Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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From Trees to Tigers, Case Shows Cost of Illegal Logging
Lumber Liquidators’ ads are hard to miss. They’re bright yellow and boast of the hardwood floor retailer’s low prices in loud black letters. And last month, the public found out where at least some of that cheap wood comes from. The company, which is based in Virginia, pleaded guilty in court to buying wood that had been illegally harvested in the forests of the Russian Far East, a huge forested tract that stretches from Lake Baikal to the Pacific Ocean. Illegal logging has disrupted life in the region and threatened the survival of the endangered Siberian tiger and the Amur leopard…

Energy and Climate Change

9 reasons to be cheerful that the world is taking action on climate change
This Monday, the British Meteorological Office released data showing global temperatures are set to break through the 1°C temperature rise barrier since the start of the industrial revolution. An awful milestone. It means we are half way to the 2°C limit agreed by nations as the danger level that we must not exceed. As delegates and campaigners gear up to the climate talks starting in Paris at the end of the month, it might seem hard to be optimistic given the experience of previous UN climate change summits. Yet the signs are good that the world is waking up to the urgent need to take strong action on both tackling greenhouse gas emissions and building adaptation and resilience to the effects caused by a warming planet. Here is a round-up of recent positive steps.

Peak coal: Consumption falls as major economies look to renewables
Peak coal may have already been reached. A new report released overnight says that the use of thermal coal in power generation across the world may have fallen as may as 4.6 per cent in 2015, as the world’s biggest economies turned towards renewables such as wind and solar. The report by Greenpeace International may be mocked by the fossil fuel lobby, but its data reveals an inconvenient truth: “This year is on course to see the largest fall in coal consumption in history. There has been a drop of at least 2.3 per cent and possibly as much as 4.6 per cent in the January-September period, compared to the same period a year ago.”

China the ‘wild card’ as coal projections pared back, IEA says
China has become a “wild card” for global coal markets as its demand for the fossil fuel ebbs and it helps drive a worldwide rush into renewable energy sources, the International Energy Agency says. In its closely watched World Energy Outlook report for 2015, the agency projects coal will account for just 10 per cent of any increase in global energy demand out to 2040, far shy of the fuel’s 45 per cent contribution over the past decade.

Renewable energy made up half of world’s new power plants in 2014: IEA
Renewable energy accounted for almost half of all new power plants in 2014, representing a “clear sign that an energy transition is underway”, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Green energy is now the second-largest generator of electricity in the world, after coal, and is set to overtake the dirtiest fossil fuel in the early 2030s, said the IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2015 report, published on Tuesday.

What Will Energy Look Like in 2040? 4 Things to Know
Coal faces a “reversal of fortune,” clean power will make big strides, and India will become the new center of energy growth in 2040. These are among the predictions outlined in a new report on the future of energy. The International Energy Agency released the report Tuesday, three weeks before high-stakes climate talks begin in Paris… Here are four highlights from the report.

Climate Change Acute Threat To Poor People, World Bank Reports
A new report from the World Bank highlights the acute threat that climate change poses to the poorer segment of society around the globe. In fact, according to the report, Shock Waves: Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty, climate change has the potential to push more than 100 million additional people back into poverty by 2030. The report attempts to outline a number of paths that can be taken to avoid such a catastrophe. Poverty reduction and development work must continue as a priority, at the same time as taking into account climate change. Targeted action to help peoples cope with climate shocks are vital, such as developing early warning systems and flood protection, and introducing heat-resistant crops. Additionally, efforts must be made to reduce emissions, and to accelerate these reductions.

VISIONS 2100: A better way to talk about climate change
The complex issue of climate change is one that our race is struggling to address. The solutions are not beyond us in any way. Technological solutions exist, scientific knowledge is plentiful, the world can afford the transition but still significant action eludes us. Rational arguments for rapid action abound. We do not need any more of those. What is needed is a different way of communicating that inspires and attracts the widest possible group of humans towards wanting to travel on this same journey. A global project to change the way climate change is communicated will be launched this week in Brisbane. It provides an opportunity for everyone to write and share their vision of a better world.

Paris 2015: UN Conference on Climate Change

Paris climate talks: Australia comes in from the cold
Australia has been applauded by delegates at climate change ministerial talks in Paris for returning to active climate diplomacy. With the major UN climate summit set to begin at the end of this month, some 60 countries have sent ministers to Paris for advance talks. Climate activists have praised Australian Environment Minister Greg Hunt’s work for achieving a breakthrough in a six-year-old deadlock on a side protocol, delivering a bonus cut equal to two years’ total global carbon emissions. And Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop has negotiated for Australia to become one of two co-chairs of the UN’s Green Climate Fund, a body that Tony Abbott once derided as a “Bob Brown bank”.

