Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Top Story

Supreme court to block Obama’s sweeping climate change plan
The supreme court agreed to block Barack Obama’s clean power plan on Tuesday, raising fears that the centrepiece of his climate change plan could be overturned. The unexpected decision creates instant uncertainty about the future of Obama’s climate plan and the historic global agreement to fight climate change reached in Paris last December.

Energy and Climate Change

BP upbeat about oil industry and expects prices back at $100
BP has predicted a bright future for the oil and gas industry with crude prices spiking at $100 a barrel again, huge increases in shale output and new production from Canadian tar sands. The British oil company believes fossil fuels will still be providing 80% of total energy supply in 2035 and admits that under this scenario, carbon emissions will rocket.

Number of bushfires per week in Australia ‘increased by 40 per cent’ between 2008 and 2013
The number of bushfires per week in Australia increased by 40 per cent between 2008 and 2013, according to a new study, but experts say it is too early to link this to climate change.

Fires are increasing in warming world, but a new model could help us predict them
Over the past decade, the frequency of bushfires in Australia has increased. The Forest Fire Danger Index – which measures the frequency and severity of the weather most conducive to fire – has increased dramatically since the 1970s, and particularly in the 1990s and 2000s. This – along with a great deal of other evidence – indicates that a major change in the climate is looming. In a study published today in Royal Society Open Science, we show that bushfire frequency has increased by 40% over the past five years.

Public sector still unprepared for floods and droughts, research reveals
Only a quarter of Britain’s public sector organisations have plans in place to adapt to the impacts of climate change, such as more frequent flooding or higher temperatures, new research from the Carbon Trust has found.

Global Solar PV Pipeline Now Exceeds 200 GW, According To IHS
The global solar PV pipeline now exceeds 200 GW, according to new figures released by IHS. As one of the leading sources of solar analysis, IHS published the latest edition of its Solar Deal Tracker this week, in which it finds that the global solar PV pipeline has now exceeded 200 GW, thanks in large part to the extension of the US Investment Tax Credit. The US leads with the most amount of projects in its PV pipeline, and together with China and Brazil, make up 110 GW, or half of the current global PV pipeline.

Australian solar PV installations hit the 5 gigawatt mark
It’s official, there is now 5GW of solar power installed in Australia. Five gigawatts: 5,000,000,000 Watts of solar power – its a number that’s hard to fathom. Indeed, solar power’s 5GW now represents 9% of Australia’s total electricity generation capacity of 56GW.

AGL eyes virtual power plants in link with battery storage developer Sunverge
Australian energy utility AGL Energy has spent $US20 million ($A28 million) snapping up a minority stake in US-based battery storage solutions provider Sunverge as it seeks to accelerate its push into distributed generation and rooftop solar and storage and smart software. The purchase of Sunverge was announced at the company’s interim earnings presentation, along with a plan to create a new renewable energy investment fund which aims to build 1,000MW of new large scale renewable energy capacity.

Tasmanian power crisis: Minister under pressure to clear way for west coast wind farm
AUSTRALIA – Tasmania’s Energy Minister Matthew Groom is under pressure to resolve a hold-up on a planned wind farm in the state’s north-west.  West Coast Wind has approval to build a 33-turbine farm near Queenstown but has not been able to secure agreement from Hydro Tasmania to buy the power it generates.

Household energy prices increase despite drop in usage, Australian Bureau of Statistics says
Household energy prices have increased 61 per cent between 2008 and 2014 despite an overall drop in home energy use, new information from the Australian Bureau of Statistics has shown. Since 2002, energy use per household has decreased by 7 per cent. That figure includes the energy generated by home solar panels, showing an overall picture of energy efficiency.

Environment and Biodiversity

China’s wildlife in safer hands – thanks to a new generation of animal scientists
When you think of China, animal welfare probably isn’t the first phrase that springs to mind. In a country known for its fur farms, bile bears and live animal eating, you could be forgiven for assuming everyone is in on the act. Given China’s track record when it comes to animal exploitation – much of which was sanctioned by government – it’s not surprising the Middle Kingdom still has a bad reputation. A year ago, I too would have said it was accurate. But, after making two research trips to the country in the past year, I can firmly say my head has been turned. Never would I have imagined China would become one of my top countries in the world for conservation and animal welfare.

Damming northern Australia: we need to learn hard lessons from the south
The push for development in northern Australia is gathering momentum, with the government recently releasing a draft of its Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility to help finance large projects. The development of northern Australia will crucially depend on harnessing the north’s abundant available water resources. Over the next five years the government will develop plans to manage these water resources. However we have to get these plans right from the start to ensure the north’s waters are developed sustainably. To do so, we can start by looking south.

2015 Had a Record Number of Shark Attacks. Here’s Why.
The numbers are in. Spurred by warm water, 2015 set a new record for shark attacks around the world, with 98 incidents, including six human fatalities. That total is 26 more than the previous year and 40 more than the figure from one decade prior. According to the International Shark Attack File, the main drivers for the rise in incidents were warm water from El Niño and global warming (2015 was also the hottest year on record), a lack of severe storms in most developed countries, and a relatively strong economy that sent more vacationers to the beach.

