Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Soil underpins all our food supply, so it makes sense to look after its health.  The top story today is an appeal to NZ farmers to think of the 290 million tonnes of soil lost annually as an export for which there is a cost but no income.  Alternative agricultural practices are worth looking at, especially if the current system is failing to do the job.  Preserving soil and keeping it healthy not only contributes to better plant and animal growth but it also keeps our waterways cleaner.  And an action point for you: Some simple things you can do to help improve water quality that you may not have thought about are outlined in the waste section.

Top Story

Ecologist calls for changes to improve soil health |
NEW ZEALAND – It may seem crazy to farmers, but Christine Jones wants flowers in pastures. Jones, a soils ecologist and founder of “Amazing Carbon”, was in Clinton last week to talk to farmers about regenerative farming and restoring soil health on their farms. The Australian says 192 million tonnes of soil are eroded every year in New Zealand, making it the country’s biggest export. “What else do you export that’s about 192 million tonnes? Forty-four per cent of that loss was from pastures … so New Zealand’s largest export is actually your most precious asset, your soil.”
Related: ‘Mackenzie is not cow country:’ Greenpeace wants to draw line on dairying | 

Climate Change and Energy

Use excess wind and solar power to produce hydrogen – report | The Guardian
Green energy would be boosted if excess electricity from wind and solar farms was used to produce hydrogen for use in heating and other parts of the energy system, according to engineers.

Zibelman on changing energy market: “Get used to it” | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – Australian Energy Market Operator chief Audrey Zibelman isn’t given to making grand statements. But at the Australian Energy Week 2018 conference in Melbourne on Wednesday, she had a subtle message for those politicians, industry groups and media outlets still struggling to come to terms with the clean energy transition.
Related: South Australia solar market slump blamed on Liberals policy void | One Step Off The Grid 

Budget 2018 was old news for energy policy – the next big headlines won’t come until July | The Conversation (Budget 2018)
AUSTRALIA – As with many previous budgets, matters relating to energy and climate change were relegated to little more than a footnote in
Treasurer Scott Morrison’s 2018 budget speech. And even the contents of that footnote told us nothing new. This will bring relief to some, but cause frustration for others.

The Green Climate Fund commits billions, but falls short on disbursements | Devex
This year, the United Nations Green Climate Fund will commit over half of its $8.3 billion budget for climate change adaptation and mitigation initiatives, including a milestone $1 billion approved at its last board meeting in February. This development comes as the fund continues to struggle with actually disbursing the money it has committed while preparing for a critical year ahead, with the rule book of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change expected to be finalized by December.
Related: Rich world faces questions on who will replace US climate cash | Climate Home News 

Environment and Biodiversity

Council retires forestry blocks amid national shake up of forestry practices |
NEW ZEALAND – Nelson City Council is retiring more than a fifth of its forestry blocks and building a wetland along the Maitai River, in response to concerns about the environmental impact of forestry practices locally and nationwide. The council last week released Niwa research, linking pine plantations to environmentally-damaging fine sediment in the Maitai River, amid calls for stronger controls on forestry companies operating in the Maitai catchment.

From drone swarms to tree batteries, new tech is revolutionising ecology and conservation | The Conversation
Understanding Earth’s species and ecosystems is a monumentally challenging scientific pursuit. But with the planet in the grip of its sixth mass extinction event, it has never been a more pressing priority.  To unlock nature’s secrets, ecologists turn to a variety of scientific instruments and tools. But there are many more high-tech options becoming available for studying the natural world. In fact, ecology is on the cusp of a revolution, with new and emerging technologies opening up new possibilities for insights into nature and applications for conserving biodiversity.  Our study, published in the journal Ecosphere, tracks the progress of this technological development. Here we highlight a few examples of these exciting advances.

South Georgia declared rat-free after centuries of rodent devastation | The Guardian
UK – The world’s biggest project to eradicate a dangerous invasive species has been declared a success, as the remote island of South Georgia is now clear of the rats and mice that had devastated its wildlife for nearly 250 years.

One of the dogs used to hunt for any remaining rodents. Photograph: Oliver Prince/South Georgia Heritage Trust

One of the dogs used to hunt for any remaining rodents. Photograph: Oliver Prince/South Georgia Heritage Trust

Humpback whales near Antarctica making a comeback, study finds | Mongabay
Humpback whales living around the Western Antarctic Peninsula seem to be recovering rapidly, indicated by females showing high pregnancy rates, a new study has found. Researchers also found a high proportion of females that are both lactating and pregnant, which is a sign that the humpback whale population there is growing. So far, changing climate in the Western Antarctic Peninsula has been beneficial for the humpbacks because of more ice-free days and more access to food. But long-term trends of climate change may be more problematic, the researchers write.

