Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Regenerative is a word that has cropped up in the top story today and yesterday.  The graph below clearly shows where we are (‘green’) and where we need to go (‘regenerative’) if we are to truly be sustainable.  The need for action is reiterated with NZ’s glaciers retreating 30% over summer, and with a plastic bag and other rubbish found 11km under the ocean in the Mariana Trench.  Some good things are happening, with a new technology revealed that will massively reduce the CO2 emissions from aluminium production and Unilever finds that consumers, like you, prefer products that are more sustainable.  Meanwhile, setbacks involve Trump cancelling funding for NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System and, with a lack of policy for direction, it’s likely Australia will face a massive drop in renewables investment next year.

Top Story

Moving beyond green: towards regenerative development | The Fifth Estate
We are at a critical point in human history where there is a pressing need for a new development paradigm. Regenerative design and development is a practice, philosophy and process… In practical terms, regeneration means to contribute to the value-generating processes of the living systems of which we are apart. Not understanding the deep interconnectedness, impacts and dependencies between built and natural environments leads us to design our world in a manner that is degenerating to these systems. Given the challenges we face today, the imperative of any design process should be a focus on improving the resiliency of living relationships – such as ecosystems, human social systems, businesses and families. Without a process of continually adding value to these living systems and relationships, real sustainability is not possible.

Trajectory of ecological design, image: Bill Reed, Regenesis Group

Trajectory of ecological design, image: Bill Reed, Regenesis Group

Climate Change and Energy

UN puts brave face as climate talks get stuck | BBC News
UN talks have been officially suspended as countries failed to resolve differences about implementing the Paris climate agreement.  The negotiations will resume in Bangkok in September where an extra week’s meeting has now been scheduled . Delegates struggled with the complexity of agreeing a rulebook for the Paris climate pact that will come into force in 2020.

Trump White House axes Nasa research into greenhouse gas cuts | BBC News
USA – President Donald Trump’s administration has quietly axed US space agency Nasa’s monitoring system into greenhouse gases, a US journal has revealed. The Carbon Monitoring System (CMS), a $10m (£7m)-a-year project which remotely tracks the world’s flow of carbon dioxide, is to lose funding. Science magazine reports that its loss jeopardises the ability to measure national emission cuts – as agreed to by nations in the Paris climate deal.

NZ glaciers shrank 30 percent in hot summer | Radio New Zealand News
NEW ZEALAND – The summer heatwave has massively affected New Zealand’s glaciers, resulting in a 30 percent loss of ice. The meltback was observed by the annual Glacier Snowline Survey, a collaboration between NIWA and Victoria University. Survey founder Trevor Chinn said it was one of the largest glacier meltbacks since he began the survey in 1977.

Trimmed CEFC budget signals end of renewables boom | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – Australia is in the midst of an unprecedented, albeit heavily delayed, renewable investment boom – one that may not be repeated on this scale and in such a short period again. The fact that this is coming to an abrupt end – given the lack of any coherent energy policy from the federal government – is no secret. But the budget entries for the Clean Energy Finance Corporation provide the first tangible evidence.

These 20 Water-Stressed Countries Have the Most Solar and Wind Potential | World Resources Institute
Most power generation consumes water, whether to cool steam in thermoelectric plants or power turbines for hydropower. And the global demand for both water and electricity will continue to increase substantially in the coming decades. Although growth is generally a good thing for the economy, it challenges nations—particularly ones that are water-stressed—to better manage their limited water resources and invest in the right energy systems.

[Ed: Australia is number 17 for solar and number 5 in the world for the most potential of water stressed countries.] 

New technology could slash carbon emissions from aluminium production | The Guardian
On Thursday the Canadian government and two of the world’s biggest aluminium producers, Alcoa and Rio Tinto, hailed a “breakthrough” technology that they said would remove carbon dioxide from the smelting process. Executives from the companies said it was “the most significant development in aluminium in a century”.

Environment and Biodiversity

Gut microbes may affect heart disease risk – first study in humans | The Conversation
Research has shown that having the right gut microbes can reduce the risk of heart disease – if you’re a mouse. Now, our latest study, published in the European Heart Journal, shows that this might be true for humans, too.  Most people know that the risk factors for heart disease are high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking. But these factors are not very good at predicting heart disease in younger people, in women and in some ethnic groups. A poor gut microbiome could be the missing risk factor we’ve been looking for.

