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Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Paris 2015: COP21

COP21: ‘Fireworks’ expected as new climate text published
A critical “clean” draft text has been published at UN climate talks here in Paris after delays. This new version, 29 pages long, marks the first time the French presidency of the meeting has pulled together an outline of a deal. The new draft has significantly reduced the options on many of the key questions after days of negotiations.  One observer warned that there could be “fireworks” if countries are unhappy with the compromises proposed.

Will the Paris climate deal spell out the end of the fossil fuel era?
We are reaching le pointy end of the Paris climate change negotiations and a freshly prepared draft for a new global deal has just been released. With less than 72 hours of scheduled negotiating time left, this is officially squeaky-bum time for the 40,000 or so negotiators, delegates, observers, civil society groups, campaigners, activists and media filling the vast plywood and plastic regaled halls and corridors of the cavernous Le Bourget venue. One of the key decisions at the talks will centre on what’s known as the “long term goal”.

COP21: Final draft drawn up in Paris, 3 key issues remain
A final draft text for a climate change agreement in Paris has been released, with COP21 president Laurent Fabius claiming world leaders “must now be prepared to work overnight and tomorrow” to hammer out the real deal. Announcing the final draft, Fabius said that the issue of mitigation and adaption was almost resolved and that negotiators were “closer to concluding on transparency”. He said they had also made initial progress on ‘transfer of technologies’ and forests. Fabius said that negotiators were closer to concluding on the issue of ‘loss and damage’, which essentially considers the compensation for nations dealing with climate impacts. However, Fabius pointed out that three “cross-cutting issues” remain – differentiation, financing and the overall level of ambition of the agreement – which will likely form the main focus points for the final sessions.

Rich and poor countries face off over ‘loss and damage’ caused by climate change
“One possible future – a glimpse of our children’s fate if the climate keeps changing faster than our efforts to address it. Submerged countries. Abandoned cities. Fields that no longer grow. Political disruptions that trigger new conflict, and even more floods of desperate peoples seeking the sanctuary of nations not their own.” The words above were not found in an ActionAid or Oxfam briefing at the Paris climate talks. They come from US president Barack Obama’s address to the conference on its opening day last Monday, as he described one possible future under climate change. These images could become reality if there are insufficient reductions in carbon emissions. There are very real limits to adaptation that will be surpassed. In the language of the negotiations, these types of impacts are called “loss and damage”.

How 1.5 became the most important number at the Paris climate talks
One of the final obstacles in the way of a binding agreement at the Paris climate talks comes down to a simple number: 1.5. Limiting warming to a 1.5℃ temperature rise above pre-industrial levels is one of three potential targets on the table as negotiations approach the crucial final days. The other options are a firm limit of 2℃ and a limit of 2℃ with an aspiration to reduce to 1.5℃ in the coming years.

Paris UN climate conference 2015: Old and new alliances line up in shadow box
New and old alliances are making their mark on the Paris climate summit as ministers including Australia’s Julie Bishop shadow box their way through key disputes over what will end up in a global agreement. Different groupings of countries sought to position themselves ahead of the Wednesday release of a new draft version of the agreement,  which negotiators said would be the biggest test yet of the summit as it would reveal the depth of the divisions that remain.  If any group of countries choose to reject the new draft it would likely fracture the talks and threaten a final outcome, due by Friday.
[Ed: Article includes a quiz!]

Paris Climate Agreement’s Legal Form Explained In 7 Questions
What will be the outcome of the Paris climate negotiations — an agreement? A package? A treaty? As delegates make progress crafting the negotiating text at COP 21, there has been intense discussion about its legal form. Below are seven questions and answers to help understand this important issue as we head towards the final week of the climate talks.

COP21: 114 Companies Commit to Set Science-Based Emissions-Reduction Targets, Surpassing Goal
The Science-Based Targets initiative announced Tuesday that 114 companies have now committed to set emissions-reduction targets in line with what scientists say is necessary to keep global warming below the dangerous threshold of 2 degrees Celsius. The announcement was made at the LPAA Business focus event hosted by Caring for Climate at COP21 in Paris.