Economy and Business

Unilever Achieves New Milestone, Collaborates to Fuel Global Zero-Waste Movement
Unilever today announced a new industry-leading achievement of sending zero non-hazardous waste to landfill across more than 600 sites, in 70 countries, including factories, warehouses, distribution centers and offices. Having identified the different non-hazardous waste streams in its operations, Unilever has now found alternative routes for the waste from these sites.

The Body Shop freshens up climate commitments with new strategy to become ‘truly sustainable’ global business
Ethical beauty pioneer The Body Shop has today revealed a radical overhaul of its corporate social responsibility strategy ahead of the brand’s 40th birthday next month. The new CSR strategy – dubbed Enrich Not Exploit – sets the company the ambitious goal of becoming the world’s “most ethical and sustainable global business” through a series of new environmental targets.

12 ways to mobilise the money needed to stop climate change
How do we finance the climate adaption needed to stop global temperatures rising above 1.5 degrees? Our panel of experts share their thoughts

DOC may charge overseas visitors to enter national parks
NEW ZEALAND – International tourists may have to start paying to visit our national parks as the Department of Conservation struggles to cope with the tourism boom. Concern about pressures on conservation land from swelling international visitor numbers has prompted the Conservation Authority to start investigating “charging mechanisms” to pay for the increasing costs of handling those numbers.

Tesla confirms mass-market Model 3 could cost as little as $25,000 in US
California electric vehicle maker Tesla has confirmed that its latest auto offering – the mass-market targeted Model 3 – could cost as little as $US25,000 once US tax credits are factored into the price.

Petition Seeks Ban on Trade in Fake Rhino Horn
Trade in bioengineered rhino horn shouldn’t be allowed….  While their methods vary, they essentially involve manufacturing fake rhino horn using elements derived from a real one.

Winds of climate change will make transatlantic flights longer, study shows
Airline flights are known to worsen climate change but now climate change is set to worsen flight times, according to new research. The work shows faster jet stream winds will delay transatlantic flights, adding thousands of hours a year to journey times and millions of dollars to airline fuel bills… Climate change is increasing the speed of the jet stream, a strong high-altitude wind that blows west to east across the Atlantic.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Is the Internet of Things the Key to Unlocking the Circular Economy?
A new report, ‘Intelligent Assets: Unlocking the circular economy potential’, which was released earlier this week by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and World Economic Forum, argues that the pairing of circular economy principles with emerging Internet of Things (IoT) technologies could be crucial for driving innovation and moving towards a prosperous global economy in the future.

Our thirst for new gadgets has created a vast empire of electronic waste
Technological improvements mean that the phones, tablets, computers and other electric devices we find so essential are cheaper and more powerful than ever. But this means we upgrade them sooner and they quickly become unwanted or obsolete, and are thrown away. The huge amounts of waste electrical and electronic equipment – WEEE, or e-waste – that results is quickly becoming a major worldwide environmental, economic and health problem.

Creating Leather From Waste Apple
Leather is a problematic material. Wasteful, a polluting tanning process, the environmental impact of cattle breeding, the chemicals required in the production process and there are significant end of use disposal challenges. It is also seemingly a highly desirable material and the demand for it, mostly from the upholstery and automotive sectors, has been growing. More recently, solutions for these challenges have been sort in finding different sources for leather, one example of which is producing the material from apple waste.

Politics and Society

What business needs to know about the Clean Power Plan
It may seem easy to dismiss the proposed Clean Power Plan as another intractable logjam between the Obama administration and fossil fuel-state Republicans, as political wrangling and lawsuits keep flying and the Supreme Court temporarily halts its implementation. But the Clean Power Plan has a very decent chance of becoming the law of the land after the legal challenges are fully litigated, many experts say. And if and when it does become law, it will be a game changer in energy generation in this country — according to both advocates and opponents.

Early childhood education is key to closing the gaps
AUSTRALIA – This year’s Closing the Gap report delivers a result that has become all too familiar in comparing outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians: not enough progress is being made. There is improvement in some areas, but stagnation in others.

Outlaw art: the ruling against ‘Brisbane’s Banksy’ needs to start a debate
AUSTRALIA – Brisbane street artist Anthony Lister has been convicted of ‘wilful damage’ graffiti. Who is being harmed, when our legal system is forced to devalue cultural capital?

Chief Justice let off with warning
NEW ZEALAND – Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias and her businessman husband Hugh Fletcher have been given a let-off after cattle they owned were seen wading in a high country Canterbury lake. Environment Canterbury (ECan) said the impact on the environment was minor and the decision would have been the same if the couple who owned Lakes Station had not been well-known. The incident on the high country farm was brought to the attention of ECan after campers photographed the cattle in Lake Taylor. In a statement, council’s monitoring and compliance manager Marty Mortiaux said its investigation found no evidence of faecal matter in the lake – just a few cowpats on the shore.

Built Environment

Does a pretty office make a productive workforce?
The view from office windows is rarely the stuff of picture postcards. Yet the scenic quality of our daily environments has a direct correlation on our personal wellbeing, researchers say.

Food Systems

Farming rethink required to enhance nature conservation
Adapting our agricultural practice is key to ensuring the long-term protection of our planet. By the end of the 21st century, it is being projected that the planet will play host to 9 billion people. One of the biggest challenges, in this respect, is whether we will be capable of providing the food to feed the large number of additional mouths, while at the same time reducing CO2  levels. According to two recent studies, the answer to this question is yes. It will, however, require a major rethink on how we utilise our natural resources.


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