Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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The Sustainable Development News will be taking a break for a couple of weeks and will return Monday 3 December.

Today’s top story is on detailed research that shows bees are far more susceptible to neonicotinoids in insecticides than previously thought with exposure below detectable levels influencing behaviour. In other news, only two oil majors have plans to reduce their emissions in line with the Paris Agreement; a study shows consumers are actively reducing their plastic use and support cigarette style warnings on plastic items; and two articles on slavery, on how Western supply chains support it, giving Cambodia as an example, and slavery in the fishing supply chain and how you can help eliminate it.

Top Story

Neonicotinoid insecticide causes bees to abandon their young at night: study | ABC News
Spying on bumblebees as they nest has revealed strange behaviour in those exposed to tiny amounts of a widely used pesticide. A study published in the journal Science found bees exposed to an insecticide called imidacloprid were less likely to feed and care for their larvae, and spent more time hanging out around the edges of the nest.

Some researchers are finding neonicotinoids can adversely affect bees at levels below detection limits. (Supplied: Théotime Colin)

Some researchers are finding neonicotinoids can adversely affect bees at levels below detection limits. (Supplied: Théotime Colin)

Climate Change

Study: Only two oil majors have coherent climate plans | Business Green
Only two of the world’s top 10 oil and gas majors have strategies in place to deliver significant reductions in their emissions intensity that are broadly in line with the climate action pledges made by governments as part of the Paris Agreement. That is the conclusion of a new study from the investor-backed Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI), which assessed the carbon performance and goals of the world’s 10 largest listed oil and gas companies.

China faces pressure over illegal greenhouse gas production | Climate Home News
China will be urged to crack down on illegal CFC-11 production in its borders, under an international declaration set for adoption at a meeting in Quito, Ecuador this week. The chemical has been banned globally under the Montreal Protocol since 2010 because it damages the ozone layer. It is also a potent greenhouse gas. Yet the banned substance is still being used in China to make foam insulation, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) revealed in June. That helped to explain why a scientific study found unexpectedly high levels of CFC-11 in the air coming from east Asia.

African islands call for help as climate change worsens health | Thomson Reuters Foundation
African island states this week said they need more help to cope with the health impacts of climate change, from worsening nutrition to a resurgence in mosquito-borne disease. At least 23 percent of deaths in Africa are linked to the environment, the highest of any region worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). This figure is expected to rise as global warming disrupts food supply, water sources and weather patterns, said Magaran Bagayoko, WHO’s director of communicable diseases in Africa.

Environment and Biodiversity

Top scientists demand NSW commit to brumby cull in Kosciuszko national park | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – Dozens of Australia’s top scientists are demanding the New South Wales government repeal legislation that abandoned the culling of feral horses in the Kosciuszko national park. In Canberra on Thursday 145 scientists met to hear evidence of the damage feral horses are causing to the park, the worst of which includes the destruction of nesting habitat of critically endangered corroboree frogs.

The bird counts are in, and Wellington tui are taking over |
NEW ZEALAND – Tui numbers are soaring in Wellington according to the capital’s annual bird count. In the 1990s, there was only a small remnant population of the native bird in Wellington, now the typical person would see one on the way to work. But, unlike the summer of 2009 when Zealandia fielded calls from residents concerned about tui noise, this year Wellingtonians aren’t complaining.

Kererū are found in Otari-Wilton Bush and Khandallah Park, but they are also frequently observed in adjacent suburban areas.

Kererū are found in Otari-Wilton Bush and Khandallah Park, but they are also frequently observed in adjacent suburban areas.

Economy and Business

US funds with big Amazon farming stakes face Bolsonaro choice | Climate Home News
The world’s largest asset managers could play a pivotal role in safeguarding the Amazon forest, a report published on Thursday shows, amid concerns Brazil’s president-elect Jair Bolsonaro could strip the planet of its lungs. The report, published in the journal Global Environmental Change, reveals that US asset managers BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street have major holdings in corporations driving deforestation in the country, including beef and soy companies. Taken together, the group own between 15-20% of shares in soy exporting companies Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) and Bunge. They have smaller stakes in beef giants JBS, Marfrig and Minerva.

Slavery is real and the West profits from it – Cambodia’s construction boom highlights how | The Conversation
Modern slavery is a prominent term of late. Thus far, efforts to deal with it have tended to focus on criminality and the explicit imprisonment of people involved. Yet tackling modern slavery in a meaningful sense isn’t merely a question of identifying culprits and freeing victims. To do so is merely to treat the symptoms of the issue.

Farmers locking horns with climate change | The Fifth Estate
AUSTRALIA – Farmers are starting to agitate for action on climate and they’re getting smarter and more innovative to cope with the challenges it presents. According to young award winning farmer, Anika Molesworth, expect to hear more from this sector.

