Sustainable Development News
Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Paris 2015: COP21
Paris talks – live blog
Negotiators from governments around the world continue to work to iron out their differences over a draft text of the COP21 agreement to stop dangerous global warming.
Paris climate talks turn up the heat on world leaders (Podcast 20:53)
The Guardian environment editor John Vidal reports from the UN climate change conference in Paris, where gritty but positive negotiations to broker an agreement are nearing a conclusion.
The ABCs of the Paris climate talks
It’s now crunch time in Paris – will the world reach an unprecedented agreement to combat future climate change? Herald science reporter Jamie Morton explains the ABCs of the COP21 conference.
The White House’s COP 21 goals: less climate idealism, more political realism
The United States’ refusal to make internationally binding its ambitious pollution targets at the Cop21 climate talks in Paris isn’t a sign of Barack Obama’s lack of political will, but a reflection of the legal limits of his authorities and the political realities of what other nations will commit to doing. Obama has proposed a legally binding agreement applicable to all nations without binding emissions targets. That approach isn’t ideal, but it’s politically and legally achievable – and a massive step forward for climate action.
COP21: US joins ‘high ambition coalition’ for climate deal
The United States has joined with the EU and a range of other countries at COP21 in an effort to secure a final agreement. The so called “high ambition coalition” now comprises well over 100 countries from the rich and developing world… “We will be fighting for some very basic issues,” said Tony De Brum, foreign minister of the Marshall Islands. “Strong recognition of the below 1.5-degree temperature goal, a clear pathway for a low-carbon future, five-yearly updates and a strong package of support for developing countries, including delivery of $100bn per annum,” he said.
Paris, COP21: Negotiating blocks fracture in push for high ambition
In what may be one of the most significant developments ever seen in the 21-year history of the UN climate negotiations, a new coalition has emerged that combines the US, European nations, oil producers and vulnerable nations pushing for an ambitious outcome to the talks. The new grouping, called the Coalition for Ambition, has pulled in support from more than 100 countries with a range of economic drivers and motivations. They include Pacific nations, vulnerable African countries, oil producers such as Mexico, Norway and other European countries, and the US. Australia is not a member of the grouping because, Marshall Islands foreign minister Tony de Brum told RenewEconomy, it had not yet been invited. The grouping is seen by analysts as a sign that the most significant negotiating blocs at the Paris talks, the G77, representing China and developing countries, is showing signs of fracture.
Australia concerned over draft climate deal
Australia has ‘serious concerns’ over the latest form of a global climate agreement, with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop warning of a challenging few days ahead in Paris. A new draft agreement was revealed on Wednesday at the United Nations climate change conference, with no clear landing point on key hurdles of finance, ambition and differentiation. Ms Bishop warned the document was a long way from attracting her signature. Australia’s environment ambassador Peter Woolcott – speaking on behalf a negotiating block of developed countries – told the conference the group had serious concerns about the text.
Paris UN climate conference 2015: Australia named ‘fossil of the day’
Activists in Paris have awarded Australia the “fossil of the day” award – a dubious honour given to a country that has done the most in the past 24 hours to stop a meaningful response to climate change. Australia has traditionally been a frequent winner of the anti-gong, which has been given out each day at end-of-year United Nations climate summits since 1999. It took until the 10th day for it to claim it in Paris, for a speech by Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop in which she said the world was in a transition phase, but that traditional energy sources such as coal would “remain a significant part of the global energy mix for the foreseeable future”.
See also: Julie Bishop discusses Australia’s emissions reduction plan at Paris climate talks (Video 1:26)
Business leaders ask for clear long-term emissions goal to be included in Paris climate deal
Business is looking to the UN climate talks in Paris as an opportunity to receive a clear signal that governments are committed to the transition to a low-carbon economy, members of the We Mean Business coalition said, in a letter to Heads of State and Government coordinated by the The Prince of Wales’s Corporate Leaders Group. The letter states: “To deliver such a signal, we need to see an agreement that provides a clear direction of travel and confidence that we will advance to meet it. This requires a clear and specific long-term emissions goal well before the end of the century coupled with a five-year ambition mechanism that begins around 2020.
