Sustainable Development News

Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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Energy and Climate Change

Pace of climate change will speed up, warn researchers
Researchers have warned that changes to the climate that occur over several decades are now happening faster than historical levels and are continuing to speed up. They added that people will have to adapt to a warming world faster than previously anticipated. The study, which has been published in the journal Nature, comes from the US’s Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The research involved examining historical and projected changes over decades to determine the temperature trends that will be felt by humans alive today.

Twist on carbon footprinting ‘could unblock’ UN climate talks
Scientists have proposed a new way of counting countries’ carbon emissions that redraws the map of responsibility for climate change.It is carbon footprinting with a twist. As with the conventional method, countries are responsible for emissions from imported goods. But the figures are adjusted to reflect the fact some exporters use cleaner technology than others.By this measure, the European Union clearly outperforms the US, having improved its carbon efficiency at home. Among emerging economies, Brazil compares favourably to China, according to a study published in Nature Climate Change.

Keep fossil fuels in the ground to stop climate change | George Monbiot
If you visit the website of the UN body that oversees the world’s climate negotiations, you will find dozens of pictures, taken across 20 years, of people clapping. These photos should be of interest to anthropologists and psychologists. For they show hundreds of intelligent, educated, well-paid and elegantly-dressed people wasting their lives. The celebratory nature of the images testifies to the world of make-believe these people inhabit. They are surrounded by objectives, principles, commitments, instruments and protocols, which create a reassuring phantasm of progress while the ship on which they travel slowly founders.

Electric cars could cut oil imports 40% by 2030, says study
Electric cars could cut the UK’s oil imports by 40% and reduce drivers’ fuel bills by £13bn if deployed on a large scale, according to a new study. An electric vehicle surge would deliver an average £1,000 of fuel savings a year per driver, and spark a 47% drop in carbon emissions by 2030, said the Cambridge Econometrics study. The paper, commissioned by the European Climate Foundation, said that air pollutants such as nitrogen oxide and particulates would be all but eliminated by mid-century, with knock-on health benefits from reduced respiratory diseases valued at over £1bn.

Ministers’ cars to be swapped for electric versions in green drive
Government ministers will have their first taste of greener driving soon, with the first of a new fleet of electric vehicles to replace older fuel-guzzling ministerial cars. The replacement is part of a £5m investment in the government’s fleet of vehicles that will result in electric cars and vans being used more widely across the public sector. However, the initial roll-out will be small with just 140 low emissions vehicles, 64 of which will be 100% electric. Only four ministerial cars will be being replaced in the first round.

Paris tracker: Who has pledged what for 2015 UN climate pact?
Major economies are expected to submit their contribution to a global climate deal by 1 October 2015 – keep track here.

Environment and Biodiversity

Oyster Bay highly polluted with heavy metals, study finds
AUSTRALIA – Residents of the well-heeled southern suburb of Oyster Bay have been warned not to take their idyllic surrounds for granted with new research showing the southern bay contains high levels of heavy metals. A University of Wollongong study of sediment collected from more than 50 sites in Oyster Bay over a year found the area to be “highly contaminated” with lead, zinc and copper, with “moderate” levels of arsenic.  “The level of toxicity in parts of Oyster Bay has meant it is virtually uninhabitable for some species of bottom-dwelling invertebrates and micro-organisms,” Yasir Alyazichi, a PhD candidate at the university, and lead author of the study, published in the Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology.

Why You Should Care About Freshwater | John F Kennedy Jr
“Water promises to be to the 21st century what oil was to the 20th century.”  — Fortune Magazine. Water has emerged as the target of choice for the robber barons of globalization. As freshwater supplies dwindle, global investors are scrambling to own what’s left. The World Bank already values water privatization at $1 trillion and predicts that many of the wars of the 21st century will be fought over water. And the wars have already begun as citizens in South and Central America have fought back against water moguls whom they regard as bullies trampling democracy and basic human rights. When Bechtel, in 2000, privatized the Bolivian city of Cochabamba’s water and then raised rates high enough to threaten the lives of poor residents, the city erupted in deadly violence.

Economy and Business

What Makes a Board Fit for the Future?
Any regular follower of Sustainable Brands knows that most companies must transform their business models if they are to start helping – rather than hindering – society’s transition to a sustainable future; and this year will only see expectations grow, with the launch of the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals. Meaningful transformation has to be driven from the top, so the need for effective board oversight has never been greater; it has also never been more challenging.

Stormy Seas, Rising Risks: How Companies Can Better Consider Climate Change Risks in Business Plans
Ten miles outside New Orleans stands a two-million-barrel per day oil refinery, surrounded by the Meraux, Louisiana community. On low-lying ground along the Gulf coast, an elaborate network of pipes and smoke stacks looms beyond double-wide trailers, rows of single-family homes, and a playground. By 2050, the refinery and surrounding areas could be underwater, given intermediate sea level rise estimates. But this won’t be the first time the refinery has seen high water levels.

