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Tuesday 11 September 2018

Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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ScoMo was right, it would seem, a new report from Australian National University researchers says, if renewables projects continue as they are, Australia will meet its weak Paris Agreement target. Good news, but other emissions are rising. Around the world people are calling for action on climate change, from the mayors of New York City and London, to the UN chief, but talks in Bangkok to establish a Paris Rulebook were only mildly successful with progress made in most areas, but apparently a stand-off between the US and China was disruptive, ahead of the December deadline at the COP24 meeting in Katowice, Poland. It seems dire, and it is, but the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco is looking for bright spots to emulate. In other news, a look at the organisms that make our soil and keep it healthy; for the first time British consumers say packaging is more important than price in food purchases; and students have trouble telling fact from fiction in the news.

Top Story

At its current rate, Australia is on track for 50% renewable electricity in 2025 | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – The Australian renewable energy industry will install more than 10 gigawatts of new solar and wind power during 2018 and 2019. If that rate is maintained, Australia would reach 50% renewables in 2025. The recent demise of the National Energy Guarantee saw the end of the fourth-best option for aligning climate and energy policy, following earlier vetoes by the Coalition party room on carbon pricing, an emissions intensity scheme, and the clean energy target. Yet despite the federal government’s policy paralysis, the renewable energy train just keeps on rolling.

Actual and probable deployment of large-scale (more than 0.1MW) systems in Australia. About 4,000MW per year is currently being installed. Clean Enegy Regulator/ANU, Author provided

Actual and probable deployment of large-scale (more than 0.1MW) systems in Australia. About 4,000MW per year is currently being installed. Clean Enegy Regulator/ANU, Author provided

Climate Change

‘Limited’ progress at Bangkok climate talks | The Guardian
An international meeting in Bangkok fell short of its aim of completing fruitful preparations to help an agreement be reached in December on guidelines for implementing the 2015 Paris climate change agreement. The six-day meeting, which ended on Sunday, was scheduled to step up progress in the battle against rising global carbon emissions by adopting a completed text that could be presented at the COP24 conference in Katowice, Poland, three months from now.

‘Everyone was frustrated’: US-China stand-off holds up climate talks | Climate Home News
Climate negotiators made patchy progress on the rules of the Paris Agreement at talks in Bangkok, which ended on Sunday. The US blocked a Chinese bid to insert two-tier standards for rich and poor countries, leading to deadlock on guidelines for the national climate plans that underpin the global pact. Parts of the climate finance debate also stalled, prompting calls for political intervention ahead of the December deadline for completing the rulebook in Katowice, Poland.

As New York and London mayors, we call on all cities to divest from fossil fuels | Bill de Blasio and Sadiq Khan | The Guardian (Opinion)
This summer it seemed as if our two cities had changed places. London was hot and dry while New York had days and days of rain. According to leading scientists, the heatwave in Europe over recent months was made twice as likely by climate change resulting from human activity. There is also growing evidence of the link between climate change and the frequency of major floods, as well as the severity of hurricanes.

‘Direct existential threat’ of climate change nears point of no return, warns UN chief | UN News
“Climate change is undeniable” he will say at UN Headquarters in New York, and “the science is beyond doubt,” posted the UN chief in a tweet, previewing his speech about an issue which he says poses an existential threat to humankind. “It is time to get off the path of suicidal emissions,” he reiterated in the tweet. Mr. Guterres is going to call on governments, businesses, scientists and consumers – “to make changes” and to “be the change” that will put the planet on a path to a better future.

Will the Golden State Inspire Global Climate Action? | World Resources Institute|
Without a doubt, much more needs to be done if the world is going to prevent the worst climate impacts. Reminders of the risks are plentiful, with recent record-breaking wildfires, heat waves, severe droughts and other signs of our changing planet. Against this backdrop, a group of leaders, experts and citizens are headed to the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) in San Francisco this week, which aims to highlight bright spots and spur momentum. And, to be sure, bright spots can be seen—you just need to know where to look for them.

6 Ways to Remove Carbon Pollution from the Sky | World Resources Institute
Carbon removal can take a number of forms, from new technologies to land management practices. The big question is whether these approaches can deliver carbon removal at the scale needed in the coming decades.

