Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Well, the IPCC report is out and all over the news. A selection of links are provided as our top story, each providing different angles. Basically though, we have run out of time. In order to have a 66% chance of keeping the Earth to 1.5oC of warming, we need to take action now and it must be significant. This report will inform political decisions at the next COP24 meeting in Katowice, Poland, where the ‘rule book’ for the Paris Agreement will be finalised. Another popular story is the Nobel prize for economics, awarded to two economists for their work on sustainable growth – and they have a message of hope. Also, some hope if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed and sad about our prospects of getting politicians to step up, read the article outlining actions we can all take for a collective impact.

Top Story

New UN report outlines ‘urgent, transformational’ change needed to hold global warming to 1.5°C | The Conversation
A landmark report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, commissioned at the breakthrough 2015 summit that brokered the Paris climate agreement, outlines what’s at stake in the world’s bid to limit global temperature rise to 1.5℃. The report, released [yesterday], sets out the key practical differences between the Paris agreement’s two contrasting goals: to limit the increase of human-induced global warming to well below 2℃, and to “pursue efforts” to limit warming to 1.5℃. Here are five key questions to which the report provides answers.

Other viewpoints:

Commentary by world leaders:

Difference between climate change effects at different global temperature increases

Climate Change

Australia has two decades to avoid the most damaging impacts of climate change | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – Based on previous calculations, Australia’s fair share of the global carbon budget is roughly equivalent to 1%. That would put Australia’s remaining carbon budget at 5.5Gt and 7.5Gt for a 66% and 50% chance, respectively. The simplified trajectory below shows that Australia would therefore need to reach net zero greenhouse emissions by 2038 for a 66% chance of limiting global warming to 1.5℃, and by 2045 for a 50% chance.

Energy sector’s carbon emissions to grow for second year running | Business Green
Carbon emissions from the energy sector are on track to grow for the second year running, in a major blow to hopes the world might have turned the corner on tackling climate change. Preliminary analysis by the world’s energy watchdog shows the industry’s emissions have continued to rise in 2018, suggesting that an increase last year was not a one-off.

IPCC report stokes methane debate | Newsroom
NEW ZEALAND – A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a wake-up call for New Zealand over methane reductions, a Kiwi academic says. Sheep and cattle farmers have taken heart from recent reports that suggest methane, burped by their ruminant livestock, should be treated differently in accounting for a greenhouse gases because it’s shorter lived than carbon dioxide. They’d hoped this would lead to smaller cuts to livestock numbers without denting the country’s credentials in tackling climate change. (New Zealand has the largest per-capita emission rate of the gas in the world – six times the global average.)

See also: Jim Salinger: The real facts on methane | NZ Herald

Little-noticed treaty could help delay climate catastrophe | The Guardian
From the beginning of next year, a new global pact will take effect that could have a profound impact on climate change, cutting harmful greenhouse gas emissions by amounts that could help stave off some of the worst impacts predicted by the IPCC. This little-noticed treaty has nothing to do with the Paris accord, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations that have dragged on since 1992, or energy sector emissions, which have resumed their rise. The Kigali amendment, which was agreed on 15 October 2016 and comes into force on 1 January, will drastically reduce hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs).

Geoengineering may be used to combat global warming, experts say | The Guardian
The authors of the new 1.5C study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change say there is high agreement that the injection of millions of tonnes of sulphur dioxide or nitrous oxide into the stratosphere could help limit temperature rises to the most ambitious target of the Paris accord. But the authors warn there are major uncertainties about the social, environmental and ecological impacts, which mean the world would be far better off if policymakers strengthened natural cooling systems such as forest cover and accelerated efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

Environment and Biodiversity

Great Barrier Reef faces dire threat with 2C global warming, UN report says | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – Limiting global warming to 1.5C rather than 2C would likely be the difference between the survival of some Great Barrier Reef coral and its complete decline, according to the latest United Nations assessment of climate change science.

DOC are evicting kaka ‘intruders’ breeding in Wellington homes |
NEW ZEALAND – Kākā are breaking into Wellington homes to breed, the Department of Conservation has warned. Breeding season has just started, but rangers have already responded to several requests to evict the unwanted tenants getting cosy in peoples’ homes by nesting in ceiling cavities

Kākā can crack open plastic vents in houses or rip through wood, the Department of Conservation have warned. Photo: Supplied

Kākā can crack open plastic vents in houses or rip through wood, the Department of Conservation have warned. Photo: Supplied

More swimmable rivers by 2020 difficult to achieve – expert | RNZ News
NEW ZEALAND – Yesterday Environment Minister David Parker unveiled a blueprint of plans for environmental change, which included new rules by 2020 around freshwater quality. Environment Minister David Parker said he would change the Resource Management Act within a year to amend consenting processes and ensure stronger environmental enforcement. However, none of the planned changes will be made just yet.

