Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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If you ever needed proof that you can make a difference, check out today’s top story about how a 10 year old convinced a local government Council to stop using single-use plastics.  Also in today’s news, advice on the return on investment when installing batteries in your home, Harry and Meghan’s wedding invitation to a macaroon maker making a difference, cyclists in London enjoy less pollution and healthier lives, and Michelle Grattan steps outside her usual neutral political commentary to express a view on live animal exports.

Top Story

10yo girl wins straw phase-out battle; Cairns Council agrees to ditch single-use plastics | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – A 10-year-old girl has helped convince a local government on the doorstep of the Great Barrier Reef to phase out using plastic straws in its council operations for the first time in Queensland. The Cairns Regional Council today unanimously agreed to set a goal of removing straws and other single-use plastics, and to look at supporting local businesses to make the same change. The council will also encourage its markets, events and functions to eventually eliminate straws.

Climate Change and Energy

New satellite to spot planet-warming industrial methane leaks | The Guardian
Methane leaking from oil and gas facilities around the world – a major contributor to global warming – is set to be spotted from space.  The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has announced it aims to launch a satellite called MethaneSAT by 2021 to scan the globe and make major leaks public. That information will then enable governments to force action, EDF hopes. Building and launching the satellite will cost tens of millions of dollars, but EDF says it has already raised most of the money.

CEFC makes first infrastructure equity commitment | The Fifth Estate
AUSTRALIA – The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) has tipped $150 million into Australia’s largest infrastructure fund to help reduce carbon emissions across airports, ports and electricity infrastructure. The investment into the $12 billion IFM Australian Infrastructure Fund represents the CEFC’s first equity commitment to the infrastructure sector, and will specifically target emissions reduction and energy efficiency programs at Ausgrid, Brisbane Airport, Melbourne Airport, Port Botany in Sydney and the Port of Brisbane.

Turnbull’s brown coal hydrogen horror show: $500m for 3 tonnes | RenewEconomy (Opinion)
Australia’s Victoria and federal governments have promised to pump $50 million each into a near $496 million project to gassify brown coal in Victoria and produce just three tonnes of hydrogen, in what is being dubbed a world-first pilot project. Yes, that’s right: $500 million to build a pilot plant that will operate for just 12 months and produce a grand total “up to” three tonnes of hydrogen over the whole year. I had to read that 10 times and get on the phone twice to check… You will note, of course, that Turnbull was nowhere to be seen when the wind and solar-fuelled hydrogen projects – which will create significantly more hydrogen at a fraction of the cost from wind and solar – were unveiled by the ACT and South Australian governments.

Home battery storage has trebled – but should you be installing it? | One Step Off The Grid
AUSTRALIA – There’s been plenty of talk about how Australian solar households are warming to the idea of battery storage, but little concrete data to back this up. Until now. A new report from solar analysts, SunWiz, has revealed almost 21,000 behind the meter energy storage systems were installed in Australia in 2017, a three-fold increase on the year before. But what does this trebling of battery storage uptake mean? Is it a sign that batteries now make economic sense to the average Australian household? Well, it’s complicated.

Environment and Biodiversity

Sydney’s extended summer ‘confusing’ plants and keeping lifesavers on their toes | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – It’s autumn and temperatures are still soaring across many parts of New South Wales. The higher April temperatures are making for more idyllic beach days, but are having an effect on the world around us with plants “confused”, animals sluggish and delays in hazard burning.

Photo: Manchurian pear trees are so confused by the unseasonably hot weather that they are flowering in autumn instead of spring. (Supplied)

Photo: Manchurian pear trees are so confused by the unseasonably hot weather that they are flowering in autumn instead of spring. (Supplied)

‘They might just disappear’: warning over ‘punk’ turtle’s future | SMH
The world’s first detailed field study of one of most ancient turtles in the world shows Queensland’s endangered Mary River Turtle, once threatened by the Traveston Dam, remains in dire straits. The “in the field” research, which was finished only weeks ago, found 92 per cent of the endangered species are now in a “retirement home” and only 8 per cent are “teenagers” or young breeding turtles.

Keep Molesworth as it is, say farmers as DOC swamped by responses |
NEW ZEALAND – A farmer with land next to New Zealand’s largest high country station is concerned “unaffected people” with little-to-no knowledge of the area are getting the chance to decide its future.    The Department of Conservation started an online survey on the future of Molesworth Station, between Marlborough and Canterbury, in January to gauge public appetite for a radical rethink of the farm. The survey follows up a 2013 management plan for the 180,000-hectare Molesworth, about the size of Stewart Island, which looked to move the station away from its traditional farming focus to include more recreation and conservation activities.

Politics and Society

From ghost boats to water treasures, museums seek to spur climate action | Thomson Reuters Foundation
A toddler’s bath water, tears of joy from a newly ordained priest, condensed sweat from a nightclub – British artist Amy Sharrocks collects all kinds of water. In 2013 she set up the Museum of Water, a live piece of artwork that travels around the world and invites people to donate water – from spit to melted snow – in a bottle and discuss what it means to them. The initiative aims to understand why people treasure water and help prepare them for a drier future and climate, Sharrocks told an audience of climate experts, activists and museum curators.

Royal wedding guest ‘Miss Macaroon’ hails Harry and Meghan’s support for do-good businesses | Thomson Reuters Foundation
UK – A British entrepreneur who uses her colourful macaroon business to help disadvantaged people get back on their feet said on Wednesday she was “over the moon” after being invited to the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Rosie Ginday praised the couple for championing social enterprises, like her company Miss Macaroon, which she set up in 2011 with 500 pounds ($700) of her own money.

Grattan on Friday: Live sheep exports tarnish Australia’s reputation and should be stopped | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – If a farmer were caught subjecting animals on his or her property to the suffering endured by the sheep on the Emanuel Exports ship last August, they’d find themselves in court, perhaps in jail, and almost certainly banned from possessing animals in future. When it’s an export company, it gets a permit for another shipment. The public, and new Agriculture Minister David Littleproud, have been predictably angered by the recent footage brought to light by Animals Australia, shot by a whistleblower on the ship.

Ten things learned in 10 hours of Zuckerberg testimony | Radio New Zealand News (Opinion)
I sat through both of Mark Zuckerberg’s appearances on Capitol Hill, watching them live streamed, ironically enough, on Facebook. Here’s what I learned about the 33 year-old billionaire, and the social network’s greatest crisis yet.

Built Environment

Pollutionwatch: bicycles take over City of London rush hour | The Guardian
UK – City workers are swapping their pinstripe suits for cycle helmets and high-vis jackets. Since 1999, total traffic in the City of London has fallen by 40% and bicycles are now the dominant vehicle during the rush hour. This is good news for air pollution in an area that breaches EU limit values for nitrogen dioxide, but an increase in active travel has many other benefits: less road traffic noise, fewer climate change emissions and people benefiting from more exercise.

World’s first electrified road for charging vehicles opens in Sweden | The Guardian (Video 0:57)
SWEDEN – The world’s first electrified road that recharges the batteries of cars and trucks driving on it has been opened in Sweden. About 2km (1.2 miles) of electric rail has been embedded in a public road near Stockholm, but the government’s roads agency has already drafted a national map for future expansion. Sweden’s target of achieving independence from fossil fuel by 2030 requires a 70% reduction in the transport sector.


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