Pleistocene climates help scientists pick out targets for conservation in Brazil’s forests | Mongabay
A team of researchers has pinpointed new areas for conservation in the rainforests of the Amazon and the Atlantic Forest by looking back in time to find the spots that have had the most stable climates. “The regions that have suffered least from climate change in the last 21,000 years are those in which the fewest local extinctions have occurred,” said biologist Thadeu Sobral-Souza of São Paulo State University and the study’s lead author in a statement. “These regions stand out for their higher species richness ratios [and] genetic diversity among species.”

Economy and Business

Allianz is the latest insurer to bank on carbon neutrality | GreenBiz
Allianz is to stop selling insurance policies to coal-fired power plants and coal mines, in the latest sign the dirtiest fossil fuel could become a pariah for forward-thinking investors. Announcing its “climate protection package” last week, the German insurance giant said the new policy would become effective immediately, acting as the first step towards the firm’s complete withdrawal from the coal business by 2040.

Development banks ‘not aligned’ with Paris Agreement goals: report | Climate Home News
Multilateral development banks (MDBs) are falling short of pledges to climate-proof their investment portfolios, according to a report by think-tank E3G. Six leading MDBs were assessed on the progress they had made in aligning their financial flows with the Paris Agreement goals, which they committed to in December 2017.

A radical way to cut emissions – ration everyone’s flights | The Guardian (Opinion)
Maybe it’s just because I’m back from a bank holiday weekend in north Wales that was filled with glorious Mediterranean-style sunshine. But reading about a new study that says global tourism now accounts for 8% of carbon emissions, three times more than was previously thought made me think– surely we can do better?

Fighting fast fashion: The struggle to be Made in NZ | Radio New Zealand News
NEW ZEALAND – In the wake of reporting by The Spinoff about World’s garment labelling and the ensuing discussions, we need to consider the state of manufacturing, our role as consumers, and what it takes to be a New Zealand fashion brand.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Four simple ways you can reduce pollution in your local river | The Conversation
Plastic pollution in the oceans has got a lot of attention lately, seemingly triggered by the BBC’s Blue Planet II and its haunting image of a pilot whale grieving her dead calf. But water pollution isn’t just a problem in the sea – local waters are suffering too, often from pollutants found in common household products.  Even in very low amounts, some medications, hygiene products and pesticides may cause aquatic organisms to change their behaviour or find their homes are no longer habitable. The issue has been on the authorities’ radar for some time, not least the European Union which introduced the first watchlist of emerging pollutants in 2013. But you can help too, with a few simple changes to your everyday habits.

Media Release – Auckland could be $8.8 billion better off in 2030, if it installed a circular economy (Press Release)
An economic study of how Auckland could look in 12 years’ time found we could be billions of dollars better off with much lower carbon emissions if we shifted to a circular economy. Download report (PDF 8MB).

Politics and Society

The predators that inspired NZ’s conservation movement |
NEW ZEALAND – Stoats, ferrets and weasels (and cats, for that matter), were well regarded by land or run holders from the mid 1800s as a “natural” remedy for the rabbit menace.  We can now look back with the benefit of 150 years of hindsight. It’s easy to shake your head, in the glib comfort of 21st century knowledge and condemn these people as short-sighted.   The introduction of stoats, ferrets and weasels was part of a number of environmental catastrophes in early New Zealand history. It set in motion a wave of conservation sentiment, resulting in the reserve areas and public conservation land that we recognise today.

Built Environment

California becomes first U.S. state to require solar panels on new homes | Thomson Reuters Foundation
USA – Builders in California will be required to fit solar panels on most new homes from 2020 under a new rule adopted on Wednesday, the first of its kind in the United States. The far-reaching standards, adopted unanimously by the five-member California Energy Commission, require that new residential buildings in the state be equipped with the panels.

Revealed: Network Rail’s new £800m scheme to remove all ‘leaf fall’ trees | The Guardian
UK – Network Rail is to target all “leaf fall” trees for removal alongside its tracks in a new £800m five-year programme of “enhanced clearance”, according to an internal document seen by the Guardian. The policy document for 2019-24 emerged as the environment secretary, Michael Gove, summoned the chief executive of Network Rail for talks over their approach to environmental management following revelations about tree felling across the country by the Guardian.


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