Paris talks: US pledges to double aid to climate-hit countries
The US has promised to double to $861m aid to countries on the frontline of climate change in the final push to reach an agreement to avoid dangerous global warming at crucial UN talks in Paris. As the negotiations moved into their critical final phase, the White House said the US would deepen its commitment to help low-lying and poor countries that are already threatened by rising seas and powerful storms. The additional aid, announced by John Kerry, the secretary of state, came as part of an all-out offensive by the White House and administration officials to seal a deal at Paris.

Climate wars: National security, clean energy converge at COP21
PARIS — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday tied conflict in Syria and the resulting global refugee crisis to climate change, asserting that the world could continue to see similar geopolitical turmoil if underlying stressors are not addressed. Among the possible responses to that predicament: shoring up national security and climate resilience through increased emphasis on renewable energy. Kerry lauded large corporations like Apple, Google, Walmart and AT&T for endorsing various White House clean energy programs.

Why India’s plan to fight climate change doesn’t hold water
As the third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases globally, the pressure is on India to offer something meaningful at the Paris climate talks. Yet the country demands the right to develop and lift its population out of poverty. In its official submission to the summit, the so-called INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) which every country had to provide before negotiations began, India pledges to reduce the emissions intensity of GDP by 33 to 35% by 2030 based on 2005 levels. It proposes to achieve this by investing significantly in low-carbon technologies. But do these numbers stack up?

In Paris with the Mayor of Byron
Byron Shire’s Simon Richardson [NSW, Australia] seems high on life, but not in the way some might suspect a Byron mayor might be. Last Saturday I came across him as he sped down the footpath of Rue Reamur, at the top of the 2nd arrondissement, on a rented bicycle. I had stopped to admire a row of electric vehicles charging near the footpath while they waited for their next share clients. Installations like these are dotted across Paris, and that, said Richardson, is what he would like to see in Byron Bay and surrounding towns. Richardson’s plans don’t end there.

Paris, COP21: Australia digs in on fossil fuels, sees coal as solution to hunger
One of the big themes of the Paris climate talks has been the focus on renewable energy – wind and solar in particular – as a means to reach emission reduction pledges, and cut pollution in the cities. Australia’s Coalition government, however, is sticking to a familiar theme: it has invested heavily in fossil fuels with long-life assets it is keen to retain and, anyway, coal is still good for humanity. Foreign minister Julie Bishop used a forum hosted by Indonesia called “Pathways to a Sustainable Low Carbon and Climate Resilient Economy” to push the case for Australian fossil fuels.

Paris UN climate conference 2015: Australia ranked third to last for emissions
Australia’s record on climate change has again been brought into question with a new report card ranking the country third last among major emitters ahead of only oil-rich Kazakhstan and Saudi Arabia. Released at the Paris climate summit, the rankings by European environment groups look at 58 countries responsible for 90 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Australia fared badly – the report argues that a transition to a lower emissions economy will require significant policy changes from the current regime.

NZ slammed again over climate action
Two international reports have slated New Zealand’s climate change efforts as UN negotiations in Paris ramp up in their final week. European research organisation Germanwatch has ranked New Zealand 42nd for its climate efforts, with a score of 52 per cent and down from 34th the previous year. The report ranked developed and newly industrialised countries against a range of indicators, including carbon emissions, development of renewable energies and climate policy.

Energy and Climate Change

Harrison Ford hits out at global inaction on climate change, warns of ‘disastrous’ consequences
Hollywood heavyweight Harrison Ford has told the ABC he hopes world leaders can “finally do something” about climate change as he launched a broadside at squabbling world powers. During an interview with 7.30, Ford said the consequences of inaction were dire. “Nature will take care of itself — nature doesn’t need people, people need nature to survive,” Ford told presenter Leigh Sales. “The planet will be OK, there just won’t be any damn people on it.”

