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How the world’s economic growth is actually un-economic
The focus of the recently concluded G20 summit was economic growth. The final communiqué begins: “Raising global growth to deliver better living standards and quality jobs for people across the world is our highest priority.” The word “growth” is mentioned 29 times in the three-page document. Climate is mentioned only in article 19, out of 21. While the parties pledge to “support strong and effective action to address climate change”, this is clarified to mean support for “economic growth, and certainty for business and investment”. Yet there has been no real growth in the global economy for decades. The policies the G20 advocates will only exacerbate this unfortunate trend.

Many people will question this claim and ask, hasn’t gross domestic product been growing consistently since the second world war with only the occasional downturn? We have had growth of GDP, but since around 1980 this growth has been “un-economic”. This is in the sense that human welfare per capita, adjusted for the costs of inequality, environmental damage and other factors that affect welfare, has not improved. The real economy – including all things that support human well-being – is much larger than the market economy estimated by GDP. GDP was never designed as a measure of overall societal well-being and its continued misuse for that purpose needs to stop.

COP20, Peru

Lima climate change talks suggest progress is being made
Reports from the climate change conference currently taking place in Lima, Peru, suggest that progress towards an international climate change agreement is being made. The talks have included how to finance adaption strategies, big polluters paying for the damage they cause and how rich nations, who historically have contributed the most to climate change, should support developing countries that are generally among the worst hit from the effects. A negotiating document from the conference, seen by the Guardian, outlines long-term goals for the climate change agreement, including full decarbonisation by 2050 and negative emissions by the end of the century.

Energy and Climate Change

Poor planning leaves Australia exposed to climate change and massive damage bills, CSIRO says
As Sydney and Brisbane clean up from severe storms and the planet heads towards its hottest year on record, the CSIRO is warning the damage caused by extreme weather could cost Australia more than $1 trillion. The ABC has obtained advice from the nation’s premier science agency warning climate change and poor planning were leaving the nation increasingly exposed to natural disasters.

Government makes new call for urgent RET talks
AUSTRALIA – The government has again appealed to Labor to immediately recommence negotiations over the renewable energy target (RET). Environment Minister Greg Hunt has written to opposition climate spokesman Mark Butler seeking a meeting before Christmas, specifying that “there are no conditions”. Labor previously broke off the talks, saying the gap between it and the government was too wide. This is the second appeal from the government for discussions to resume. The opposition is willing to go back to the table but wants an indication that the Coalition will be flexible.

Environment and Biodiversity

No blurred lines in call to save Kermadecs
The Kermadec Region could become one of the world’s biggest marine reserves if calls for its protection are heard. On Friday conservationist Bronwen Golder will give a talk, “Lines in the Ocean”, in Picton, outlining why The Pews Charitable Trusts has made the Kermadecs one of its projects. Golder directs the trusts’ Global Ocean Legacy – Kermadec, and Pews is backing the call for the Kermadec to be given a fully protected marine reserve status. The region, covering 620,000 square kilometres of ocean between the North Island and Tonga, has been described by National Geographic as “one of the last pristine sites in our oceans”.

Israeli oil spill threatens coral reefs A diverse and stunning coral reef at Israel’s southernmost tip is in danger of becoming the next victim of an oil pipeline mishap that has spilled millions of litres of crude onto a nature reserve and nearby desert land in one of the worst environmental disasters in Israeli history. Weather forecasts suggest heavy rain which could lead to flash floods that convey the pollution from the Evrona Nature Reserve to the Gulf of Aqaba, site of one of the northernmost coral reefs in the world.

The Amazon oil spills overlooked by environmental leaders in Lima It is a disaster hidden from the environmental leaders gathered inside the walls of a military compound in Lima on a mission to fight climate change. Over the last few months – as Peru helped guide the United Nations climate negotiations – five separate oil spills along a main oil pipeline through the Amazon have spewed thick black clots of crude across jungle and swamp and carpeted local fishing lagoons with dead fish. Inside the climate summit fortress – as in much of the world – the oil spills in the jungle went largely unnoticed. But for the indigenous peoples living downstream in clusters of tin-roofed and thatched houses on the banks of the Marañón river, it’s been a season of sickness and fear.

