Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Top Story

How scared or hopeful should we be in a warming world?
For anyone who takes notice of the climate change debate, a mass of often-contradictory information comes flooding into our lives. Some of it prompts great alarm. The Great Barrier Reef is suffering severe bleaching. Wild fires are consuming Alberta. Last year was the warmest on record, and 15 of the 16 hottest years on record have occurred since 2001. Yet there are also some positive signs that the world is at last getting serious about the threat.

Energy and Climate Change

Global 2040 Forecast Sees Only Slight Fall in Fossil Fuels
USA – Despite the urgency to cut greenhouse gas emissions as climate change bears down on the globe, fossil fuel use is not likely to change much in the coming decades. Though renewable energy will grow quickly though 2040, gasoline and diesel will still move most of the world’s vehicles, and coal will still be the largest single source of carbon emissions. Those are the conclusions of a forecast released by the federal government on Wednesday for how the world will use energy and what its carbon dioxide emissions will be over the next 25 years.
[Ed: We can’t afford this.  You can make a difference by divesting from fossil fuels (e.g. your super, your bank) and investing (e.g. solar PV, electric cars).]

Obama’s methane rule an aggressive step toward tackling climate change
The Obama administration announced on Thursday new rules to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas industry almost in half – tackling a powerful climate pollutant in the president’s final months in the White House. The rules, stronger than earlier proposals, are aimed at reducing methane emissions from the US by 40% to 45% over 2012 levels by 2025 by requiring companies to capture gas from oil wells, and find and plug pipeline leaks. America is currently the world’s largest oil and gas producer.

Why Australia networks need to slash asset values by nearly half
Australian network operators need to slash the values of their poles and wires by up to half – and their costs accordingly – if they are to remain competitive in the face of new technologies such as solar and storage and avoid an inevitable and damaging “death spiral.” The conclusions come in a new independent study – one of the most comprehensive to date – that shows that Australia has the highest network costs in the world – more than twice those of the UK and the US – and suggests that the network owners should voluntarily slash the value of their assets.

Environment and Biodiversity

Global map of sea stars a landmark for conservation efforts in deep sea
A global snapshot of thousands of close relatives of the starfish has provided an unprecedented view into the richness and diversity of deep-sea life. The study, published in the journal Nature, has implications for conservation efforts across the sea floor, which faces increasing pressures from deep-sea fishing and mining, an international team of scientists said.

Will Zimbabwe Sell Off Its Rare ‘Painted Dogs’?
Last week Zimbabwe announced that because of the drought that’s ravaging the country—and leaving four million Zimbabweans in need of food aid—it will “destock” its national parks and reserves by selling off wildlife. The announcement by the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (also known as Zimparks) doesn’t say when the sales would begin, nor does it specify which species would be offered and at what prices.

China May Shelve Plans to Build Dams on Its Last Wild River
The Nu River, spilling through a scenic gorge sometimes compared to the Grand Canyon, could become a national park, as officials appear to back away from a proposal for multiple dams.

UK water companies receive record sewage leak fines
Water companies have been hit by a series of record fines for major sewage leaks and other pollution incidents. Yorkshire Water was fined £1.1m for illegally discharging sewage that polluted the river Ouse near York, while Thames Water was fined £1m for repeated sewage leaks into the Grand Union canal. The financial penalties have soared after a change in sentencing guidelines, but it is too early to tell if the number of pollution offences by water companies is falling.  The Observer revealed in 2013 that the most persistent and frequent polluters of England’s rivers and beaches were the nation’s 10 biggest water companies.

Damning report slams ECan’s lack of action over cattle in waterways
NEW ZEALAND – Environment Canterbury (ECan) never visited rivers and lakes that 114 people claimed cattle were accessing, despite some areas being the subject of multiple reports. Fish and Game has analysed 382 complaints of stock accessing waterways, received by ECan through its pollution hotline, and believed the regional council was “failing dismally” to provide effective responses to complaints.

Economy and Business

5 reasons supply chains are the new sustainability hotspot
Let’s face it: Procurement has never been a sexy job function. But now that’s changing, as companies realize the competitive advantages that effective purchasing and supply chain management can provide — and, perhaps more important, the impact an organization’s supply chain can have on the sustainability of society as a whole. Environmental and social impacts occurring within corporate supply chains — think greenhouse gas emissions, human rights abuses, deforestation — are difficult to identify and manage, but organizations increasingly are obliged to do so. Meeting corporate and legislative requirements has demanded an upsurge in creativity within procurement departments, shaped by five key forces.