Tesla Powerwall hits Australian market, local installers to be named
Australian households across four states will finally be able to get their hands on Tesla’s Powerwall battery, as the US company prepares to announce thes first “authorised” local installer of the much-hyped residential energy storage system… in a statement from Tesla on Wednesday, it was confirmed that Australians would be able to “put their money down” for the batteries before Christmas. Another statement will be released on Thursday morning naming an authorised Powerwall reseller, who is believed to begin installations starting January 2016.

Climate of Hope: Q&A with Professor Euan Mason
NEW ZEALAND – New Zealand’s land area is 27 million ha. Approximately 6.5 million ha of this area is in native forest, and 1.7 million ha is in plantation forest, primarily radiata pine. Our newest plantations, established since 1990, currently sequester about 25 million tons of CO2 per annum, although this value fluctuates considerably. New Zealand’s annual emissions of greenhouse gases also vary but they are equivalent to roughly 80 million tons of CO2 at the moment. During the 2020s our plantations will become net emission sources as large areas of trees planted during the 1990s are harvested.

Fossil Fuel Divestment

Auckland Uni Council defers fossil fuel divestment
The University of Auckland Council has chosen to defer making a decision on whether it will divest from fossil fuels. However, the council says it will ‘consider’ the issue further, which student group Fossil Free UoA says is progress, albeit limited.

Environment and Biodiversity

What is El Nino and why does it have so much influence over our weather?
El Nino is an ocean and atmospheric phenomenon that has a significant impact on our planet’s weather. While an El Nino event influences the whole world, the main effect is on the Pacific area, especially Australia, Indonesia and south-west America.

Bright collars to protect wildlife from cats
NEW ZEALAND – A joint project between Wellington City Council and Victoria University of Wellington is trialing bright coloured cat collar covers as a means of reducing the amount of wildlife they can catch. The Birdsbesafe cover for a cat’s collar is a tube of brightly coloured fabric, designed to be visible to birds so that they may mistake a stalking cat. “Many birds have advanced colour vision and see bright colours especially well, even in low light,” says Victoria University researcher Dr Heidy Kikillus. “The collar covers have been tested overseas with promising results, and we would like to investigate if they have the same success in New Zealand.”

Farmers praised for clean-up of West Coast’s Lake Brunner
NEW ZEALAND – A community-led clean up effort has halted a downward spiral in water quality in the West Coast’s largest lake five years ahead of schedule. It was now being held up by Environment Minister Nick Smith as an example of a large lake being turned around after decades of neglect. Lake Brunner – a wide, deep lake south-east of Greymouth – had been languishing since the early 1990s due to high levels of phosphorous, attributed to run-off from nearby farms.

Forget Sydney and San Francisco, Christmas Island crab bridge helps migrating critters beat the traffic
Christmas Island rangers have taken road safety to a whole new level with the construction of a “crab bridge” over the island’s busiest road. In preparation for the annual spawning season, rangers have been setting up barriers along the roadside to prevent the crabs from being crushed under the wheels of cars. A five-metre-high bridge has also been constructed at one point along the road to help the crabs move across the island and continue their migration.

Photo: The specially built bridge is aimed at stopping the crabs getting crushed on the road.

Photo: The specially built bridge is aimed at stopping the crabs getting crushed on the road.

Gabon impounds 200kg of ivory, arrests two alleged smugglers
The central African state of Gabon has impounded more than 200 kilograms of ivory in what may be its largest seizure ever. Gabon, which is home to half of Africa’s endangered forest elephants, is seeking to promote ecotourism and has poured money into protecting its 50,000 forest elephants, which are coveted by ivory poachers for their particularly hard, straight tusks.

Economy and Business

£352bn investors’ coalition launched to push for clean energy
A new £352bn coalition of investors including large insurer Aviva and major public and private funds in the UK, Norway and France has been launched to put pressure on some of the world’s biggest corporations to clean up their electricity sources.

