Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
If you like what you see, you are welcome to sign up (on the right) for free sustainable development news delivered direct to your inbox each weekday morning.

Top Story

Earth Overshoot Day
This year Earth Overshoot Day falls on August 13, as carbon emissions continue pushing the Ecological Footprint further above the planet’s annual budget. In less than eight months, humanity has used up nature’s budget for the entire year, according to data of Global Footprint Network. Currently, carbon emissions from fossil fuel make up more than half of humanity’s demand on nature… Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity’s annual demand on nature exceeds what Earth can regenerate in that year. Earth Overshoot Day has moved from early October in 2000 to August 13th this year.

Our environmental deficit is now beyond nature’s ability to regenerate
The world enters ecological ‘overshoot’ this year on 13 August, six days earlier than last year. All the world’s production and consumption for the rest of the year, this suggests, then runs up an environmental deficit beyond nature’s ability to regenerate itself and safely absorb our economic waste. It’s a highly conservative estimate, based on the best data available.

Energy and Climate Change

Australia’s post-2020 climate target not enough to stop 2C warming: experts [respond]
Australia will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2030, the federal government announced today. In a press conference, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the target is “fairly and squarely in the middle of comparable economies”… 25 countries have already submitted their post-2020 targets to the UN (see the interactive map below). In March, the US submitted a target of 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025, following a deal between the US and China in November 2014. The EU has committed to reducing emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. Abbots_position

What does Australia’s new 2030 climate target mean for the local coal industry?
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has promised that his government’s new 2030 climate target will be good for the environment, good for jobs and good for protecting the nation’s coal industry. After announcing Australia would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2030, the prime minister was asked about what impact that could have on the local coal industry.

Abbott government’s ‘political’ climate target fails three key tests
Any doubts that the Abbott government regards climate change as largely a political management exercise should be dispelled with the release of Australia’s new emissions target for 2030. The goal announced on Tuesday – a 26 to 28 per cent cut to emissions from 2005 levels – looks like it has been based largely on what the government thinks is the minimum it can get away with in the international community and among the Australian public. But it falls short on three key measures: the science, the pace of international action and what can technically be achieved.

More on Australia’s emissions reduction target:

Climate change: CSIRO axes annual attitudes survey, delays 2014 results
The CSIRO has cancelled its annual survey of Australians’ attitudes to climate change and won’t release the results of its 2014 study until late this year… The science agency had conducted the annual survey for five years, mostly in July and August, often polling the same people to create a long-term view of how Australians view global warming and their support for action… In the 2013 poll, 86 per cent agreed with the statement that climate change was occurring and 7.6 per cent disagreed.

World Bank: clean energy is the solution to poverty, not coal
It is the development conundrum of our era. Extremely poor people cannot lift themselves out of poverty without access to reliable energy. More than a billion people live without power today, denying them opportunities as wide-ranging as running a business, providing light for their children to study, or even cooking meals with ease. Ending poverty requires confronting climate change, which affects every nation and every person. The populations least able to adapt – those that are the most poor and vulnerable – will be hardest hit, rolling back decades of development work. How do we achieve the dual goals of expanding energy production for those without power and drastically reducing emissions from sources such as coal that produce carbon dioxide, the primary contributor to climate change?

Can Shell afford Arctic oil?
As Shell’s Polar Pioneer rig whirrs through the Chukchi sea bedrock this week, there’s a lot riding on what it finds. This is the first time the Anglo-Dutch giant’s star-crossed Arctic programme will drill deep enough to hit oil. The company has reportedly spent $7bn (£4.5bn) on getting to this point, including replacing its prize Kulluk rig after it ran aground off Alaska in 2012. For them to gain any of this back, a number of things need to happen.

Fossil Fuel Divestment

US Catholic fossil fuel investments at odds with pope’s climate push
Pope Francis heartened environmentalists around the world in June when he urged immediate action to save the planet from the effects of climate change, declaring that the use of “highly polluting fossil fuels needs to be progressively replaced without delay”. But some of the largest US Catholic organisations have millions of dollars invested in energy companies, from hydraulic fracturing firms to oil sands producers, according to their own disclosures, through many portfolios intended to fund church operations and pay clergy salaries.

Environment and Biodiversity

Protecting Australia’s Lake Eyre basin means getting our priorities right
Australia’s Lake Eyre is perhaps best known as the continent’s largest lake, and for the rare floods that bring the desert to life. But Lake Eyre is much more than a lake. Taking into account the rivers that drain into it and where they come from, the Lake Eyre Basin is one of largest inland draining systems in the world, the size of Germany, France and Italy combined. It is home to many natural wonders, such as Uluru, and many species of threatened wildlife. It is also threatened by invasive animals and plants, and climate change. How can we best protect the basin, given finite funds?

