Sustainable Development News

Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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Energy and Climate Change

Explainer: how countries could come to a global climate deal in 2015
At the end of this year, 196 countries from around the world will meet in Paris for the first attempt to reach a global deal on climate action since the much-hyped climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009. Hope is building that Paris will see an agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions beyond 2020, and ultimately keep global warming to below 2C.

Companies propose building 80,000 panel solar farm near western Queensland town of Barcaldine
Two Spanish companies want to build a massive solar farm near the central-western Queensland town of Barcaldine. They said the relentlessly sunny conditions and the intensity of solar radiation in the region make it stand out as the perfect location to build what could become the state’s largest solar farm. At a public meeting in the town on Tuesday night, the proponents outlined their plans for a site on the town’s eastern outskirts.  Kingsway Europe SL and Elecnor Australia have formed a company called Barcaldine Remote Community Solar Farm that would plan and develop the project.

Shell warns oil demand could fall without climate solution
Demand for oil and gas could fall if major producers fail to find economically viable and publicly acceptable ways of cutting their climate-warming gas emissions, Shell has warned.  The oil giant revealed its fears in its Strategic Report for 2014, released on Thursday, telling investors that new climate change regulations “may result in project delays and higher costs. Furthermore, continued and increased attention to climate change, including activities by non-governmental and political organisations, as well as more interest by the broader public, is likely to lead to additional regulations designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” it said.

Budget 2015 should set 10 year deadline for coal, IPPR says
George Osborne should freeze the UK’s carbon tax and pledge to phase out coal by 2025 in next week’s Budget, moves that would cut bills, tackle pollution and drive investment, according to think tank IPPR. Coal generates around a third of UK electricity and pumps out far more greenhouse gases and other pollutants than any other fuel used in power generation – the country’s 10 coal plants account for a fifth of the whole economy’s carbon pollution. If even one is still running in 2030 it will use up over half of the power sector’s carbon target while providing just three per cent of the country’s electricity.

Environment and Biodiversity

George Monbiot: Isis are not the only ones committing great acts of vandalism
Journalists are meant to be able to watch and read dispassionately: to face horror with equanimity. I have never acquired this skill, and I know I’m not the only one. It’s true that we seek out bad news, but there is some news that many of us find hard to confront. This is why I write about extinction less often than I should: most of the time I just don’t want to know. It’s one of the reasons why I have turned my gaze away from the Middle East. I’ve been unable to watch, or even to think very much about the bombing of Gaza, the war in Syria or the slaughter of hostages by Isis. But, reluctantly, I’ve forced myself to read about the destruction of the ancient wonders at Nimrud and Hatra.

WoRMS catalogue downsizes ocean life
A mammoth effort to catalogue all known ocean life is nearly complete. It has taken taxonomic experts eight years to pull together all existing databases and compile one super-definitive list, known as the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS). Of the 419,000 species names recorded in the scientific literature, nearly half (190,400) have been shown to be duplicate entries.  One species of sea snail even had 113 different names.  The WoRMS editors have now put the number of species known to science at 228,450.

Tasmanian research effort examines how no-fishing zones affect deep seabeds
A robotic submarine is giving Australian scientists their first glimpse of the deep seabed in a marine reserve off Tasmania’s southern tip.  Researchers from the Hobart-based Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies used an autonomous underwater vehicle to map the continental shelf section of the reserve. Using the findings they will evaluate whether having no-fishing zones are proving beneficial to Tasmania’s southern deep reef systems.

Scientists eavesdrop on blue whales in Southern Ocean from up to 1,000km away
Antarctic scientists have recorded more than 40,000 calls from blue whales to learn how the giant mammals are recovering from decades of whaling. Scientists are hoping to answer key questions identified by the International Whaling Commission’s (IWC) Southern Ocean Research Partnership, to strengthen the case for non-lethal whale research. Blue whale numbers were devastated by overexploitation from the whaling industry in the mid to early 1900s.  The IWC estimates the blue whale population at slightly more than 2,300.