Environment and Biodiversity

A look at some of the billions of organisms that keep soil healthy | Ensia
Long overlooked as just dirt beneath our feet, soil has taken on increasing importance as we recognize its fundamental role in everything from agriculture to climate change to human health. So, too, with the organisms that call it home. Soil is filled with more biological diversity than any other habitat on Earth. Its food web consists not only of worms and beetles and other well-known, easily visible animals, but also microscopic organisms from bacteria to fungi to protists. They all play a vital role in keeping soil healthy. They help nutrients move through the soil. They are responsible for moving, storing and filtering water. They capture carbon and other greenhouse gases. They support healthy plant growth.

Mycorrhizal fungi live in or outside of plant roots. The fungi help the host plants acquire nutrients from soil and the plants reward the fungi with sugar. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi reproduce with spores and are among the most abundant organisms in many soils. Source: Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus (AMF) ~100x by Marc Perkins, from Flickr, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Mycorrhizal fungi live in or outside of plant roots. The fungi help the host plants acquire nutrients from soil and the plants reward the fungi with sugar. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi reproduce with spores and are among the most abundant organisms in many soils. Source: Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungus (AMF) ~100x by Marc Perkins, from Flickr, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Facebook animal trade exposed in Thailand | BBC News
THAILAND – More than 1,500 listings of live animals for sale have been found on Facebook in Thailand by a wildlife trafficking watchdog. Traffic, which monitors such activity, said many of the species, despite having international protection, were not native to the country, and so trading them was unregulated. The listings were found on 12 Facebook groups during one month in 2016. Facebook said it did not allow the trade of endangered species.

Hawkesbury Shelf proposed marine park designation angering professional and hobby fishermen | ABC News
AUSTRLAIA – The fishing industry and enthusiasts are warning the New South Wales Government’s plan to designate the Hawkesbury Shelf marine area a marine park with 25 distinct protection zones could destroy their livelihoods and lifestyles. But some in the region who are already feeling the effects of climate change say the protections do not go far enough.

Water

Maules Creek coal mine under scrutiny by farmers over vast surface water harvest | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – A New South Wales coal mine is being accused of inappropriately taking more surface water than it is entitled to. A review of Whitehaven Coal’s Maules Creek Mine near Narrabri by the campaign group Lock the Gate showed it captured 1,800 million litres (ML) of surface water in 2016, despite being licenced to take 30 million litres.

Economy and Business

The post-crash principle for banks: be moral or bust | The Guardian (Opinion)
The real question that should mark the 10th anniversary of the financial crash is a moral one: what was finance for, what was investment for, what was corporate activity for, in 2008, and what is it for now?

‘Internet of animals’ spreads its wings | BBC News
The French satellite system ARGOS that for 30 years has been used to track animals across the globe is getting a major overhaul and expansion. A new company, Kinéis, will take over its operation and launch 20 small satellites to start tracking objects of all kinds as well. There is a growing market for services that manage connected devices… IoT services allow users to monitor the status of their assets and better manage their movements, for example in supply chains.

Plastic waste set to beat price as UK shoppers’ top concern – study | The Guardian
The number one issue for British shoppers in the next decade will be to reduce packaging and use more recyclable materials, according to new research. For perhaps the first time, the public puts environmental considerations around plastic waste above the price of goods when shopping. The research, carried out by ThoughtWorks, found that 62% of the 2,000 people surveyed were concerned with the need to reduce plastic packaging and use materials which were recyclable, while 57% said price would be a main driver for their purchases in the next 10 years.

Plastic waste, as well as food waste and where food comes from were given as strong reasons to affect purchases. Photograph: DutchScenery/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Plastic waste, as well as food waste and where food comes from were given as strong reasons to affect purchases. Photograph: DutchScenery/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Waste and the Circular Economy

China’s ban on importing other countries’ waste shakes up plastic war | Stuff.co.nz
Dramatic cuts to the volumes of waste China imports from the rest of the world has “radically accelerated” moves in other countries to ban single-use plastic products such as cutlery, cups and containers, according to research from investment bank Citi.

Politics and Society

Can you tell fact from fiction in the news? Most students can’t | The Conversation
Have you clicked through to this article from your news feed? Are you checking it on your phone? More of us are consuming news online, and increasingly we’re turning to social media for news. Social media platforms are now the main source of news for Australians aged 18 to 24.

[Ed: Includes a clever address from Obama; an excellent way to make a point.]

