Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Three reasons to be cheerful about limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees
There can be no doubt that the window of opportunity to limit global warming to below 1.5℃, a key target of the 2015 Paris agreement, is closing fast. But there are encouraging signs around the world that this can still be done, even if there is still a very long way to go. Here are three of the most positive developments that will help the world reach its target.

Energy and Climate Change

Cold and calculating: what the two different types of ice do to sea levels
It was back in 250BC when Archimedes reportedly stepped into his bathtub and had the world’s first Eureka moment – realising that putting himself in the water made its level rise. More than two millennia later, the comments sections of news stories still routinely reveal confusion about how this same thing happens when polar ice melts and sea levels change. This is in marked contrast to the confidence that scientists have in their collective understanding of what is happening to the ice sheets.

Sea levels rise when ice resting on land, grounded ice, melts (often after forming icebergs). Floating sea ice that melts has a very important role in other areas of our climate system.

Sea levels rise when ice resting on land, grounded ice, melts (often after forming icebergs). Floating sea ice that melts has a very important role in other areas of our climate system.

Negative Emissions Key to Meeting 2°C Threshold
Humans will have to not only stop emitting greenhouse gases by 2085, but also develop technology that will result in negative emissions — the removal of 15 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year by the end of the century —  in order to prevent global warming from exceeding 2°C (3.6°F), according to a new study.

Coal still dominates electricity generation despite renewable energy growth
Coal continues to supply around two-thirds of Australia’s electricity generation despite an increase in renewable energy supply, according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Non-renewable sources, largely coal and gas, accounted for 88 per cent of Australian electricity generation in the 2014-15 financial year, down from 90.4 per cent in the 2011-12 and 93 per cent in 2008-9.

ACT could make windfall gains from bold 100% renewables target
AUSTRALIA – Who is the smartest energy minister in the country? At the moment, you would have to say it was the ACT’s Simon Corbell, the mastermind behind the territory’s bold 100 per cent renewable energy target, and who is poised to deliver massive savings to consumers in the nation’s capital. Indeed, if current wholesale electricity prices continue as they are across Australia, the ACT will not just have zero emissions electricity by 2020, it may also be getting most of it for free.

Failed energy regulation means we will pay more
AUSTRALIA – Energy regulation is broken, and consumers will be paying more for electricity and gas in years to come. In the 1990s, Victoria’s energy market was broken up into monopoly businesses, networks that own the poles and wires, and businesses that operated competitively, the generators and retailers. Other states followed suit. Price regulation was adopted in an effort to limit how much monopoly network businesses could charge, but recent legal maneouvres by those businesses mean that we will end up paying more than is fair.

‘Electricity system is broken’
NEW ZEALAND – The Electricity Authority’s decision to allow an electricity company to charge solar users a tax has astonished a renewable energy lobby group, which says the system is broken. The authority has ruled Unison did not break rules by charging clients who sold solar power back to the grid.

Environment and Biodiversity

Putting the ‘evidence’ in evidence-based forest conservation
Forests are vital ecosystems that provide crucial habitat to wildlife and help regulate everything from regional hydrological cycles to the global climate. But conservationists, forestry officials, and other decisionmakers often must rely on scattered or incomplete information about the various actions they can take to conserve, manage, and restore the world’s forests. The Conservation Evidence (CE) group at the University of Cambridge in the UK aims to change that…

Catalyst: Soundscape (Video 13:45)
Soundscape – the world according to sound. The natural world tells unseen stories through sound – all are fascinating but also disturbing. This new science of soundscape ecology is tracking environmental change with small audio recorders and powerful computer processing. Catalyst discovers what we can learn from listening to nature.

Do the pipis a favour; eat one of these
NEW ZEALAND – Pipi beds in the Ngunguru estuary near Whangarei are facing a new threat – from Asian paddle crabs. The beds are just starting to recover from a major die-back, after local Māori placed a rāhui on the beds, backed by the Ministry of Primary Industries. But the shellfish are now under attack from the big, aggressive crabs… “They are good eating and we ‘d like people to trap them and either eat them or use them for bait. ” Unlike the native paddle crab, the Asian variety could inflict a nasty wound and could easily deal to pipi, cockles and even young flounder, Mr McKenzie said.

Giant Clam Poaching Wipes Out Reefs in South China Sea
More than 40 square miles (104 square kilometers) of coral reefs—some of the most biodiverse on Earth—have been destroyed by giant clam poaching in the South China Sea, according to a new analysis of satellite imagery. The poachers use boat propellers to loosen the valuable bivalves, which can weigh up to 500 pounds (227 kilograms) and are a luxury item in China. Carving up a reef leaves it barren of life. And because reefs in the region are often interconnected, the damage in one place can have repercussions elsewhere.