Cyclone Lam rains cause manganese spills at BHP Billiton GEMCO mine, environment watchdog says
Heavy rains from Cyclone Lam are the likely cause of four discharges of manganese from a BHP mine into the ocean, the Northern Territory Environment Protection Authority (EPA) says.  BHP Billiton’s Groote Eylandt Mining Company (GEMCO) reported four incidents after heavy rains in February.  The rains were generated by category four Tropical Cyclone Lam when it crossed the coast of the NT’s north-east Arnhem Land and dumped torrential rain as it moved inland.

Economy and Business

New Reports Say Sustainable Investment Can Stabilize Global Water Risk, European Economy
This week, non-profits Ceres and WWF published resources that provide guidelines for how strategic investment at the private and public level can help avert environmental and economic crises felt the world over. The reports also present compelling arguments for how said environmental crises fuel — and could easily eclipse — the global economic crisis. On Tuesday, Ceres released a report and cheat sheet designed to help global investors improve their analysis and decision-making with regards to water scarcity. The World Economic Forum recently ranked water availability as the world’s “top global risk.”

Connecting to conscious capitalism
Our current business model is broken, but “conscious capitalism” may help us fix it, according to entrepreneur and creative director Craig Davis. Davis, who will be speaking at Green Cities 2015 in Melbourne on 17 March, has been at the forefront of the global advertising industry for 20 years, developing advertising campaigns for some of the world’s biggest brands, launching iconic products and leading cultural change programs. He argues that our current business model – based on 19th century ideology of businesses as money-making machines – no longer works in the 21st century.

Why a 10,000 mile round trip for cod just doesn’t make sense
To date, too many businesses have treated the environment as an afterthought. The result is the ongoing degradation and exhaustion of the very resources those businesses rely on. Systems thinking places these so-called externalities at the heart of business decision-making. This tale of unsustainable fishing practices and innovative surf companies demonstrates that successful businesses are both possible and profitable when companies look beyond the short term and consider their wider impacts

Why are cacti so juicy? The secret strategy of succulents
Photosynthesis can be costly – but plants in hot and dry environments have evolved two special strategies for storing carbon dioxide, that could be used to protect crops against climate change.

Waste and the Circular Economy

How to bust the biggest myths about the circular economy
When China began to emerge as one of the major global economies, the dominance of English as a global business language was challenged by Mandarin. Would this lead to barriers? Apparently not. The reality is, it doesn’t matter what language you speak, as long as it’s the universal language of business. Some say that the premise of the circular economy gets lost in translation and is misunderstood. There’s a perception that it’s an ongoing battle between environmentalists versus corporations. It goes that one side wants to see the environment preserved and protected, and the other prioritises profits. But in fact the circular economy connects both, delivering economic as well as environmental gains.

The Apparel Industry’s Answer to Global Water Shortages
Companies like Nike, Gap, Levi Strauss, PVH, H&M and many smaller sustainable apparel companies have come to realize that the way we produce clothes has a direct impact not only on the world’s valuable clean water resources but on the apparel industry’s bottom line. In 2011, as a result of a report published by Greenpeace detailing industrial water pollution problems in China, PVH, known for its Van Heusen and Calvin Klein brands, joined the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) initiative and implemented its own action plan to eliminate toxic chemical pollution. The members of ZDHC developed a list of 11 restricted chemicals, along with advisories directed at minimizing or eradicating chemical pollution. They also set a goal to “remove harmful substances from textile production by 2020.”

Politics and Society

A wave of disruption is sweeping in to challenge neoliberalism
I have always been attracted to the notion that disruption to powerful systems comes not from the heart of the empire, but from the margins. This idea first fired my imagination while I was learning about the role of the monasteries of the early Celtic church, located on the wild and windswept fringes of western Europe, in reseeding the continent with art, literacy and a love of learning that had been eclipsed by the dark ages. Today, I sense a similar wave of disruption sweeping in from various marginal corners of our globalised system, a mosaic of localised responses weaving into what begins to look like a new narrative to challenge the dominant neoliberal hegemony.