New UN agency guidelines aim to sustain forest benefits for future generations | UN News
New guidelines designed to give poor and isolated communities more of a say in how tropical forests are used and preserved around the world were published on Thursday, by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Economy and Business

Stress test: Californian insurance industry heavily overexposed to coal risk | BusinessGreen
USA – The California Department of Insurance (CDI) has become the first US financial regulator to conduct a climate-related financial risk stress test and analysis of insurers’ exposure to fossil fuels, in what it claims is an “unprecedented” step for the sector. Together the insurers analysed more than $500bn in fossil fuel-related securities, $10.5bn of which consists of investments in thermal coal assets. In the results of the test published by Commissioner Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones this week, Californian insurers were revealed to be heavily exposed to coal, with a portfolio consistent with a trajectory of six degrees of warming.

Sustainable Living brands delivered 70% of Unilever’s turnover growth last year | Edie
Unilever has continued to prove the business case for sustainability, with the firm’s ‘Sustainable Living’ brands accounting for a record 70% of its turnover growth last year, and growing 46% faster than the rest of the business.

Waste and the Circular Economy

World’s deepest plastic bag found at bottom of Mariana Trench – highlighting spread of ocean pollution | The Telegraph
The world’s deepest plastic bag has been found at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean’s Mariana Trench, highlighting the spread of ocean pollution. Scientists made the discovery at 36,000ft (10,898m) in the world’s deepest ocean trench, one of 3,000 pieces of man-made debris dating back 30 years. Over a third of the debris found was micro-plastic, with 89 per cent from single-use products.

Government unveils plans for business-backed plastics innovation hub | BusinessGreen
The UK government has confirmed plans to bring together businesses and research bodies from around the world to help tackle the scourge of marine plastic pollution. Ministers confirmed yesterday that it is already working with the governments of Canada, India, and a number of other Commonwealth countries to launch a new £50m Marine Plastics Research and Innovation Framework designed to help experts “develop solutions to stop plastic waste from entering our oceans and find environmentally-friendly alternatives to plastic”.

Worries mount over waste incineration as ‘renewable energy’ | Edie
A coalition of green NGOs and industries in the business of recycling, chemicals, forestry and the bio-based economy wrote to policymakers on Thursday (3 May), urging them to prevent incineration of unrecyclable waste from being counted as renewable energy.

Eco-friendly composting toilets already bring relief to big cities – just ask London’s canal boaters | The Conversation
The canal community gets involved with a number of environmentally friendly and sustainable initiatives, including organic vegetable delivery schemes, bike repair shops and floating community barges. Now, a growing number of boaters have been switching to “composting toilets”, whereby urine and poo are separated and transformed into compost.

Politics and Society

Campaigners attack plan for new watchdog to protect environment after Brexit | The Guardian
UK – The government’s plans for a new environmental watchdog to maintain standards and hold ministers to account in post-Brexit Britain has come under near universal attack from green campaigners. The statutory body was announced as part of ministers’ plans to protect landscapes and nature after the UK leaves the European Union.

Maasai herders driven off land to make way for luxury safaris, report says | The Guardian
TANZANIA – The Tanzanian government is putting foreign safari companies ahead of Maasai herding communities as environmental tensions grow on the fringes of the Serengeti national park, according to a new investigation. Hundreds of homes have been burned and tens of thousands of people driven from ancestral land in Loliondo in the Ngorongoro district in recent years to benefit high-end tourists and a Middle Eastern royal family, says the report by the California-based thinktank the Oakland Institute. 

Food Systems

Growing up – why the UAE’s first vertical farm could be a regional game changer | Thomson Reuters Foundation
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – When people picture the United Arab Emirates, what likely comes to mind are desert sands, skyscrapers and a blue sea under a shimmering sun. Agriculture does not. There are good reasons for this: the federation of seven emirates is hampered by high temperatures, a lack of arable land, salty soil and steep production costs. And that is without accounting for the occasional voracious locust swarm. So it is hardly surprising that the UAE imports nearly 90 percent of its food needs, according to the Abu Dhabi Global Environmental Data Initiative, a data research organization. This reliance on the global food trade brings opportunity, said Saudi Arabian entrepreneur Omar Al Jundi, who has built the Middle East’s first commercial vertical farm in Dubai.


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