Thursday 11 December 2014
Sustainable Development News
Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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The clock is ticking: we need a new history for our planet, says Ban Ki-moon
“This is not a time for tinkering – it is a time for transformation. All countries must be part of the solution.” In a few short words UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon struck a nerve with global leaders meeting for climate talks in Lima. His speech delivered on Tuesday (Australian time) warns of a short window of opportunity to contain warming to 2 degrees, already dangerously high. But he also offers hope. The biggest, he says, is the rally of the world’s business and capital corporations to understand that climate actions need to be central objectives for their success and survival. “Just as climate issues are not separate from development issues – climate finance cannot be treated separately from development finance,” Mr Ban said. “They are quite literally two sides of the same coin”. Following is his speech to the 20th UNFCCC Conference of Parties, Lima.
Decarbonisation push emerges at UN climate talks
Countries will be asked to decarbonise their economies by 2050 and then move to negative emissions under a controversial proposal to be negotiated as part of international climate change talks in Lima. The proposal would heavily impact on the Australian resources and energy sector and emerged on Monday at the United Nations climate change talks in Peru as part of the elements of an agreement to be negotiated in Paris next year. It came as new figures emerged showing that nearly one-third of all industrial carbon dioxide emissions from 1751 to 2013 came from fuels produced by the top 20 fossil fuel companies in the world – including Australia’s BHP-Billiton. And in an eventful day at the Lima talks, internationally renowned economist Lord Nicholas Stern also threw his weight behind superannuation funds that divest themselves from fossil fuel companies but faced a stormy protest from environment groups for appearing at an industry-sponsored event at the conference.
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A $200 million government backflip on an international green climate fund will come at the expense of Australia’s foreign aid budget. In a bittersweet victory for green groups, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop today announced to a UN climate change conference in Lima that Australia would now contribute to a $10 billion fund that aims to help developing nations tackle global warming. It came after the Prime Minister revealed a “fair and reasonable” contribution to the Green Fund based on caring for rainforests in South East Asia. The decision is a reversal of its stance at the G20 summit in November.
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Catholic bishops from around the world are calling for an end to fossil fuel use and increased efforts to secure a global climate treaty. Catholics, they say, should engage with the process leading to a proposed new deal to be signed in Paris next year. The statement is the first time that senior church figures from every continent have issued such a call. Negotiators in Lima are currently trying to advance the outline text of an agreement at UN-led talks. With 1.2bn people worldwide calling themselves Catholic, the church has considerable potential to influence public debate on any issue. On climate change, some bishops have previously called for rapid decarbonisation and argued for moves to protect the most vulnerable. But this is first time that such a global collection of senior priests have made such a call. In their statement, the bishops say they want a “deepening of the discourse at the COP20 in Lima, to ensure concrete decisions are taken at COP21 to overcome the climate challenge and to set us on new sustainable pathways”.
Energy and Climate Change
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In 2012, when wind supplied just 5% of our total electricity supply, British taxpayers paid wind turbine operators £34m in compensation when they were ordered to turn off their turbines because parts of the grid were congested and in danger of becoming overloaded with energy. This problem isn’t new; we’ve been making similar payments to conventional energy companies for years. It’s a symptom of the national grid being out of sync with where power is being generated and used. Sometimes demand or supply peaks in one part of the country and drops in another. A warm spell in Manchester means a gas plant is turned down to avoid overloading the grid – and the generator is compensated. A windy spell in Scotland will have the same effect. The situation is exacerbated by new forms of energy production. Grid connections to the remote parts of Scotland – where a lot of our renewable energy is now be generated – can’t yet cope with the increased load.
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A Perth council is hoping to radically alter its planning scheme to require new homes to have their own energy supply. Nedlands council, which covers some of Perth’s wealthiest suburbs, will apply to the WA Planning Commission to alter their planning scheme to require installation of onsite power generations, such as solar panels or wind power, in all new home building. Nedlands mayor Max Hipkins, who used his casting vote to approve the proposal at a council meeting in September, acknowledged the proposal had been fairly controversial since being opened for public consultation, and has a long way to go before becoming law.
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In the aftermath of the historic joint U.S.-China climate announcement in November, international attention has now swung to India. With new national leadership firmly in place, many are wondering what Prime Minister Narendra Modi will do on energy and climate. Some pundits have called on India, the world’s third largest greenhouse gas emitter, to announce its own emissions target and take a lead role at the international climate negotiations. While some of these actions are within India’s reach, the pundits miss the point.
