Sustainable Development News

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

Obama rejects Keystone XL pipeline in victory for environmental activists
Barack Obama has rejected a proposal from TransCanada to build the Keystone XL pipeline through the American heartland, ending years of uncertainty about the project. The US president made the announcement from the White House flanked by both secretary of state John Kerry and vice-president Joe Biden, declaring that Keystone “would not serve the national interests of the United States”. Keystone XL was designed to pump crude from the Alberta tar sands for 1,700 miles and across six states to refineries on the Gulf coast. Over the years, the project has become a symbol of the greater political struggle surrounding Obama’s efforts to move away from fossil fuels and fight climate change.

Energy and Climate Change

Q&A: Is Antarctica gaining or losing ice?
A new study from scientists at NASA has whipped up a storm in the media by claiming that gains in East Antarctica ice have been outweighing losses in the West Antarctic and the Antarctic Peninsula… With other outlets reporting that scientists are disputing the new study’s results, confusion is rife. So, what did the study actually find? How does it fit with other research? What does it mean for sea levels? Carbon Brief answers some of the questions the new research raises.\

A year of records: the human role in 2014’s wild weather
Australia has just had its hottest October, and we can already say that human-caused climate change made this new record at least ten times more likely than it would otherwise have been. But if we turn our eyes to the past, what role did climate change play in the broken records of 2014? Last year was the hottest on record worldwide, and came with its fair share of extremes. As part of the annual extreme weather issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society released today, five papers by Australian authors including us, investigate the role of climate change in extreme weather in 2014.

Meridian Energy calls on Genesis to reverse Huntly coal-burner closure
NEW ZEALAND – Meridian has asked rival generator Genesis to keep its coal-burners running, shortly after environmentalists celebrated the impending closure. The Huntly power station’s capacity of 953 megawatts will be cut by more than half when it shuts its remaining coal-fired units in 2018. The decision, sparked by flat power demand, was applauded by the likes of Greenpeace. However, Meridian chief executive Mark Binns warned of potential under-supply following the closure, which would create challenges for the whole industry.

Are you helping to solve climate change?
In phase II of its Keep it in the ground climate change campaign, the Guardian has turned its focus to hope for the future – the power to change and the solar revolution. We’d like you to help us document the climate change solutions around the world that are making a difference.

Paris 2015: UN Conference on Climate Change

Will the Paris agreement be legally binding?
The inability of previous climate summits, notably Copenhagen in 2009, to deliver a legally binding agreement led some people to declare those negotiations a failure. But in practice, this should not be the central criterion for gauging success. In Paris, the outcome should be judged on how far it goes towards supporting countries to scale up existing emissions reductions and stay within the agreed 2℃ global warming limit. It is not necessary that the agreement be legally binding, as long as the outcome establishes a process for achieving the necessary scale of action.\

Paris 2015: How Obama’s Keystone XL rejection adds momentum to climate talks
Timing is everything. There have long been suspicions that President Obama was preparing to reject the Keystone XL Pipeline – a pipe that would have pumped oil south from Canada’s tar sands. However, the announcement on Friday, less than a month before the president travels to Paris to kick off the UN’s much anticipated climate conference, can hardly be coincidental. In fact, say environmentalists and those closely watching the runup to the meeting, it’s likely to give those talks major momentum — at least at their opening.

World only half way to meeting emissions target with current pledges
Current global efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions leave about half of the reductions needed still to be found, according to a new analysis by the UN. The report suggests that governments will have to go much further in their pledges to limit future carbon dioxide emissions, which have been submitted to the UN ahead of the crunch conference on climate change taking place this December in Paris. Ways for governments to ramp up their commitments in future are one of the key components of the Paris talks.

Environment and Biodiversity

Illegally planted palm oil already growing on burnt land in Indonesia
Freshly burned land in Indonesia has already been illegally planted with oil palm, new evidence suggests, following the loss of two million hectares of forest and peatland since July to fires. Planted in charred earth, the oil palm saplings were identified near the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Sanctuary in central Kalimantan, by Greenpeace Indonesia.  According to public maps, no oil palm concession has been granted in the area.

Join the Big Backyard Butterfly Count!
New Zealand is an extraordinary place to study, collect and photograph butterflies. We have an array of them living in a stunning landscape that is both challenging and rewarding to explore.  Right now we recognise 62 butterfly species here, of which 46 are found nowhere else. This figure epitomises both the isolation and fascinating natural history of our South Pacific nation… The Big Backyard Butterfly Count is being run by the Moths and Butterflies of NZ Trust from November 10-30. Visit the Trust website to download an identification chart, choose a warm, sunny day and get counting!

Economy and Business

The journey towards more sustainable rubber leads to Russian dandelions
The life of a tyre begins with the rubber tree in south-east Asia, which produces around 90% of the world’s natural rubber supply… Increasing car ownership in countries such as India and China is driving up demand for rubber. To meet this, recent research estimates rubber plantations in south-east Asia will have to expand by 8.5m hectares by 2024, with potentially “catastrophic” consequences for forests, primates and endangered birds. The industry also faces supply chain risks. The reason that rubber production is so heavily concentrated in Asia is because commercial cultivation in South America is restricted by a fungal disease.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Environmentally-friendly ideas shared at Invercargill Eco-Fest
As Christmas approaches, one Invercargill doctor is spreading ideas about how to reduce waste and cost this festive season. Briary Crawford-Zachernuk of Low-Waste, Low-Cost Christmas, said New Zealand produces enough waste to fill 14,000 shipping containers every year. “We encourage people to focus on what Christmas is about, family and creating memories, instead of cost and waste.”