New species of glider discovered in the Northern Territory
Researchers in the Northern Territory believe they have found a new marsupial species, and the process of identifying it could take them all the way to the British Museum. The undescribed species of glider was first captured for analysis in the Northern Territory by researchers at Charles Darwin University, and is an animal Australia knows little about. “We made our first sighting in Kakadu in October 2013,” said Professor Sue Carthew, lead researcher on the Northern Glider Project. “It used to be thought sugar gliders occurred across the Top End, all along the Eastern Seaboard and New Guinea. But we have genotyped gliders from a whole range of areas and found that the northern Australian gliders are quite different.”

Something new: Professor Sue Carthew says there is much work to do before the glider species can be identified.

Something new: Professor Sue Carthew says there is much work to do before the glider species can be identified. Photo: Glenn Campbell

Drivers Worry the End of Utah Salt Flat Racing is Near
Racers who want to drive as fast as they can across Utah’s Bonneville Salt Flats might have to wait until next year to slake their need for speed. The annual Speed Week land races on the flats have been canceled for the second year in a row. With long, thick stretches of salt to speed over, the flats draw drivers seeking to reach speeds of over 600 miles per hour (966 kilometers per hour). Torrential rains last year and late spring rains followed by cooler temperatures this year led to the cancellations.

Spate of shark attacks and close calls take toll on NSW north coast towns; surfers call for shark cull
AUSTRALIA – A series of recent shark attacks and close calls involving surfers on the New South Wales far north coast is having an impact on business. Many board riders are staying out of the water while authorities scramble to deal with 12 reported shark-related incidents since February — many of them in July alone.

Economy and Business

Want an Impactful Business? Focus on Design of Culture
Many business leaders today are trying to step up their game and do more than create profitable businesses; they are attempting to use their skills to better the world. Yet in the current business culture, return on capital and financial profit are the sole metric of success. But we can apply tools from cultural evolution to “redesign” business culture — beginning with startups — so that businesses are better equipped to solve social problems.

IKEA announces non-LED sale ban
Swedish retail giant IKEA has announced a total global halt to sales of halogen or fluorescent lighting. As of 1 September 2015, only LED light bulbs will be sold at IKEA stores worldwide. The retailer has also committed to a pricing policy that will make the technology affordable. “With household electricity bills continuing to rise rapidly and global energy consumption increasing, the LED lighting will have a big impact,” IKEA USA chief sustainability officer Steve Howard said. “Building on our belief that everyone should be able to afford to live more sustainably at home, we will make sure our LED prices are affordable for the many.”

Patagonia Out to Change the ‘Filthy Business’ of Denim
Knowing how conventional cotton is grown and denim is made, always-a-better-way outdoor apparel brand Patagonia has set out to change the industry. The company has partnered with chemical company Archroma on a new denim collection, launched this week — which is Fair Trade certified and said to use 84 percent less water, 30 percent less energy and 25 percent less CO2 compared to conventional denim dyeing processes — as well as a campaign telling us all about it.

Good stories of sustainable business
NEW ZEALAND – Businesses will have the opportunity to learn how to effectively communicate their sustainability progress, both to their markets and internal teams, at the Project NZ: Telling Good Stories conference at AUT University, Auckland on September 3. Rachel Brown, CEO of the Sustainable Business Network (SBN), which is organising the conference, says brands that are telling their sustainability story in a compelling way are becoming more powerful.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Riverina compost company nuts over farm waste potential
A southern New South Wales company that turns winery, cotton, and nut waste into compost is developing plans to quadruple production in the next three years. Compost Carbon Fertilisers is looking to increase its output by 40,000 tonnes and will need 12 more staff to handle the extra load.

The Circulars 2016
The Circulars 2016, the world’s premier circular economy award programme, is now open for entries.  You have the chance to be honoured at an awards ceremony at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos in January 2016 and showcase your circular economy work before a high profile audience. If you are a leader, corporation, entrepreneur, digital business, investor or public sector organisation involved in the circular economy submit your entry at The Circulars.

Politics and Society

Case Study: Going green – one Aucklander’s story
Max Giles jokes he’s that annoying shopper in the supermarket who turns up at the check-out with a trolley laden with loose, unbagged – and always in-season – vegetables. And that’s of course when he’s not growing his own in the back garden of his Mt Albert home, which happens to be furnished with tables and chairs the 31-year-old built from timber that was headed for the tip. He also makes jam and cordial from his citrus trees, avoids plastics, prefers arts and crafts over TV and uses public transport as much as he can. The dream he has for himself, wife Jane, and daughters Olive and Morgan, is to live out in the country somewhere, completely off the grid. All of this doesn’t make him a radical greenie, he says – it’s more just about stripping the needless excesses from our daily lives.

Who Buys Ivory? You’d Be Surprised
The majority of people who buy products made from ivory say they would support banning the sale of ivory. That conflicting sentiment is one of several surprising findings in a new international survey published Wednesday by the National Geographic Society and GlobeScan. The study represents an effort to better understand what motivates people in the United States and Asian countries to continue purchasing ivory, despite years of efforts to raise awareness about how the illegal trade is fueling the mass slaughter of elephants. This tragedy, however, can’t compete with the allure of “white gold”—especially among young fashionistas in low- to middle-income brackets who see ivory as a way to project an image of wealth and social status, the survey finds.