Saudi Arabia submits climate pledge to UN deal
Saudi Arabia made its contribution to a climate rescue pact on Tuesday, calling it a “significant deviation” for the emissions of the oil-reliant economy. The world’s largest crude oil producer pledged to achieve “mitigation co-benefits” of up to 130 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent a year by 2030, in an opaque submission with numerous caveats. It was the last G20 country to submit its offer to the UN, ahead of a meeting of those wealthy economies this weekend – and next month’s critical climate summit in Paris.

Environment and Biodiversity

Ocean acidification: the forgotten piece of the carbon puzzle
Ocean acidification – the rise in ocean acidity due to the increased absorption of carbon dioxide (CO₂) – is often thought of as consequence of climate change. However, it is actually a separate, albeit very closely-related problem. acidification is often referred to as “the other CO₂ problem” because, like climate change, it is primarily a result of the increased emissions of this gas. Despite their common driver, though, the processes and impacts of ocean acidification and climate change are distinct. It should not be assumed that policies intended to deal with the climate will simultaneously benefit the oceans.

Soil-healing properties of microbes trialled in Queensland
A European expert has teamed up with Queensland farmers to trial using microbes to improve soil health on Australian farms.  Twenty years ago Lukas Hader’s family developed a range of probiotics in Austria to make bio-dynamic fertiliser, which he said could reduce inputs and improve yields.  Mr Hader said local farmers had embraced the concept.

The first climate refugees are here – we can’t say we’ve not been warned
Something stunning happened last week, which has never before occurred in Britain in November: a subtropical butterfly, the long-tailed blue, was seen flying on the south coast of England. Another unprecedented event took place one August evening: a volunteer at the Dungeness bird observatory was strolling home from the pub when he was transported to summer holidays on Mediterranean verandas – he heard the nocturnal whirring of tree crickets. Hundreds of these warmth-loving insects have now been found breeding in Britain for the first time.

Economy and Business

Conscious Consumers sets out to change the market with the Good Spend Counter
Conscious Consumers has launched its world first and soon to be market leading app, the Good Spend Counter. The app registers where you spend your money, giving the information to businesses to inform purchase and supply decisions.  So how does it work? The Good Spend Counter registers the spending of consumers at hospitality industry businesses (such as restaurants and bars) that have been accredited by the Conscious Consumers programme and shares the information with the business. The app tracks consumer ethics and values, allowing the business to see information behind the motivation for the purchase.

Why Purpose Brands Think Beyond the Consumer
For many marketers or entrepreneurs, building a business with a purpose is the Holy Grail. It feels great – and we all want to do a job that makes sense. And it’s good business: brands with a purpose work better – Jim Stengel and a few others have clearly made the point. But building a business with a purpose requires a change of paradigm. For many of us, that means unlearning what we studied at marketing school.

Trending: Sustainable Clothing Sees 12% Water Use Reduction in UK, New Products on Kickstarter
Around the world, more and more action is being taken to create a more sustainable clothing industry. In the U.K., waste reduction charity WRAP is seeing significant progress on its Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP). Meanwhile, two U.S.-based Kickstarter campaigns are offering sustainable, certified organic options: men’s denim made in America; and temperature-regulating base layers that use nanofibers from Austria.

Peabody Energy misled on climate change, says NY regulator
Peabody Energy, one of the largest global coal producers, will submit revised investor disclosures after the New York attorney-general’s office found it misled the public and investors about the financial risks associated with climate change. The Peabody settlement announced on Monday is the first to emerge from the state attorney-general’s probe of oil and energy companies, and reflects a rare move forcing companies to make certain disclosures about climate change.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Interface brings carpet recycling plant to Sydney
The world’s largest designer and maker of carpet tile, Interface, will develop a new carpet recycling plant at its Sydney manufacturing facility. Since the mid-2000s, the company has been taking back old Interface carpet under its ReEntry recycling program, and sending it to its sister factories in America for reprocessing as part of a bid to close the loop on the use of non-renewable raw materials and fuel. However, the company has now announced that it has embarked on a $1.4 million project to reprocess old carpet domestically, at its Minto facility.