Artists move in with researchers for new Melbourne sustainability project
The City of Melbourne’s Creative Spaces program has established a new studio where artists will be placed amongst sustainability researchers and organisations to inform their work. Melbourne artists Debbie Symons and Jasmine Targett are the first artists in residence at the Carlton Connect Studio and will create a work focused on sustainability and climate resilience. Called The Catchments Project, the work speaks to the complexities of adapting to reduced rainfall and drought.

Ancient kauri to stay: Developer
Protester Michael Tavares has abseiled down from the ancient kauri tree in the West Auckland suburb of Titirangi, after an open letter indicated that the native trees will be saved.  The protester who perched in a West Auckland kauri tree for three days has come down and handed himself in to police, after the landowners indicated that the tree will be saved.  The tree, said to be up to 500 years old, was at the centre of a protest after it was marked to be cut down, along with a 300-year-old rimu, to make way for two houses in the suburb of Titirangi.

Anti-protester laws: West Australian activists using locks to attach themselves to objects face tough new laws
The West Australian Government has come under fire over new laws aimed at criminalising radical protests, which reverse the onus of proof and carry maximum jail penalties of two years. The Government last week introduced the legislation to Parliament, which aims to stop what it has dubbed the “dangerous behaviour” of some protesters. Police Minister Liza Harvey said the laws were specifically aimed at protesters who used devices such as thumb and arm locks, which require a skilled technician to remove.

Cattle producers protest against coal seam gas with cow manure
A group of farmers in northern New South Wales have dumped manure outside the office of their local Nationals’ MP.  They wanted to express to the Member for Lismore Thomas George their outrage about the coal seam gas industry.  Iron Pot Creek vegetable and cattle producer Peter Stackhouse was one of the farmers that joined the protest.  “I’m concerned that the Nationals plan to go full steam ahead and turn the whole place into a gas field,” he said. “I don’t like that where I am and most of the region don’t like it. We’re sick of the total disregard for everyone in the Northern Rivers. “There’s 85 to 98 per cent of people who don’t like coal seam gas or don’t want to be industrialised but the Nationals just plan to roll it out on top of everyone.”

‘Find a new way to tell the story’ – how the Guardian launched its climate change campaign Climate change is the biggest threat to humanity. Yet journalism has struggled for two decades to tell a story that doesn’t leave the public feeling disheartened and disengaged. This podcast series lets you behind the scenes as the Guardian’s editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, and team set out to find a new narrative. Recording as we go, you’ll hear what works, as well as our mistakes. Is there a new way to make the world care?

Built Environment

Tesla for the Masses: Electric, Fuel Cell Buses Take Off
In cities worldwide, buses are morphing into giant battery-powered rolling computers. Equipped with the same technologies as the luxury Tesla sedan, they offer a clean, quiet ride for the price of a bus fare. An expanding fleet of electric and fuel cell buses is taking to urban streets in several countries, notably the United States and China. These buses have higher sticker prices, but because they don’t burn fossil fuels, they cost less to operate and help clean the air.

Insulation – how to make the right decision
Insulation is the first line of defence in improving a home’s energy efficiency, according to Dr Richard Aynsley, an expert in sustainable architecture, insulation and interior airflow, but orientation, floorplan, shading and ventilation need to be part of the equation when deciding what types of products to use and where to install them.

Radical apartments: After The Commons, The Nightingale keeps ruffling feathers
The Commons apartment building in Melbourne’s inner city Brunswick is now sustainability lore. With its rooftop gardens and bees, no airconditioning and no parking (but public transport passes instead), it has attracted a huge amount of interest. This includes from rival developers amazed at how many golden “rules” you can break and still make a profit. Now it’s about to happen again, with the rules this time bent even further. Across the road at 6 Florence Street, Brunswick, Breathe Architects, who led design at The Commons, is about to give birth to the Nightingale, a 20-unit project already ruffling feathers with its financiers because profit will be deliberately kept modest. Key outcomes will be social, with affordable housing top of mind, Breathe’s Jeremy McLeod says.


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