Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Earth Overshoot Day
On August 8, 2016, we will have used as much from nature as our planet can renew in the whole year.  We use more ecological resources and services than nature can regenerate through overfishing, overharvesting forests and emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than forests can sequester.


Energy and Climate Change

Climate Council urges bigger push towards renewables as community energy projects take off
AUSTRALIA – The Climate Council says a growing trend of rural communities setting up their own wind and solar farms could generate thousands of jobs in regional Australia… “You have to have some leaders in your community that can actually get on top of the issue and say, ‘look, forget about federal politics or whatever side you’re on, this is good for our community’,” he said.

Heathrow expansion: Planned price hikes will end budget flights not airport emissions
When the government’s Airports Commission endorsed the expansion of Heathrow last year it was challenged to explain how the UK could expand its airports without breaking climate change laws that limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Environment and Biodiversity

Australia needs better policy to end the alarming increase in land clearing
The science is clear about the detrimental effects of land clearing on the climate, native wildlife and soil health. More than 400 international and Australian scientists recently signed a declaration highlighting their concern about the rate of forest loss in Australia. Such a degree of coordination between scientists hasn’t been seen since the original Brigalow Declaration in 2003. How to address effectively the issue of land clearing remains fiendishly complex. Land clearing is such a political issue in Australia, as any policy changes affect many people in the community.

While some bees are workers, others are born to bee free – tracking study shows
Bees provide us with an invaluable service by pollinating plants, an indispensable part of natural and agricultural ecosystems. This is why declining bee populations are such a big concern. Of course, bees don’t do this as a favour to us – pollination is a side effect of bees collecting nectar and pollen for their nests. But in order to understand bees better, we need to understand more about how they go about finding flowers and deciding how to make the most of them. And this is why I have spent my summers tracking female bumblebees.

More than 60% of Maldives’ coral reefs hit by bleaching
Preliminary results of a survey in May this year found all the reefs looked at in the Maldives, in the Indian Ocean, were affected by high sea surface temperatures. Around 60% of all assessed coral colonies, and up to 90% in some areas, were bleached.  The study was conducted by the Maldives Marine Research Centre and the Environmental Protection Agency, in partnership with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN().

Bleached coral seen at low tide on Hudhuranfushi Island, North Male atoll. Bleaching events are becoming more frequent and severe due to sea temperature change. Photograph: Simon McComb/Alamy

Bleached coral seen at low tide on Hudhuranfushi Island, North Male atoll. Bleaching events are becoming more frequent and severe due to sea temperature change. Photograph: Simon McComb/Alamy

Unlocking the mystery of Gabon’s cuckoo migration – in pictures
Earlier this year photojournalist Toby Smith followed a group of migrating cuckoos to the forests of Gabon, west Africa. His images document the African landscapes in which the globally dwindling cuckoo population spends its winter months away from the UK, and will help conservationists understand how land use change is affecting birds.

Hundreds of unexpected species found in Mexican UNESCO site slated for gold mine
A open pit gold mine has been in the works in Sierra la Laguna Biosphere Reserve in Baja California Sur since 2007, but a new biodiversity survey may convince officials to overturn the mine’s permits. In just over a week, scientists uncovered nearly 900 species in the protected area – far more than the 220 listed by the mine’s Environmental Impact Statement that allowed the project to go forward.


Data centre water use has investors on high alert
Data centres, used by governments and large corporations to house their computer systems, have one big environmental problem: They get hot. To keep them from overheating, large data centres can pump hundreds of millions of gallons of water a year through the facilities, according to company reports. That high demand for water has some investors concerned, especially in places where natural water resources are becoming ever more precious, like tech-heavy California.

Economy and Business

5 reasons sustainability will transform the global economy
Strong crosswinds are in the global economy. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is here, with pervasive transparency, unlimited information access and accelerating disruptive technology and change. Rapid adaptation never has been more important as corporations spread globally, facing new regulatory and environmental challenges across their operations and supply chains. Security and immigration concerns are everywhere. Climate change not only poses an environmental threat, but has become a disruptive change agent for business, driving new requirements for growth with lower carbon footprints. What is new in all this is the enormous economic opportunity created in the emerging global response to these challenges.

Landcorp to halt palm kernel use
NEW ZEALAND – Landcorp will stop using controversial palm kernel on its farms from June next year. Palm kernel expeller (PKE) – a by-product of the palm oil industry – is used as a supplementary animal feed, mostly by the dairy industry. The product has been linked to the destruction of rainforests and loss of biodiversity in South East Asia.
See also: Greenpeace hails Landcorp decision to stop using palm kernel

Palm oil giant IOI Group regains RSPO sustainability certification
Palm oil supplier IOI Group has had its certificate for sustainable palm oil reinstated by the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), after it was judged to have fulfilled the body’s demands to improve its environmental performance. In a statement issued last Friday, the RSPO said the palm oil supplier would be re-instated with its certificate from Monday.
Read also: RSPO lifts suspension of Malaysian palm oil giant IOI | Mongabay

BuildingIQ doubles down on comfort with CSIRO IP purchase
AUSTRALIA – Energy management software company BuildingIQ has spent about $500,000 buying up intellectual property around CSIRO’s OptiCool and ComfortSENSE technology. CSIRO’s technology, which was the foundation for BuildingIQ’s software, allows users to share information on their comfort levels in real-time, and can be added to big data analysis of building characteristics, meter data, demand response signals, energy tariffs and weather forecasts in order to optimise building energy use.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Waste of resources is biggest threat to planet, warns Scottish environment agency
Scotland’s environment agency has warned the country’s industries and farmers that their waste and inefficiency is now the biggest threat to the environment, overtaking pollution. In a marked shift in strategy, the regulator’s chief executive, Terry A’Hearn, will urge businesses, farmers and manufacturers to adopt a “one planet prosperity” policy designed to cut their energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, waste and resource use. “The major threat to the environment now is that humanity is overusing the planet as a resource base,” he told the Guardian.

