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
Rising electricity demand could be here to stay
Over the past five years, electricity demand has fallen in Australia. That’s good news for the climate: falling demand has helped reduce Australia’s carbon emissions. But in June this year, forecasts from the electricity market operator (AEMO) revealed residential and business demand has risen for the first time in five years. The trend could be here to stay, according to a report released today from the Australia Institute. Meanwhile, a separate update from analysts Pitt & Sherry shows that carbon emissions have increased since the repeal of the carbon tax, largely as electricity generation has switched back to carbon-intensive coal. So what’s going on in Australia’s electricity sector?
Australia can stop greenhouse gas emissions by 2050: here’s how
To avoid dangerous climate change there is a finite amount of greenhouse gas emissions, in particular CO2, that we can add to the atmosphere – our global carbon budget. If we use our budget wisely, we have until about 2050 to transition to zero net emissions. But how do we get there? For Australia to play its role, we’ll also need to get to zero net emissions by 2050. In a recently launched website from ClimateWorks, we’ve created an online tool to demonstrate that there are various ways to get there. You can create your own way of getting to zero net emissions by 2050.
Graph of the Day: Energex nearly at 1GW of rooftop solar PV
AUSTRALIA – Nearly three in every 10 households in south-east Queensland now has rooftop solar PV, amounting to a cumulative grid-connected distributed solar capacity of nearly 1GW, network operator Energex has revealed. Energex – whose network covers the south-east corner of the state, including Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast – released its solar PV report to the end of June 2015 on Wednesday, counting a total of 290,006 households with rooftop solar systems, and a total installed capacity of more than 980MW.
Giant Shenhua Watermark coal mine wins federal approval from Environment Minister Greg Hunt
The $1.2 billion Shenhua Watermark coal mine has won federal government approval despite claims by the peak NSW farm group that the open-cut project would blow “a 35-square-kilometre hole” in some of Australia’s most productive farmland. Environment Minister Greg Hunt said he approved the project with “18 of the strictest conditions in Australian history which fully incorporate all advice” from an independent scientific committee.
Farmers paid to change land management in order to sequester carbon
A group of farmers in central west New South Wales are involved in a trial where they are financially compensated for sequestering carbon in soils. The Catchment Action Market Based Instrument (CAMBI) project is the first kind of market based incentive scheme for the management of soil carbon in Australia.
A quantum of carbon: scientists devise new way to observe greenhouse effect
British scientists have devised a new way to observe the greenhouse world, enabling researchers to measure with exquisite accuracy how atmospheric carbon dioxide builds up, migrates, evolves and absorbs radiation. The technique will allow more accurate predictions about how much the Earth is likely to warm over the next few decades as a result of the inexorable rise in atmospheric CO2 – from car exhausts, power station chimneys and burning forests – that drives global warming and climate change.
‘Climate deception dossiers’ expose oil industry lobbying
Exxon has been aware of climate change concerns for more than three decades.The oil major considered the impact of carbon dioxide emissions back in 1981 when developing Natuna gas field, off Indonesia, according to an email from a former employee.Lenny Bernstein, who later served on the UN climate science panel, said the field was 70% carbon dioxide, which would typically be vented. At the time, it would have been the biggest single point source of CO2 in the world, accounting for 1% of the planet-warming emissions.
Fossil Fuel Divestment
University of Warwick divests from fossil fuels
The University of Warwick in Coventry has committed to divest from fossil fuels, saying it will move the £1m of its investments in coal, oil and gas from its £14m endowment as soon as possible. Dan Goss, one of more than 100 student campaigners who have spent two years calling on the university to divest, said: “We are all delighted that Warwick has brought its investments in line with its professed values, and heeded the call of the democratic majority.”
Environment and Biodiversity
China’s algae-covered beaches
Massive and unsightly blooms of green algae are a common site on the beaches of China. But this year’s algae bloom, caused by pollution, weather and the presence of chemical nutrients, is the biggest since 2008, the state-run China Daily reports. The outbreak is under control with tourists returning to the beaches. As the weather warms, it’s expected the algae will subside fully by August, China Daily said.