Has Britain’s ‘pissed off’ constituency found a leader in Jeremy Corbyn?
This article is part of the Democracy Futures series, a joint global initiative with the Sydney Democracy Network. The project aims to stimulate fresh thinking about the many challenges facing democracies in the 21st century.
It looks increasingly likely that in a month’s time a slightly dishevelled figure from the British Labour Party’s long-forgotten “hard left” past, MP Jeremy Corbyn, will be elected its next leader. Vague amusement at the prospect has given way to alarm across the political spectrum.

Republican hopefuls reap $62m in support from donors with fossil fuel ties
Republican presidential candidates have banked millions of dollars in donations from a small number of mega-rich individuals and corporations with close ties to the fossil fuel industries that stand to lose the most from the fight against climate change… The funds have come from just 17 billionaires or businesses that have pumped enormous sums – in one case $15m for a single candidate – into the support groups or Super Pacs that work alongside the official campaigns yet are free to attract unlimited contributions.

Built Environment

Case Study: City streams brought back to life
NEW ZEALAND – A fresh approach to environmental restoration is literally reviving waterways in Auckland’s suburbia, transforming what are empty and often ugly spaces to glittering little gems. In what’s called daylighting, streams that had once been piped underground to make way for housing developments are being restored to the surface, with surrounding streambanks and parkland being re-planted with trees and flax. These rejuvenated reserves aren’t just offering havens for wildlife, including tui and kereru, but are restoring the quality of watercourses in the city, while also providing a natural solution to local flooding issues and stormwater management.

Ten smart transport solutions
A big shift is currently underway in New Zealand transport, with new ways of moving around cities emerging. Some of the new trends include millennials driving less than older generations; investment in cycling infrastructure; greater public pressure; the rise of car-sharing; innovation in biofuels; expansion of charging stations for electric vehicles; and smart data collection to facilitate evidence-based decision making. Yet there’s a long road ahead: Auckland ranks near the bottom of international cities for transportation and infrastructure, according to a PWC report released last month and our transport fleet is almost entirely reliant on fossil fuels.

Food Systems

Supermarkets and garden centres ban Roundup weedkiller suspected of causing cancer
Monsanto is far from happy. The main ingredient of its highly profitable weedkiller, Roundup, often used in conjunction with GM crops, has been declared a “probable carcinogenic”. As well as being profitable for Monsanto, glyphosate is one of the most widely adopted weedkillers in the world by gardeners and farmers alike. Use of it by UK farmers, for example, has soared by 400% in the last 20 years. In response to the cancer warning, the US biotech company has been quick to accuse the body behind the new classification of bias.

Without India, you can forget about achieving a sustainable palm oil sector
In a food stall on a dusty New Delhi street corner, a woman in a bright orange sari drops samosas into a skillet of bubbling liquid, which crackles and pops as it laps up the potato­-filled dough.  She is cooking with palm oil, the ingredient often met with controversy in the west due to concerns about deforestation and habitat loss. In India, however, the world’s top importer of palm oil, its sustainability goes largely unquestioned.  India’s 1.2 billion citizens consume approximately 15% of the global supply of palm oil. The vast majority of the commodity (95% according to WWF figures) is used as edible oil, with the remainder added to haircare and beauty products. The country imports nearly all of its palm oil, more than two-­thirds of which is sourced from Indonesia.

Seafood labelling changes fail the Senate test
AUSTRALI A- The two major parties have joined forces in the Senate to reject a Bill to change seafood labelling laws. The Bill was co-sponsored by independent Senator Nick Xenophon and Greens Senator Peter Whish-Wilson and was recommended by a Senate Committee inquiring into seafood labelling. The changes were targeted at restaurants, shops and hotels to allow consumers to know if the fish on the menu was local or from overseas.

Cheap milk is a global phenomenon – so don’t blame the supermarkets
British dairy farmers are once again protesting over the low prices on offer for their milk. They worry that too many producers are going bust, and that long-term milk supplies are at risk. Supermarkets are usually cast as the villains in this piece and this time it is no different. Farming unions are meeting Morrisons to ask for a fairer deal – and protesters in Stafford even took two cows into an Asda branch to help make their point. However it is too simplistic to blame the supermarkets – the real problem is global. Too much low-value milk is being produced around the world.

GM crop ban: how Scottish salmon – and public health – could have benefited from this technology
The plan to ban the growing of genetically modified crops is disappointing to many scientists… What we are talking about is simply biological technology with potentially wide and varied applications. Our work at the University of Stirling’s Institute of Aquaculture is a case in point. We have been testing and assessing oils from genetically modified (GM) oilseed crops developed to provide sustainable sources of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.