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Monday 11 May 2015

Sustainable Development News

Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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Top Story

This Experiment Shows What Happens To Your Body When Everything You Eat Is Organic
Misleading labels aside, when we’re talking about actual organic food, most of us can agree that it’s probably better for our bodies than veggies sprayed with pesticides. But factors like the price and convenience of non-organic goods are pretty tough to resist. Swedish grocery chain Coop has been working since the 1980s to educate consumers on the benefits of eating organic, help farmers switch to growing organic, working to make organic food more accessible, and challenging politicians to do more for organic food production in Sweden. And while it can tell us all about scientific studies on pesticide levels in our bodies, it doesn’t have the same impact as if they showed us.

Energy and Climate Change

Q&A with Ross Garnaut: ‘we’re not there yet’ on climate policy
Following the repeal of the carbon tax, the Australian government has implemented its Direct Action climate policy, centred on the A$2.55 billion Emissions Reduction Fund. The results of the fund’s first auction were released on April 23. So far, the government has signed contracts for 47 million tonnes of carbon emissions for a total of A$660 million. However, questions remain about the long-term adequacy of the fund and its ability to achieve Australia’s unconditional emissions target of 5% below 2000 levels by 2020, and larger cuts beyond. The Conversation asked Ross Garnaut, Professorial Research Fellow in Economics at the University of Melbourne and architect of Australia’s carbon tax, what Australia needs to do to build an adequate climate policy.

Climate change a UN-led ruse, says Tony Abbott’s business adviser Maurice Newman
Climate change is a hoax led by the United Nations so that it can end democracy and impose authoritarian rule, according to Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s chief business adviser. Maurice Newman, the chairman of the Prime Minister’s business advisory council, has written in The Australian that scientific modelling showing the link between humans and climate change is wrong and the real agenda is a world takeover for the UN.

UN climate chief responds to tirade from PMs adviser
UN climate negotiator Christiana Figueres says she is willing to meet business leader Maurice Newman in the wake of his extraordinary attack against on UN climate policy – and warns that it would be dangerous for Australia not to act on climate change.

Renewable Energy Target: Clean energy sector angry yearly reviews remain following deal
The clean energy sector is opposing a key part of the Renewable Energy Target (RET) deal struck between the major parties. The Federal Government and Labor have agreed in-principle to a 33,000 gigawatt hour target for clean energy production by 2020. But the Government has backflipped at the last minute on a promise to ditch two yearly reviews. While pleased a deal appears close, companies say the reviews by the climate change authority freeze investment.

Climate Change Resilience in Asia’s Cities | Asian Development Bank
By 2025, 21 out of 37 of the world’s megacities – cities with 10 million or more people – will likely be from the Asia and Pacific region. How can the region cope with this rapid urbanization while maintaining environmental sustainability?

Protecting Indonesia’s forests is a key issue for Paris climate talks
If we are serious about tackling climate change, we need to talk about Indonesia. While it may not be the country with the highest emissions from energy or industry, what Indonesia does have is forests, and lots of them. Many of the country’s more than 13,000 islands are blanketed by vast green jungles that absorb carbon and store it in trees and soils. But Indonesia, like many fast-developing countries, is subject to widespread deforestation, releasing carbon pollution back into the atmosphere. Deforestation and land use change drives about 80% of Indonesia’s greenhouse gas emissions, which according to some estimates makes it the world’s fifth biggest emitter.

Community energy model is speeding US move to renewables
Sewage and solar power may be odd bedfellows in the race to save the climate. But in Sonoma County, one hour north of San Francisco, an experiment is underway to install the nation’s largest floating solar array on a series of wastewater treatment ponds.  The sprawling 12.5MW Megawatt “flotovoltaic” park due for completion in 2016 covers 38 acres, or the area of 35 football fields, in a farming and vineyard region where real estate costs are at a premium. The project signals the growing clout of Sonoma Clean Power, a new government-run agency that has made this county of 500,000 the lead producer of solar energy per capita in America. At 310 watts of installed power per person, Sonoma has five times the national average.

Fossil Fuel Divestment

Crunch time for University of Edinburgh on fossil fuel divestment
We hope you’ve got everything crossed. Campaigners at the University of Edinburgh certainly do as they wait over the weekend for a final decision on fossil fuel divestment. The decision on Monday will be significant because the institution’s £291m endowment is the third largest for a UK university, after Oxford and Cambridge.

Environment and Biodiversity

Soy may be next on the no-deforestation hit list, but policies will take time to make an impact
In a potentially big win for Latin American rainforests, Archer Daniels Midland, the third largest global supplier of agricultural commodities, has adopted a draft policy to end deforestation across its supply chains. The company is expected to formally announce the new plan at its shareholders meeting Thursday. ADM’s commitment rivals that of palm oil giant Wilmar’s anti-deforestation promise in 2013. This time, the product in question isn’t palm oil, but soybeans. ADM is one of the world’s leading soy traders and a top soy exporter in Latin America, where expanding production is a leading driver of deforestation across the Amazon and the Gran Chaco forest.