[Ed: This is eutrophication in the extreme. Two other well-known problem areas for eutrophication are the Great Barrier Reef and New Zealand waterways, both threatened with nutrients from farm runoff such as fertiliser and stock effluent. You can help by not washing your car on your driveway and don’t let anything but water into your stormwater.]
Greenpeace, villagers fight to keep coal mining from ‘life-giving’ Mahan forest in India’s energy capital
To the people who live in central India’s Mahan forest, it is paradise. Anita Kushwaha, from the forest’s Budher village, says all the plants have some use. When the Mahua fruit is in season, she sells bags of it at the market. She uses its seeds to make oil and medicine. “Forest is our life source. There’s a saying that from forest comes water and from water comes life, so without the forest, we won’t be alive,” she says. What grows out of this land is precious to the villagers, but it is what is underneath that has drawn them into a five year-long battle.
Can Killing More Elephants Actually Help to Save Them?
Is killing an endangered animal for sport the best way to save the species from extinction? The World Bank—one of the largest sources of financing for biodiversity conservation projects in developing countries—thinks it is. The World Bank approved a U.S. $46 million grant to Mozambique, one of the world’s poorest countries, late last year to bolster tourism and alleviate poverty. Now, $700,000 of that has been earmarked to bolster trophy hunting of elephants and lions.
Economy and Business
CEFC looks to fast-track push into EVs and battery storage
Australia’s green bank is accelerating its push into the electric vehicle and battery storage market, signing its first major financial deal with a non-bank lender that will target cheap loans for green products such as EVs, rooftop solar arrays and battery storage. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation says it will provide $50 million to FirstMac, a non-bank lender with a $6.5 billion portfolio that issues finance primarily via on-line portals… The idea is to offer cheaper finance to buyers of these products. To some on the best credit rating, it will be up to 25 per cent cheaper than for “non-green” products.
On your marks – the green race that’s never finished
NEW ZEALAND – Environmental improvement is a continual journey, according to organisations committed to sustainability. “It has no end point,” says Michael Wentworth of Yealands, the world’s first carbon neutral winery from the get-go. The Marlborough-based winery uses the carboNZero tools and audits to drive down emissions and as a marketing tool. For Wentworth, it adds a vital third party endorsement. “It’s backing up the claims that we were making and our focus on sustainability,” he adds.
Waste and the Circular Economy
New Online Marketplace Will Allow US Companies to Exchange Underutilized Materials
The National Materials Marketplace, a new joint pilot project led by the Corporate Eco Forum (CEF), US Business Council for Sustainable Development (US BCSD), and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), brings together more than 20 major companies with operations in the United States, helping them identify ways to reuse or exchange undervalued materials via an online database, and establish new circular supply chains.
Eco-friendly food wraps aim to reduce waste
NEW ZEALAND – Two Nelson kindergarten teachers have come up with an alternative to using cling film, reducing the consumption of single use plastic. Linda Hansen and Jo Brown started selling Happbee Wraps last year which are made from brightly coloured 100 per cent cotton coated with beeswax. “We certainly see how much cling film gets thrown out, it isn’t biodegradable and we did see this as a really good alternative,” said Hansen. Teaching children about caring for the environment combined with a passion for making things led the pair to develop the wraps.
Politics and Society
Happy? Consider how giving builds a life of meaning
…As I argue here, if one connects the dots from the findings in various fields of happiness and well-being research, it turns out that there seems to be one common denominator for what people, across cultures, races and religions, report as giving them meaningful happiness: it is that of being something for others. What is meaningful to us, of course, can be very individual, subjective and culture-specific. What most definitions share is an element of feeling interconnected with someone or something other than oneself and, as importantly, feeling that one is able to contribute to those connections. This may be contributing to one’s family, friends, the community, the environment or a cause.
