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Sustainable Development News, Tue 12 Aug 2014

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

Mexico and Central America – Emerging clean energy powerhouses
Plentiful resources of wind, solar, geothermal, and hydro-electric energy, combined with a need for new, more economical power capacity, are fuelling strong momentum in clean energy investment in Mexico and the six main countries of Central America, according to research from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Environment

NSW red gums get first drink in $80 million environmental watering project
Environmental water has started flowing through Australia’s second largest red gum forest in south-west New South Wales. The $80 million Living Murray project, will use 42 kilometres of infrastructure to manoeuvre sheets of water through 2,500 hectares of the Koondrook-Perricoota forest between Echuca-Moama and Barham. The scheme has the capacity to flood 17,000 hectares of the forest, but this will be a small trial event, with 21 gigalitres of water being released from the Torrumbarry weir into the 3.8 kilometre inlet channel. The water will flow into creeks and open areas of the forest where red gums generally don’t grow. The watering event will last for about 40 to 50 days, but Linda Broekman, Living Murray co-ordinator with the NSW Forestry Corporation, says some creeks could hold water for much longer

Burnoff policies could be damaging habitats for 100 years
The smell of smoke in the autumn and spring air is an increasingly familiar one to many Australians. It signifies that time of year when land management agencies in southern Australia feverishly try to meet their burning targets. But what are the consequences for biodiversity of setting such targets in Australia’s ecosystems? In recent research conducted in south-eastern Australia’s Murray Mallee region, our team (the Mallee Fire and Biodiversity Team) found that such policies can set in motion changes that persist for over 100 years. Today it has been announced this research is one of three projects nominated for the Eureka Science Prize for Environmental Science, sponsored by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage.

Cleaner New York waters see surge in whale and shark numbers
Humpback whales and great white sharks are surging in numbers in the waters around New York City this summer, in a wildlife bonanza that is delighting naturalists, environmentalists and fishermen – if not necessarily bathers. Off New York and New Jersey, some of the largest creatures in the ocean are being spotted in greater abundance than has been the case for decades. Paul Sieswerda, head of the Gotham Whale volunteer marine wildlife tracking group, believes the increasing abundance of whales around the Big Apple is largely prompted by cleaner waters that have encouraged huge rises in the populations of fish which the whales eat.

China’s economic explosion is ravaging its coastal ecosystems
The speed and scale of China’s rapid economic growth has led to widespread degradation of its densely inhabited coastlines, according to an analysis of 60 years of social, economic and environmental data. This study, published in the Nature group journal Scientific Reports, examined historical trends in 15 different ways humans have affected coastal ecosystems, including fishing, pollution, coastal habitat transformation, and disturbance from shipping.

Economy and Business

An insider’s view: why more companies should tie bonuses to sustainability
I didn’t get my full stock bonus last year. It wasn’t because I didn’t meet my revenue or profit goals; I exceeded them. Instead, it was because my carbon emissions reduction efforts fell short, partly due to the integration of multiple companies DSM North America purchased in 2012.  DSM tied all managers’ compensation to sustainability in 2010, with targets related to greenhouse gas emissions, energy and water usage, eco-friendly product development and employee engagement, as well as – of course – profit. Last year was the first time in my career – on Wall Street, American Standard and DSM North America – that I missed my numbers. And you know what? I’m not mad about it. Instead, I’m more determined than ever to meet the goal this year. By not giving me all of my deferred stock compensation, my company made it clear it means business when it comes to sustainability practices. In my opinion, this is the way it should be.

Shared shipping is slowly gaining ground between market rivals
When Ocean Spray opened a new distribution center in Lakeland, Florida in 2011, the facility’s proximity to a rail yard used by a competitor created a behind-the-scenes opportunity to work together. Ocean Spray wanted a cheaper and more efficient way to ship its products from a New Jersey facility to Lakeland, while rival juice company Tropicana was paying to send empty rail cars south on a “back haul” from New Jersey to Florida. Working with an existing logistics partner named Wheels Clipper, over the course of a year Ocean Spray shifted 80% of its shipping along the New Jersey–Florida route off trucks and into Tropicana’s empty rail cars. The change reduced carbon emissions by 20% and slashed transportation costs by 40% – about $200 per load – on that route, according to a 2013 analysis by the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics.

Politics and Society

India’s new CSR law sparks debate among NGOs and businesses
India is the first country in the world to mandate corporate social responsibility. On 1 April this year, the government of India implemented new CSR guidelines requiring companies to spend 2% of their net profit on social development. It sounds like legislation to be celebrated – but does it go far enough? Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) Sustainability Reporting for Sustainable Development conference, held this June in India, issued a joint declaration (pdf) stating that while the government bill was welcome the 2% ruling could lead to forced philanthropy, ‘tick box’ behaviour, tokenism or even corruption, and masking of data to avoid having to comply. Time will show if this legislation will have a real impact on poor people’s lives and prevent actual environmental degradation.

New dam proposed for Mount Buller to boost snowmaking and drinking water supply
A dam able to hold 100 million litres of water would be built on Mount Buller to boost the resort’s snowmaking capability and fresh water supply, under a proposed $8.25 million project before authorities. In documents submitted to the Federal Environment Department in recent days, the dam is described as the “most appropriate option” for meeting the resort’s peak drinking water and snowmaking “water demands”. It is considered superior to eight other options that were reviewed such as the use of groundwater, pumping from the Howqua or Delatite rivers, and the use of collected stormwater.

Food Systems

Free to roam and happy go clucky
In the past 12 months New Zealanders ate nearly 100 million chickens. Poultry is New Zealand’s most popular meat and over the past 20 years consumption has increased from 14kg per person per year to more than 30kg. And for the first time free range has claimed more than 10 per cent of the market. Five years ago it would have been less than 1 per cent. Growing consumer concern about the provenance of their protein has driven many producers to free range farming; reducing flocks and retrofitting barns to give the chickens access to the outdoors.

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