Sustainable Development News

Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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Energy and Climate Change

CSIRO almost 100% sure humans causing temperatures to rise
What are the chances the world could clock up 353 consecutive months with average temperatures higher than the norm of the 20th century without humans being responsible? CSIRO’s now-defunct climate adaptation flagship crunched the numbers and found the chances were less than one in 100,000. In other words, there’s a 99.999 per cent certainty that human activities – from burning fossil fuels to land-clearing – are responsible for the warming conditions. “Everyone since February 1985 has lived in a warm world,” said Mark Howden, a CSIRO chief research scientist and author of the peer-reviewed report published on Thursday in the Climate Risk Management journal. “In my view, that’s pretty extraordinary.”

Marshall Islands calls on Australia to rethink climate change stance
Marshall Islands has joined other Pacific nations in calling on Australia to reconsider its position on climate change. The issue has dominated a UN conference on small islands developing states (SIDS) in Samoa which wrapped up on Thursday. The four-day meeting comes ahead of the UN secretary general’s climate summit later this month, aimed at mobilising global action on climate change. Marshall Islands’ foreign minister Tony de Brum said Australia and other polluting nations like China, India and the United States need to deal with the problem now. “In our countries we have immediate need for urgent action,” he told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat. “And for the biggest emitters to keep pushing us back as if it’s a problem for the future and not a current problem is very frustrating.”

Emissions from energy generation jump most in eight years after carbon price axed
Carbon emissions from the country’s main electricity grid have risen since the end of the carbon tax by the largest amount in nearly eight years. Data from the National Electricity Market, which covers about 80 per cent of Australia’s population, shows that emissions from the sector rose by about 1 million tonnes, or 0.8 per cent, at an annualised rate last month compared with June. That is the biggest two-month increase since the end of 2006, and came as a result of an increase in overall demand and a rise in the share of coal-fired power in the market, according to Pitt & Sherry’s monthly Cedex emissions index.

Ban Ki-moon: world must act on climate change now
UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has expressed his concern that the world is not acting fast enough to mitigate climate change, ahead of a UN climate summit set to be attended by world leaders this month. The secretary-general said that climate change has been one of his top priorities since taking the office in 2007. He noted that progress has been made but warned the time for decisive global action is now, else the world risks climate chaos. Writing in the Huffington Post, Ban said, “I have been pleased to see climate change rise on the political agenda and in the consciousness of people worldwide. But I remain alarmed that governments and businesses have still failed to act at the pace and scale needed. Time is running out. The more we delay, the more we will pay.”


Governments, Business Invested $9.6 Billion to Protect World’s Drinking Water in 2013
In 2013, governments and companies invested $9.6 billion in initiatives implementing nature-based solutions to sustain the world’s clean water supplies, according to a new report from Forest Trends’ Ecosystem Marketplace. Gaining Depth: State of Watershed Investment 2014 reports that more than 90 percent of watershed investment came from national public subsidies, including $8.8 billion attributed to Chinese government programs that compensate landowners to restore watersheds in order to address ongoing water pollution and supply challenges. Elsewhere, governments paid farmers, forest managers, and other landowners to adopt water-friendly practices such as removing invasive plants, using less fertilizer, or replanting forests. This funding – which supports healthy watersheds that naturally filter water, absorb storm surge, and perform other critical functions – flowed to more than seven million households and restored and protected a total of 365 million hectares (ha) of land, an area larger than India.

Pause for consideration
A senate inquiry has recommended a halt on approvals for disposing dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef while a total ban is considered. The report into the management and health of the Great Barrier Reef has been tabled in federal Parliament tonight. The committee has raised concerns about future proposals for dredging in the Reef, recommends extra funding to the Australian Institute of Marine Science.  It’s found that without urgent, concrete action and political will for change, the Reef will be lost to future generations.

Krill winter diet discovery predicts global warming will threaten tiny creature as well as Antarctic ecosystem
Krill is the staple diet of almost all Antarctic animals, from whales to penguins. Until now, exactly what the tiny creature eats to survive the long, dark, winter months has been a mystery. While it has long been known that krill eat phytoplankton (tiny plants) during the summer months, Professor Molly Jiu from the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems CRC (ACE CRC) has made it her mission to uncover their winter diet. “There is sea ice algae growing under the ice,” she said. “We do believe krill, especially lava krill, the baby krill, heavily rely on that sea ice algae.” But this new research shows the winter stocks of sea ice algae, which the krill survives on, are under threat.

Economy and Business

Australian Ethical outperforms, amid growth in the sector
Australian Ethical Investment has achieved record investor members and record profits for the financial year ended 30 June 2014, in results that far exceeded expectations and appear to be part of surge of interest in clean and green investments. According to Australian Ethical this success is part of a growing global movement dedicated to using the power of business to solve social and environmental issues. Client numbers and net fund inflows are above expectations, managing director said Phil Vernon said. “As a result we are at almost $1 billion in funds under management, our profit is strong and our share price has doubled in the past 12 months.”

Why competitiveness doesn’t have to cost the earth
Last June, a UN task force in charge of developing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) released a zero draft. While the final framework is expected to be adopted by the UN in 2015, the latest draft shows how the SDGs are incorporating and upscaling many of the older Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). At the centre of this political process is a more encompassing vision of sustainable development: “Poverty eradication, changing unsustainable patterns of production and consumption and protecting and managing the natural resource base of economic and social development are overarching objectives of, and essential requirements for, sustainable development.” The international community is changing its understanding of sustainability from one where trade-offs with economic development need to be made, to one that sees economic progress as essential to securing social inclusion and environmental protection.