World’s Largest Rayon Producer Announces Game-Changing Forest Protection Policy
Today, global viscose giant Aditya Birla Group announced an industry-leading commitment to eliminate sourcing from the world’s ancient and endangered forests for all of its Viscose fibers, which are widely used in clothing and textiles. Aditya Birla is India’s largest multinational conglomerate (with US$40B in revenue) and the world’s largest producer of Viscose, manufacturing 20 percent of the world’s supply of the material, which is made from wood pulp. The commitment applies to wood and pulp sourcing for all its mills, including those in Canada, Indonesia and China. The textile giant worked with Canadian environmental group Canopy to craft this game-changing policy, which offers new hope for solutions in places such as Canada’s Boreal and Indonesia’s rainforests.

After Oil Spill, Unique Mangrove Forest Faces More Threats
On December 9, 2014, a wrecked tanker released approximately 94,000 gallons (78,271 Imperial gallons) of heavy fuel oil into the Shela River, which runs through the Sundarbans, the sprawling and remote mangrove forest shared between India and Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal. Now another shipping disaster is unfolding, as a capsized cargo vessel, Jabalenoor, leaks 200 tonnes of potash fertilizer into the Sundarbans’ Bhola River, southeast of the earlier oil spill.   A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Sundarbans is home to a variety of wildlife, including an important population of the critically threatened Royal Bengal Tiger and rare Irrawaddy and Gangetic dolphins.

Kenya opens anti-poaching forensic laboratory
The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has opened a forensic laboratory to boost the fight against poaching. The information gathered should help in prosecuting suspected poachers as cases can collapse because of weak evidence. The laboratory will build up a DNA database which will link stolen ivory and meat to specific animals. Poaching has damaged the wildlife population in Kenya with fears that some species could be pushed into extinction.

Rare ‘good news’ for corals as supplements may boost climate change survival
Like a jock beefing up for a big game, some corals could do far better at withstanding the heavy blows of climate change when pumped with supplements, according to a new University of Miami study. The study looked at endangered staghorn coral, a fast-growing branching coral that once provided the scaffolding for much of Florida’s reef system. For the first time, the research found that vanishing staghorn might have a shot at withstanding the withering effects of increasingly warmer and more acidic oceans if the corals could consume enough food in advance to build up reserves.

Economy and Business

Less than Half of Brands Deliver on Their Brand Promise, According to Gallup Survey
A recent Gallup survey found that most companies are failing to make good on their agreements. Only half of the almost 18 million customers Gallup surveyed strongly believe that the companies they do business with always deliver on what they promise. A brand promise is an agreement between a company and its customers and the unique statement of what a company offers, what separates it from its rivals and what makes it worthy of customers’ consideration. Brand promises matter to customers and Gallup research shows that they have a profound impact on business outcomes.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Food waste an enormous economic problem, say G20 ministers
Food wasted by consumers is an enormous economic problem and nations should ensure excess food is given to the hungry instead of being thrown away, agriculture ministers from the G20 said on Friday. The two-day meeting in Istanbul has focused on problems of food security and nutrition, including the impact of climate change. A reduction in the amount of food wasted would improve food security, the ministers said in their final communique.

From Setting to Surpassing the Bar on Waste Reduction
Whether a sustainability expert or newcomer, those who work in this industry will be the first to tell you that ‘sustainability’ can be an illusive, rarely agreed-upon and poorly defined term. But as Tony Robbins said, “Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.”  The sustainability issue that I consider the most visible, or tangible, for companies to grasp, is waste. This explains why it is often the first thing a company will tackle, particularly when it comes to those that manufacture goods. Wherever a company falls along the spectrum – whether that’s trying to be a just a little greener, a zero waste-to-landfiller or a trend-setting visionary – everybody has to start somewhere.

Careless Aucklanders turn harbour into rubbish dump
It’s likely that plastic trash is an emerging threat to Auckland’s famous harbour, though at present this can’t be backed up by much hard data. Tiny pieces of plastic in the water may well be reducing fish stocks, killing off marine mammals and sea birds and leaching dangerous toxins into once rich kaimoana beds. Perhaps, unless we launch a massive public education campaign, the scale of this pollution will one day cause tourism-killing coverage in foreign media. But there’s little to quantify the extent of the plastics polluting New Zealand’s most important harbour.

Politics and Society

What does Cameron’s election win mean for the environment?
The next five year years will be critical in the international fight to combat global warming, starting with a crunch UN summit in December, and David Cameron is very clear that action is needed. “Climate change is one of the most serious threats facing the world today. It is not just a threat to the environment, but also to our national and global security, to poverty eradication and economic prosperity,” he said in a cross-party pledge in February… Will the short-term difficulties of a tiny majority and a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union trump the medium-term benefits of supporting the thriving green economy and cutting carbon emissions?