6 things climate-conscious companies have in common
More than 150 companies have committed to use climate science to set targets for reducing corporate greenhouse gas emissions, in line with the international effort to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels as set out in the Paris Agreement. Our interviews with sustainability leaders at five companies that have science-based targets in place show they share important characteristics that drive their ambition and underpin their success. Here’s what these successful companies had in common…

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation divests entire holding in BP
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has sold off its entire holding in oil giant BP, in a move welcomed by fossil fuel divestment campaigners. Bill Gates has called the selling off of coal, oil and gas stocks a “false solution” to climate change, but the known investments of his foundation in major fossil fuel companies has fallen by 85% since 2014.

One way to sell a tax on carbon: Cut other taxes
We need jobs to keep the economy going. We need companies to create those jobs. We don’t need carbon pollution.  So why tax the things we need, like jobs, with a payroll tax? Why not tax carbon instead? That, said Nigel Topping, CEO of the We Mean Business Coalition, is one conversation gaining traction and beginning to lead to a consensus about the benefits of carbon pricing.

Milk price cuts reflect the reality of sweeping changes in global dairy market
A structural change is underway in global dairy markets. A perfect storm has emerged through a coincidence of events, technology, and policy changes across the major dairy producing nations, including Australia, which will result in a long term significant reset of dairy economics across the globe.

Interactive: What CEOs of top NZ companies earn
The pay packets of bosses at New Zealand’s largest listed companies grew at more than three times the rate of workers’ wages last year. The latest Herald executive pay survey reveals that the average remuneration received by the heads of the top public firms surged by 12 per cent in 2015, to $1.68 million. That’s up from the $1.5 million paid, on average, to these same chief executives in 2014.

Bolt Threads Raises $50M Series C, Partners with Patagonia to Pioneer Sustainable Textiles
You’ve probably heard plenty of startups claim they can “revolutionize” their industry, but in the case of Bolt Threads, they may actually be right. The California-based biotechnology startup is already manufacturing its Engineered Silk™ protein at scale and made two big announcements this week at TechCrunch Disrupt NY: the conclusion of a $50 million Series C financing round, and a new partnership with apparel brand Patagonia.

Waste and the Circular Economy

How to keep value flowing when closing the loop
Dell created a closed-loop recycled plastics supply chain to recycle computers back into new computers. Philips sells lighting as a service instead of a product a consumer would purchase and own. DSM developed a cellulosic ethanol in which agricultural residue is converted into renewable fuel. These examples, taken from Achieving a Circular Economy: How the Private Sector is Reimagining the Future of Business, help illustrate the concept of a circular economy, in which resources are endlessly cycled back into supply chains and waste does not exist.

Fish net bikinis and mushroom death suits – eco fashion in pictures
From selling clothes with a 30 year guarantee to touring Europe in a repair shop – these brands are advancing the circular economy within fashion.

The cap made from old plastic

The cap made from old plastic
Through its partnership with Bionic Yarn, a startup that makes fabric from plastic litter, denim brand G-Star Raw (now co-owned by singer Pharell Williams) has turned more than 2m single use plastic containers collected from ocean shorelines into clothing. Plastic pollution in the marine environment is a serious problem for ecosystems around the world. The slogan used in the Spring/Summer 2016 Raw for the Oceans collection, ‘WTF are you doing to my oceans?’ is intended to raise awareness of the issue.
Photograph: G-Star RAW

Is ECOR the new material that retailers and brands need?
Each year, the retail graphics and corrugated display markets produce 6.8-billion-square-metres of product, most of which are made from virgin paper-based products like cardboard and paperboard, or non-recyclable plastics and foam. Given the dependence on virgin materials to make these products and their high volume of turnover in stores, the realm of visual merchandising, retail graphics and point-of-sale displays may not be an obvious place for brands to begin circular economy innovation, but Noble Environment Technologies have identified it is an easy, efficient and economical starting point for engagement, through their new material ECOR.