Sewage fuels hydrogen-powered cars in Japan
When Mutsuro Yuji, chief of the central sewage plant in this southern Japanese city, first heard about the idea of making hydrogen from biogas — the combination of methane and carbon dioxide produced by the breakdown of organic matter — he was sceptical. “I thought it was a joke,” he said. But after a NZ$16.8 million investment from Japan’s government, plus research, engineering, design and building work by Mitsubishi, Toyota and Kyushu University, Yuji is no longer laughing. Starting late last year, drivers of vehicles like the Toyota Mirai and Honda Clarity have been able to drive up to the sewage plant and power up their hydrogen fuel cell cars.

Should you be concerned about plastic and other human debris in your seafood?
By now, you’ve probably heard of the massive, floating garbage patches swirling around in each of Earth’s five major ocean basins: the North and South Atlantic, the North and South Pacific, and the Indian Ocean… Scientists are also becomingly increasingly concerned about another place where ocean trash might be ending up: the guts (or whatever passes for a digestive tract) in marine life. Plastics and other debris that degrade very slowly can leach harmful chemicals into the ocean. Does that mean your seafood might be carrying these toxins, too?

Turning old smartphones into anti-burglary devices and baby monitors
If Jim Poss hadn’t dropped his phone in the bath while bathing his son, he might never have hit upon the idea for his business. While researching a cheap replacement for his waterlogged iPhone, he had an epiphany: the used phones sold online for $60 (£45) or less could be repurposed as Internet of Things sensors and used to form flexible, low-cost security and vehicle telematics systems.

Sustainable design pioneer in New Zealand to talk turning waste into wonders
The old adage “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” could be Dutch architect Jos de Krieger’s motto. When tasked with updating an old playground in the Netherlands, his Superuse Studios used retired wind turbine blades to make it happen. De Krieger visited Wellington on Monday to discuss the ideas behind upcycling discarded materials and making old new again.

Superuse Studios created this villa with cable reels and steel beams from a textile factory machine. Photo: Allard Van Der Hoek/ Supplied

Superuse Studios created this villa with cable reels and steel beams from a textile factory machine. Photo: Allard Van Der Hoek/ Supplied

Would you buy patched up clothes to tackle textile waste?
A new venture called the Renewal Workshop aims to reduce… waste by repairing clothes that customers have returned to stores as well as items that are damaged during manufacturing. While it’s difficult to find current estimates on just how big of a problem this is, clothing makers toss out around 10%-12% of garments with simple flaws such as broken zippers, according to a 2006 estimate from the book, Apparel Manufacturing: Sewn Product Analysis. By correcting light damage on clothing that ordinarily wouldn’t make it to sales racks – think jackets with ripped linings, pants with holes and stained shirts – the Renewal Workshop hopes to head off the inevitable garbage dump.

Politics and Society

Science Minister Greg Hunt announces CSIRO to predict climate changes 10 years into the future
Fifteen scientists will be hired to predict fluctuations in the climate system up to 10 years into the future, as part of the Turnbull government’s renewed enthusiasm for climate science at the CSIRO… On Monday, he announced the money would be spent on so-called decadal climate science monitoring and forecasting capacity in a new CSIRO Climate Science Centre to be established in Hobart.

Peru’s new environmental policies: What are they and will they work?
In the waning days of President Ollanta Humala’s administration, Peru’s National Congress approved a set of innovative climate change-related policies designed to reduce deforestation, protect watersheds and biodiversity, and provide the tools needed to leverage international investment through UN programs such as REDD+ and the Green Climate Fund. Great optimism surrounds the new policies, especially in Lima. But it is tempered by the reality of a new administration just coming to power and the lawlessness and economic expediency that often defines the far-off Peruvian Amazon and its vulnerable ecosystems.

Built Environment

If smart cities is the answer, what was the question?
“We have reached a stage in the development of our technology where we have the power to create the environment we need, or destroy it beyond repair, according to the use we make of our power. This forces us to control this power. To do this, we must first of all decide what we want to achieve. And this is far from easy…” I extracted this quote from the depths of a speech penned by Sir Ove Arup in 1970, as he prepared his partners for the inevitable change they were likely to see in the world over the coming decades. A structural engineer by trade, part-time philosopher, but humanist at heart, Arup’s view of technology shaping us, and our environment, remains as true today as it did more than 45 year ago. But have we decided what we want to achieve yet?

Food Systems

Decline of fishing in Lake Tanganyika ‘due to warming’
New research blames rising temperatures over the last century as the key cause of decline in one of the world’s most important fisheries. Lake Tanganyika is Africa’s oldest lake and its fish are a critical part of the diet of neighbouring countries.  But catches have declined markedly in recent decades as commercial fleets have expanded.  However this new study says that climate warming and not overfishing is the real cause of the problem.


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