Sustainable Development News

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

Bonn meeting ends with last-minute compromise on Paris climate text
Climate change negotiators meeting in Bonn on Thursday came up with a last-minute compromise that observers hope will put the talks on track for a new global agreement on greenhouse gases. Slow progress was made until the final hours, as nations wrangled over the wording of an 89-page draft text, intending to cut it down to a more manageable size. After two weeks, the text had been cut by just four pages to 85.  But shortly before the talks were scheduled to finish, countries agreed that the co-chairs of the negotiations should be allowed to make their own alterations to the text, and present it to all countries for approval, probably in late July.

Hawaii Promises 100 Percent Renewable Energy by 2045
In a three-way race for the recognition of national clean-energy king, Hawaii is making a strong case for the gold medal. California and New York held a commanding lead until Democratic Hawaiian Gov. David Ige signed into law an initiative that guarantees the state will get 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2045.

South Australia to lose coal generators, can it shoot for 100% renewables? : Renew Economy
Alinta Energy announced the closure of its heavily polluting brown coal generators in Port Augusta on Thursday, saying that they will be closed by 2018, but may be shut down for good within nine months… Put simply, the company said, the coal-fired generators were no longer economic, and have incurred operating losses of $100 million over the last four years, even with $200 million spent on trying to extend their operating life.

Musk: ‘I’m not a fan of disruption; just a fan of things being better’
Elon Musk wants the people to know that he’s not quite the rebel some have made him out to be. “I’m not actually a fan of disruption for its own sake,” the CEO of Tesla Motors said yesterday at the Edison Electric Institute’s (EEI) annual convention for investor-owned utilities in New Orleans. “I don’t think we should disrupt things unless it’s…fundamentally better for society,” he said. “I’m not really a fan of disruption; I’m just a fan of things being better.”

Consumers: We’re mad as hell and we want our solar
AUSTRALIA – Public anger at energy retailers combined with the hype around Tesla’s new battery is transforming mainstream opinions about going “off grid”. No longer is leaving the grid just for the hard-nosed greenies. Since Elon Musk’s game-changing big reveal last month Australian solar companies have noticed increased interest in solar panels with people asking how they can stick it to the power companies and leave the grid for good.

Paris 2015: 40 per cent Australian carbon emissions cut by 2030 fair, envoy says
The Abbott government should commit at the Paris climate summit to double the long-term rate at which Australia is now cutting its greenhouse gas emissions, a senior French official said. According to a “provisional evaluation” based in part on United Nations figures, Australia’s current goal of reducing emissions by 5 per cent on 2000 levels by 2020 will amount to a 20 per cent cut by 2030 if the same trajectory is maintained, said Nicolas Hulot, a special climate envoy to French President Francois Hollande. “Ideally, by 2030, Australia will have to reduce by 40 per cent its emissions on 2000 [levels],” Mr Hulot told Australian journalists in Paris on Wednesday.

Environment and Biodiversity

Watch: Tiger Numbers Growing in Russia—But Will It Last?
The big cats seem to be on the rebound in Russia, according to a new census. Between 480 and 540 of the subspecies—also known as Amur tigers—roam wild in Siberia and the Russian Far East, says the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. That’s an increase from the 2005 census, which found a population of between 423 and 502 Siberian tigers, considered endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Forest foraging part of regular day’s work for native seed collector in Far North Queensland
Cass Read never drives past a forest without taking a very close look at her surroundings. While many might admire the towering timber or green foliage or even the wildlife that rainforest trees can host, Cass’ eyes are searching for something else. Rainforest seeds.  On the day I met her, she had hit the jackpot. “They’re called Melicote Rubra, they’re the host for the Blue Mountain Butterfly,” she explains, as I peer into her half-filled bucket on the side of the road at Tolga, on the Atherton Tableland, in Far North Queensland.

A Prince Battles to Save Gorillas Amid Brutal Conflict
Emmanuel de Merode, director and chief warden of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), was driving through the forest last year when three men stepped out of the shadows and opened fire. He escaped—but only after being seriously injured. Violence goes with the territory. Virunga, Africa’s oldest national park and a World Heritage site, is one of the most contested zones on Earth. It is also home to all of the DRC’s critically endangered mountain gorillas.

Economy and Business

Three eco-tourism projects given green light to operate in Tasmania’s national parks
AUSTRALIA – A boat charter and tree tops obstacle course are among the first projects approved as part of the State Government’s bid to open up Tasmania’s national parks to eco-tourism. The developments are part of a Government plan to allow tourism ventures inside national parks and make the state the “environmental tourism capital of the world”. The State Growth minister has accepted three eco-tourism proposals at the recommendation of an assessment panel commissioned to sift through dozens of expressions of interest.  Matthew Groom told a budget estimates committee a total of 25 proposals had progressed and would take more time to assess. [Ed: The idea of tourism in national parks is controversial.  On the one hand, there is the danger of damaging and/or altering the environment.  On the other, is it sustainable business, improving access to and appreciation of our natural environment?]

