Sustainable Development News

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

When the Government Kills Wolves, the Public May Follow Suit
[The] argument—that legal killing helps stop illegal killing—continues to be made around the world. The United States still asserts it when it comes to grizzly bears. Both Sweden and Finland use it as a justification for controlled wolf hunting. “The philosophy that underpins wolf management is that hunting them makes them more socially acceptable to people,” says Doug Smith, senior wildlife biologist at Yellowstone National Park. But now a new study examining wolf population growth rates in Michigan and Wisconsin shows that the opposite is true. Government-sanctioned culling actually results in more illegal killings, scientists report this week in the journal Proceedings Royal Society B.

Energy and Climate Change

UN climate science chief: it’s not too late to avoid dangerous temperature rise
The head of the United Nations climate science panel has declared it is still possible to avoid a dangerous 2C increase in global warming – despite more than a dozen record hot years since 2000. But the costs could be “phenomenal”, he said. In an interview with the Guardian, Hoesung Lee, the leader of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), defied the bleak outlook of climate scientists who warn the world is hurtling to a 2C rise far faster than anticipated.

Is this the end of the centralised energy network?
What will the death of centralised energy networks look like? Turns out, what’s going on in Western Australia right now paints a pretty good picture. As the head of asset management at WA network operator Western Power explained at last month’s Local Energy and Microgrids conference in Sydney, co-hosted by RenewEconomy, when you have a service area equal in size to the entire United Kingdom, but with just one million customers (as opposed to 73 million), it’s a big challenge – economically and logistically.

US Army Piles On To Coal Woes, Nixes New Export Terminal
As if US coal producers didn’t have enough to worry about, now they have the US Army nipping at their heels. The Army has been contributing to the drop in domestic coal demand by transitioning to more sustainable energy, and in the latest development, earlier this week the US Army Corps of Engineers suspended the permitting process for a proposed new coal export terminal in Washington State.

Is Dubai’s new record about to set a new normal for solar tariffs?
It was another week of a record-shattering solar tariff, with Dubai getting a lowest bid of 2.99 US cents per kWh for an 800MW plant planned by its Electricity & Water Authority. That is 15% lower than the previous record set in Mexico last month by Enel Green Power for 1GW of cumulative capacity.

Environment and Biodiversity

Canada wildfire – what are the environmental impacts?
The explosive wildfire in Canada’s tar sands region that forced 90,000 people to flee last week is still burning. By Tuesday, “the beast” had grown to 230,000 hectares, but had moved into largely unpopulated regions east and south of the town of Fort McMurray, Alberta…  Fires in Canada’s boreal forest are common, burning an average of 2m ha every year. What makes this one unique is its intensity and location in the heart of the tar sands fields. In addition to the estimated $9bn damage to Fort McMurray, the fire will have significant environmental impacts.
Related: Canadian Wildfire Threatens Key U.S. Oil Artery

Greenpeace activists target destructive fishing in Indian Ocean – in pictures
With some Indian Ocean tuna stocks on the brink of collapse, the expedition exposes harmful methods by the world’s largest tuna company, Thai Union, owner of John West.

A diver enters the water to inspect FADs. Photograph: Will Rose/Greenpeace

A diver enters the water to inspect FADs. Photograph: Will Rose/Greenpeace

Hidden housemates: the mosquitoes that battle for our backyards
Mosquitoes are the most dangerous animals on the planet. They cause no end of anxiety for people at risk of mosquito-borne disease. With the leap of Zika virus into the international public health spotlight this year, we’re reminded once more how threatening these otherwise fragile insects can be. But a battle rages in Australian backyards each summer that all too often escapes our attention. There is a fight between the “good” and “bad” mosquitoes for our pot plant saucers and bird baths, our roof gutters and rainwater tanks – and, most importantly, our blood.

Coral bleaching puts damselfish in distress by masking predator scent
The odour from coral bleaching is masking the smell of predators to small reef fish, a Queensland study has found. A research team of scientists from James Cook University and Sweden’s Uppsala University spent two months on a field study at the northern end of the Great Barrier Reef last year to determine whether coral bleaching affected small reef fishes’ ability to detect their predators.

Regional Forest Agreements deemed a failure by NSW National Parks Association
AUSTRALIA – A report assessing the effectiveness of the state’s Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) has deemed them to be a failure as a model for native forest management. The report, developed by the National Parks Association and the NSW Conservation Council, said the agreements had failed, wholly or substantially, to meet any of their goals.

Antarctic ice shows Australia’s drought and flood risk is worse than thought
Australia is systematically underestimating its drought and flood risk because weather records do not capture the full extent of rainfall variability, according to our new research. Our study, published today in the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, uses Antarctic ice core data to reconstruct rainfall for the past 1,000 years for catchments in eastern Australia. The results show that instrumental rainfall records – available for the past 100 years at best, depending on location – do not represent the full range of abnormally wet and dry periods that have occurred over the centuries.

Economy and Business

The business rationale for investing in nature
The business rationale for investing in ecological restoration and nature-inspired biomimicry solutions is coming into sharper focus. The business case is simply built on effectively and efficiently addressing core business issues. It is that straightforward.