Paris deal must protect our supply chains, says clothing giant
Letitia Webster, the senior global director of corporate sustainability at VF Corporation – which owns Timberland, The North Face and Wrangler, among other brands – told edie that the agreement would not affect the company’s direct sustainability strategy but would be hugely important for its supply chain. “No matter what happens with the agreement, we’re still moving forward with strong actions,” Webster said. “We’ve got carbon reduction goals in place, a 100% renewable energy target for 2025, and no matter what we’re moving forward with that. Really the agreement is about whether they want to make it easy or hard for businesses who want to invest in their supply chains in the developing world. If negotiators can make funding available for developing countries to become more resilient and set clear signals about renewable energy targets, then businesses like ours can start making informed investment decisions.”
The Amazonian tribespeople who sailed down the Seine (Video 9:12)
The Kichwa tribe in the Sarayaku region of the Amazon in Ecuador believe in the ‘living forest’, where humans, animals and plants live in harmony. They are fighting oil companies who want to exploit their ancestral land. A delegation of indigenous people are at the Paris COP21 climate conference to make sure their voices are heard. Can they win their battle?
The face of climate change: how Inuit youth lead the fight to save the Arctic
Maatalii Okalik is tired of seeing polar bears as the face of climate change. “Make it an Inuit face. We’re the ones that are really affected by it,” she told the Guardian in a phone interview from Paris. At the Paris climate conference, the bear is a trope on banners and posters. Politicians and activists are taking note of the Arctic’s plight, invoking sprawling vistas and vulnerable wildlife as a cautionary tale… But Okalik, President of Canada’s National Inuit Youth Council, says the soaring rhetoric of saving the Arctic is not enough. “Inuit continue to be the human barometer of climate change,” she said.
[Ed: Oooh… another quiz!!] Quiz: How well do you know climate change?
As the world edges closer to a deal to combat climate change, see how much you actually know about the issue.
Energy and Climate Change
Five things climate scientists do actually disagree about
The Paris climate talks are underway, so we should be prepared for dissenters to attack the process. “Climate science isn’t settled” is a favourite call and a favourite excuse for inaction on global warming. It’s therefore worth noting that a vast majority of real climate scientists agree on the existence, causes, and approximate magnitude of man-made climate change. Not every aspect of climate science is completely resolved however, and here are five questions that are guaranteed to get the experts going.
China’s slowing coal demand good news for everybody, says IEA chief
Coal demand in China is slowing, which was “excellent news for everybody”, and would continue to face downward pressure in the years to come, International Energy Executive Director Fatih Birol, said today at a media conference at the Paris Climate summit. China is a major export market for Australian coal and, along with oil and gas, the major source of carbon emissions causing climate change. Birol said half the world’s coal is used in China but demand there is slowing, despite economic growth of 6-7 per cent, as the government implements wide ranging energy efficiency measures.
Accelerating Transition to Clean Power
With all eyes on Paris, many in the energy industry are eagerly anticipating the extent to which a climate agreement can accelerate the transition to cleaner power… Back home in the United States, the EPA Clean Power Plan—which is the core of the U.S. contribution toward an international climate agreement—is advancing despite attempts in Congress to derail it.
Tesla Powerwall sales kick off in Australia as local installers named
Sales of one of the world’s most talked about energy storage technologies, the Tesla Powerwall residential battery unit, have officially kicked off in Australia, as the first three local installers were unveiled on Thursday. Electricity retailers Origin Energy and Simply Energy, and Sydney-based solar installer Natural Solar are among the first to be named in what will be a growing list of “authorised resellers” of the sleek-looking 7kWh Powerwall, with Origin saying it would begin sales of the battery unit immediately, with installations expected to begin in February 2016.
