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Thursday 12 November 2015

Sustainable Development News

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

The sustainable vegetables that thrive on a diet of fish poo
Who needs soil when you have a fish tank? “Aquaponics” combines growing plants in water, or hydroponics, with fish cultivation, or aquaculture. It’s a symbiotic process that has its roots in Asian farming practices reaching back thousands of years. When used well, aquaponics can increase local food production and make communities more resilient – all without creating pollution or using scarce resources, such as oil.

Energy and Climate Change

The danger of stranded assets lurks for unwary coal producers
The prevailing mainstream commentary of the Australian coal sector is that its future is secure. Any lost demand from China for Australian exports will be replaced by demand from India. Other growth markets such as South East Asia will also fill the gap. Shifts in demand for renewable energy are not material to the outlook. But some key trends sketch out a different story.

Coal ‘isn’t going anywhere’ despite renewables boom, says industry head
On Tuesday, the International Energy Agency said renewable energy is now the second-largest generator of electricity, attracting 60% of all investment, and is set to overtake coal in the early 2030s. But Benjamin Sporton, the chief executive of the WCA, told the Guardian that the energy world’s centre has moved to Asia, where coal will be burned for many more decades as developing nations seek an “affordable, reliable and accessible fuel”.

Australia ranks 110 in world for renewables development, energy efficiency
A new ranking of global energy and climate policies has placed Australia 110th in the world for development of renewable and low carbon energy sources and efficiency of supply – just after Benin and just before Trinidad and Tobago. The World Energy Council’s annual ranking of energy and climate policies – the 2015 Energy Trilemma Index – rates the energy systems of countries across the world, based on how they are balancing the three key dimensions.

Paris 2015: UN Conference on Climate Change

India could push world into climate change danger zone, warn scientists
Before the UN climate summit in Paris in December, India has pledged to increase carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions more slowly than the economy grows. The latest analysis of India’s plan calculates that if it expands as it hopes – by more than 8.5% a year – emissions will reach 9bn megatonnes by the end of the next decade. This is about one-fifth of the total annual emissions that scientists calculate the world can emit in 2030 and still have a more than a 50% chance of avoiding the global temperature rising more than 2C, considered a dangerous threshold.

Paris climate talks: NZ to rely on carbon credits to meet emissions pledge
There is a degree of unreality about the commitments countries are going to make to cut greenhouse gas emissions, Climate Change Minister Tim Groser says. In comments that are likely to dismay environmental activists, Groser insisted there was “no low hanging fruit” when it came to reducing New Zealand’s domestic greenhouse gas emissions, and the country would need to rely heavily on buying its way out of the problem by purchasing carbon credits from other countries.

Tibet’s plea: fix the roof of the world before it’s too late
The roof of the world. That is what Tibet has long been known as. The phrase conjures up images of summits, with their mountain peaks, glaciers, permafrost and the nomads who live on the land. But a roof is also symbolic of a home, and is the structure that protects those who live there. And, as we all know, if the roof is structurally compromised, then so is the home. Tibet’s glaciers are melting, and the world needs to notice. Its permafrost is degrading, and the world needs to care. Tibet is suffering from massive deforestation and damming projects, and the world needs to act. Why now? Because as world leaders gather in Paris this December for the United Nations COP 21 meetings on climate change, Tibet needs to be on the climate change agenda.

Fossil Fuel Divestment

How to free your investment portfolio from fossil fuels
The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the University of California and the World Council of Churches are among about 460 faith-based groups, pension funds, colleges and nonprofits that have pledged to divest some or all of their fossil fuel holdings. They can do so with the help of consultants who will advise them on how to minimize their financial risk. High net worth individuals, with assets of $1m or more, can access such sustainable investment managers as Generation Investment Management, the London-based firm led by Al Gore, which has done very well for its investors, according to this deep look in The Atlantic. But what about people who lack this same kind of wealth and want to divest?

The business guide to green power: 12 ways to invest in renewable energy
Do you want those RECs bundled or unbundled? And will your PPA be physical or virtual? Have you even thought about the annual financial implications of the ITC? For the uninitiated, the variety of ways companies can now throw their weight into the market for renewable energy quickly starts to devolve into alphabet soup. Still, with more companies setting sustainability targets or eyeing falling wind and solar costs with heightened interest, replicable models for businesses to invest in renewable energy projects are increasingly in demand.

Eight UK universities join divestment push
Eight UK universities with endowments worth a total of £69m have announced fossil fuel divestment commitments.  Oxford Brookes made the strongest commitment of the higher education institutions, pledging to divest its £1.6m endowment from all fossil fuel companies. The University of Oxford’s Wolfson College – which holds the holds the largest endowment of the group at £42m – passed a policy that excludes investments in “companies that derive a majority of their revenue from the exploration, ownership or extraction of thermal coal and oil sands”…

Environment and Biodiversity

Big Illegal Market For Little Critters
Some hobbyists collect vintage radios. Others hoard antique furniture, or stamps, or art, or war memorabilia. The list of the world’s collectibles is long, but it doesn’t end with inanimate objects. Dwarf snakes, dragon-like lizards, endemic alpine beetles, tortoises, orchids—to the wildlife collector, such curiosities from the plant and animal kingdoms are worth more than their weight in gold. One place replete with unique and rare irresistibles of nature is South Africa’s mountainous Western Cape Province—a world biodiversity hotspot called the Cape Floral Kingdom.

