Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Top Story

The madness of drinking bottled water shipped halfway round the world
Globally, we now drink as much packaged water as we do milk. At 30 litres per person per year, bottled water is the second most popular liquid refreshment after carbonated drinks – a market that it is set to supplant carbonates this year if predictions prove correct… “The problems of waste, inequity, high economic costs and impacts on local water resources are intrinsic to the entire industry,” says Peter Gleick, president of the US-based Pacific Institute and author of Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind our Obsession with Bottled Water.

Energy and Climate Change

Torrential rains increased 12 per cent in three decades as world warmed: studyTorrential rains have become more frequent worldwide since 1980, with Southeast Asia getting the biggest increase in downpours, a scientific study said on Tuesday. The report adds to evidence that rising man-made greenhouse gas emissions are stoking extremes from heatwaves to precipitation. Warmer air absorbs more moisture, which then can be dumped in downpours. “We find a clear overall upward trend for these unprecedented hazards,” lead author Jascha Lehmann of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said in a statement.

Controversial Watermark coal mine approved for New South Wales: experts respond
On Wednesday, federal environment minister Greg Hunt approved the Watermark Coal Mine in New South Wales. That approval, given under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, is not the final step. Shenhua still needs a mining license from New South Wales, and three further approvals on water management and rehabilitation from the federal government. In an economic analysis the mine, proposed by Chinese mining company Shenhua, was valued at A$1.3-1.6 billion. The mine is expected to produce up to 10 million tonnes of coal each year over the its 30-year lifetime.

It’s war … but don’t tell Tim Groser (Opinion)
The US military and the CIA are actively preparing for a world in which civil and political unrest is caused by catastrophic weather events which are caused by climate change. Those in charge are conducting a review of all US military bases around the world – assessing how they’d cope with weather-related disasters, and converting them into water and green-energy dependent installations…

Mike’s Minute: Jack Tame on climate change (Video)
This could be the next defining moment for New Zealand. Are we doing enough to ensure it happens?

Environment and Biodiversity

Honouring the memory of the Rainbow Warrior
OPINION: The 30th anniversary of the bombing of the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior by French terrorists in 1985 has inspired a surge of memories and patriotism throughout New Zealand.   These are fine, important sentiments, but commemorating the terrible event should also remind us of the Rainbow Warrior’s mission, which was centred on environmental issues in the Pacific that remain just as urgent 30 years later.

Cute takahe chick steals the show
NEW ZEALAND – A cute takahe chick stole the show today as Motutapu island celebrated 21 years of volunteer conservation work. The months-old chick, which has yet to be named, was born on the island late last year, and showed how successful the work had been, Brett Butland, chairman of the Motutapu Restoration Trust said. It was the first juvenile takahe born on the island.

New government strategy fails to protect endangered species, conservationists say
Governments across Australia are being urged to do more to protect endangered species, amid warnings land clearing and mining are threatening key habitats. The criticism from conservationists comes as the Federal Government prepares to release a Threatened Species Strategy. Conservationists examined the Federal Government’s strategy to protect 120 of the most endangered animals in Australia and found for nearly 70 per cent of the animals, habitat loss from practices such as mining or logging was the biggest threat. Samantha Vine from BirdLife Australia told the ABC the scale of the threat was not reflected through the Government’s policies.

Climate change causing bumblebee habitat loss, say scientists
Climate change caused by emissions from cars, factories and power plants is squeezing the habitats suitable for bumblebees to live in across Europe and North America, scientists have discovered. As temperatures have risen over the past 110 years, the bees are being killed off by increased heat in their southern habitats. But to the surprise of researchers, they are failing to move north to cooler climes, unlike other species.

Shark Attack Risk Is Down Sharply Since 1950
Although the overall number of reported shark attacks around the world has gone up, a person’s individual risk of being bitten by a shark has plummeted, according to a new study. Researchers from Stanford University found that the chance a person in California who goes into the ocean will be bitten by a great white shark fell 91 percent from 1950 to 2013. The Stanford team compared shark bite records with data on human use of the ocean in California, and calculated that an ocean swimmer there in 2013 had only a one in 738 million chance of being bitten by a great white. Surfers, the most likely to be bitten, had a one in 17 million chance. Scuba divers had a one in 136 million chance.

Economy and Business

Fossil fuel firms risk wasting billions by ignoring climate change, says IEA
The world’s fossil fuel companies risk wasting billions of dollars of investment by not taking global action to fight climate change seriously, according to the chief economist of the International Energy Agency (IEA). Fatih Birol, who will take the top job at the IEA in September and is one of the world’s most influential voices on energy, warned that companies making this mistake would also miss out on investment opportunities in clean energy.