Norway may pull investment from Bangladesh’s coal plant
Norway’s pension fund may withdraw investment from a coal plant to be built with Indian partner on the edge of Sundarbans mangrove forest, citing threat of severe environmental damage. The massive 1,320 megawatt Rampal thermal plant would sit on the edge of Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest, in Bangladesh. For more than two years, citizens, artists, and social and environmental activists protested plans to build this plant close to a forest that is a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s world heritage site as well as a Ramsar wetland site. In September 2013, about 20,000 people marched for five days from Dhaka to Dighraj. ‘The long march’ covered a distance of nearly 250 miles, to demand the scrapping of the power plant.

Waste and the Circular Economy

The state of waste 2015: recycling is only set to grow
Australia generates 48 megatonnes a year of waste, according to the latest National Waste Data Report 2014. In the period 1997-2012 our population rose by 22 per cent but waste generation increased by 145 per cent.There are more of us and we generate more waste per person, each year.On the positive side, recycling is growing at a faster rate and since 2005 we have actually seen (for the first time) a decline in tonnages of waste sent to landfill (in the most progressive states). We now recycle about 52 per cent of all the waste we generate and landfill the rest.

Politics and Society

WWF: Overhaul of sustainability policies could boost EU economy by €300bn
WWF has today published a major report calling on the European Commission to deliver widespread reforms to the bloc’s environmental and climate change policies, arguing that without drastic action, escalating climate and biodiversity risks will wreak havoc across the economy. The report, entitled From crisis to opportunity: Five steps to sustainable European economies, draws on more than 400 separate studies from the likes of the UN, the OECD, the World Bank, McKinsey, Lord Stern, and the EU Commission itself, which make the case for a greener economy. It is published in the same week as finance ministers meet in Brussels to discuss Commission president Juncker’s €315bn (£225bn) investment plan and argues that bolder policies on resource efficiency in particular could deliver a comparable €300bn boost to the EU’s economy, while tackling security and environmental risks.

Leader of Island Nation Advocates Exit Strategy for Rising Seas
SOUTH TARAWA, Kiribati—It’s rare to find the leader of a country who speaks as passionately about climate change as Anote Tong does. Then again, his country of 110,000 people makes the short list of places most vulnerable to climate change. Tong, who wraps up his third and final term in July, granted an interview last fall in his presidential office on Tarawa Atoll, the capital island of Kiribati. He shared his views on why he purchased 8.5 square miles (22 square kilometers) of land in Fiji and continues to look overseas to buy more land. Wearing a collared shirt and a lavalava skirt favored by men in the tropical heat, he eased onto a couch and kicked off his sandals for the interview.

Climate change threatens human rights, Kiribati president tells UN
Just three weeks after the conclusion of the most recent climate negotiations, Geneva has once again offered a space for governments to consider how to address the human rights implications of climate change.As the issue recently emerged as one of the elements that many countries wish to see integrated to the Paris climate agreement, these discussions provided insights on opportunities for states and UN bodies to better address this issue in the coming months. Last Friday, the Human Rights Council hosted two high-level panels dedicated to the issue of human rights and climate change, with specific focus on the importance of international cooperation and on the impacts of climate change on the exercise of the right to food.

Built Environment

Auckland Transport unveils electric car sharing On 9 March Auckland Council announced the roll-out of an electric vehicle car-sharing scheme. The proposal would allow for an initial 250 electric cars, ramping up to around 500 cars city-wide.  Releasing a Request for Proposal to car share companies, Auckland Transport (AT) chairman Dr Lester Levy said the scheme would be based on membership, which could be monthly or annually, and would also require a pay-per-trip charge. This follows the trend of car-share schemes like New Zealand’s Cityhop, and international electric vehicle car-sharing services such as Paris’ AutoLib and Berlin’s MultiCity. Some 5 million people are current members of car-sharing schemes, and the numbers are growing.

Fremantle plans for large-scale solar and light rail
Fremantle City Council is implementing key elements of its One Planet Council strategy, with plans advancing for a large-scale commercial solar farm on the former South Fremantle landfill site, and a new strategic vision for transport that emphasises public transport in the city centre and integrating planning approaches that enable optimisation of land along transport corridors.

Food Systems

Meet the people and businesses boycotting palm oil
Palm oil’s sustainability record to date has led some to suggest we should be cutting it out of our shopping baskets. Given its ubiquity – in everything from soap to cupcakes – is that either desirable or possible? We talk to a selection of people and businesses doing just that, and find out what’s driven them to boycott palm oil.


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