Water prices double, makes farmers think twice about profitability of crops | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Growers are struggling to keep up with doubling water prices brought on by little rain and high demand. Wine grape grower Jack Papageorgiou said that many producers he had spoken to had sold up to 50 per cent of their permeant water during the Millennium Drought and were now feeling the pinch. “They’ll be in a difficult situation when the price of water goes to this sort of point — and we don’t know how high it’s going to go,” he said.

NZ’s sharemarket welcomes its first carbon fund | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – An overhaul of NZX listing rules has been credited as a key stepping stone for the first carbon fund in the world to list on the New Zealand share market. NZX chief executive Mark Peterson yesterday welcomed Salt Funds’ Carbon Fund, which debuted under the ticker code Co2 at its listing price of $1 per unit.

Waste and the Circular Economy

New study finds public in favour of cigarette-style plastic warnings | Climate Action
A new independent study, carried out by Sky Ocean Rescue, has found that there has been a shift in the public’s perception of plastic. The study, carried out in the UK, found that 7 out of 10 Brits say that common single-use plastics should carry a cigarette-style warning label. 7 in 10 claim they have reduced their plastic usage in the past year because of the impact on the environment and its oceans. A further 4 in 10 said they felt embarrassed being spotted with single-use plastic items.

Cigarette style plastic warning

Cigarette style plastic warning

Finland: Where second-hand comes first | BBC News
With her daughter and baby son, Kati Rossi is prowling a suburb of Helsinki in the hunt for a second-hand bookshelf. Across the road looms a Swedish furniture giant, but Kati is scouring a huge municipal re-use centre instead. “I don’t want to go to IKEA,” she tells me. “I will find something much more interesting here, and much more original. I don’t want to have the same furniture as everyone else. What I buy here will be a fraction of the price and better for the planet.”

Tyre waste to screech to a halt in Toowoomba | The Fifth Estate
AUSTRALIA – Aside from the few tyres that are turned into park swings or are ground up for soccer ground surfaces, most tyres from Australian cars and trucks go to waste or are exported overseas to be turned into fuel. But Australian company Green Distillation Technologies has found a new way of “cleanly” turning old tyres into carbon, steel and oil, and has plans for its second commercial facility in Toowoomba in southern Queensland. Known as destructive distillation, tyres are heated in a sealed airless chamber where they are melted down into different compounds, one of which is collected and condensed into “manufactured” oil. Once the process is complete, carbon and steel can also be extracted.

Politics and Society

Matt Hancock’s health prevention plans will pay off – health economist | The Conversation
UK – A week after the UK’s chancellor of the exchequer promised an extra £20.5 billion for the NHS, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, called for more spending on preventative health. He is clear that the current spending pattern – a whopping £97 billion on treatment versus just £8 billion on prevention – must change. Moving money from treatment to prevention might be a political gamble for Hancock, but it could pay off if he carefully selects his investment portfolio.


Why battery storage in Australia is unable to back up wind and solar | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – Most people would assume that if a battery storage installation – or even a pumped hydro facility – is located next to a big wind or solar farm, then the storage is being used to “back-up” the wind and solar, smooth its output and deliver a “firm” resource to the grid. But in Australia that is not the case. The archaic rules that govern Australia’s ageing electricity grid do not allow it, and the market rule makers and regulators are under pressure – from the likes of Tesla, Fluence, Genex, and even the major networks and gentailers like AGL Energy – to catch up and ensure that true renewable-storage hybrids can be allowed to work.

Built Environment

As groundwater runs short, water battles grow in parched Chennai | Thomson Reuters Foundation
INDIA – When the thousands of water lorry drivers who shore up parched Chennai’s overtaxed water delivery system went on strike for three days last month, to protest a ruling restricting their access to groundwater, a water crisis ensued. Hotels and malls shut. Taps ran dry in residential districts of the city. “My phone rang incessantly,” remembers Sarvanan Parthasarthy, the owner of Jai water supply, one of the striking private water tanker firms. “A resident called and even threatened suicide if I didn’t send a water tanker. Water is like that. We can’t live without it,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Water lorries park along the Old Madras road during a three-day strike in Chennai, India, October 1, 2018. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Sanjay Kishore

Water lorries park along the Old Madras road during a three-day strike in Chennai, India, October 1, 2018. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Sanjay Kishore

Food Systems

How to keep slave-caught seafood off your plate | The Conversation
How would you feel if you knew that slavery had helped provide the fish on your plate? Our new research reveals that imported seafood raises the risk of Australians consuming fish caught or processed by workers under slave labour conditions by more than eight times, and identifies some of the warning signs to look out for on a global basis. Our results are consistent with increasingly widespread reports of modern slavery in the oceans, as highlighted by the recent Global Slavery Index. Recent cases record the abuse of Indonesian, Cambodian, and Myanmar nationals subjected to forced labour on vessels from countries including South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand, in waters as far afield as New Zealand, Western Africa, Hawaii and the UK.

Steps in the seafood supply chain.

Steps in the seafood supply chain.