Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Coal-fired power stations: Senate committee to examine how best to close them
A Senate committee will examine how best to close coal power stations to meet Australia’s climate change targets when the Greens and Labor combine to set up an inquiry on Wednesday. The Greens and Labor will move a motion to ask the Senate environment and communications references committee to report on mass closures of electricity generators, and expect sufficient crossbench support to set up the inquiry.

Energy and Climate Change

BP dumps plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight
Oil giant BP has dumped controversial plans to drill in the Great Australia Bight, axing a proposal that raised fears of an environmental disaster to rival the 2010 Deepwater Horizon catastrophe. In a surprise move on Tuesday, BP said it would not progress with plans to drill two new wells off the South Australian coast after a review of strategy for upcoming projects found the plan would not be competitive for capital investment in the forseeable future.

Read also: BP withdraws from Great Australian Bight drilling

Germany takes steps to roll back renewable energy revolution
Germany is taking steps to curb its booming windfarm sector in what it claims is a necessary move to stop the renewables revolution from undermining its own success. Critics, however, say the step will deal a blow to the country’s reputation as a leader in green energy. According to leaked plans from the German federal network agency, published on Tuesday in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the government has had to halve its original target for expanding its windfarms in the gale-beaten northern flatlands because it cannot extend its power grid quickly enough to the energy-hungry south.

UK loses top 10 spot in global energy ranking for the first time
The UK has fallen out of the top 10 of a respected international league table of countries’ energy sectors for the first time. The World Energy Council blamed the government’s lack of clarity and myriad changes which it said have left the country facing a potential gap in energy supply.

World now far less wasteful with energy, finds IEA report
The International Energy Agency says that energy efficiency drives are beginning to have a positive impact, saving $540bn last year, but more vigorous policies required in order to meet climate goals.

Is using less water the secret to cutting our greenhouse gas emissions?
In California, 20% of the state’s electricity and 30% of the natural gas that isn’t used by power plants goes to the water system – from pumping it for delivery to disposing of wastewater. Could saving water play a significant role in addressing climate change? And, if so, could we achieve these savings without incurring significant costs?

So, you want to buy battery storage?
AUSTRALIA – According to analysts, if household battery storage does take off as early as next year, it won’t be due to great return on investment – we’re not there yet, and we won’t be there until 2018 at the earliest, and even then only for certain households on certain tariffs. But probably the most popular view – if not the most economically rational – is that ROI will be largely irrelevant. For the majority of Australian households looking at battery storage, they just want to make the most of their solar investment and use as little grid supplied energy as possible. In the spirit of this last view, we thought it was time to take look at some recommendations on battery storage

Abandoned oil wells still cropping up in New Plymouth back yards after 100 years
NEW ZEALAND – Daveena Dawrant could never figure out why grass wouldn’t grow in her backyard – it turns out she was living on top of an oil well.  “There was this soggy spot in the ground and no plants would grow on it,” she said.  It wasn’t until 6000 litres of crude oil a day began leaking from the abandoned Blenheim-1 well underneath her neighbour’s house in 2003 that someone came to inspect the unusual blemish in her section.

Environment and Biodiversity

The world’s vanishing wild places are vital for saving species
In science, it’s rare that a new idea comes along that stops people in their tracks. For ecologists, this has just happened, in a paper that found that species living in wild places have more genetic diversity than the same species living in areas dominated by people. Why is this big news? For starters, it’s a completely new reason to worry about the decline of wilderness.

Climate change has been making western forest fires worse for decades, study says
Many scientists have predicted that climate change could cause wildfires to increase in the future. And a new study, just out on Monday, demonstrates just how much it’s already been making them worse. The paper, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests the effects of climate change have been helping make forests in the western United States– in states including New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and everything else to the west — drier and easier to burn since the 1970s. And in the last three decades, the study finds climate change played a role in nearly doubling the area hit by forest fires since 1984.

Hurricane Sandy-level flooding is rising so sharply that it could become normal
The frequency of floods of the magnitude of Hurricane Sandy, which devastated parts of New York City in 2012, is rising so sharply that they could become relatively normal, with a raft of new research laying bare the enormous upheavals already under way in the US due to climate change. These findings and two other fresh pieces of research have highlighted how the US is already in the grip of significant environmental changes driven by warming temperatures, albeit in different ways to the processes that are fueling hurricanes.

Watch How Bizarre ‘Water Monsters’ Get a Second Chance
The bizarre and adorable aquatic salamander called the axolotl has been enticing collectors and scientists for centuries. But it’s now dwindling in its native habitat around Mexico City… “To save the axolote is to save its environment; it’s restoring the water, it’s saving the species the axolote lives with, and saving the chinampa, nature, and the trees,” said Méndez. “But if we don’t save ourselves, the axolote won’t be saved either.”

Catalyst: Coral Bleaching (Video 28:30)
This summer, large parts of the Great Barrier Reef saw the hottest sea temperatures and the most severe coral bleaching ever recorded – so before the next impact hits, scientists are racing against time to understand the demise of reefs and the prospects for their recovery. Catalyst explores the lethal threat of bleaching to the Great Barrier Reef, and the challenges we all face to protect this global treasure.

Coalition urged to regulate Indigenous hunting of endangered animals
AUSTRALIA – The Turnbull government is considering greater regulation of Indigenous Australians’ hunting of dugongs and sea turtles. Malcolm Turnbull has asked the environment minister, Josh Frydenberg, to investigate serious complaints that vulnerable and endangered animals are being subjected to great cruelty by some Indigenous families and killed merely for commercial purposes, not cultural purposes.