Wellington’s polluting do-it-yourselfers
NEW ZEALAND – As DIY season gets underway Greater Wellington Regional Council is bracing itself for the annual spike in pollution. A picturesque scene in Tawa was recently spoiled by having paint poured down it. But it was just the latest incident of the hundreds of pollutants washed into Wellington waterways each year, Environmental Regulation Department manager Alistair Cross said. In the 12 months to June 30, the council was called out to 1115 pollutant incidents – 178 more than the previous year.

Politics and Society

Can social enterprise help fix the Greek crisis?
Myrto Papadogeorgou and her business partner Nikos Konstantinou chose not to join the exodus of 200,000 people from Greece over the past five years. Instead they’ve stayed, hoping to help drag their country out of crisis. For them, and many other young Greeks, starting a social enterprise has become a way to capitalise on their frustrations in the face of 52% youth unemployment.

UK doesn’t have right policies to meet renewable energy target, admits Amber Rudd
Amber Rudd has admitted the UK does not have the right policies in place to meet its EU target of sourcing 15% of energy from renewable sources by 2020, and challenged transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin to help make up the shortfall. The energy secretary told MPs on Tuesday that meeting the target would be challenging, and admitted that the UK could end up having to buy renewable energy from its European neighbours if it fell short.

Rudd: Government ‘committed’ to renewable energy targets
The Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has said the government remains committed to meeting EU renewable energy targets. She told MPs that ministers aim to meet the UK’s target of 15% of energy from clean power by 2020, by focussing on heat and transport. Ms Rudd has come under fire over a leaked letter in which she warned cabinet colleagues of a potential shortfall.

Direct Action destined to fail even with low Paris pledge, Climate Institute says
The Turnbull government’s “Direct Action” policy cannot meet even the “inadequate” emission reductions it will pledge at the UN climate meeting in Paris and in fact will allow Australia’s greenhouse pollution to rise, according to the Climate Institute. Malcolm Turnbull was forced to promise to keep Tony Abbott’s climate policy as he sought the prime ministership and has repeatedly pointed to a review scheduled for 2017 – after the next election. But institute chief executive John Connor says new policies are needed much sooner.

EU drops proposed law to tackle illegal trade in wildlife and toxic waste
The EU has quietly dropped plans for stronger environmental inspections to tackle illegal trade in wildlife and toxic waste across Europe, the Guardian has learned. Senior levels of the European commission feared opposition from the UK to the proposed law on cost and red tape grounds, sources told the Guardian. The environmental inspections directive, seen by the Guardian, would have forced countries to set up monitoring and inspection regimes at entry points around Europe, and empowered EU experts to visit sites, offering advice and adjudication in disputes.

Built Environment

Mapping project reveals potential of a Melbourne rooftop transformation
Thousands of hectares of Melbourne’s roof space is ripe for solar, green roof and cool roof installations, a City of Melbourne mapping project has revealed. The Rooftop Project involved analysis of aerial photography to understand which roof spaces would be ideal for green roofs, cool roofs and solar PV installations.

Consultancy firm to probe potential Seabird coastal erosion solutions
The Shire of Gingin, in mid-west Western Australia, has hired a consultancy firm to help find the best solution to coastal erosion in Seabird, south of Lancelin. Turner Street residents have been campaigning for action for more than a decade after erosion began to threaten their homes.

Food Systems

New Zealand vaccine to reduce cattle methane emissions for dairy and beef industry reaches testing stage
A vaccine to lower greenhouse gas emissions in cattle has reached testing stage in New Zealand. Cattle burp frequently and when they do they produce methane, a gas that contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions from countries such as Australia and New Zealand. Strategy and investment leader for sustainability at Dairy NZ, Rick Pridmore, said the development of a vaccine could mean a reduction in methane emissions from cows by between 25 and 30 per cent.

Rejection of sugar tax is based on faulty logic about the poor
When celebrity chef Jamie Oliver began campaigning for a tax on sugary drinks he expected a fight, and he was not disappointed. “The food and drinks lobby might try to present me as a TV chef who has got too big for his boots,” he wrote in the Daily Mail. “But I’m basing my arguments on the evidence of numerous doctors and scientists.” And Oliver certainly has the backing of healthcare professionals, not to mention the public. Last month, amid much brouhaha, Public Health England (PHE) finally released its report recommending a tax on sugary soft drinks… But in response to the 150,060 who signed a petition by Oliver in September 2015, the government announced it had “no plans to introduce a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages”. Now David Cameron has personally vetoed the tax on the basis that it would disproportionately impact the poorest families. He seems to have misunderstood that this is a major strength of the policy.


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