Victorian government paves way for rooftop solar leasing
AUSTRALIA – Victoria’s Labor government has announced regulatory changes that will give the state’s households access to rooftop solar at little-to no up-front cost, through leasing deals solar companies. According to a media release from the Andrews government on Wednesday, the arrangement enables solar companies to provide, install and maintain a solar panel system on a household, and in exchange the householder buys the energy they provide for an agreed price.
Environment and Biodiversity
Conservation first as rehabilitated Siberian tiger gives birth in the wild
An orphaned Siberian tiger who was rehabilitated and released back into the wild has given birth two cubs, conservationists in Russia said on Thursday. It is believed to be the first time a released tiger has gone onto become a mother and raises hope for the survival of Siberian tigers. Also known as Amur tigersjust 500 individuals remain in the wild following decades of illegal poaching and deforestation.
Glossy black cockatoo numbers increase on Kangaroo Island thanks to recovery program
The glossy black cockatoo, which was once abundant in South Australia before being forced from the state’s mainland in the mid 1990s, is now well and truly on the road to recovery thanks to a State Government program. The birds were forced to reside soley on Kangaroo Island after their only food source, the drooping she oak tree, was cleared to make way for farming and urban sprawl in the state’s south.
New Zealand Aluminium Smelter to step down after quarter of a century supporting Kakapo Recovery
One of New Zealand’s longest-standing conservation sponsorships will come to an end this month. Following 25 years helping to save New Zealand’s iconic Kakapo from extinction, New Zealand’s Aluminium Smelter (NZAS) has made the difficult decision to step down as major sponsor of the Kakapo Recovery Programme at the end of 2015… Commercial conditions continue to be very difficult for NZAS with issues around electricity and transmission prices and a very low aluminium price. In 1990 the aluminium price was NZ$4545 per tonne. Today that price has halved to NZ$2250 per tonne, Stephens said.
Protesting neighbours step in to save Titirangi kauri again
NEW ZEALAND – A kauri tree in Titirangi, West Auckland, appears to have been saved at the eleventh hour once again. A small group of protesters gathered at the tree in Paturoa Rd on Thursday after contractors arrived on site ready to cut it down. However after discussions with neighbours the contractors have confirmed that they will not be continuing with the work.
Economy and Business
Green bond best practice guide released for public sector
A best-practice guide on green bond policy has been launched in a bid to inform the public sector about how best to scale up funding for green markets. The report, launched by the Climate Bonds Initiative and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System, includes action plans and best-practice examples from around the world. An annex from the World Bank Group is also provided to help policy makers in emerging economies develop foundational bond markets.
The WTO’s Nairobi talks and the multi-billion dollar trade agreement you’ve never heard of
In less than a week trade ministers from across the globe will come together at the 10th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Nairobi, Kenya. The meeting follows more than a decade of stalled global trade negotiations since the WTO’s Doha Round of talks in 2001. Dominating the Nairobi discussion is the expectation that an impasse will continue over the scope and future of the multilateral Doha trade agenda, particularly given the influence of large newly-minted regional trade agreements.
Robin Mellon: a first-hand account of Purpose 2015
AUSTRALIA – This week I attended the inaugural Purpose conference and learnt more, experienced more and was challenged more than at any other event I’ve recently attended… Many decades ago, the American industrialist Henry Ford noted that a business should be “an instrument of service rather than a machine for making money”, and the conference dialogue stayed around this theme – how best to manage a business with purpose, that looks after both its shareholders and its stakeholders, and that stays true to its values and objectives. So what key points did I take home?
Why Entergy, Wells Fargo and Timberland invest in restoration
How many capital investments does your business currently have that you can count on to return $9 of value for every $1 invested? And of those, how many also positively affect your reputation, help protect your license to operate, fuel your integrated reporting and can reduce your internal cost of carbon by $30 per metric ton? If the answer is none, chances are you’re not yet investing in landscape-scale restoration. Landscape-scale restoration is the other side of the coin to its better-known counterparts, conservation and forest preservation. While these important activities focus on saving what’s not yet been destroyed, restoration is about actively repairing past damage. Because there’s good news: We can restore the earth.