How to profit from sustainability: 3M, Ricoh tap the B2B market
3M, Ricoh, HP, GE’s Ecomagination, Johnson & Johnson are just some companies that have tapped into the sustainability goals of their business brethren and pursued this market with products that reduce electricity use, fuel use and natural resource requirements.  Driven by a steady increase in consumer and investor demand for environmentally responsible products and operations — and sometimes by government regulation, as is the case for military contractors — manufacturers’ point of view on sustainability is morphing from corporate social responsibility to seizing opportunity.

FSC Nurtures ‘Forests for All, Forever’ Ethos in Spain, Italy, Germany
The Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC) has demonstrated the power of harnessing brand affinity and the growing awareness of ethical choice. Three recent and inspiring examples in Spain, Italy and Germany illustrate their success in fostering both individual and collective action in each of these markets.

Dyson could become next Tesla with its electric car, says expert
Dyson could become the next Tesla motors as it develops a new electric car, according to a leading industry expert. Filed patents show the Dyson vehicle may use solid-state batteries, which would see the car’s range stretch to hundreds of miles and also be safer than current batteries. In March, a government document revealed funding to help Dyson develop “a new battery electric vehicle”. The company declined to comment but in 2015 it said it planned to invest £1bn in battery technology and in October it bought solid-state battery company, Sakti3, for $90m, which founder Sir James Dyson said had “developed a breakthrough in battery technology”.

Waste and the Circular Economy

This Free Feast for 5,000 Was Made From Food Waste
New York City—As sirens wailed and pigeons wheeled, thousands of people in Union Square on Tuesday feasted on a lunch of tasty ratatouille; a dollop of pickled peppers, carrots, apples, pear and celery; and a wedge of torte made of vegetable trimmings mixed with 1,010 eggs.  But this was much more than a free lunch. All of the food was either surplus from wholesalers or farms, or had cosmetic imperfections, such as nicks and gnarls, that grocers won’t tolerate.

Insects: spawning farming innovation
Increasingly, scientists are arguing that insects will have an essential role to play in the long-term prosperity and security of the world’s food supply. Initial economic opportunities to exploit insects, in particular as a source for animal feed, are beginning to be explored by a diverse group of people including scientists, farmers and innovative entrepreneurs, who recognise the potential in transforming organic waste products into a commercial product, which requires fewer land and water resources.

WEF Report Outlines 30 Steps to a Circular Construction Industry
The construction industry has been slower than most to adopt technological innovations, which has stagnated the sector’s labor productivity in the United States and elsewhere in the last 40 years. At the same time, the construction industry is the world’s largest consumer of raw materials, yet only a fraction of its waste gets recycled. According to a new report from the World Economic Forum (WEF), these factors coupled with the industry’s size and weight make construction ripe for disruptive transformation that could have profound benefits for the world.

Young campaigner fighting fatbergs using stealth and science
AUSTRALIA – Harry Wood is fighting the invasion of Sydney’s sewers by fatbergs – wet wipes that block sewers by creating solid balls of fat and human waste – using stealth and science. The 12-year-old has cleaned up nearly every top science award for primary school-aged children with his 27-page research project which compared the biodegradability of three big brand toilet wipes, that claim to be flushable, with toilet paper.

Politics and Society

Is it really criminal to steal food when you’re destitute?
In Italy, a homeless man was excused by the supreme court for stealing food. In the UK, people living in poverty are fined for it.

Why we need environmental accounts alongside national accounts
AUSTRALIA – Charles Dickens’ character Oliver Twist is perhaps best known as the boy who wanted more. Of course, he got none. Instead, his efforts prompted Mr Bumble, the parish beadle (official) to offer a princely £5 to anyone who would take the boy off his hands. The environment is something of a modern Oliver Twist in the budget workhouse. There’s certainly no more porridge on offer – indeed significantly less counting the changes to renewable energy funding announced on 23 March. Last Tuesday’s federal budget contained no new policy and no new money, only some savings and the allocation of funds already set aside for environmental purposes…

Experience and Di Natale position the Greens as a formidable election force
AUSTRALIA – Late last year, federal Greens leader Richard Di Natale expressed his enthusiasm at the prospect of serving in a federal Labor-Green coalition government. This suggestion has, however, been firmly rejected in recent days by Labor leader Bill Shorten. But is Shorten unwise to rule out forming a coalition government with the Greens so early in the campaign? There are four reasons why the Greens are shaping up to be a formidable force both during the campaign and once the outcome is eventually declared.

Sadiq Khan prepares to take on Defra with legal action over UK air quality
In his first week as London Mayor, Sadiq Khan has praised environmental law firm ClientEarth for its ongoing legal battle on air pollution, with City Hall confirming that Khan will be directly involved in renewed action against the Department for environment, food and rural affairs (Defra).

Activists blockade Wellington ANZ branch, demand fossil fuel divestment
NEW ZEALAND – About 50 activists have forced an ANZ branch on Lambton Quay to close demanding the banking giant divest its $13.5 billion in fossil fuel investments. Four protesters perched atop the bank’s awning – wearing coal-dusted boiler suits – could face arrest when they come down while about 50 people sat below at the entrance as about 10 police and security guards looked on.


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