renewable power into electricity supplies will be laid within weeks. The plant will use a motor-generated flywheel to harness kinetic energy from the grid at times of over-supply. This will then be released from submerged turbines at times of supply shortfalls. The project in Rhode, County Offaly, is expected to launch commercially in 2017, with an operating capacity of 20MW.

Could solar and wind undercut fossil fuels in the United Arab Emirates?
It may be famous for its vast oil and gas wealth, but the United Arab Emirates (UAE) could enhance its competitiveness by increasingly relying on lower-cost wind and solar power. That is the “eye-opening” conclusion of a major new report from the UAE-based International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, and the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It calculates that sharp reductions in the cost of renewables mean that sourcing 10 per cent of the country’s energy from clean sources by 2030 could save $1.9bn (£1.27bn) a year. The report argues the country’s plans to source a tenth of its energy from renewables, including sourcing almost quarter of its power from renewables, will save money compared with a continued reliance on fossil fuels.

Fossil Fuel Divestment

Until universities divest from fossil fuels they will undermine all they stand for (Opinion)
The fossil fuel industry has a proven track record of funding and orchestrating climate science disinformation. For nearly 30 years it has worked to deliberately confuse the public, slander scientists, and sabotage science. A new study last month from The Union of Concerned Scientists, founded by Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Henry Kendall documents how many fossil fuel interests continue this pattern, years after promising to quit. So why are universities like MIT financing these doubt mongers, who undermine the integrity of science and our very raison d’être: truth and knowledge?

What they say about climate change: our favourite quotes – interactive
We have selected our top quotes from people at the forefront of the debate, from Barack Obama to Desmond Tutu, leading scientists to politicians and activists. Read and share your favourites with our interactive.

Environment and Biodiversity

Ocean ‘dead zones’ are spreading – and that spells disaster for fish (Fish can suffocate too)
Falling ocean oxygen levels due to rising temperatures and influence from human activities such as agrochemical use is an increasingly widespread problem. Considering that the sea floors have taken more than 1,000 years to recover from past eras of low oxygen, according to a recent University of California study, this is a serious problem. Ocean regions with low oxygen levels have a huge impact on aquatic organisms and can even destroy entire ecosystems. Areas of extremely low oxygen, known as oxygen minimum zones or “dead zones”, are estimated to constitute 10% and rising of the world’s ocean.

Londoners Will Soon Have a Freshwater Swimming Pool Cleaned by Plants, Not Chemicals
Looking for a clean place to swim in London? City dwellers will have a freshwater, natural pool at their disposal in King’s Cross beginning in May. Designed by Rotterdam Studio, Ooze architects and artist Marietica Potrč, the chemical-free outdoor pool is the first of its kind in the UK  The King’s Cross Swimming Pool is a manmade, freshwater pond kept clean and filtered through natural processes. At forty meters long, the pool will accommodate up to 100 swimmers at a time within the new Lewis Cubitt Park. “The project ‘Of Soil and Water’ is a natural swimming pond. It’s purely naturally filtered water which we’ll be able to swim in and it’s surrounded by plants to introduce a little wild nature,” said Efa Pfannes, founder of Ooze Architects.

Ambitious project to save Australia’s biodiversity launches
On Wednesday Scottsdale Reserve will be the launch site for an ambitious project to study the reasons behind Australia’s massive rate of biodiversity loss – and hopefully to identify potential ways to halt the decline. More than 50 field laboratories around the country will be established as part of the 10-year program which will involve 50 scientists from 15 universities working on 55 conservation projects. With 20 per cent of native mammals and 12 per cent of Australian birds at risk of extinction, the Bush Heritage program will tackle the acknowledged problems, such as feral pests, as well as the lesser understood challenges of rebuilding an ecosystem literally from the ground up.

The Parrots, the Pardalote and the Possum project helps save endangered Tasmanian birds through generous crowdfunding support
A conservation biologist, a professor, a research officer, and cartoonists have raised enough funds to try and save three endangered Tasmanian birds through a crowdfunding project. The Parrots, the Pardalote and the Possum project has raised more than $48,000 from more than 800 supporters in three days. The generosity of supporters has exceeded expectations, with the project only aiming for a goal of $40,000 in two months.

Tuatara hatch in South Island for first time in hundreds of years
NEW ZEALAND – Tuatara have hatched in the wild in the South Island for possibly the first time in several hundred years, experts say. Researchers from the University of Otago found evidence of tuatara eggs hatching in a nest at Orokonui Ecosanctuary, a 307ha site near Dunedin where native species are protected from predators by a specially constructed fence. Wild populations of tuatara disappeared from the North and South Islands soon after the arrival of humans and predatory mammals.