Politics and Society

Bill McKibben: “When we fight we win”
Bill McKibben is an unlikely warrior. Softly spoken, laid back in demeanour, long and lanky, slightly stooped in stature. Not exactly the fiery motivational speaker his role as founder of might suggest. As much as he loved being there, talking to the room full of people at Paddington Town Hall in Sydney last month, he said he was a writer, an introvert, who would much rather be at home at his desk typing – only half joking, you suspect. And yet, this innocuous-looking man has given rise to one of the most powerful financial movements in history – divestment from coal.

Election 2016: Real climate change demands real solutions (Editorial)
The common link between Labor’s plans and Direct Action shows Australia now has the seeds of a bipartisan approach. All that remains is for Malcolm Turnbull to silence the deniers and stop the scare campaigns. Mr Shorten should seek out like-minded Coalition partners, too.

Coalition climate plan ‘assumes emissions trading’, says government modeller
AUSTRALIA – Modelling hailed by the Liberal party as proof its Direct Action plan could meet Australia’s long-term climate promises in fact assumes the Coalition would turn its policy into a type of emissions trading scheme, according to the authors.

Carbon taxes, emissions trading and electricity prices: making sense of the scare campaigns
AUSTRALIA – Yet again, electricity prices are set to be a key point of contention in an Australian federal election… So how exactly will the different climate policies affect electricity prices?

Melati and Isabel Wijsen say bye bye to plastic bags in Bali (Audio 31:20)
Distressed by seeing discarded shopping bags on Bali’s beaches, in the sea, and even in rice paddies, two sisters decided to do something about it. Aged 10 and 12 at the time, Melati and Isabel Wijsen decided to started Bye Bye Plastic Bags. They got a team together, started petitions and beach cleanups, and decided they needed to get the attention of the Governor of Bali. The trouble was, despite writing to him almost every day, he wouldn’t respond. Undeterred, Melati and Isabel went on a hunger strike, and within days they had their meeting. What’s more, the governor committed to a plastic-bag free Bali by 2018.
See also their TED Talk: Our campaign to ban plastic bags in Bali (Video 11:00)

Govt considers national park facility charges
NEW ZEALAND – The government is looking at charging international visitors more for national park facilities, such as huts, to help pay for the costs of dealing with the surge in the number of tourists. Tourism numbers are expected to rise from 3.1 million this year to 4.5 million by 2022. Spending to cope with that will increase 65 percent, to $16 billion. This is up from $9b a year right now. Associate Tourism Minister Paula Bennett is ruling out charging people to walk in the national parks but she has been in talks with Conservation Minister Maggie Barry about raising charges for some facilities.

Built Environment

Air pollution rising at an ‘alarming rate’ in world’s cities
Outdoor air pollution has grown 8% globally in the past five years, with billions of people around the world now exposed to dangerous air, according to new data from more than 3,000 cities compiled by the World Health Organisation (WHO)… While all regions are affected, fast-growing cities in the Middle East, south-east Asia and the western Pacific are the most impacted with many showing pollution levels at five to 10 times above WHO recommended levels.
See also: World’s most polluted cities announced by WHO

Mirvac to pilot bill-free residential in Cheltenham
AUSTRALIA – Mirvac is piloting a living case study in developing affordable off-grid masterplanned residential communities, with construction due to commence early next year on a prototype “house with no bills”. The developer will also be offering the home rent-free for 12 months to a two-parent, two-child working family and will carry out monitoring of the home’s energy performance and occupant energy-use behaviour over the year.

Do the sums: bicycle-friendly changes are good business
City of Melbourne councillors voted recently to implement the 2016-20 Bicycle Plan. This followed public consultations that included two phases of community engagement and the release of a draft plan last October… Most inner-Melbourne cyclists would likely welcome this renewed commitment to improving the cycling environment. It is important, though, to put this expenditure into perspective.

Perth Green Growth Plan puts strategic environmental assessments to the city test
City planning has many approaches that have been used to enable better economic, social and environmental outcomes. The planning profession has been doing strategic assessments of urban land development opportunities and constraints for over a hundred years but has only recently adopted the techniques of strategic environmental assessment (SEA), a tool developed by the environmental assessment profession. The draft Green Growth Plan for Perth is a federal and state government initiative to trial whether SEA can be integrated into the planning of an Australian city. It is a process in parallel with the traditional strategic plan, which in Perth is the draft Perth and Peel @ 3.5 Million Plan.


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