Environment and Biodiversity
Endangered geckos move to new home
There’s good news for some endangered native geckos. The survival of New Zealand’s Pacific geckos is looking more likely after 54 were released onto pest-free Motuihe Island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf. Pacific geckos were once common throughout the country, but have been largely driven off the mainland by predators and through the loss of their habitat. They now rely on pest free islands for survival. “We’re excited to return this threatened gecko to Motuihe so that visitors to the island can see these special animals in their natural environment,” John Laurence of the Motuihe Trust said. “Geckos are an important part of island ecology, dispersing seeds and pollinating plants,” he said.
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Now this is one fish that would beat you in a game of hide-and-seek. New research shows coral-dwelling filefish camouflage themselves by not only looking, but also smelling like their prey. Orange-spotted filefish (Oxymonacanthus longirostris), which feed exclusively on Acropora corals in Australia, ingest chemicals in the corals that cause them to take on the scent of their food. This hides the filefish from their own predators, such as cod.
Economy and Business
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Boeing and South African Airways (SAA) have announced that South African farmers will soon harvest their first crop of energy-rich tobacco plants, an important step towards using the plants to make sustainable aviation biofuel. Boeing and SAA, along with partners SkyNRG and Sunchem SA, also officially launched Project Solaris, their collaborative effort to develop an aviation biofuel supply chain with a nicotine-free tobacco plant called Solaris. In Limpopo province, company representatives and industry stakeholders visited commercial and community farms where 123 acres of Solaris have been planted. Oil from the plant’s seeds may be converted into bio-jet fuel as early as next year, with a test flight by SAA as soon as practicable.
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As evidence of climate change mounts, businesses across all sectors of the economy are developing strategies for identifying and avoiding the risks it poses. Given the important role of freshwater in powering economic development and growth, and the vulnerability of our water resources, efforts have focused on the links between climate change, water and the corporate sector. For businesses, risk assessment has always been an important part of planning and operations. The failure to honestly and comprehensively assess risk can undermine production and profitability.
Politics and Society
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Shabana Basij-Rasikh thinks she knows the secret to healing ethnic tensions that arose from more than 30 years of war in Afghanistan, improving the struggling economy, and fixing the devastated infrastructure: girls. Having co-founded her home country’s first boarding school for girls in 2008, Basij-Rasikh believes that women are the nation’s most valuable untapped natural resource. Her nonprofit School of Leadership, Afghanistan in Kabul offers college prep courses and helps graduates get into universities around the world. The hope is that they come back to pursue careers in Afghanistan. “These young women are the generation that can bring peace and prosperity back to our country,” says Basij-Rasikh, 24, who was educated in secret during the repressive Taliban regime.
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Gifts for our loved ones that also help repurpose waste, benefit people in need, get back to basics, and even possibly help to save the planet … How is that not a win-win? Here are just a few of our favorite innovative, socially and environmentally beneficial gift ideas that will help you truly celebrate this season of giving, by ..
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Federal Member for Braddon Brett Whiteley has labelled Tasmanian Aboriginal organisations “fringe groups” in response to their opposition to the reopening of four-wheel drive tracks in the state’s west. The Tasmanian Aboriginal community is threatening to stage protests against the State Government’s decision to reopen the tracks through a section of of the Arthur-Pieman area. The previous government closed 15 tracks in 2012 to protect threatened species and Aboriginal heritage sites, angering four-wheel drive enthusiasts. The area was listed as a Cultural Heritage Landscape of National Significance by the Australian Heritage Commission, which described the area as “one of the world’s greatest archaeological regions” for its rich Aboriginal heritage. Now 90 kilometres of four-wheel driving tracks will be reopened.
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Like many southerners, I’ve entertained thoughts of moving north to sultry Queensland but now realise I don’t have to bother since the tropics have relocated to Sydney. Hot days with humidity approaching 60 per cent, sprawling low pressure systems generating roiling cloud cover, violent afternoon electrical storms and torrential downpours? No it’s not Ho Chi Minh City, Singapore, Darwin or Weipa, it’s our very own Emerald City. We’ve been breaking all sorts of climate records, both in this country and globally, but those of you who’ve wondered if the run of tropicalesque storms we’ve been experiencing was also something out of the ordinary were not mistaken. Monday was the first time in (recorded) history that Sydney Airport had experienced seven consecutive days of storms, beating the record of five consecutive days set in 2007, 1992 and 1955.
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