Meet Reverend Billy, preacher of the climate apocalypse
“The place where the crucial issues are discussed with the drama they deserve is on the streets.” Reverend Billy Talen is talking about Tahrir Square. He is talking about #blacklivesmatter. He is talking about climate change. With the zeal of a televangelist and the Broadway-infused backing of his Stop Shopping Choir, Talen certainly brings the drama. A performer and activist rather than an ordained minister, he is in London touring the show “Faster! Monsanto Die! Die!” with a 3-piece band and a dozen singers.

University of Western Australia pulls out of Bjorn Lomborg centre
The University of Western Australia has pulled out of its deal to create a “consensus centre” run by climate contrarian Bjorn Lomborg and partly funded by the federal government. The decision is a blow to Prime Minister Tony Abbott, whose office drove the push to fund the centre. UWA appears to have bowed to pressure from staff and the public following news the think tank would receive $4 million in government funding.  “I have today spoken to the federal government and Bjorn Lomborg, advising them of the barriers that currently exist to the creation of the centre and the university’s decision to cancel the contract and return the money to the government,” UWA vice-chancellor Paul Johnson said.

Federal Government seeking legal advice on UWA contract cancellation
The Federal Government is seeking legal advice over a decision by the University of Western Australia to dump plans for a think tank linked to a controversial Danish academic.  Bjorn Lomborg, known for his contentious views on climate change, was to co-chair the advisory board for the $4 million Australian Consensus Centre being established to advise the Government on a range of social and economic areas.

Most Australians view climate change as already causing weather extremes: Ipsos
A clear majority of Australians view global warming as already causing extreme weather events such as storms, droughts and floods and just 3 per cent say “there is no such thing as climate change”, according to the findings in an Ipsos survey. Just over 60 per cent of the 1063 respondents in the report – the eighth annual survey on the subject (PDF) – viewed climate change as behind extreme events, with similar numbers also linking the destruction of the Great Barrier Reef and rising sea levels to warming global temperatures. Separately, about 40 per cent of respondents viewed climate change as either entirely or mainly caused by human activity, while another 43 per cent said both human and natural forces are at play. Just 3 per cent dismissed climate change altogether and another 4 per cent viewed changes as entirely naturally.

Respondents were categorised into three segments based on how much they agreed and disagreed with a range of climate change related statements.

Respondents were categorised into three segments based on how much they agreed and disagreed with a range of climate change related statements.

Australia should not auction off migrant places to highest bidders
Should Australia auction scarce immigration places to the highest bidder as canvassed by the Australian Productivity Commission’s current review of immigration policy? In per capita terms, Australia is arguably the world’s greatest immigration nation, so it’s sensible to regularly review the immigration experience and policy. The problem with a suggestion to auction immigration places is that it puts the focus on short-term revenue-raising, rather than immigration’s more important medium- to long-term nation-building role. The proposal also reflects a misplaced belief that the free market is the most efficient and effective solution to all areas of Australia society.

Food Systems

Food companies are unprepared for global water scarcity, says new report
Global food prices, which have been rising since 2012, may be ready for another hike. In a report released Thursday, Ceres, a sustainable business consortium based in Boston, found that most food companies aren’t prepared to deal with the water risks that it expects will lead to higher water and food prices… Water is a major ingredient in food, from bacon to pizza: growing crops and raising animals account for about 70% of the world’s water use, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization.

Food Pioneers: Dan Barber on the way we think about food (Adelaide Writers’ Week 2015) [Ed: Video – warning 1 hour but well worth it]
With The Third Plate, New York chef Dan Barber asks us to change the way we think about food. An early supporter of the farm-to-table philosophy, Barber now questions the ethos, which he argues cherry-picks ingredients and can be ecologically demanding. He now offers a solution for a more sustainable supply chain. He speaks to Caroline Baum at Adelaide Writers’ Week 2015.

The future of bread comes from a lab — here’s why that’s good
The Bread Lab has been receiving a lot of buzz recently. It’s graced the pages of the New York Times, New York Magazine, Mother Jones — and it even inspired its own section in Dan Barber’s opus The Third Plate. If the Bread Lab were a schmancy new restaurant run by an innovative chef, the coverage wouldn’t be too surprising. Instead, the Bread Lab is a part of Washington State University’s ag extension program.

Which California Crops Are Worth the Water? Check for Yourself
A crop’s water footprint—–all the water needed to grow and process it—–is one way of measuring its water efficiency. But there is more to the picture than just how much water is used to produce every pound of a crop. Comparing the nutritional value of each one, you can see which crops provide the most bang for your buck, or in this case, the most bang for your gallon.

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