Sustainable Development News

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

Coal plants blamed for energy oversupply
Calls are growing for government to help permanently close old coal-fired power plants to lessen the oversupply of electricity that is causing headaches for the energy industry. Energy Minister Ian Macfarlane  said the equivalent of nine large power plants worth of unneeded electricity was being produced as part of his pitch to the Labor Party to negotiate changes the Abbott government wants to make to the national renewable energy target. While the national debate about the massive oversupply of power has largely focused on changing the renewables target, energy giant AGL and Climate Change Authority chairman Bernie Fraser have both recently suggested government should also look at helping with an “orderly exit” for old power plants.

Climate Change Authority’s Bernie Fraser calls for renewable energy target to be extended
The timing of the renewable energy target should be extended and inefficient fossil-fuel generators paid to exit the industry as a way of ending an impasse over the future of the clean energy sector, Climate Change Authority head Bernie Fraser has said. Mr Fraser, who was also a former governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, told ABC Radio National that the electricity sector should be given “more time to make adjustments”… Renewable energy companies said they had invested billions of dollars on the basis of the previously bipartisan target, and that altering the goal would freeze the industry and break a pre-election promise from the Coalition… Mr Fraser said that while the electricity industry was oversupplied, renewable energy was going to increase its share of the market over time and the government should consider extending the 2020 goal to assist incumbent suppliers.

Role of energy efficiency greatly underestimated, says energy body
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has said that energy efficiency has the potential to boost economic growth and sustainable development and not only reduce energy demand, as it is often suggested. The so-called ‘hidden fuel’ is “significantly undervalued”, according to IEA, which has argued in a new report – Capturing the Multiple Benefits of Energy Efficiency – that energy efficiency can be an engine for growth. The organisation notes that under current regulation, two-thirds of the economically viable energy efficiency potential available between now and 2035 will remain unrealised. This is despite energy efficiency being able to promote sustainable growth and energy security, while also reducing energy demand.

The spiralling energy consumption behind your smart phone
The mobile industry has flourished in recent years by delivering faster network speeds to the billions of phones and tablets now in consumers’ hands. But for future growth to continue at the same pace – and bring billions of more devices online – telecom engineers need to solve a new challenge: energy efficiency. Mobile handsets themselves have a relatively small energy footprint – using a mobile phone for a year has the same emissions as driving an average European car for an hour. But that phone connects to a sprawling infrastructure that uses – and often wastes – massive amounts of electricity. Information technology and communications consume about 2% of the world’s energy, or roughly the same as the airline industry, and mobile networking represents between one half and one quarter of that total, according to industry consortium GreenTouch.

Japan to restart nuclear reactors
Japan’s nuclear watchdog has given the green light for two reactors to restart but the operator still has to persuade local communities they are safe. Widespread anti-nuclear sentiment has simmered in Japan ever since an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 caused meltdowns at the Fukushima power plant, sparking the worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl.


Pod pushed orca to surface
A 6 metre orca called Dian had to be rescued about a kilometre east of Kawau Island [New Zealand] after it got stuck in a cray pot line. It would not have survived but for the remarkable actions of five orcas, including her own calf, pushing the exhausted and entangled orca to the surface so it could breathe, rescuers say.  A team including Orca Research Trust founder Dr Ingrid Visser and Snells Beach marine enthusiast Riley Hathaway, 13, arrived to help free the 35-year-old marine mammal after it was spotted from a passing boat. Rescuers put a camera underwater on a pole to assess the situation and the rescue itself was “textbook”, Visser said.

Rangers record bigger than expected populations of rare gouldian finch
Aboriginal rangers have found several healthy populations of a rare bird species on the Dampier Peninsula north of Broome. The small, colourful gouldian finch is endemic to Australia but there are believed to be fewer than 3,000 left. Conservation groups WWF and Environs Kimberley have been working with the Bardi Jawi rangers to document sightings of the finches in the One Arm Point area. Head ranger Phillip McCarthy says they have found three healthy breeding populations so far, including one flock of more than 50 birds. “They’re on the endangered list, their habitat and fires have really caused them to decline,” he said.

Cat disease found in native birds
A cat-borne disease that might be killing endangered dolphins has now been found in kiwi. Toxoplasmosis, which has been linked to schizophrenia and suicide in humans, is thought to enter the marine food chain through cat faeces washed from land through the sewer system, or from feral cats living near estuaries. Now researcher Dr Wendi Roe, of Massey University’s Infectious Diseases Research Centre, who has been tracking the disease, has reported finding two kaka, a kiwi and a kereru infected with the disease. Earlier this year, the Morgan Foundation – funded by cat control lobbyist Gareth Morgan – released research saying about 40 per cent of New Zealanders were infected with toxoplasmosis, and linking it to afflictions including schizophrenia, impaired memory and suicidal thoughts. Foundation spokesman Geoff Simmons has applauded the Massey study and said the pathogen’s effects on humans was “all the more reason” to more rigorously manage cats.

Iwi to fight Karangahake Gorge mining
Iwi say they will help fight a return of mining to the Karangahake gorge [New Zealand]. New Talisman Gold has been granted permission to start test mining in the Karangahake Gorge.   While the company says it’s a step on the way to renewed production from the historic mining area, anti-mining advocates say it shouldn’t be happening in such a sensitive area. The Conservation Department has authorised the company to enter and operate its Talisman mine permit, allowing the extraction of 600 tonnes of ore a month in a trial mining project.

Economy and Business

Consumer behaviour and sustainability – what you need to know
Our live chat explored what value consumers place on the sustainability of the products they buy. Here are 10 things we learned.