Economy and Business

Sean Kidney: on the convergence of urgent climate need and huge investment appetites
The sweet irony is that as the world heads into near certain climate disaster, we have at the same time a crying need for the kinds of investments that could save the planet, or at least make a dent in the prognosis. That’s the view of climate bonds czar Sean Kidney who was in Australia last week to share some compelling views on the urgency of climate action, but also on the huge potential of his sector to at least avert the worst case scenarios.

London sets the benchmark for mobilising climate finance
A new report has praised London for its ability to mobilise climate finance, and has called on global cites to turn to the private sector in order to invest the necessary $57trn in infrastructure to transition to a low-carbon economy.

Rio Tinto’s $1 sale of Blair Athol coal mine ‘puts risk back on taxpayer’
The Queensland Government is being urged to block the sale of one of the state’s largest coal mines, which is on the table for just $1. Global mining giant Rio Tinto wants to sell its mothballed Blair Athol mine near Clermont in central Queensland to junior miner TerraCom.

How affordable solar energy is transforming lives in India
While the future looks bright for many, the people who arguably stand to profit most from solar and its applicability for off-grid locations — low-income families in developing countries with little or no access to energy — have little prospect of experiencing the benefits any time soon. The price might have dropped, but solar remains unaffordable for the world’s poorest people, and without access to funding, getting onto the first rung of the energy access ladder remains firmly out of reach.

Greenpeace Reveals Brands Stumbling on the Catwalk to Toxin-Free Fashion
Since the “Detox My Fashion” campaign launched in 2011, 76 fashion brands, retailers and suppliers have committed to remove toxic chemicals from their supply chains by 2020, accounting for a combined 15 percent of global textile production. For its 2016 Detox Catwalk, Greenpeace evaluated 19 of the committed fashion and sportswear companies to see which are on track to follow-through.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Why we need a new approach to urban planning
The reasons for today’s urbanisation are not so dissimilar to those of our predecessors: cities like London still represent places of opportunity and still pull people in from the outskirts, seeking jobs and wealth creation, just as it did one hundred and fifty years ago. What does change is our quality of life. And that quality of life is not based on the consumption of luxury goods, but rather on the quality of the infrastructure within a city, the UK Government Office for Science stated in a recent review. The circular economy will be the next substantial operating systems update to our quality of life.

IPART decision could spell the end of water innovation in NSW
AUSTRALIA – Private water service providers and the development industry are up in arms over proposed changes to water pricing that could spell the end for innovation and competition in the recycled water market. NSW has become a leader in precinct-based water recycling infrastructure since the Water Industry Competition Act was passed in 2006 in response to ongoing drought.

2016 Rio Olympics’ food waste programme
The project “Reffetto-Rio” was presented in Rome on 8 July and it aims at turning the surplus food from the Olympic Village during the Rio Olympics into meals for the people in need. As part of the programme, cooking and nutrition classes are planned for youth and people in difficulty, with the participation of volunteers and 45 chefs from around the world.

Politics and Society

Climate change front and centre in South Australian budget
Mitigating climate change and making Adelaide a carbon neutral city have been prioritised in last week’s South Australian state budget. “We want South Australia to be at the forefront of addressing climate change,” state treasurer Tom Koutsantonis said. “Achieving carbon neutrality will help us to achieve our goal of making Adelaide a more environmentally conscious and liveable city. It will also attract investment and contribute to the state’s clean and green image – an image that underpins the state’s tourism and food and wine sectors.”

Are Australia’s political parties past their use-by date?
In the wake of an unusually dreary election campaign much commentary has focused on Malcolm Turnbull’s lacklustre performance, dwindling support for the major parties, high levels of voter disengagement and the possible revival of Hansonism. But the fundamental problem of Australian politics lies elsewhere. It is time we faced two unpalatable questions: Are our political parties up to the challenge? And has Australia’s political establishment outlived its usefulness?

Climate change: Advisers warn of climate change domino effect
Climate change could have a domino effect on key infrastructure in the UK, government advisers have warned. In a 2,000-page report, the Climate Change Committee says flooding will destroy bridges – wrecking electricity, gas and IT connections carried on them. The committee also warns that poor farming means the most fertile soils will be badly degraded by mid-century. And heat-related deaths among the elderly will triple to 7,000 a year by the 2050s as summer temperatures rise. The UK is not prepared, the committee says, for the risks posed by climate change from flooding and changing coasts, heatwaves, water shortages, ecosystem damage and shocks to the global food system.

Built Environment

How bikesharing puts two-wheel mobility in high gear
Whether commuting, running errands or just getting some exercise, bicycling is experiencing a resurgence in the United States. And in the growing number of cities with bikeshare programs, you don’t even need to own your own bike.

Habitech enters the NZ housing market
Melbourne-based prefabricated modular housing company Habitech Systems has entered the New Zealand market, with an exclusive partnership deal with NZ construction firm LiteGreen Projects. The first home is already under construction in Christchurch, with six more in design, Habitech managing director Chris Barnett said.


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