Want to make a difference to the planet? Google’s new tool will tell your carbon footprint | The Economic Times
Google has teamed up with the California Academy of Sciences to launch an interactive new tool that will help reduce environmental footprint by informing the amount of water your shower uses, or the impact of throwing away food or turning down the water heater by a few degrees. The tool called Your Plan, Your Planet, is an interactive way to understand your environmental impact and learn simple, science-based ways to improve it.

Health impacts key focus of new Queensland climate change strategy | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Killer heatwaves and disease outbreaks are key threats to Queenslanders from climate change, according to a State Government-funded plan calling for tobacco-style taxes on carbon polluters. The new statewide strategy to tackle climate-driven health risks argued doctors could play a role as “highly trusted” messengers about climate impacts to the community, where politicians have failed.

A green transition can help save money: France’s new environment minister | Climate Home News
FRANCE – Contrasting sharply with Hulot, De Rugy sought to present himself as a pragmatic player who sees the potential for spearheading a green transition within the current economic model — and economic restraints. “I don’t want the idea to be spread that ecology is always about more spending,” de Rugy said. “I have read calls from economists explaining that hundreds of billions of dollars must be mobilised. If that is the case, we will not succeed, because we know the budgetary equations.” Ecology can also work hand-in-hand with economics and save money, he added.

Energy

Victoria picks six wind and solar farms after overwhelming response to auction | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – Victoria’s Labor government is to sign contracts for six new wind and solar farms after an overwhelming response to its first, and Australia’s largest, renewable energy auction. The response was so positive, and the value from the bids so great, and the prices so low, that the government has reportedly elected to allocate 928MW of capacity – way more than the 650MW contemplated when the auction was first announced just over a year ago.

‘Renewables are the solution’: Sony, RBS, McKinsey, and WeWork join RE100 | Business Green
Yet more global corporates have pledged to power their businesses with 100 per cent renewable electricity, as Sony Corporation, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), McKinsey & Company, and WeWork the today became latest four companies to sign up to the RE100 initiative. The four firms join more than 140 multinationals that are now committed to sourcing 100 per cent renewables to power their operations. In total, RE100 members are now creating demand for more than 182TWh of renewable electricity each year, which is more than enough to power a medium-sized country such as Thailand or Poland, according to the international campaign, which was developed by The Climate Group and CDP.

Built Environment

The more you know: Turning environmental insights into action | Google Blog
Cities as diverse as New York, Berlin, Oslo, and Rio de Janeiro have committed to reducing their carbon footprint by 80 percent within the next 30 years. These cities rely on huge carbon data sets as a measuring stick to help identify where they may be able to cut emissions. But many cities lack the resources to gather data such as building emissions, making it hard for them to set firm carbon commitments of their own. The Environmental Insights Explorer (EIE), a new online tool we created in collaboration with the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy (GCoM), is designed to make it easier for cities to access, and act upon, new climate-relevant datasets.

Related: Melbourne at the centre of Google’s new green city tool | SMH

Many Major Airports Are Near Sea Level. A Disaster in Japan Shows What Can Go Wrong. | The New York Times
As a powerful typhoon tore through Japan this week, travelers at Kansai International Airport looked out on a terrifying void: Where they should have seen the runway, they saw only the sea. They also saw what could be a perilous future for low-lying airports around the world, increasingly vulnerable to the rising sea levels and more extreme storms brought about by climate change. A quarter of the world’s 100 busiest airports are less than 10 meters, or 32 feet, above sea level, according to an analysis of data from Airports Council International and OpenFlights.

Kansai airport, which serves Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe, was inundated this past week when a typhoon hit Japan.CreditCreditKentaro Ikushima/Mainichi Newspaper, via Associated Press

Kansai airport, which serves Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe, was inundated this past week when a typhoon hit Japan.CreditCreditKentaro Ikushima/Mainichi Newspaper, via Associated Press

 

Food Systems

 

Climate change conflicts are here – and ‘scallop wars’ are just the beginning | The Conversation

As the planet warms, species are moving further north to climate zones which are closer in temperature to what they originally evolved in. The oceans have absorbed most of this temperature increase, and so many marine species, including commercially fished scallops, are under particular stress to migrate northwards to cooler waters. In the face of this disruption, legal boundaries for fishing fleets could become increasingly irrelevant. As the fish stocks they once contained move out, conflict is likely to arise between countries exploiting neighbouring fishing grounds. As a result, the ongoing “scallop war”, which has seen tense physical confrontations between French and British scallop fishers over access to these prized molluscs, may be a taste of worse to come.