Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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World’s climate about to enter ‘uncharted territory’ as it passes 1C of warming
Climate change is set to pass the milestone of 1C of warming since pre-industrial times by the end of 2015, representing “uncharted territory” according to scientists at the UK’s Met Office. 2015 is also set to be the hottest on record, as the temperatures are so far beating past records “by a country mile”, they said. The World Meteorological Organization further announced on Monday that 2016 would be the first year in which the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is over 400ppm on average, due to the continued burning of fossil fuels.


Energy and Climate Change

Will the Arctic shift from a carbon sink to a carbon source?
Studies show that the warming of the climate system is altering the movement and storage of carbon in the far north of the Earth. And these changes carry global implications. Among the many questions that scientists such as myself are investigating is whether the Arctic will continue being a net absorber of carbon, or shift to become a net emitter.

How runaway sea level rise could one day swamp the world’s biggest cities
Hundreds of millions of people around the world are living in places that could eventually be submerged by rising sea levels triggered by unchecked climate change, new global maps suggest. An estimated 627 million people live in these places, including about 1.9 million in Australia and many more in the world’s great metropolises such as Tokyo, New York and Shanghai. The rising seas won’t happen overnight, nor in anybody’s current lifetime… But a report that accompanies the maps, released on Monday, says this future would be locked in if global warming reached four degrees by 2100 – considered likely if the current level of emissions continued unabated.


Half of Weather Disasters Linked to Climate Change
From a deadly snowstorm in Nepal to a heat wave in Argentina that crashed power supplies, at least 14 extreme weather events last year bore the fingerprints of human-induced climate change, an international team of scientists reported Thursday. Researchers examined 28 weather extremes on all seven continents to see if they were influenced by climate change or were just normal weather. Their conclusion: Half of them showed some role of climate change.

Storm and drought: what Europe has to fear from climate change
For most Europeans, the climate change threat is elsewhere: the rising sea levels in south Asia; crop failures in Africa; mightier storms in the tropics, drought in the developing world. But as François Hollande prepares to host a crucial UN climate summit at the end of this month, his fellow Europeans are already facing subtle harbingers of global warming. Seas, mountains, forests, plains, towns and cities – the risks within Europe itself are many, varied and increasingly difficult to ignore.

World’s most polluting nations to double renewables output
Eight of the world’s 10 most polluting countries are expected to double their collective renewable energy capacity in the next 15 years, a new study from the World Resources Institute (WRI) has found.  WRI’s analysis, Assessing the Post-2020 Clean Energy Landscape, looks at plans from eight of the 10 largest greenhouse gas emitters — Brazil, China, the EU, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico and the US — concluding that their cumulative clean energy supply will jump from approximately 9,000 TWh in 2012 to 20,000 TWh in 2030.

Community renewables development guide launched by Victorian govt
AUSTRALIA – Victoria’s community renewable energy sector got a boost this week with the state government’s release of a guide to developing community owned-projects, as part of its upcoming Renewable Energy Action Plan. State energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio launched the Guide to Community-Owned Renewable Energy for Victorians at the annual general meeting of Australia’s first community-owned wind farm, Hepburn Wind, in Daylesford.

Community solar bulk-buy scheme launched in City of Port Phillip
AUSTRALIA – The City of Port Phillip in Melbourne’s inner south-east is calling for expressions of interest in a community solar bulk buy offer, which will allow local businesses and households to install rooftop solar – and potentially battery storage – at a discounted price.

Paris 2015: UN Conference on Climate Change

Nothing can compete with renewable energy, says top climate scientist
Catastrophic global warming can be avoided with a deal at a crunch UN climate change summit in Paris this December because “ultimately nothing can compete with renewables”, according to one of the world’s most influential climate scientists.  Most countries have already made voluntary pledges to roll out clean energy and cut carbon emissions, and Prof John Schellnhuber said the best hope of making nations keep their promises was moral pressure.

Environment and Biodiversity

Crimes against the environment: the silent victim of warfare
Acts perpetrated during the course of warfare have, through the ages, led to significant environmental destruction. These have included situations in which the natural environment has intentionally been targeted as a “victim”, or has been manipulated to serve as a “weapon”. On Friday the United Nations marked the “International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict”. Throughout history the environment has been a silent victim of human conflict. The problem is ongoing. It is time we properly recognised crimes against the environment and made those responsible for such crimes fully accountable.

Indonesian forest fires fuel row over palm kernel purchases
Environmental group Greenpeace has rebuked Fonterra for continuing to sell a byproduct of palm oil as a food supplement, in the wake of massive forest fires that are raging in Indonesia. Fonterra sells palm kernel expeller (PKE), a byproduct of palm oil plantations, to farmers as a supplementary feed for dairy cattle. But Fonterra said in a statement that it bought the product from sources that had been certified as sustainable.

