Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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10 green leaders on the best ways you can fight climate change
We asked people at the forefront of the climate movement for simple steps ordinary people can take to make a difference.

Energy and Climate Change

A journey to the Jianggendiru glacier – in pictures
Geologist, explorer and environmental activist Yang Yong leads an expedition to the source of the Yangtze, to monitor the scale of the damage caused by climate change on the Tibetan plateau and the degradation at the headwaters of Asia’s longest river. The journey, over treacherous terrain at high altitude, and in a region of ongoing political and ethnic tensions, has only been made by a handful of foreigners to date. But this year, Yang invited a handful of disciples, journalists and athletes to commemorate the 30th anniversary of his first downstream navigation of the river in a dinghy

Mike Underhilll: Different climate change challenge for NZ
Renewable electricity has become the urgent catchcry for most countries wanting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. New Zealand’s challenges – and opportunities – are quite different… Our electricity system is 80 per cent renewable, with a target of 90 per cent by 2025, so we don’t have the same opportunity to reduce our emissions from electricity. Our challenge is to reduce the amount of carbon emitted by our transport energy and industrial heat. Both are larger energy sectors than electricity, and both are significant carbon emitters.

UK’s first renewable electricity supply scheme launched
A new energy label that specifies the source and carbon footprint of a company’s electricity supply has been launched in the UK today (8 October), in a bid to boost business confidence in renewables. Launched by independent renewable energy supplier SmartestEnergy and certified by the Carbon Trust, the new product allows businesses to know the green credentials of the electricity that they have purchased.

Environment and Biodiversity

How African honey bees can help mitigate global colony losses
In the last decade, many studies focused on honeybee health to identify the causes of unusually high colony losses. Most of this work has been performed in Europe and North America where bees are exploited in large scale commercial operations. Scientists observe interactions of many factors affecting honeybee health. But these results are so far not sufficiently clear to understand the causes of the declines and implement adapted mitigation measures… Honeybee health status or even basic data of population sizes in the wild before the modern beekeeping area is unknown. We lack important information to evaluate the severity of the current problem. Understanding how bees deal with pests, pathogens and other environmental factors in Africa, where beekeeping has not been as intrusive, could help scientists understand more about why the bees of Europe and North America struggle.

More than a third of world’s coral reef faces major bleaching event
A massive, global coral bleaching event is underway which could affect 38 per cent of the world’s reefs by year’s end, including the Great Barrier Reef, scientists have revealed. The consortium of researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the US, the University of Queensland, Reef Check, and XL Catlin Seaview Survey says the mass bleaching – only the third of its kind in recorded history – is being driven by increased ocean temperatures.  NOAA has estimated the event may kill more than 12,000 square kilometres of reef worldwide. The rise in the ocean temperatures is being caused by the background warming from climate change made worse by this year’s super El Nino weather event, and a Pacific warm water mass known as “the Blob”, the researchers say.

Britain’s water crisis (Long read)
Overuse, pollution and climate change are threatening the survival of the river Ouse in East Sussex. But this is not just a local crisis, the water supply for the whole of Britain is in jeopardy.

Jim Smith has been walking the banks of the Ouse for 52 years, since he was 19 years old. For many of those years, he was officially the keeper of the river, hired by the local angling society to watch over the water and its banks. He is retired now, but he still walks and he still notices…

NZ: here comes national enviro reporting
New Zealand’s central government last month passed legislation that will rectify a yawning chasm in the nation’s environmental reporting. The Environmental Reporting Act 2015 commits the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics to publish a report every six months on one of five specified environmental domains – air, freshwater, land, marine, and atmosphere and climate. It will be the first comprehensive national data published since 2007. According to NZ’s Environmental Defence Society there was scope to be “cautiously optimistic” about the move. EDS senior policy analyst Dr Marie Brown said that while the country has long traded on its clean, green brand, there had been no legislated requirement to back the claims up with comprehensive data on the state of crucial environmental indicators. It was actually the only OECD nation not undertaking such reporting on a mandatory basis, Dr Brown  told The Fifth Estate this week.

Sam Judd: The Manukau – something worth saving
NEW ZEALAND – When the Tainui waka was dragged across the Auckland isthmus to arrive at the Manukau Harbour, the Tangata Whenua realised that they had found a real taonga (treasure).  The beautiful natural landscape was abundant with shellfish and clean water for bathing. In fact before the industrial development that has dumped millions of tonnes of sediment into the Manukau, there were plenty of sandy beaches in areas that have now become mudflats bordering water that is now not suitable for swimming.

Economy and Business

Cars, aviation, steel … the stranded assets risk spreads far beyond fossil fuel firms
Increasingly, mainstream acceptance that money poured into fossil fuels risks becoming trapped in similarly stranded assets, raises the intriguing possibility that the logic might leak out and touch other parts of the economy which are heavily dependent on the same fossil fuels. Responding to the emissions rigging crisis embroiling the German car maker Volkswagen, the Financial Times speculated that Europe’s focus on diesel “may have driven its car industry up a technological dead end”… But why stop there? There’s a strong case that private motor vehicles per se, produced and driven at their current scale, are also a technological dead end whose assets, sooner or later, are set to become stranded.

Half of CEOs are changing strategic investments for green growth
A survey by PWC of global chief executives has found that 54% of them have changed investment in light of green growth opportunities.  It also found that 74% of them have set recycling targets for their companies, and 89% of them have made energy efficiency improvements.  Three quarters of the CEOs are changing their business to respond to the threats of climate change, and a third of them say it is helping to grow their business.

