Sustainable Development News

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

One in five of world’s plant species at risk of extinction
One in five of the world’s plant species is threatened with extinction, according to the first global assessment of flora, putting supplies of food and medicines at risk. But the report also found that 2,000 new species of plant are discovered every year, raising hopes of new sources of food that are resilient to disease and climate change. New finds in 2015 included a giant insect-eating plant first spotted on Facebook and a 100-tonne tree hidden in an African forest.

Energy and Climate Change

Global warming milestone about to be passed and there’s no going back
Within the next couple of weeks, a remote part of north-western Tasmania [Australia] is likely to grab headlines around the world as a major climate change marker is passed. The aptly named Cape Grim monitoring site jointly run by CSIRO and the Bureau of Meteorology will witness the first baseline reading of 400 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, researchers predict.

See Earth’s temperature spiral toward 2C rise – graphic
The steady rise of Earth’s temperature as greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere and trap more and more heat is sending the planet spiraling closer to the point where warming’s catastrophic consequences may be all but assured. That metaphoric spiral has become a literal one in a new graphic drawn up by Ed Hawkins, a climate scientist at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom. The animated graphic features a rainbow-colored record of global temperatures spinning outward from the late 19th century to the present as the Earth heats up.

Monthly global temperatures in 2016 Photograph: Ed Hawkins/Climate Central

Monthly global temperatures in 2016 Photograph: Ed Hawkins/Climate Central

Raging seas: going local to understand ocean extremes of the future
The world’s sea level is expected to rise by up to 82cm by the end of the century… Yet it isn’t just the average sea level that will rise. The biggest risks will come from the fact that the highest sea levels (caused by high tides and weather) will also increase by at least as much as the mean. This is what are seeing so far in many parts of the world.
Related: Sentinel’s first map of sea-surface ‘hills and valleys’

OECD Energy Rose As Consumption And Emissions Fell
New figures have shown further decoupling of OECD countries’ economic growth from carbon emissions, as energy production rose but consumption and emissions fell.

Headlines ‘exaggerated’ climate link to sinking of Pacific islands
Links between climate change and the sinking of five islands in the Pacific Ocean have been exaggerated, the author of a widely reported new study has said. The report, published on Friday, tracked the shapeshifting of 33 reef islands in the Solomon Islands between 1947 and 2014. It found that five had been washed away completely and six more had been severely eroded. The study blamed the loss on a combination of sea-level rise and high wave energy. Many media outlets, including the Guardian, jumped to the conclusion that the islands were lost to climate change. But this largely misinterprets the science, according to the study’s author, Dr Simon Albert.

Environment and Biodiversity

Will taxpayers foot the cleanup bill for bankrupt coal companies?
Fifty U.S. coal companies have filed for bankruptcy since 2012. Competition and more stringent environmental regulations played a role in this decline. But, just before coal prices collapsed, speculating top producers borrowed billions to finance unwise acquisitions. Now, unable to pay loan interest and principal, they have sought bankruptcy protection to restructure US$30 billion in debt. The bankrupt companies include Arch Coal, Alpha Natural Resources, Patriot Coal and Jim Walter Resources… Amid this turmoil, many observers fear that bankrupt coal companies will be able to shift their huge liabilities for reclamation, or restoring land that has been mined, to taxpayers.

China to Integrate Water and Environment Management with GEF support
The World Bank Group’s Board of Executive Directors approved a US$9.50 million grant from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) today to help China increase water productivity and reduce pollution discharges in the three river basins entering the Bohai Sea, by mainstreaming and scaling up an innovative approach to integrated water and environmental management.

Omata school’s young trappers help protect native species

A golden gecko was found at a house near Omata School last week, however students at the school are yet to find one in their own reserve.

A golden gecko was found at a house near Omata School last week, however students at the school are yet to find one in their own reserve.

NEW ZEALAND – Rockco Lister isn’t afraid of getting his hands dirty, eagerly digging out a decomposed rat from one of Omata School’s stoat traps. The school has several traps dotted through the forest area bordering the property, and the students have a big hand in maintaining them. Students like Lister,12, are taught to bait up and empty the traps as well as learning about the local flora and fauna.

Economy and Business

Toyota, Ben & Jerry’s Among 155 Companies to Set Science-Based Emissions Reduction Targets
Forty-one companies have joined the Science-Based Targets initiative since the COP21 climate negotiations in December. On the eve of the Climate Action Summit in Washington, D.C. last week, the initiative announced that a total of 155 companies have now committed to set emissions reduction targets in-line with the global effort to keep warming well below 2 degrees Celsius. The 41 new signatories include Ben & Jerry’s, SunPower Corporation, Owens Corning, Toyota Motor Corporation, and large European retailer Metro AG.

How badger bombs and politics brought Lush sales of £500m
Lush likes to cause a stink. As well as its smelly shops and package-free produce, a large chunk of the handmade cosmetics company’s time and money is spent on political activism. Far from carefully choosing a few business-friendly good causes, Lush has backed a plethora of controversial causes from Guantanamo prisoners, to hunt saboteurs and the anti-fracking campaign. It does this through financial donations – totalling £5m a year in 2015 – and in-store products such as the May Day bath bombs, which supported activists opposed to the badger cull. It also supports groups in favour of peaceful resistance to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Such blatant politicisation is a tactic few other businesses in the UK seem willing to replicate.