Economy and Business

Economists win Nobel for work on climate and growth | BBC News
This year’s Nobel prize for economics has been awarded to William Nordhaus and Paul Romer for their work on sustainable growth. The US economists’ research focuses on how climate change and technology have affected the economy. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said they had addressed “some of our time’s most… pressing questions” on how to achieve sustainable growth… Commenting on the prize, Prof Romer told reporters: “I think… many people think that protecting he environment will be so costly and so hard that they just want to ignore [this]. [But] we can absolutely make substantial progress protecting the environment and do it without giving up the chance to sustain growth.”

See also: Paul Romer and William Nordhaus – why they won the 2018 ‘economics Nobel’ | The Conversation

Survey: Two thirds of top business execs have not yet set CO2 targets | Business Green
UK – Almost two-thirds of top business executives and energy managers have not yet set targets to reduce greenhouse gases across their businesses, despite the potential for achieving cost savings from cutting emissions, a new YouGov poll has found. But despite the lack of formal CO2 targets, the poll found 73 per cent of nearly 850 C-suite executives and energy managers surveyed cited sustainability as being “very important” for their organisation.

Full steam ahead: Shipping CEOs call for rapid maritime sector decarbonisation | Business Green
A group of 34 CEOs and industry leaders from some of the world’s biggest shipping firms have urged the maritime sector to rapidly step up decarbonisation efforts in order to reap the business benefits that will come with zero carbon shipping technologies. Brought together by the Global Maritime Forum, the CEOs last week signed a joint declaration calling on the industry to accelerate both technological and business model innovation in order to improve fuel efficiency and transition to zero-carbon shipping fuels and propulsion systems.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Tesco to scrap ‘best before’ dates from fruit and vegetable lines | The Guardian
UK – The UK’s largest supermarket is to scrap potentially confusing “best before” dates from dozens more of its fresh fruit and vegetable lines after research found ditching the labels helped customers reduce their food waste at home. Tesco shoppers will from this week no longer find date labels on a further 116 items of produce – including own-brand apples, oranges, cabbages and asparagus. Tesco hopes this will prevent food from being thrown away while still edible.

Politics and Society

Overwhelmed by climate change? Here’s what you can do | The Guardian
The challenge of avoiding catastrophic climate breakdown requires “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”, according to a new IPCC report. Experts say that although the challenges are huge there is still time to create a thriving, sustainable future. The main focus is on the decisions facing governments around the world but the IPCC acknowledges the role individuals can play. Here are some of the things people can do.

‘Moral disgust’ is changing how we think about plastic |
Plastic is out, bamboo toothbrushes, reusable bags, waste-free dental floss and soaps are in. Not only are we becoming more compassionate and aware about waste, we’re becoming angrier. “There’s rage out there about plastic and it’s coming to a head,” says Auckland University of Technology senior lecturer of marketing Sommer Kapitan. Just as “moral disgust” changed how we regarded smoking, the same thing is now happening with plastic, she believes. The trouble, Kapitan believes, is that behind the genuine public concern is what she calls symbolic consumption.

Oram: Why we need a real forestry strategy | Newsroom
NEW ZEALAND – We’re an odd country when it comes to trees. We have a lot of them but no overarching long-term policy for them. Consequently, our short-term forestry decisions deliver some adverse outcomes, both economic and environmental.

Protecting marine areas seem a good idea – but they may have insidious political effects | The Conversation
Zones of ocean known as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are all the rage. They have no single or agreed definition, but essentially they are areas of sea in which human activity is restricted or prohibited in order to preserve and protect marine habitat and species… The case for creating such protected areas seems like an obvious win in environmental terms. But the science supporting such arguments is inconclusive and mixed, not least owing to lack of sufficient data, especially studies that take a longer-term view.

Food Systems

The implications of Walmart’s blockchain mandate for food suppliers | GreenBiz
Walmart’s new food traceability initiative is motivated by concerns over safety, but it sows the seeds for big changes for sustainability teams across the food and agriculture sector. After almost two years of pilot projects in the United States and China conducted in collaboration with IBM and others, in late September, the world’s largest company put “fresh leafy greens” suppliers on notice that they have until early next 2019 to start getting on board with its burgeoning blockchain-based data platform.