Green Climate Fund partners with Deutsche Bank to green fury
A UN piggy bank to help poor countries deal with climate change partnered with a leading coal funder, sparking an outcry from green groups. At a meeting in its South Korean headquarters on Thursday, the Green Climate Fund approved Deutsche Bank and 12 other financial entities to receive and distribute cash. Germany’s leading investment bank is the world’s 10th largest backer of coal, with €15bn invested in the industry from 2005 to 2014, according to the BankTrack network.

Resource productivity: four ways Australia can keep the good times rolling
Good times for Australia kept rolling whilst prices and demand for our resources were high. But boom-time is on the wane, manufacturing is squeezed and it is time for a serious where-to-from-here conversation about the nation’s economy… Opportunity knocks for doing more with less. Based on 2014 World Economic Forum estimates we calculate that Australia’s relative share of global economic opportunity derived from smarter use of materials, energy and water could be $26 billion each year by 2025. Recent research from ANU puts this figure even higher.

Nine ways to overcome barriers to sustainable business (Live chat results)
From competition to communication, there are numerous challenges to sustainable business. Here’s what the experts say about overcoming them.

Waste and the Circular Economy

School holidays program sees imaginations run wild as children recycle trash into toys
Give a group of young minds a collection of household and office waste, and watch as they make amazing creations. As part of its school holidays program, Waste Nott Recycling at Hackham West in Adelaide’s southern suburbs, holds Trash to Treasure Eco Craft workshops. Stick-on wobbly eyes, a hot glue gun and a handful of pipe cleaners are about the only purchased items on offer. Children and their parents are then invited to rummage through clean rubbish to see what can be transformed into toys.

European Parliament calls for 2030 recycling targets despite UK opposition
The European Parliament has today called for the European Commission to push forward with plans for new recycling targets for 2030, despite the UK opposing “prescriptive” measures in the new Circular Economy package. In a vote in Strasbourg today, 394 MEPs backed the Circular Economy report, which advocates an overall EU resource efficiency target of 30 per cent by 2030, with 197 MEPs voting against the report and 82 abstentions.

Selfridges bans plastic water bottles in oceans conservation initiative
Selfridges is to rid its stores of all single-use plastic water bottles as part of a campaign to reduce pollution of the oceans. Instead, the department store is encouraging customers to bring their own water bottles to fill at a newly-opened traditional drinking fountain in its London food hall. The initiative, part of an ongoing partnership with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the Marine Reserves Coalition (MRC), aims to reduce plastic waste and help facilitate a change in behaviour around the use of plastic.

Politics and Society

Rainbow Warrior sinking – New Zealand’s ‘under-Watergate’
OPINION: July 10, 1985, catapulted New Zealand to the world stage. And this Friday we recognise the 30th anniversary of New Zealand’s first and only foray into international terrorism. It is New Zealand’s own “under-Watergate” (or Watergate  sur   Seine – as it has been aptly dubbed) – the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior. For my  generation  the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior was significant. It was the lightning rod of history when New Zealand stood up to a more powerful nation. It was a true battle of David and Goliath; with Prime Minister David Lange as our champion, pitted against France’s President Mitterand.

Sam Judd: Synthetic fibres suck
Last week, to my wife’s dismay, I ruffled through our drawers, throwing out all the clothing I could find that was made of synthetic fibres. When any clothes get put in the washing machine, tiny fibres come off them. They get into the wastewater system and ultimately, the ocean. It is well known in science that these ‘microplastics’ are readily consumed by small marine organisms, threatening to poison our food chain.

Is it ok for scientists to weep over climate change?
Should scientists show emotion while discussing their science? I ask because a professor of ocean geology wept as she discussed with me the impact carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are having on the sea. She fears we are acidifying and heating the ocean so fast that her young daughters may no longer enjoy coral reefs and shellfish by the end of the century. And as we pondered the future, her passion for the oceans triggered tears. The interview came half way through a long day for the professor, who had left her young children in the early hours on a visit to the Marum labs in Bremen…

“I’m a geologist. In the long term the Earth and Earth system will recover back to a normal state. But humans – we are depending on the services the oceans provide.”

Has One Direction got the X-factor to spur action on climate change?
Thousands of teenagers around the world are becoming the latest to call on governments to crack down on greenhouse gas emissions after boyband One Direction launched a campaign ahead of this year’s Paris Summit to push for ambitious action on climate change. The new “action/1D” campaign, launched in association with international children’s charity Save the Children is calling on world leaders to commit to tackling climate change, inequality and poverty.

Food Systems

Agriculture meets mining: Preparations underway to sow crops using mine site irrigation in the Pilbara
AUSTRALIA – An irrigated agriculture trial at the edge of the Great Sandy Desert is preparing to sow its first crops. The Warrawagine Cattle Company will use excess water from the nearby Woodie Woodie manganese mine to irrigate a variety of crops, including sorghum, maize, and oats. The 38-hectare pilot site is part of the Western Australia Government’s multi-million dollar Pilbara Hinterland Agricultural Development Initiative (PHADI), which is investigating the economic potential for irrigated agriculture in remote locations across the Pilbara region.


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