Gordon Renouf launches campaign for ethical clothing app
Gordon Renouf’s new Ethical Consumers Australia has launched a crowdfunding campaign to create an app that helps people shop ethically. Mr Renouf, chair of Good Environmental Choice on Thursday announced GECA would also head down a new path linked to consumption and supply chain issues. Creators of the Good on You app hope it will become the go to service for millions of Australians. The app will rate more than 1000 clothing, footwear and accessory brands based on their impact on people, the environment and animals. It will also map outlets so people can find retailers close by.

Morgan Stanley Closes Issuance of Inaugural $500 Million Green Bond
Morgan Stanley has announced that it closed on the issuance of a $500 million green bond, its first green bond, as part of the company’s strategy to advance market-based solutions to social and environmental challenges. Funds equal to the net proceeds of Morgan Stanley’s green bond will be allocated to various renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. Much of these funds will correspond with investments in existing and future third-party renewable energy projects, primarily wind farms.

Can businesses be net positive or is it always a matter of trade offs?
The idea of net positive has been around for a while. Simply put, it requires businesses to have more positive impacts than they do negative. In other words, the wellbeing of communities, society and the environment should be better because of their existence. That’s a tough ask for a company and there seems little agreement on how net positive works in practice. How impacts are measured and managed and how any company can prove it’s successfully becoming net positive are still up for discussion. Join a panel of experts on Thursday 18 June, 1-2pm BST in the comments section of this page [follow the article link] where they’ll be taking questions on the topic.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Queensland cattle grazier trials free range ducks on heritage-listed Booubyjan Homestead
A south-east Queensland cattle producer says she is trialling farming ducks to improve pastures and tap into a growing market. Erin Lawless’ family has lived at Booubyjan Homestead, south-west of Maryborough, since the 1840s, but has traditionally run cattle.  Now the heritage-listed property is also home to 40 free range ducks… Ms Lawless said she wanted to see if the ducks would work in with the existing cattle operation.  “I’ve been reading some Joel Salatin work, who of course does the pastured poultry stuff, and how poultry following along after your cattle can really cleanse the paddocks from ticks and mites and things like that,” she said.

Politics and Society

How to change the world: Greenpeace and the power of the mindbomb
…The film explores the development of the “mindbomb”, an image that sends a collective shock through the world leading to action. The phrase was coined by Greenpeace co-founder Bob Hunter, who was one of the men standing in the speedboat in front of the Russian whaler during that first anti-whaling voyage in 1975.

Palm oil companies exploit Indonesia’s people and its corrupt politics
Throughout Indonesia, a vast archipelago draped across the equator, a human rights crisis simmers. Over the past two decades, indigenous communities have seen the government hand their land over to private companies. These companies are largely producing one of two commodities: fast-growing timber species to supply the pulp and paper industry or palm oil, a remarkably versatile edible oil.

Eco-friendly budget travel – latest guide
Forget cheap flights – from carsharing to couchsurfing, microadventures to Wwoofing, there’s plenty of ways to have a low-carbon, low-cost adventure.

Tax breaks for cyclists in ride-to-work incentives worth ‘closely considering’, Opposition says
AUSTRALIA – New tax breaks for cyclists are worth “closely considering” to get more commuters riding to work, the Federal Opposition says. Nine bicycle organisations have made the case for new “ride to work” incentives, in a submission to the Government’s tax white paper. They want cyclists to be allowed to salary sacrifice bikes, helmets and lights up to a capped value of $1,500, in a similar way to how cars are currently salary packaged. “There are tax implications for private motor vehicles — why is it that active transport has been excluded from that consideration?” Labor’s transport spokesman Anthony Albanese said.

Tony Abbott wants fewer ‘visually awful’ wind farms, wishes Howard government never implemented Renewable Energy Target

AUSTRALIA – Prime Minister Tony Abbott has described wind farms as “visually awful”, saying he wishes the Howard government, of which he was a member, had never implemented the Renewable Energy Target (RET) policy.  “When I’ve been up close to these things, not only are they visually awful, but they make a lot of noise,” Mr Abbott told Sydney broadcaster Alan Jones on Thursday. His comments echoed those of Treasurer Joe Hockey, who last year described wind turbines as “utterly offensive”. When questioned by Jones about the potential for wind turbines to affect the health of people living nearby, Mr Abbott said: “I do take your point.”

Built Environment

In Just A Week, This Kit Turns Old Houses Into Zero-Energy Homes (For Free)
In slightly more than a week, a clever kit of parts can transform an old rental house into a net-zero energy home—one that creates as much renewable energy as it uses in a year—at no extra cost to tenants or building owners. Net-zero homes are the kind of project that usually cost so much that only the richest, most environment-obsessed homeowners attempt it. But in the Netherlands, a group of innovators figured out how to create a system that could be used on the country’s huge inventory of low-income housing.

Prefab sector gets a new $4 million research centre
Australia’s prefabricated building sector has received a major boost with the Federal Government awarding $4 million to the University of Melbourne to establish a new research and training centre… It will be led by Dr Tuan Ngo and Professor Priyan Mendis from Melbourne University’s Department of Infrastructure Engineering. Professor Mendis said sustainability will be a major focus of research into new materials and manufacturing processes. Lightweight materials such as composites, nano materials and bio-based polymers will be researched as alternatives to the use of Portland cement.


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