Take a clue from stock exchanges to gauge sustainability’s future
If you want a powerful tool for predicting where the sustainability field is heading, just look at what’s going on with stock exchanges. They are the machines behind public equity economics, and deeply rewarding sources of trend analysis.

Improving Victoria’s building efficiency could create 13,000 jobs
AUSTRALIA – Upgrading the energy and water efficiency of Victoria’s building stock could stimulate $10 billion of investment and create up to 13,000 jobs, a new report from Environment Victoria has found. According to Six Steps to Efficiency Leadership, climate change means that towns and cities are facing “an urgent task to reduce emissions to zero and transition to renewable energy as soon as possible”.

Fonterra, Greenpeace hold ‘constructive’ talks over palm kernel expeller (PKE)
NEW ZEALAND – Fonterra and Greenpeace’s bosses have met over the negotiating table to address the dairy industry’s addiction to cheap feed supplied by palm plantations in fire-wracked Indonesia… Fonterra chief executive Theo Spierings agreed to meet Greenpeace New Zealand executive director Russel Norman after Greenpeace produced what Norman described as a “smoking gun”. That was a Greenpeace report that suggested Fonterra may have indirectly sourced PKE, via Singaporean supplier Wilmar, from at least two Indonesian plantations that had been involved in burning protected forests and destroying orangutan habitats.

Waste and the Circular Economy

COP21: adidas, Parley Unveil Latest Innovation, Call on Industry to Collaborate on Sustainable Solutions
Today, at the “Parley Talks” at COP21, adidas and Parley for the Oceans showcased their latest footwear concept, the 3D-printed Ocean Plastic shoe midsole, to demonstrate how the industry can rethink design and contribute to stop ocean plastic pollution.

Neighbourly Food launched with M&S with aim of cutting food waste
Marks & Spencer is the first retailer to adopt Neighbourly Food for national rollout. The retailer is working with Neighbourly Food, which is a service designed to fix the logistical problem of redistributing surplus food, especially local fresh food. This service has been launched by social platform

Food waste at Christmas parties keeps collection agency OzHarvest Adelaide busy
AUSTRALIA – End-of-year celebrations and Christmas parties are often a time of cheer and excess, but when properly planned they can also provide a boon for food collection agencies. For OzHarvest Adelaide, a charity which collects and redistributes surplus food, Christmas means a large increase in donations.

Politics and Society

Cameron government rejected flood risk warnings from climate advisers
The UK government was warned by its official climate change advisers in October that it needed to take action on the increasing number of homes at high risk of flooding but rejected the advice.  The decision not to develop to develop a strategy to address increase flooding risk came just a few weeks before Storm Desmond brought about severe flooding in Cumbria, Lancashire and other parts of the north west causing an estimated £500m of damage.

Use them and lose them: finding alternatives to antibiotics to preserve their usefulness
For the past decade we’ve consistently heard antibiotics don’t work as well as they used to. Bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to their effects and we are approaching a time when many bacteria could be resistant to all the antibiotics we have. Apocalyptic premonitions of the post-antibiotic era aside, what is being done about it? The World Health Organisation recommends a number of different measures. High on the list is renewing efforts to discover and develop blockbuster agents that can combat these new “superbugs”. Lower down the list are recommendations about how to use antibiotics more responsibly. This means having strategies in place to help preserve the remaining effective antibiotics.

SAFE calls for independent animal welfare body
NEW ZEALAND – Like “the fox looking after the henhouse” – that is how animal welfare group SAFE views the fact that the Ministry for Primary Industries is responsible for animal welfare. Instead it would like to see an independent body established. “It isn’t right that it’s within MPI because they are always thinking of the bottom line and not about animals,” SAFE campaigns manager Mandy Carter said. This will be just one of the issues SAFE will raise when it meets with Fonterra and DairyNZ next week to discuss its concerns.


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