Politics and Society

The Keystone XL pipeline defeat is one goal in a game, and we’re way behind | Bill McKibben
In the first two weeks of the Keystone fight, we couldn’t get any press to pay attention to our work to defeat the environmental disaster we knew it would be if it were approved – none at all. Because back then in the summer of 2011 everyone knew that we couldn’t win. No one ever beats big oil. Now I’m sitting here fielding dozens and dozens of phone calls and emails from reporters, because we did: Barack Obama announced on Friday that he had denied TransCanada’s proposal to build the Keystone XL pipeline. Sometimes all the money in the world – which is roughly what the fossil fuel industry has – can’t carry the day. Sometimes, with an awful lot of spirit and passion and creativity and sacrifice, movements erupt.

ExxonMobil under investigation over claims it lied about climate change risks
The New York attorney general is investigating whether ExxonMobil misled the public and investors about the dangers and potential business risks of climate change, sources familiar with the investigation said on Thursday. The company confirmed that it had received a subpoena from Eric Schneidermann, the New York attorney general, for financial records, email and other documents related to climate change.

The Observer view on the Tories’ shameful record on climate change 
UK – Since the election, the government has performed a series of dizzying U-turns on its green policies. It has announced cuts to subsidies for onshore wind and solar energy; scrapped the zero carbon homes standard; ended the green deal for home insulation; and reversed its promise to exclude national parks from fracking. There is no question that the green policy framework has been ripe for reform. Some subsidies have been unnecessarily generous and the green levies that pay for them are highly regressive, costing poor households six times as much of their income than the most affluent. But to scrap many subsidies and regulations altogether will be hugely damaging to Britain’s efforts to reduce emissions and is antithetical to Mr Cameron’s 2010 pledge to lead the “greenest government ever”.

Confused about climate change? You’ve got plenty of company
AUSTRALIA – There has been some creative analysis since the release of a CSIRO survey into Australians’ attitudes on climate change, but the cut-through message was pretty clear: on this most vexed of subjects, people haven’t known what to think. The key stat? Of the 4999 people who filled in the science agency’s survey more than once over the past five years, nearly half had changed their mind about what they believe. Some had changed it more than once.

Greenpeace says India has cancelled its legal registration
Greenpeace says its registration to operate in India has been cancelled under orders from the country’s home ministry. The environmental group said in a statement that it would challenge Friday’s decision in court. India began cracking down on foreign-funded charities last year after a government intelligence bureau report said economic growth was hurt when the groups rallied communities against polluting industries.

Megan Nicol Reed: Time to embrace environmentalism
Were you to ask what I needed, I could provide you with a list. I maintain several versions, you see; in my diary, on various bits of scrap paper, and, in my head, the master version. It ebbs and flows according to whim. I crossed out cut-offs the other day, hacking up a pair of jeans instead, and changed my mind entirely about the white denim miniskirt… One of these things costs $46. Another $25,000. My list entertains and distracts me; it provides me with a sense of purpose – the research! the errands! – and sustains me when I am low. My list also makes me a little nauseous.  For in truth I know none of these are true needs. My actual needs are simple and already met. These are wants, unbridled lust for new shit. And this level of consumption, this way of being, is not sustainable.

How we went organic – and survived
Derek and Roz Broadmore dreamed for years of owning land in the country but, as is so often the case, careers and family took precedence. At the time they were living in the heart of Wellington, Derek working as a lawyer and Roz as a psychologist. “Which was funny really, as I’d always pictured myself immersed in a self-sufficient lifestyle, and Derek was passionate about the land and conservation,” says Roz. In 1985 they took the plunge and bought 8ha of fertile but weed-infested paddocks on the outskirts of Carterton. Their children were informed that from now on weekends and school holidays would be spent in the countryside, their home-away-from-home a Skyline garage.

Aldinga small-scale market garden celebrates first year of organic harvest for SA community
What began as a crowdfunding idea to provide Aldinga Eco Village residents with fresh vegetables, is growing into self-sustaining farm supplying local restaurants. In July last year, Lucy Chan, Nat Wiseman, Claudia Peoples and Ellie Firns united with an idea to create a small-scale vegetable farm just south of Adelaide. The farm would supply seasonal, organic vegetables for residents in the community via a market that would be held within hours of harvesting.

Built Environment

These Historical Photos Show How Amsterdam Turned Itself Into A Bike Rider’s Paradise
When you step out of the central train station in Amsterdam and encounter a sea of bicycles—and a three-story parking garage made for bikes instead of cars—it’s easy to imagine that the city has always been bike-obsessed and that a typical North American city could never pull it off. A new photo series, showing certain intersections in Amsterdam around the turn of the 20th century, then in the 1970s and 1980s, and finally today, was created to prove otherwise.

Waitemata takes low carbon action
NEW ZEALAND – Waitematā has made itself the first local board to draw out a localised carbon reduction plan, as part of the greater regional 10-year Energy Resilience and Low Carbon Action Plan. It was launched at the Auckland War Memorial Museum on 4 November… The Low Carbon Action Plan looks at how local communities can reduce greenhouse emissions through smart energy use, recycling, transportation options, local food sourcing and green spaces.


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