Thailand’s whales ‘at risk’ after mystery deaths
There are concerns for the future of whales in the Gulf of Thailand, after the unexplained death of 10 per cent of the population. Researchers believe 55 Bryde’s whales spend part of the year feeding surprisingly close to Thailand’s bustling capital city. But the population is considered ‘at risk’ and is having a bad year, with six whale deaths recorded so far in 2016.

$3.7m study to reveal deep-sea mining impacts
NEW ZEALAND – The potential environmental impacts of controversial deep-sea mining will be investigated in a new multi-million dollar study. Dr Malcolm Clark, a fisheries scientists at the National Institute of Water and Atmosphere (Niwa), said a lack of knowledge about life on the seafloor and how it could be affected had been one of the major factors that led the Environmental Protection Authority to refuse the two off-shore mining applications lodged so far.

Bream Head’s nesting robins and petrels delight conservationists
NEW ZEALAND – Once driven out of the area by predators, Bream Head’s bird population is back, and they’re breeding much to the delight of Bream Head Conservation Trust rangers and volunteers. The grey-faced petrels and North Island robins haven’t been seen at the Whangarei Heads reserve for decades. Now they are not only back, they are establishing nests and producing chicks.

What the consistency of your poo says about your health
Number twos are a tricky subject. We all do them. Indeed, excreting waste is critical to life. But polite society and its rules of etiquette ensure we’re rarely brave enough to speak about them.  The faeces (or stools) we produce can provide a valuable real-time window into the health of your large bowel (or colon) and gastrointestinal tract. So let’s put those rules aside.

Economy and Business

It’s time to run the red lights
Pessimists will not be surprised to hear the conclusion that none of the Sustainable Development Goals will be met in all regions of the world by 2030. Nor that “not even half of the 17 SDGs will be met in any of the regions.” Optimists will reply, of course. If you take yesterday’s thinking and apply it to tomorrow’s problems, the outcome will be a socioeconomic road wreck.

Likelihood of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals in 5 regions

Likelihood of meeting the Sustainable Development Goals in 5 regions

$1 billion of big solar to go ahead as developers pay bonds to ARENA
At least 480MW of large-scale solar projects are certain to go ahead in the new year after all 12 winners from the big solar tender held by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency deposited bonds with the federal agency. RenewEconomy understands that $5.6 million has been deposited by the winning projects, indicating their confidence in obtaining finance for their more than $1 billion in projects by the end of January and beginning construction early in 2017.

Australia’s car industry ignored the elephant in the room: carbon emissions
Repeated policy failure and a marked reluctance by the Australian car industry to shift from manufacturing mostly high CO₂-emitting vehicles contributed to Ford ending operations. The Australian car industry ignored the elephant in the room.  This effectively contradicts former-Treasurer Joe Hockey’s assertion that climate change has no impediment on economic growth, as Australia gets left behind in a world embracing action on climate change.

IIG sees green building strategy success with Kingsgate
AUSTRALIA – Impact Investment Group’s Kingsgate commercial office in Brisbane has received a 6 Star Green Star As Built v3 rating, with the development part of an investment strategy focused on buildings that outperform on sustainability. IIG chief executive Chris Lock said the Kingsgate development, located in the Brisbane Showgrounds urban regeneration precinct, was a perfect example of the group’s aim to buy and manage properties that set new standards for green building.

Politics and Society

National Geographic photographer Thomas Peschak uses images to call for conservation
A striking photograph will always stir more emotions and create a bigger impact than a spreadsheet of statistics, says acclaimed National Geographic photographer Thomas Peschak. In 2004 Peschak left his job as a marine biologist to pursue a career in environmental photography and raise awareness of conservation projects.

The giants of the sea are captured in all their glory.  (National Geographic: Thomas Peschak)

The giants of the sea are captured in all their glory. (National Geographic: Thomas Peschak)

New South Wales overturns greyhound ban: a win for the industry, but a massive loss for the dogs
AUSTRALIA – The New South Wales government’s U-turn on its greyhound industry ban says as much about the weak calibre of some politicians holding high office as it does about their subjugation to the media, which has relentlessly pilloried Premier Mike Baird about the ban since it was first announced.  Facing declining popularity, Baird appears to have capitulated to the media to try to win public support, and avoid discontent within the Nationals party in New South Wales. This is unlikely to succeed: according to a recent RSPCA poll, 64% of the public support the ban.

Built Environment

An Integrated Perspective on the Future of Mobility
To view a city from above is to observe a world in motion. Trains carry people to and from work; taxis circulate in abstract patterns; trucks deliver goods and carry away garbage; pedestrians hustle down city blocks; cyclists zip through traffic. Mobility is the lifeblood of our cities and essential for urban life. What, then, will be the future of urban mobility? This report, co-produced by Bloomberg New Energy Finance and McKinsey & Company, seeks to answer that question. To do so, it explores how a number of existing social, economic, and technological trends will work together to disrupt mobility at the local level.
Download the executive summary (11 pages) or the full report (65 pages).

On yer bike – it’ll make you a happier worker
Reducing personal carbon emissions is not the only benefit of jumping on a bike to get to work. Recent research by Bicycle Network and Reid Cycles shows you’ll also probably arrive at work happier, more energised and ready to be more productive. The Great Australian Commuter Experiment surveyed 4500 Australian commuters from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra, Hobart, Darwin, Perth and Adelaide.


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