Carbon credits can boost economic development and conservation
New research has valued the benefits of carbon offsetting at $664 (£403) per tonne, judging the positive impacts on communities where carbon reduction projects take place. As a result, researchers say businesses have an opportunity to use the voluntary carbon market in their sustainability strategies. The research – Unlocking the hidden value of carbon offsetting – was carried out by the Imperial College London in partnership with the International Carbon Reduction and Offsetting Alliance (ICROA). The researchers noted that the amount of carbon reduced by such projects has been rigorously measured for many years, but the other impacts and value of carbon offsetting programmes beyond reducing emissions had previously been ignored.

Independent Study Shows APP Has Enough Plantation for Its Zero Deforestation Commitment
An independent study released Wednesday has confirmed that Asia Pulp and Paper Group (APP) has sufficient plantation resources to meet the pulp requirements of its existing mills as well as its future mill in OKI, South Sumatra. The launch of the company’s Forest Conservation Policy (FCP) in February 2013 saw it commit to producing pulp and paper that is free from fiber or activity linked to deforestation. In order to ensure existing supplier plantations have sufficient capacity to meet this commitment, The Forest Trust (TFT) and Ata Marie were asked to conduct an independent “Growth and Yield” study to assess existing plantation areas.

Waste and the Circular Economy

California Says Goodbye to Plastic Bags
The California State Legislature has passed a bill to ban single-use plastic bags in California, which will now head to the governor’s desk. Last Friday, the California senate voted 22-15 to approve the ban, Senate Bill 270. After being signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown, the legislation will implement a ban on single-use plastic grocery bags while promoting recycling and California manufacturing. It also will provide financial incentives to maintain and retrain California employees in affected industries. The ban will begin in 2015 for grocery store carry-out bags and create a mandatory minimum ten cent fee for recycled paper, reusable plastic and compostable bags.

Politics and Society

Private and Public Sectors Are Fueling Use of Ecolabels, But Are Consumers Catching On?
How can you persuade people to make responsible purchasing decisions? It isn’t an easy question. Vast global industries have been built up around understanding and influencing the tangled web of decisions and motivations that take place when buying products or services. Price and quality are common factors. But as awareness increases around the environmental challenges currently facing the world then sustainability is becoming an ever-greater motivator. At its simplest, if you give people better information then they are in a position to make better choices. And one of the most effective ways to give people meaningful information on a product is through a labelling scheme. This is why industry groups and governments continue to push forward with ecolabelling schemes around the world, helping to drive sustainable choices and grow markets for better products.

Happy days: virtue isn’t just for sanctimonious do-gooders
When we think of morally upright, virtuous citizens, do we imagine boring do-gooders? Is the idea of being virtuous out-dated and old-fashioned? Or is “being virtuous” still something we should aspire to in our contemporary society? …In his Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle writes that we are essentially social, political and moral creatures because we live in a society and our behaviour affects one another. In this way being virtuous makes good sense because if people treat each other well, they’re likely to be content. This suggests the wellbeing of the individual is linked to the place in which they live, and this idea is still supported today as psychologists claim our environment affects our physical and mental health and annual most liveable cities lists are enthusiastically shared…  So how do we develop good moral character, and does this mean we’ll be boring do-gooders?

Samoa UN climate conference generates $2bn in island-to-continent environmental partnerships
Nearly 300 partnerships have been forged between governments, businesses and civil society organisations at a UN climate conference, generating $1.9 billion (£1.1bn) supporting small island developing states in achieving sustainable development. At the conclusion of the Third Conference on Small Island Developing States, secretary general of the Conference, Wu Hongbo, said, “Without a doubt, these partnerships leave a legacy with impact. Many of the initiatives announced here are looking at the unique position of small island developing states as an opportunity to accelerate advancements on renewable energy, disaster preparedness and sustainable food systems, to name just a few key areas.”

Built Environment

Redesigning transportation: can drivers end their love affair with cars?
Transportation design graduate programs in Los Angeles and London aim to envision the future of cars, and say coming change is already causing ‘hand wringing’ in the auto industry. On the outskirts of Los Angeles, home of epic traffic jams, live televised car chases and the Fast and the Furious original racing series, a graduate design school program is challenging car culture. Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, has one of the most respected car design programs in the world, with undergraduates who go on to work for top automakers. The halls are lined with automobile models that students have made over the years – many of them closely resembling cars on the roads today. But the new Graduate Transportation Design program has taken a radical turn from previous curricula. The master’s program, which graduated its first student this spring, focuses on designing for mobility at the systems level rather than drawing concepts of individual automobiles.

Food Systems

Perdue Foods says its chicken hatcheries now antibiotic-free
Perdue Foods said on Wednesday it has stopped using antibiotics at its chicken hatcheries, completing a five-year effort supported by consumer and health groups seeking to curb the unnecessary use of antibiotics in meat production. The move comes amid growing concern among public health experts worldwide about the link between excessive antibiotic use in animal agriculture and human infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or so-called superbugs that do not respond to conventional medical treatment. “By no longer using any antibiotics in our hatcheries or any human antibiotics in feed, we’ve reached the point where 95 percent of our chickens never receive any human antibiotics,” said Bruce Stewart-Brown, Perdue Foods’ senior vice president of food safety, quality and live operations.

Hipsters’ almond milk obsession is ruining the environment in California
HIPSTERS love their almond milk because it’s healthy and doesn’t come from animals. But that doesn’t mean it’s 100 per cent environmentally conscious, as many of them would like to think. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. People are consuming such large amounts of almonds that it’s sucking the salmon, bees and what’s left of the water supply out of California at alarming rates, reports The Atlantic. It takes 4.1 litres of water to produce a single almond, and right now California is churning out almost 1 billion kilograms of them a year — 82 per cent of the world’s almonds come from California.


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