Indigenous Communities May Offer the Most Affordable, Effective Forest Protection
Two new reports suggest that the best way to protect forests is to let indigenous and local communities manage them. Released Thursday, both reports provide evidence to support that community-led management is a financially and environmentally responsible approach to curbing deforestation. For the first time, economists from the World Resources Institute (WRI) were able to quantify the economic value of securing land rights for indigenous and local communities.

Carp in sights at annual bowhunters’ contest
NEW ZEALAND – The air around Lake Puketirini was heavy with the smell of oily fish – and expectation – as bowhunters gathered for the two-day World Koi Carp Classic. Members of the New Zealand Bowhunters Society descended on Huntly at the weekend in search of the pest fish… As well as being a top sporting event, the annual fixture served an important environment purpose. “This year we expect to shoot more than 1500 koi carp and to be honest that’s not really going to make too much difference to the pest population,” Metcalfe said. “But the real purpose of all this is to raise awareness about the fact that we have this pest fish in our waterways and that they’re doing serious harm.”

Economy and Business

TPP revealed: at last we have the details – and a democratic deficit to be fixed
After much secrecy, the full text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – the trade pact involving 12 Pacific countries and covering nearly 40% of the world’s GDP – is now available (albeit only in English at this stage). Responses of all shades are emerging. Some promise days of rage, others a farewell to natural ecosystems. And others still – like Australia’s National Hog Farmer – are singing its praises. There is, however, a troubling silence about the TPP and its democratic deficit.

Australia faces rising perils from climate change, earthquakes: Munich Re report
Sydney faces almost one-third more hailstorm days, Brisbane is at a rising risk of a direct hit from a category-three cyclone, and south-eastern Australia will have to endure three times as many high-risk bushfire days over the century because of climate change, one of the world’s biggest re-insurers says. The costs to Australia from natural catastrophes has almost quadrupled from 1980 to reach $6.3 billion year, a figure which soar to $23 billion by 2050, according to Munich Re’s latest Expect the Unexpected report.

How McDonald’s aims to serve up deforestation-free packaging
By the end of next year, McDonald’s has pledged that all of its European wood-fiber packaging — paper or card-based products such as burger boxes or coffee cups — will come from recycled material or sustainably managed forests. The company recently took a major step towards achieving this goal, announcing that all of its centrally sourced packaging in Europe is now chain-of-custody certified, with all wood fiber from either recycled sources or sustainably managed forests.

Waste and the Circular Economy

National Recycling Week: Where does the stuff you put in your bin end up?
AUSTRALIA – Up to 200 tonnes of paper, glass, aluminium and other recyclable material is sorted and processed each weekday in a large shed on the edge of Canberra. However 10 per cent of all material placed in household recycling bins cannot be reused and it should have been thrown in the rubbish bin. During National Recycling Week 2015 — November 9 to 15 — the ACT Government wants to encourage residents to think and act more carefully to reduce the amount of waste ending up in landfill.

Waiuku recycling centre celebrates successful first year
NEW ZEALAND – Waiuku Zero Waste community recycling centre is celebrating its first anniversary… Wallis said, the centre aims to reduce rubbish sent to landfills. “We’ re constantly look for new streams that we can recycle instead of sending to landfill.” Glass, scrap metal, paper, e-waste and plastic are all recycled at the centre. The centre diverts more than 70 per cent of waste by volume and 58 per cent by weight from landfills.

Politics and Society

How do we get people to care about the environment? What if we’re asking the wrong question?
Jordan is a photographer who once referred to himself, while joking with Stephen Colbert, as a paparazzo of garbage. Before going to Midway, he spent years trying to visually represent the baffling scale on which we produce and scrap the materials of consumer society… But over time this work began to feel cold and conceptual, almost numbing… That’s when he heard about what happens to many Laysan albatrosses on the verge of flight. Before the teenaged birds can take flight for the first time they must literally purge their infancy, vomiting up the undigested remains of the food that their parents regurgitated into their mouths over the months of their growth. That means squid beaks, bits of wood or debris, and, increasingly, plastic.

No pets, no kids, no flights: how readers are reducing their carbon footprint
English speakers are the least optimistic about humanity’s chances of avoiding dangerous climate change, according to a survey of readers in English, French, German and Italian conducted by the Guardian, Le Monde, Süddeutsche Zeitung and La Stampa… Out of more than 6,000 self-selecting respondents, many expressed dismay at the slow pace of political action on climate change.

Think you can’t help the environment? These Europeans disagree
Climate change has vanished from the headlines since the financial crisis elevated other economic concerns to the top of the agenda. But across Europe there is no shortage of activists trying to make a difference before this month’s UN climate summit.

Australian Conservation Foundation challenges Adani’s Carmichael coal mine in Federal Court
The country’s largest proposed coal mine is once again heading for the courts, with the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) launching what it has called a “historic, landmark case”. It has lodged papers in the Federal Court in Brisbane arguing Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt failed to consider whether the impact of burning coal and climate pollution would be inconsistent with Australia’s international obligations to protect the Great Barrier Reef.


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