Lizard traffickers exploit legal loopholes to trade at world’s biggest fair
Wildlife traffickers are exploiting a legal grey area to trade in highly lucrative protected lizard species at the world’s biggest reptile fair, a Guardian investigation has discovered. Endangered animals from Latin America, New Zealand and south-east Asia are being offered for sale at prices of up to €5,000 (£3,200) a pair on the sidelines of the quarterly Terraristika fair in Hamm, Germany. Their trade in Europe is estimated to be worth millions of euros.

Indonesia’s forest fires: everything you need to know
The fires devastating Indonesia have been called a ‘crime against humanity’. How did they start, what damage are they causing and who’s to blame?

Opinion: Killing Thousands of Flying Foxes Only Hurts the Environment
Mauritius’s government is in the process of killing as many as 18,000 bats on the unsupported belief that they are causing major damage to lychee and mango fruit crops, which are a main driver of the country’s economy. Part of the cull will also occur inside protected areas. However, there is little scientific data examining and quantifying the actual causes of fruit loss. In 2014, a pilot project by the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation investigated the impact bats and other animals (such as birds and rats) have on fruit crops. The results revealed that bats’ damage to fruits is “fairly low.” Here’s why we believe killing these bats is wrong:

Fishing parks on the way, says Environment Minister Nick Smith
NEW ZEALAND – Plans for a new kind of marine reserve that will only allow recreational fishing are on the way for the Marlborough Sounds and the Hauraki Gulf, Environment Minister Nick Smith says. The Government announced the creation of recreational fishing parks for the two areas ahead of last year’s election, prompting a cautious response from both the commercial and recreational sectors.

Economy and Business

A simple greenwash detection tip: check what the firm puts on its homepage
Several Australian businesses last week committed to tackling climate change, as the attention turns to next month’s crucial United Nations climate negotiations in Paris… But has their behaviour really changed? Or is CSR, as some people suggest, often little more than greenwashing – designed to look good while changing little? We attempted to answer this question by looking at two sources that might be more revealing of companies’ true priorities: their corporate mission statements, and their website homepages.

How can we support thriving local economies? – live chat
Catch-up on what happened during our live discussion on local economies.  Questions discussed include:

  • What are the next big ideas emerging around local economies?
  • What are the policies or initiatives that are benefiting local economies and communities?
  • Are local economies just for rich people who can pay £5 for a loaf of sourdough bread?
  • Can I support my local economy if I still like shopping at Tesco?

Waste and the Circular Economy

Why is recycling important? You asked Google – here’s the answer
Recycling is not about rubbish: it’s valuable commodities you’re chucking in your wheelie bin, according to sustainability expert Marcus Gover, not rubbish.  “It feels like you are disposing of things, but really the things we’re putting out in the bin are raw materials and commodities: they’re plastic and paper, steel and aluminium, and they’re all quite valuable,” says Gover, a director at the British waste agency Wrap. “Aluminium is worth somewhere between £800 to £1,000 a tonne. Old Guardians [newspapers] are worth about £80 a tonne. It’s not rubbish in any way.”

Low Metal Prices Won’t Last, Time for a Circular Economy
A combination of growing mining capacity and reduced trade barriers have assisted a significant drop in prices across the global metals market during the past four years, facilitating increased profitability in the European tech sector. However, a new report released by ING Bank, titled “Metals, a dangerous complacency?’, argues that longer-term challenges are masked and that the present is actually the optimal time for Europe’s tech industry to shift to different business models.

Politics and Society

PNG in no rush to crack down on Asian logging giants
Papua New Guinea’s government has indicated it will allow intensive logging under the pretext of agricultural development to continue. Logging to clear land for agricultural use has allowed Asian companies to seize vast reserves of customary land under 99-year Special Agricultural Business Leases, or SABLs. Landholders and civil society groups have strongly criticised the leases, and the government has been promising to act on them for more than two years.

Engineers don’t just build things, they can help save the world
Engineers like to claim their primacy as problem solvers. But while this ability will always be critical for engineers, there is more to engineering than just solving problems. Engineering careers have become highly diverse over the past 50 years. They are now tackling complex social issues such as poverty, inequality, disaster recovery or climate change. Their work is in mega cities and small towns, remote communities and in both high and low-income countries. But universities still need to catch up with this new reality. A mission to improve the living conditions of the least privileged citizens of the world – in Australia and overseas – seems to be almost entirely absent from engineering education in Australia.

Legal battles to protect the environment ‘easier to fight in China than the UK’
It is now harder for UK citizens to hold government and polluters accountable for damaging the environment than it is for people in China, the head of a leading environmental law firm has told the Guardian. Changes to the costs and administration of environmental legal challenges in the UK could potentially “chill the ability of citizens to bring cases” to protect the environment, said James Thornton, chief executive of NGO ClientEarth, ahead of delivering the annual Garner lecture to a host of environmental leaders on Wednesday.

Government risks legal challenge over renewable energy strategy
Friends of the Earth will officially warn the government it risks legal action unless a “credible plan” is urgently introduced to ensure the UK meets it 2020 renewable energy targets. In a statement published yesterday the environmental campaign group said it plans to write a “formal legal letter” to the government outlining its concerns, following revelations senior ministers expect the UK to miss its legally binding target to generate 15 per cent of its energy from renewables by 2020.

Environment Southland to sign Local Government Leaders’ Climate Change declaration
NEW ZEALAND – Environment Southland Council is signing up to a local government declaration on action on climate change with one councillor saying it needs to be in their minds when granting consents. The motion was carried by the Council on Wednesday for Chairman Ali Timms to sign the Local Government Leaders’ Climate Change declaration on behalf of the council. The declaration calls on councils to acknowledge the importance and urgent need to address climate change and to support the New Zealand Government in developing and implementing an ambitious transition plan towards a low carbon New Zealand.

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