Waste and the Circular Economy
French MPs vote to force supermarkets to give away unsold food
French MPs have voted unanimously to force supermarkets to give away unsold food that has reached its sell-by date. Shops will also be banned from destroying food products, as they have in the past – sometimes by soaking them in bleach – to prevent them being distributed.
Scotland to introduce consistent recycling scheme
The Scottish Government has reached an agreement with COSLA that will lead to consistent recycling systems across Scotland. A new Household Recycling Charter and associated Code of Practice will lead to the introduction of a new three-stream system. This will include one container for glass, one for paper and card, and one for metals and plastics together with existing food and residual waste collections.
Kiwis are rubbish at recycling, report finds
Kiwis are dumping enough reusable drink containers each year to fill 700 jumbo jets, a report has found. The InCENTive to Recycle report, released by environmental consultancy firm Envision New Zealand, has revealed public apathy towards recycling. It found Kiwis dumped about 46,000 tonnes of recyclable beverage containers each year – enough to fill 700 jumbo jets – in the trash, which ended up in the litter stream, waterways and landfills. Less than 40 per cent of beverage containers were voluntarily recycled.
WRAP encouraging people to recycle paper and card at Christmas
With more than 300,000 tonnes of card packaging used at Christmas, WRAP’s Recycle Now campaign is launching its campaign to get more paper and card recycled. For the next three months, the Paper and card, too valuable to discard campaign will show iconic UK landmarks covered in paper and card to demonstrate how they could be recycled. For example, Big Ben could be covered 260,000 times by the amount of extra card packaging used at Christmas alone.
Politics and Society
Gina McCarthy: US climate plan will stand test of time
The Obama administration’s climate centrepiece is bulletproof, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) told Climate Home on Thursday. The legislation upon which it rests – the Clean Air Act – is sound in the face of legal appeals by states and industry groups, Gina McCarthy said on the sidelines of the COP21 summit. “We know how to use this act. It’s fallen within the square four corners of that act and the science is strong, so we are confident.”
Adaptation is key if Africa is to tackle climate change
Before the Paris Conference, our team elicited and analysed the views of 336 stakeholders both inside and outside of Africa. These were made up of 60 key decision-makers and key informants from United Nations agencies, donors, non-governmental organization, national governments and academia. This included interviews with 276 farmers from different parts of Africa. These views provide vital insights into the requirements for adaptation, especially in agriculture and water resources in Africa. The views have helped to suggest ways forward for Africa. Our findings found three key issues.
UK has ‘lost world climate leadership role’ by axing domestic green policies
The UK has given up its leadership role at the UN climate talks in Paris and is “moving backwards” with a string of cuts to green domestic policies, according to Prof Anne Glover, the former chief scientific adviser to the European commission. Her comments were endorsed by business people, NGOs, an ex-diplomat and two former ministers who are worried that the government is squandering the UK’s international standing on climate issues.
A necessary harvest: it’s time to allow Japan to kill whales
Last week Japan’s whaling fleet set sail for Antarctica again under its new scientific whaling program NEWREP-A. In 2014 the International Court of Justice decided that Japan’s previous program was not scientific. But this year Japan renounced its recognition of the court’s jurisdiction on whales, effectively ruling out further legal challenges. Predictably, the Australian government and NGOs have been quick to condemn the move. I argue both countries are undermining science-based international environmental law. In essence, Australia and other prominent anti-whaling parties have long frustrated international efforts to resume sustainable whale harvests. Japan, prevented from taking a legitimate approach, cynically abuses research exemptions.
Australia’s secret vacancies are a national shame
Using data from the city’s water utilities, the report determined properties using less than 50 litres a day averaged over a 12-month period were vacant (the average per person use is 160L a day). Using a more conservative measure of zero litres a day, 24,872 dwellings were found to be “demonstrably unoccupied”. In comparison, in 2014, 22,773 people in Victoria experienced homelessness, according to statistics from Homelessness Australia.