Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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How climate change will impact the global middle class
…The pendulum is swinging back from “sound-bite economics” to political economy, focusing on the interplay between economics, law and politics. And the evidence suggests that global politics are shifting, driven by climate change and what he calls the developing “environmental credit crunch.” The tipping point will be when “the general population is both affected — and know that they are being affected.”

Energy and Climate Change

UN chief says urgent action needed on Paris Agreement
Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, has warned that urgent action on climate change is needed to convert the promising Paris Agreement into effective measures.

Carbon dioxide emissions from US energy sector fall 12% since 2005
Carbon dioxide emissions from the US’s energy sector fell in 2015 and now stand at 12% below 2005 levels, a drop mainly driven by the continuing collapse of the coal industry. Americans’ energy consumption resulted in the release of 5.2bn tons of CO2 last year, according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), down from 5.4bn tons in 2014. The 12% cut since 2005 has come during a period in which the US economy has, adjusting for inflation, grown by 15%.

Solar industry chalks up latest record low-cost milestone
The solar industry has set a new cost record after Dubai reportedly seized back the crown from Mexico in the race to deliver the world’s lowest-cost, commercial-scale solar project. Bloomberg reported last week that developers bid 2.99 cents/kWh in an auction to provide power for the Dubai Electricity & Water Authority. Analyst Bloomberg New Energy Finance said the bid from the planned 800MW solar farm was 15 per cent lower than the previous cost record set by a project in Mexico last month.

Ten Sainsbury’s stores now get their power from food waste
Supermarket Sainsbury’s has revealed that ten of its stores are being powered by energy generated from food waste. Waste food is collected from two Sainsbury’s depots before being converted into gas, heat and fertiliser at ReFood’s anaerobic digestion facilities.

Port Augusta’s coal-fired power station closes in South Australia
AUSTRALIA – The coal furnaces at Alinta Energy’s Port Augusta power station in South Australia’s north will go cold [yesterday] as it goes offline. The Northern Power Station was disconnected from the network about 9:40am. Less than a year ago, Alinta Energy announced the station — which is the city’s bigger employer — would close after the company struggled to compete with government-backed renewable energy.

Total charges up clean energy ambitions with €950m takeover of battery maker
French oil and gas company Total has today announced plans to acquire French battery maker Saft in a €950m ($1.1bn) deal designed to accelerate the fossil fuel giant’s push into the global clean energy market.

Can we save the algae biofuel industry?
Algal biofuels are in trouble. This alternative fuel source could help reduce overall carbon emissions without taking land from food production, like many crop-based biofuels do. But several major companies including Shell and ExxonMobil are seemingly abandoning their investments in this environmentally friendly fuel. So why has this promising technology failed to deliver, and what could be done to save it?


We all live downstream – it’s time to restore our freshwater ecosystems
Freshwater covers a tiny area of the planet’s surface, but is vital for our economies, environment and, of course, our survival. Yet freshwater is also among the most threatened ecosystems, where wildlife has declined faster than in the oceans or on land. Faced with a barrage of human threats, how can we help our waterways? Our research, published in Biological Conservation, looks at the cheapest, most effective ways to restore our rivers. After all, we all live downstream.

The UAE wants to build a ‘rainmaking mountain’ – are we all ok with that?
Eglwyswrw is a real place. This village in Wales is as long on rain as it is short on vowels. Last winter, it rained for 85 days in a row, just missing out on setting the British record. There’s a reason why it is so wet: the prevailing winds carry moisture-laden air from the Atlantic onto the Welsh hills and as the air rises it cools, losing its ability to hold as much water vapour… The point is that hills make rain – or to be more precise, hills can create the conditions which cause moisture in the air to condense and fall as rain. This insight has whetted the appetite of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Not content with the Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building) and the man-made islands of the Palm and the World, the UAE is now considering building its own mountain.

Environment and Biodiversity

Rare Seal Pups Stranded on Shrinking Arctic Ice
It’s April 20, the time of year when seal scientists like Verevkin, who works for the Russian Academy of Sciences, fly over the Baltic Sea to count numbers of the Baltic ringed seal, a marine mammal that, unlike the gray seal, is totally dependent on sea ice for raising pups. But ice in the Gulf of Finland has been gone for weeks, due to an early spring.