Oil giants to renew call for carbon pricing mechanism
The leaders of at least eight major oil companies will reportedly meet in Paris next week to discuss their strategy ahead of UN climate talks due to take place in December. Chief executive of oil major Total, Patrick Pouyanne, said yesterday that company bosses are also expected to renew their call for a global carbon pricing mechanism, according to Reuters. He added they would present proposals for how to combat global warming ahead of the climate talks. “We need to be on the offensive … We need to be serious to bring answers and solutions to the table and not leave policymakers raising their fingers that they (oil companies) are the devils,” said Pouyanne.

Landcorp forges accord with leading environmentalists
NEW ZEALAND – They have been some of farming’s harshest critics; now six environmentalists are going to advise state-owned farmer Landcorp on how to be more sustainable. In the past there has been too much “them and us” between environmentalists and farmers, says Landcorp chief executive Steven Carden. “That has to change and we’re engaging with people who have concerns over farming and developments to ensure they have a voice around the table and contribute to our thinking,” Carden told Fairfax Media.

Eco-bags prove popular
NEW ZEALAND – A Nelson business duo are minimising waste one green bag at a time as their Green Collective goodie bags move into supermarkets.  Emma Saunders and Rylee Pettersson are thrilled with the popular response to their eco-friendly re-usable bags which have had strong sales at Richmond Fresh Choice. “We’ve already sold over half of what we delivered in [under] two weeks,” said Saunders.  The bags are made to carry fresh produce from supermarkets and bulk food stockists as an alternative to plastic bags. An estimated 1 million plastic bags are used per minute around the world, said Saunders.  “There was a gap in the market for something like [the Green Collective],” she said.

A ‘green’ death: standalone power for NSW crematorium provides carbon neutral funerals
In a world first, a forward-thinking businessman has applied the concept of standalone power to his owner-operated crematorium in Collombatti, near Kempsey on the NSW North Coast. With the energy requirements for a cremator, small cool room, air conditioners, mortuary and processing equipment all being run from a battery bank, the environmentally conscious can now protect the planet even after death.

Politics and Society

Activists promise largest climate civil disobedience ever at Paris summit
Thousands of climate change campaigners have promised to blockade a major UN climate summit in Paris with what they say will be non-violent direct action on a scale Europe has not seen before. Grassroots groups from to Attac France are throwing their weight behind the “Climate Games” event for the landmark climate conference in December. The protests will involve 10 blockades, themed around “red lines” which they fear negotiators for the nearly 200 countries inside the summit may cross.

Now ‘right moment’ for carbon tax, IMF chief Christine Lagarde says
The time is right for governments to introduce taxes on carbon emissions, which would help fight global warming and raise badly needed revenue, IMF chief Christine Lagarde says. “It is just the right moment to introduce carbon taxes,” Ms Lagarde said at the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Lima, Peru… Besides discouraging pollution, Ms Lagarde said, taxing greenhouse gas emissions would have the added bonus of helping governments boost their revenues at a time when many countries have dipped heavily into their “fiscal buffers” to get through a prolonged rough patch for the global economy.

Global carbon price urgently needed, says New Climate Economy
Carbon pricing can significantly reduce emissions without harming the global economy, a new report from the influential New Climate Economy (NCE) think-tank has asserted.  The NCE’s latest paper, released today (8 October), analyses existing carbon pricing schemes which cover around 12% of global emissions, and considers the impact of a global rollout. It found that the nine states in the United States’ Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) performed better than other US states economically, growing 0.4% more from 2009-2013, while reducing their emissions significantly.

Deep sea oil drilling off Canterbury coast ‘sheer lunacy’, Vicki Buck says
Legal action to stop deep-sea oil drilling off the Canterbury coast should be explored, Christchurch’s acting mayor Vicki Buck says. New Zealand Petroleum & Minerals (NZPAM), the government agency responsible for managing the country’s oil, gas, mineral and coal resources, is proposing to open more than quarter of a million square kilometres of seabed along New Zealand’s east coast to oil companies.  It is seeking comment from local authorities and iwi on its proposed 2016 block offer, which includes a large offshore area stretching from South Canterbury to Banks Peninsula.

Built Environment

Josh’s House adds battery storage, to need just 3% of supply from grid
Josh’s House is a 10 Star housing development near Fremantle in WA that is demonstrating that high performance energy and water efficient housing can be delivered for a similar price and timeframe to conventional homes. The three bedroom, two bathroom family dwelling looks like a regular house but is acting as a ‘Living Laboratory’ as part of a research project undertaken by Curtin University, the CRC for Low Carbon Living and Josh Byrne & Associates (JBA)

How apartments can reduce their energy and water footprint
Whether your whole strata committee is on board or not, there are still plenty of things apartment dwellers can do to reduce energy and water bills and carbon emissions, according to Ethan Burns, managing director of Sustainability Now… Burns’ consultancy has developed a specialist area in the apartment sector, carrying out about 230 projects for strata buildings across Greater Sydney over the past five years, including more than 100 level 2 energy audits for whole buildings and a range of retrofit and upgrade projects.

Food Systems

EFSA report considers risks of eating insects
The European Food Safety Authority has published its initial risk assessment of using insects as a source of protein for human consumption and animal feed. It concluded that risks to human and animal health depended on how the insects were reared and processed. The UN suggests that “edible insects” could provide a sustainable source of nutrition for a growing population. The findings have been sent to the European Commission, which requested the EFSA risk assessment.

Central West chicken farmer puts power back in hands of producers with pop-up abattoir
AUSTRALIA – A central west chicken farmer wants to put the power back in the hands of the producer with his new small-scale abattoir… The free range farmer encourages other producers to think about installing similar set-ups to process meat on-farm. “We’re probably going to do 200 a week to get started. Somewhere down the track we’d like to be able to do about 500 birds a week,” Mr Relyea said. “We plan to process our own chickens so we can control the quality and the output, instead of having to drive into Sydney.


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