Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Top Story

Greening cities makes for safer neighbourhoods
In the 1953 short story The Man Who Planted Trees, a lone shepherd plants thousands of trees, transforming a desolate valley into a vibrant forest with pleasant villages and unspoiled wilderness. The moral of this story is a simple one: that perseverance and planting trees can make places more desirable to live. Across the United States, the US Forest Service is proving this, neighbourhood by neighbourhood.

Energy and Climate Change

We just broke the record for hottest year, 9 straight times | Dana Nuccitelli
2014 and 2015 each set the record for hottest calendar year since we began measuring surface temperatures over 150 years ago, and 2016 is almost certain to break the record once again. It will be without precedent: the first time that we’ve seen three consecutive record-breaking hot years. But it’s just happenstance that the calendar year begins in January, and so it’s also informative to compare all yearlong periods.

Global warming tidings get an added boost after cloudy climate issue cleared up
New analysis of satellite data for the 1982-2009 period by California’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography has resolved what the researchers say is one of the biggest uncertainties involving climate science. Clouds play contradictory roles in the climate. They have a cooling effect because they reflect solar radiation back to space but they also have a warming role by restricting the thermal infrared radiation from the Earth.

Germany and Saudi Arabia to ratify Paris Agreement
Germany and Saudi Arabia will ratify the Paris Agreement on climate action by the end of 2016, according to official announcements.

Cutting the cable: Kangaroo Island eyes switch to 100% renewable energy
AUSTRALIA – The island is calling for proposals that could use a mixture of its local resources – solar power, wind energy, biomass and even ocean energy – and combine those with battery storage, smart software and the existing diesel back-up. Even more dramatically, it is also supporting a push to cut the island from the mainland grid. Indeed, the move has been prompted by a need to update and replace the ageing cable that currently supplies electricity from the mainland. South Australian Power Networks has called for “alternative proposals”. If someone can come up with a proposal that matches the $45m to $50m replacement cost of the cable, then they will consider it.

Environment and Biodiversity

National network of acoustic recorders proposed to eavesdrop on Australian ecosystems
Ecologists are proposing a national network of acoustic recorders to eavesdrop on Australian ecosystems, in the same way that radio astronomy infrastructure listens to the universe. “We’ve been interested in sound for a long time but typically at the species level, as an identification tool,” David Watson, Professor of Ecology at Charles Sturt University, said. “Eco-acoustics pulls back from single species and looks at the whole environment.

Indigenous rangers on the frontline of coral bleaching in remote Australia
In April this year Indigenous rangers from the Crocodile Islands received an alarming photograph of a coral reef off the coast of Arnhem Land. Leonard Bowaynu, who has fished the same reef since he was teenager, had seen small scattered patches of white coral before — but never anything this extensive.


It’s a fallacy that all Australians have access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene
Nations are gathering in New York this week to discuss the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aim to improve health, wealth and well-being for countries both rich and poor. As a developed nation, it might be assumed that Australia will easily meet these new goals at home – including goal number 6, to ensure “availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”. But the unpalatable truth is that many Australians still lack access to clean water and effective sanitation.

Economy and Business

From basket weavers to salt farmers: the women leading a renewables revolution
“People call us Mama Solar,” says Solar Sister entrepreneur Hilaria Paschal. In her native Tanzania, Paschal and her fellow basket weavers buy solar lights and clean cookstoves from Solar Sister, a social enterprise empowering women to bring clean energy to rural African communities, and sell them to friends and neighbours living without access to electricity.

New platform uses data to highlight the business case for energy projects
Businesses have been urged to explore third party financing and take into account project benefits outside of returns on interest (ROI), after a report revealed that around half of commercially-viable energy projects are being ignored.

Phasing out refrigerants doesn’t have to mean using more energy
Some of the biggest names in HVAC technology are prioritizing innovation that balances the use of refrigerants with low global warming potential (GWP) and the demand for better energy efficiency. Ingersoll Rand, for one, has committed $500 million in research and development to surmounting this challenge between now and 2020. Honeywell plans to spend almost twice that amount to increase production of low-GWP refrigerants, insulation, aerosols and solvents. Both are doing so under the guise of the Advanced Cooling Challenge, launched during the Clean Energy Ministerial in June.

Waste and the Circular Economy

World’s First Full-Scale Bio Plant Will Sort Waste from 110,000 Homes Annually
Danish cleantech company DONG Energy is constructing the world’s first full-scale bio plant capable of handling household waste by means of enzymes. The REnescience plant in Northwich, in the North West of England, will be able to sort 15 tonnes of waste per hour or 120,000 tonnes per year – equivalent to the amount of waste from almost 110,000 homes in the United Kingdom (UK).

Action plan to boost England’s food waste recycling unveiled
The first action plan designed to increase the amount and quality of food waste collected in England has been launched. Aimed at both food waste from households and commercial premises, the Food Waste Recycling Action Plan was developed by local authorities, waste treatment operators, private sector waste collectors and industry bodies. It aims to promote greater collaboration across the supply chain to improve collection of food waste.

Politics and Society

If lead ammunition is bad for people and the environment, why do we still use it?
Andrea Goodnight knows firsthand what lead poisoning looks like. A veterinarian at the Oakland Zoo, Goodnight treats endangered California condors when testing shows dangerous levels of the toxic metal in their blood.

Hillary Clinton could run on strongest climate change platform ever
Hillary Clinton could campaign much more aggressively against climate change than any US presidential candidate before her, under a draft platform adopted by Democratic party leaders. The leaders committed the presumptive Democratic nominee to a carbon tax, a climate test for future pipelines and tighter rules on fracking – all stronger positions than those held by Clinton herself at the start of the race.

Food shortages and sea level rise US voters’ top climate change concerns
Diminishing food and water security and ruinous sea level rise are the leading climate change concerns of a section of the American electorate that is aghast at the lack of discussion of global warming during the presidential debate.

Meet Theresa May, Britain’s new prime minister
Britain is to have a new prime minister in the form of Theresa May, currently the home secretary. May will take office on Wednesday after the contest to become Conservative leader was unexpectedly cut short by her rival Andrea Leadsom.

Darrin Hodgetts on ‘welfare with a big stick’ (Audio 22:25)
After researching poverty internationally for over 20 years, Darrin Hodgetts finds a “victim-blaming, punitive approach” to welfare in his home country New Zealand, where the poor are punished for being poor. Professor Hodgetts talks with Wallace Chapman about the need for a more caring and humane approach to New Zealanders in poverty.

Is a ‘post-truth’ era upon us? (Article and Audio 21:35)
The government has shrugged off events and evidence contradicting claims made by ministers recently, frustrating many journalists. Are we really in a “post-truth” period where the facts don’t matter any more? If so, do the media share the blame?​

Built Environment

19 reasons why algae may be the next sustainable building technology
We need to design and retrofit our built environment to promote a low carbon economy using alternatives to fossil fuel. The current focus has been on wind, solar and geothermal, however one Hamburg apartment building uses algae for heating and hot water. Is algae the next sustainable building technology? Could it work in Australia? A trans-disciplinary team at UTS in the Faculties of Science and Design Architecture and Building explored these questions in a feasibility study with property industry stakeholders from NSW. We found 19 reasons why algae may be the next sustainable building technology.


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