‘That would be tragic’: Worries new land-clearing laws will ‘gut’ biodiversity
AUSTRALIA – The NSW government says its new native vegetation laws will protect biodiversity. Even the Queensland government warns against them.

Research into feral cat behaviour could change prescribed burn management
AUSTRALIA – A new study into the movement and behaviour of feral cats could have implications for the way bushfires are managed across the country. There is an “unholy alliance” between feral cats and wildfire, according to Australian Wildlife Conservancy chief executive Atticus Fleming. The large research project, undertaken by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, involved radio tracking feral cats in wildlife sanctuaries in the Kimberly region in Western Australia and Cape York Peninsula in Queensland.

Economy and Business

Top palm oil producer sues green group over deforestation allegations
One of the world’s largest palm oil producers is suing the green body that suspended its sustainability certification last month because of allegations it had deforested Indonesian rainforests. The Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a body set up by industry and NGOs to address environmental concerns about the commodity’s production, confirmed it had been served with a lawsuit by the Malaysian palm giant, IOI. IOI was suspended by the RSPO in early April after the allegations of wrongdoing, leading major buyers including Unilever, Mars, Kelloggs and Nestle to cut back on the palm oil they buy from the company.

Global Platinum Industry Could Be Hit Hard By EV Revolution
The rise of the electric vehicle market over the next decade or two will impact the platinum market significantly, according to a new report from Bloomberg. As the auto industry is the largest user of platinum worldwide — owing to its inclusion in vehicle exhaust systems (used to strip emissions of certain compounds).

Hotels should implement sustainability accreditation systems, survey reveals
Boutique hotels and Bed & Breakfasts (B&B) would generate more customer interest if they were judged through a sustainable accreditation system similar to food and service quality ratings, a survey from energy supplier E.ON has revealed.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Why Recycling Will Be a Last Resort in a Truly Circular Economy
The circular economy represents a fundamental shift in the way resources, energy and information flow through our economy. A key characteristic of this framework is that products and components remain at their highest levels of integrity and performance. So is recycling part of the picture?

AkzoNobel Partners to Develop Sustainable Cellulose Products from Sugar Beet Waste
AkzoNobel and agro-industrial cooperative Royal Cosun have partnered to develop novel products from cellulose side streams resulting from sugar beet processing.

Politics and Society

Rapid transition to clean energy will take massive social change
Global climate change, driven by human emissions of greenhouse gases, is already affecting the planet, with more heatwaves, droughts, wildfires and floods, and accelerating sea-level rise… According to Stefan Rahmstorf, Head of Earth System Analysis at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, we need an emergency response. A big part of this response needs to be transforming the energy sector, the principal contributor to global warming in Australia and many other developed countries. Many groups have put forward ideas to transition the energy sector away from carbon. But what are the key ingredients?

Climate Change Authority report recommending ‘a mandatory carbon price’ held back until after election
A report that recommends putting a price on emissions from the electricity sector has been held back by the Climate Change Authority until after the election, prompting calls from Labor and the Greens that it be made public to inform debate.

Global artists spread message of marine conservation
NEW ZEALAND – Earlier this year, high profile local and international artists converged on Napier to paint inner city walls with a message about the importance of marine conservation issues. What are we doing to save our oceans and how will consumer waste and overfishing affect our current and future generations? Tré Packard, the founder of marine conservation organisation Pangeaseed has been looking at ways to spread awareness of rising global issues that affects [sic] us all.

Call out for tower to house homeless
NEW ZEALAND – A social worker working with Auckland’s growing homeless population says the vacant former Civic Administration Building should be used to house some of the homeless. Michelle Kidd of Te Rangimarie Trust said the Government should use some of an extra $41 million announced yesterday for emergency housing to reopen a central city night shelter in the old 22-storey tower, which the council moved out of in 2014.
See also: Govt to spend $41.1m on emergency housing

Food Systems

How will we feed a rapidly urbanizing society?
In 1893, suffragette Mary Elizabeth Lease predicted that all food would be in the form of a pill by 1993. Other science fiction writers and futurists, such as H.G. Wells and Arthur C. Clarke, also predicted that urban populations would soon eat synthetic foods and that agriculture would become obsolete.   But 1993 has come and gone, and the futurists have been proven wrong, even though we live on a planet that is increasingly urban. In China alone, there are 15 megacities with more than 10 million people. People who live in cities are not subsisting on pills — at least not for food. Not even close. If anything, we are as dependent on farming as ever.


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