Cleantech stocks storm ahead of Australian main index by nearly 22%
The Australian CleanTech Index rose from 46.53 to 50.03 over the month of April, recording a 7.5 per cent gain. This compared to the ASX200 gain of 3.5 per cent and the ASX Small Ordinaries Index gain of 3 per cent. The Australian CleanTech 20 rose 7.3 per cent for the month.

Uniform opportunities
NEW ZEALAND – As part of Fairtrade Fortnight, we caught up with Samantha Jones from corporate uniform supplier Little Yellow Bird to find out how she’s helping empower women through ethical employment.

Organic farming could help solve Kaikoura’s water quality woes
NEW ZEALAND – Organic farming could be the answer to Kaikoura’s water quality, farmers have been told.  The Kaikoura flats area is graded as a nutrient “red zone” in Environment Canterbury’s (ECan) Land and Water Regional Plan, meaning water quality is poor.  Farmers therefore face greater restrictions, in particular around land use, including being prohibited from intensifying land use for dairying. Bryan Clearwater, of Clearwaters Organic Dairy in South Canterbury, told farmers at a meeting last week that, while eliminating chemicals could be challenging, farmers could expect a premium price for organic milk.

NZ: EV package to stimulate sustainable transport uptake
Westpac NZ has responded positively to the New Zealand government’s freshly released package of measures to stimulate electric vehicle uptake with the announcement of a new leasing product for institutional and corporate customers to make EVs more accessible.

A drive towards sharing
New companies in New Zealand are offering easy access to cars, without the hassles of owning one. It’s a new approach that could reshape our transport system, and more.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Trending: Schemes in NYC, South Korea Helping Business, Residents Eliminate Waste
South Korea has been using radio frequency identification (RFID) technology and a ‘pay-as-you-waste’ system to help cut back on waste. In 2013, the country found that its waste had a particularly high liquid content – about 80 percent – which was leaching into soil and causing outbreaks of insects. Now, South Korea is using technology to both cut back on food waste and divert more of it for processing into animal feed and fertilizer.

Politics and Society

Green bank says clean energy investment hurdles still too high
AUSTRALIA – Australia’s Clean Energy Finance Corp has warned that the Australian government’s targeted rate of return on its investments in emerging clean energy technologies may be too high, despite a small cut in the targeted benchmarks.
See also: Government still wants CEFC to achieve the unachievable

Queensland moves to control land clearing: other states need to follow
AUSTRALIA – Queensland’s land clearing has yet again become a national issue. After laws were relaxed under the then Liberal-National state government in 2013, land-clearing rates tripled, undermining efforts to conserve wildlife and reduce carbon emissions. Now the Labor state government wants to re-tighten the laws. The revised legislation is expected to be debated after June 30… So what does the big picture suggest?

Renewables policy uncertainty costing Australia “mountains of global cash”
Australia’s prolonged renewable energy policy uncertainty, and the effect this has had on the sector’s ability to secure long-term power off-take agreements, is holding back a “mountain of global cash” looking for investments, a new report has found. The report, Ernst and Young’s latest Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Indices (RECAI), released today, notes that Australia’s renewables sector currently faces the task of developing around 5GW to 6GW to meet the 33,000GWh RET.

Queensland releases issues paper for 50% renewables target
AUSTRALIA – The Queensland government has released an issues paper that sets out the potential options to meet its much touted renewable energy target and transform the country’s most heavily fossil fuel dependent grid into a system powered 50 per cent by renewables.

Lessons from living below the extreme poverty line on $2 a day
Around 2.5 million Australians live below the poverty line on less than $400 a week for a single adult or A$841 for a couple with two children. I joined 8,500 Australians on the charity challenge last week to live below the extreme poverty line, spending just $2 a day on food for five days. This is my third year doing the challenge and this year my husband joined me. Having $20 between two seemed to stretch much further than $10 for one person. But it was still tough and my diet was far from complete.

Environment Ministry Pulled Up For ‘Poor’ Performance In Controlling Pollution
New Delhi:  The Environment Ministry has been pulled up for “poor” performance in controlling pollution and use of funds by a parliamentary panel, which asked it to take necessary measures to ensure targets are met in the future and money optimally utilised.

Built Environment

Smart infrastructure is the key to sustainable development
The SDGs chart a path for eliminating poverty and securing a better life for all by 2030. The Paris accord seeks to stabilise global carbon emissions by the second half of the century, through a rapid move away from high-carbon energy, transport, housing and land use towards efficient, low carbon, climate-resilient alternatives.  But as nations set out to reflect these commitments in planning and budget processes, they face difficult choices: coal or renewables? Highways or public transport? Suburban sprawl or compact cities?

How your garden could help stop your city flooding
The urbanisation process itself is one of the major causes of urban flooding. Buildings, pavements and road areas are impervious to stormwater. When the amount of stormwater that the urban landscape can retain or infiltrate is exceeded, water starts to flow downhill, generating runoff. Besides flooding, stormwater runoff is also a major cause of pollution and ecological degradation of urban streams. Reducing the amount of stormwater runoff conveyed to stormwater pipes is central to the restoration and protection of our waterways.

Food Systems

Waitrose Joins Tesco in Threatening to Can John West Over Broken Tuna Sustainability Pledge
Waitrose has joined Tesco as the latest UK retailer to take seafood giant John West to task over its fishing practices, threatening to remove its canned tuna from store shelves if it does not follow through on its promise to improve.


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