Economy and Business

Finding the Value in Sustainable Business Activities
‘Potential cocoa shortage by 2020’ was an obvious business case for a company like Hershey to invest in being resilient to climate change in order to sustain long-term profits. Hershey has even surpassed its 2014 goals, announcing that 30 percent of its globally sourced cocoa is independently certified and verified… But how do sustainable business practices like these get initiated and valuated? Though materiality assessments continue to advance in sophistication, in order to initiate sustainable or inclusive business projects, managers must still demonstrate the business case, usually in the form of Profit = Revenue – Cost.

India’s fourth largest private bank stakes its money on renewables
Launched in 2004, Yes Bank has grown aggressively to become India’s fourth largest private bank. On climate change, it can claim several firsts: the sector’s first sustainability policy, the country’s first green bond and a goal for investment in 5GW of renewable energy by 2019.Srinath Komarina, senior vice president of responsible banking, talks to RTCC about solar ambition, pesky government regulations – and why coal is also a major item in the loan book.

Top development banks agree definition for climate finance
Leading development banks have agreed on a set of definitions for climate finance, in what officials say is an important step ahead of a proposed UN climate change pact in Paris later this year. A set of “Common Principles” backed by the World Bank, International Development Finance Club (IDFC) and Agence Francaise de Developpment lists investments than can qualify as climate friendly. Released last week, the document outlines a range of efficiency, renewables and forestry projects that slow greenhouse gas emissions, but it also leaves the door open for future investments in coal power plants and carbon capture technologies (CCS).

Waste and the Circular Economy

Forget the Recycling Bin – If All Goes Well, You’ll Soon Be Able to Eat Your Water Bottle
The latest innovation in the fight against plastic water bottles comes in the form of an edible and flexible water “blob” container called the Ooho!, made by startup Skipping Rocks Lab. To use it, consumers can bite the blob and suck out the contents or eat the entire thing, casing and all. Asking people to carry around their own water bottles and containers has had limited success; unfortunately, it is often just more convenient to buy and drink from a disposable container. The Ooho! claims to offer that convenience without introducing more plastic into the waste stream.

Politics and Society

Everybody needs a Climate Thing
In my response to Jonathan Franzen, I said that birds are his Climate Thing — that one angle at which climate has intersected with his interests and caught his attention. He now uses it as a proxy, a lens through which to view the entire issue. Everyone who writes or thinks about climate change for a living knows what a Climate Thing is and has encountered many on their travels. Some of them are, to put it kindly, eccentric. In this post, I want to approach the notion of Climate Things from another angle. They are easy to mock, in many cases misleading or distorting, but I actually think they are key to understanding the sociopolitical challenges of climate mitigation. It may be that the only road to widespread mitigation is through Climate Things. Let me explain.

May Boeve: the new face of the climate change movement
At an age when many of her peers are making money in banks or making coffee in Brooklyn, 31-year-old May Boeve has quietly risen to the top of one of the world’s most disruptive and innovative environment organisations, The public emergence of Boeve has been a deliberate attempt to diversify the message. She took over as executive director of when she was just 27. But the organisation has been publicly dominated by the talismanic figure of Bill McKibben, who stepped down as chair of the 350 board late last year, but remains involved in the movement.

Obama warns climate change will ‘impact public health’
President Obama has opened up a new front in his climate change push in the form of a new initiative designed to highlight the impact of climate change on public health. The White House yesterday used Public Health Week to launch a series of measures designed to tackle escalating health risks that relate to climate change. Officials said the administration would host a summit on the topic later this year, commission a series of reports on the links between climate change and public health, and expand its Climate Data Initiative to incorporate health data sets. The data is designed to help communities, government agencies, NGOs and businesses better assess climate risks and develop technologies and infrastructure that can enhance climate resilience.

Food Systems

Unilever promises greener Magnums with latest deforestation drive
Unilever has beefed up its zero deforestation efforts with confirmation it will deliver on plans to source all its paper and cardboard packaging from sustainable and transparent sources ahead of schedule. The consumer goods giant yesterday announced it will meet the target by the end of this year, five years earlier than originally planned. Unilever’s high profile Sustainable Living Plan originally set a target to source 75 per cent of paper and board for packaging from certified sustainably managed forests or from recycled material by 2015, rising to 100 per cent by 2020. But the company is now predicting the 100 per cent target will be met by the end of this year, after it ensured 87 per cent of paper and cardboard packaging came from sustainable sources in 2014.


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