Scaffolding holds up a broken section of the oil pipeline. Photograph: Barbara Fraser

Scaffolding holds up a broken section of the oil pipeline. Photograph: Barbara Fraser

On U.S. Visit, Prince William Takes Aim at Wildlife Trafficking
As the United States rolls out the red carpet for Prince William’s royal visit on Monday, the Duke of Cambridge is casting a light on the black market in wildlife trade. In Washington, D.C., the prince announced the formation of a royal task force to work with the transportation industry—from airlines to shipping companies—to examine its role in wildlife trafficking. Under the auspices of the royal conservation organization United for Wildlife, the task force “will call on companies to implement a ‘zero tolerance’ policy towards the trade,” William told a meeting of the World Bank’s International Corruption Hunters Alliance. “Criminals are able to exploit weak and corrupt standards, so we must raise those standards, collectively.”

New Doubts About Whether Elephants Can Survive South Sudan’s Civil War
Southern Sudan knows violence. After being wracked by modern Africa’s longest civil war, from 1983 to 2005, in which millions of people were displaced or died, South Sudan gained independence in 2011. The region’s elephants, originally estimated after the war to number about 5,000, suffered extreme losses too—but amazingly some survived. As migratory animals, they fled into hideouts deep in the bush, where they holed up out of the line of fire.

Economy and Business

NAB climate bond doubles in five hours
NAB’s first climate bond issued in Australian dollars for the Australian market last week closed oversubscribed and at $300 million, double the size initially flagged. According to a delighted Sean Kidney in his Climate Bond Initiative blog, the it took just five hours to reach this amount. “Strong investor demand led to the bond doubling from the minimum deal size of A$150 we initially reported to $300 million within five hours! As the first domestic issuer in A$ NAB targeted Australian investors,” Kidney said. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation agreed to be a cornerstone investor with a $75 million commitment, to soothe investors nerves for this new asset class, but the nervousness proved illfounded.

European investors stepping up responsible investment strategies
European asset owners are increasingly moving towards responsible investment strategies, according to a new survey that shows 72% of investors have drawn up formal responsible investment policies, an increase of 7% on 2013. Novethic published the survey at its annual event in Paris. It questioned 185 long-term investors, with over €6 trillion (£4.7tn) in assets in 13 European countries about their commitment to integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into asset management.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Can Worm Gut Bacteria Solve Plastic Waste Problem?
Bacteria from the guts of a worm known to munch on food packaging can degrade polyethylene, the most common plastic, according to research reported in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology. The scientists say the finding could lead to new ways to help get rid of the otherwise persistent waste, well-known for sticking around in the environment for years without breaking down, contributing to litter and landfills. The researchers turned to a plastic-eating moth larva, known as a waxworm. They found that at least two strains of the waxworm’s gut microbes could degrade polyethylene without a pretreatment step. They say the results point toward a new, more direct way to biodegrade plastic.

Politics and Society

Why money must be part of the formal school curriculum
Young people today face many more financial decisions than their parents ever did. Research and surveys carried out by the Personal Finance Education Group (pfeg, part of Young Enterprise) show that 64% of children get their first bank or building society account before they start secondary school, and nearly three-quarters of 15-year-olds with a bank account have a debit card. If we are to help future generations manage their finances well, children need high-quality financial education in school so that they can make informed choices and take responsibility for their actions.

Global science programme to focus on urban wellbeing
A global scientific research programme has been launched in China to examine the unintended consequences of urban policies on human health and wellbeing. The Urban Health & Wellbeing Programme aims to better understand what makes a “healthy urban environment”. People living in cities face a number of health risks, such as air pollution. The majority of people now live in towns and cities and the global urban population is growing by an estimated one million people each week. The launch of the programme comes amid a growing body of research that links urbanisation with growing health risks.

Obama Administration Selects 26 Communities to Foster Economic Expansion Through Local Food Projects
On Wednesday, on behalf of the White House Rural Council, six federal agencies came together to announce the 26 communities selected to participate in Local Foods, Local Places (LFLP), a federal initiative providing technical support to integrate local food systems into community economic action plans. Under this effort, a team of agricultural, transportation, environmental, public health and regional economic experts will work directly with the communities to develop specifically identified local food projects. Project proposals include repurposing vacant land for local food production, developing year-round retail markets for local food products, developing job training around local food entrepreneurship, and establishing food hubs to increase local food supply chains.

Built Environment

Parramatta’s M20 gets an EUA-driven upgrade
A $2 million refurbishment of a brutalist C grade commercial office tower at 20 Macquarie Street in Parramatta has halved energy use and attracted new tenants prepared to pay higher rents for improved office spaces.  Co-owner Michael Peters told The Fifth Estate the project also involved minimising waste from the project strip out, with the bulk of defit materials including about three kilometres of copper cabling recycled or reused.


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