The Dow Jones Sustainability Index: Why We All End Up Winning
On Thursday, the annual rankings of the 2014 Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) will be publicly announced. Based on research by the Swiss-based investment group RobecoSAM, the Index assesses the sustainability performance of close to 90 publicly traded multinationals operating in the chemicals and coatings industries. Each company is ranked based on a detailed analysis of a range of criteria related to standard management practices and performance measures, with the top nine designated as finalists in the DJSI. At AkzoNobel, we are proud of having been ranked number one in our respective sector by the DJSI for the last two years in a row. After all, the Index is one of the most respected independent sustainability ranking systems globally, and our rankings affirm our co mmitment to growing our business through promoting and implementing sustainable practices. But as any business knows, you can never rest on your laurels — and as every industry knows, competition is the key to innovation.

Swiss pension fund members back sustainable investment strategies
A survey has revealed that the majority of pension fund members in Switzerland support and recognise the benefits of sustainable investment strategies. The findings highlight the growing movement to incorporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into investment decisions. The survey, which was conducted by sustainable investment specialists RobecoSAM, asked over 1,200 Swiss pension members about their views on sustainable investment. Some 72% of those surveyed believed that their pension fund should take account of financially material ESG factors when making investments.

Trade and Development Report, 2014 (Report)
The Trade and Development Report 2014: Global Governance and Policy Space for Development examines recent trends in the global economy, with a focus on growth, trade and commodity prices. The Report highlights that, six years after the onset of the global economic and financial crisis, the world economy has not yet established a new sustainable growth regime. With an expected growth between 2.5 and 3 per cent in 2014, the recovery of global output remains weak. Furthermore, the policies supporting the recovery are frequently inadequate, as they do not address the rise of income inequality, the steady erosion of policy space along with the diminishing economic role of governments and the primacy of the financial sector of the economy, which are the root causes of the crisis of 2008. Putting the world economy on the path of sustainable growth requires strengthening domestic and regional demand, with a reliance on better income distribution rather than new financial bubbles.

Politics and Society

Personal happiness and healthy environment deeply interconnected, new book says
Our appetite for material things that we cannot have is seriously harming the planet’s resources according to the new book by a researcher from the University of East Anglia (UEA). The book Happier People Healthier Planet: How putting wellbeing first would help sustain life on Earth suggests that our insatiable emotional hunger for material objects is damaging both the most disadvantaged individuals and the ecosystem. Author Dr Teresa Belton, researcher and visiting fellow in UEA’s School of Education and Lifelong Learning, said, “Happier People Healthier Planet demonstrates how we can improve our prospects in a world where the state of the environment and the happiness of many people are in decline. If we address our deeper emotional needs, we will feel less compelled to acquire more, better, newer material goods. This will be a positive step toward protecting the world for us all.”

Sailors called on for a new wave of citizen science
This week in Hobart the $120 million research ship the RV Investigator made its long overdue arrival. With it come high hopes of a new era in Australian hi-tech marine research. But the cost of operating the ship doesn’t come cheap and funding expeditions is a constant struggle, which is why a group of international researchers have devised an innovative and cheap way to conduct critical ocean research. They hope to use recreational sailors as citizen scientists to help collect important data on marine microbiology around the world.

Europe’s climate change and energy strategy at ‘critical juncture’, says thinktank
Renewed leadership from Europe on the issues of climate change and energy could leverage a greater effort from other major economies, according to thinktank IPPR. The organisation describes Europe as being as a “critical juncture” when it comes to strategy on the issue. IPPR notes that the political crisis in Ukraine, which has led to discussion on energy security because of dependence on Russian exports, and new clean energy policies from the US and China means that energy policies should be at the top of Europe’s agenda to protect its ‘first mover’ advantage in green industries. In a report – Europe’s Power: Re-energising a Progressive Climate and Energy Agenda – IPPR argues that Europe could take full advantage of economic opportunities as countries seek to transition to low carbon economies if it takes action.

Emma Thompson in the Arctic with Greenpeace: ‘There are more good-looking men on this boat than any place I have ever been’ (Video 9:39)
Actor Emma Thompson has gone on an expedition with Greenpeace to raise awareness of the dangers of drilling for oil. She doesn’t want to tweet, but Stephen Fry has told her to ‘get a grip’. It’s freezing cold, Greenpeace keep asking her to pose for pictures on icebergs and her Arctic gear makes her ‘look like a sofa’. Here is her adventure.

Home at Old Bar under threat of demolition due to severe coastal erosion
The owner of a beachfront home in Old Bar, east of Taree, has been given 28 days to explain why his home should not be demolished. Significant erosion caused by last week’s big swells has pushed beach dunes to within 3 metres of the property. Much of the frontal dune system at Old Bar has been washed away and public access to the beach is now heavily restricted. Yesterday the Greater Taree City Council signalled its intent to issue a demolition order. The Council’s Executive Leader of Corporate Support, Laura Black said many nearby homes are also at risk. “Next door to this particular property there is a 40 unit complex, and it is a structure that we’ve been watching for some time now,” she said. “Both of these properties and a few on either side have lost 40-50 metres in the past 8 or 9 years.

Built Environment

Formula E to begin this weekend in the heart of Beijing
The greatly anticipated electric Formula E racing championship will begin in Beijing this weekend, with 40 zero-emission high-performance cars taking to the Chinese capital’s streets, beginning an 11 fully-electric racing series. The top performance electric cars can reach speeds of up to 150mph and will race across the world in cities including London, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Long Beach and Miami. As the cars do not use highly flammable petroleum, city events are far safer – creating a unique experience for spectators who will be closer than ever to the electrifying motorsport. All teams, for the first year, will use a Spark-Renault SRT_01E Formula E car which has combined both Formula 1 technology from both McLaren and Williams.


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