Te Radar: Volunteering is the Kiwi way
NEW ZEALAND – There is an unwritten law that says that the height of your gumboot will never be quite high enough for the job you want it to do. I thought of this recently as I found myself standing in a swampy drain watching muddy water oozing over the top of my boot. It wasn’t how I’d intended to spend a crisp Saturday morning. I’d agreed to help plant trees for the Otamatea Harbour Care Society, a volunteer organisation devoted to riparian planting to help improve the water quality of the massive and magnificent Kaipara Harbour…
Pope: Duty to protect planet, calls for ‘social justice’ on resources
Protecting the planet was no longer a choice but a duty and called for a new “social justice” where access to the earth’s resources would be based on equality instead of economic interests, Pope Francis says. In back-to-back speeches on the third day of his trip to Ecuador, the pope made his first full-court press on environmental issues since the publication last month of his landmark ecology encyclical Laudato Si’. Speaking before a group that included indigenous people of the Equatorial Amazon, he also renewed his call for special protection for the area because of its vital importance to the planet’s ecosystem.
Regulating companies on green issues is not anti-business, says Lord Deben
UK – Regulating companies on their environmental performance is not anti-business, the chairman of the government’s committee on climate change has said, but is what companies want as they seek clarity in making their investments. Lord Deben, former Conservative environment minister and now chairman of the committee set up to be statutory advisors to ministers on how to meet the UK’s emissions targets, said that as a businessman, he and others wanted clear and fair regulation on green issues. This is in contrast with the view of the Chancellor, George Osborne, who has described green rules as a “burden” on the economy.
Chancellor to push up renewable energy taxes in Budget with ‘climate shaped hole’
UK – Chancellor George Osborne has promised a renewed focus on road building over the next five years and pledged to raise taxes for renewable energy, in an emergency Budget that held little positive news for the green economy. The 2015 Summer Budget, Osborne’s first Budget of the new Conservative government, promised to effectively reintroduce road tax in reforms of the vehicle excise duty (VED) banding rates for new cars bought after 2017. He also promised to freeze road tax for another year.
London’s ‘Walkie Talkie’ skyscraper achieves top sustainability rating
One the most recent additions to the London skyline has achieved BREEAM Excellent rating, making it one of the most sustainable buildings in the city. 20 Fenchurch Street, dubbed the ‘Walkie Talkie’, scored 80.2% on the BREEAM rating system, which helps assess the sustainability of buildings and construction.
Report: the green building era hits China
China’s green building industry is exploding, with green space growing 154 times since 2008 and taking the lead from the US in terms of gross floor area, according to a new research report from global real estate services company CBRE. The New Era of Green Buildings in China found that as of January 2015, China had 2538 projects with the country’s Green Building Evaluation Standard certification, representing gross floor area of 290 million square metres, as well as 627 LEED projects as of April 2015, adding an additional 28 million sq m.
Palmerston North leads moves to restrict smoking and use of plastic bags
NEW ZEALAND – Palmerston North is attempting to shape national policies to control smoking outside cafes and bars and get rid of single-use plastic bags. It will be presenting two of the four remits to be considered by Local Government New Zealand at its annual conference starting on July 19 in Rotorua. Mayor Grant Smith will lead the call to ask central government to impose a compulsory levy on plastic shopping bags at point of sale. The levy would apply when bags were bought in bulk, and it would be up to retailers to decide whether to pass on the extra cost to shoppers.
Do you have to be a vegan to help fix climate change? – video
What causes more global warming: every vehicle on the planet or the meat and dairy produce we eat? Raising livestock – cows farts and all – is responsible for 14.5% of total emissions. Beef is 14 times more climate warming than chicken. The good news is you don’t need to stop eating meat and dairy all together to make a big difference – you can help save the planet by simply cutting down
London’s First Subterranean Farm Bringing Its Sustainable Produce to Market
London’s first subterranean farm will begin selling produce to its first commercial client later this month, marking a breakthrough for the city’s urban farming. Zero Carbon Food, the startup behind the Growing Underground venture, uses a sophisticated lighting and irrigation system to cultivate herbs and vegetables 12 stories under the city in abandoned railway tunnels. Crops are grown in a sealed clean-room environment with a tailored ventilation system, LED lighting and an irrigation system that enable the farm to produce crops with very little energy. The company says energy for operations is sourced entirely from “green suppliers,” as it aims to deliver fresh produce without adverse effect on the environment, and its hydroponics system uses 70 percent less water than traditional, open-field farming.