Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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G20 countries paying $633 billion in subsidies to oil, gas and coal companies: report
A new report has found that the world’s biggest economies are paying $633 billion in production subsidies every year to oil, gas and coal companies. The report by US environmental think tank, Oil Change International and UK humanitarian think tank, the Overseas Development Institute, found Australia is paying $7 billion on average annually in production subsidies to fossil fuel producers. The report said the amount spent by G20 governments on fossil fuel subsidies was more than three times the amount spent by the world on subsidies to the renewable energy industry.

Energy and Climate Change

Direct Action auction awards $500 million to projects reducing greenhouse gases
Projects aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions have been awarded nearly $557 million in Government funding in the second round of the Emissions Reduction Fund auction. The auction, managed by the Clean Energy Regulator, took place last online last week with 131 successful bidders revealed today. “We were pleased with the high level of participation and competitive bidding which has allowed us to source significant abatement at a lower average price than the first auction,” Clean Energy Regulator chair Chloe Munro said.

Turnbull government spends big on emissions cuts, but falls short on targets: critics
Almost half the money the Turnbull government has set aside to pay for emissions cuts has now been committed, after a further $557 million was spent under the second auction of its emissions reduction fund. But the auction results that were released on Thursday have again sparked criticism from policy observers, who said they showed the fund would achieve only a small proportion of the emissions cuts needed to meet Australia’s international climate targets.

Collapsing Greenland glacier could raise sea levels by half a metre, say scientists
A major glacier in Greenland that holds enough water to raise global sea levels by half a metre has begun to crumble into the North Atlantic Ocean, scientists say. The huge Zachariae Isstrom glacier in northeast Greenland started to melt rapidly in 2012 and is now breaking up into large icebergs where the glacier meets the sea, monitoring has revealed. The calving of the glacier into chunks of floating ice will set in train a rise in sea levels that will continue for decades to come, the US team warns.

6 Places Where Melting Snow Means Less Drinking Water
Climate scientists have a pretty good idea what is going to happen to much of the Earth’s snow as the planet warms over the next century: It’s going to melt. But the melting will occur at different rates in different places, which has major implications for the 2 billion people who rely on snowmelt for water. What’s more, over the next few decades, some areas are likely to see increased snow and rainfall as climate changes in complicated ways. “Such confounding factors complicate how water managers will be able to respond to climate change,” says Justin Mankin, a climate scientist at Columbia University’s Earth Institute.

Paris 2015: UN Conference on Climate Change

Paris climate deal must be legally binding, EU tells John Kerry
The EU has warned the Obama administration that a global climate deal at the Paris summit must be legally binding, after the US secretary of state John Kerry said that it “definitively” would not be a treaty. “The Paris agreement must be an international legally binding agreement,” a spokeswoman for the EU’s climate commissioner, Miguel Arias Cañete , told the Guardian. “The title of the agreement is yet to be decided but it will not affect its legally binding form.”

A Long-Term Goal at COP21 is Critical: Open Letter to World Leaders
Today, in an open letter to Heads of State, 22 business and civil society leaders from around the globe urged world leaders to play their part, and ensure a clear and ambitious long-term goal is part of the COP21 agreement. With the meeting of the G20 this week and COP21 only a few weeks away, now is a critical time for these leaders to hear that business supports an ambitious climate agreement being made in Paris this December.

Environment and Biodiversity

With Ivory Ban Imminent, What Will Happen to China’s Legal Stockpile?
After years of defending and supporting a legal domestic trade in ivory, China made a big announcement in September: It’s shutting down the trade. The United States is, too. Together, the presidents of both countries have made an unprecedented public pledge to put a stop to all ivory trading—legal and illegal. The U.S. is on track to approve new regulations within a year that essentially would fulfill its promise under the September pledge to take “significant and timely steps” to end the ivory trade. But the joint pledge doesn’t have any deadlines, and the Chinese government hasn’t said what time frame it’s aiming for.

Are some species just too wild for a happy life in captivity?
SeaWorld in California has announced that it will be phasing out killer whale shows from 2017. The move comes in response to public criticism over the treatment of the whales, heavily influenced by the documentary Blackfish. Concern over the welfare of captive killer whales raises a much broader question of whether there are animal species that should never be kept in captivity. Many people are concerned about apes and elephants, for instance, because they have highly developed cognitive abilities such as autonoetic consciousness – the ability to see their life as a continuous story.

Sharks to become smaller and poorer hunters by century’s end, climate change study suggests
Sharks will be smaller in size and poorer hunters by the end of the century due to warming oceans, marine ecologists say.  A report by the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute showed warmer waters and ocean acidification would slowly destroy the ability of sharks to hunt.

Satellite Eye on Earth: September 2015 – in pictures
Indonesia’s fires, autumn on the Great Lakes and Australia’s Earth art are among the images captured by European Space Agency and Nasa satellites last month

Economy and Business

The Trans-Pacific Partnership poses a grave threat to sustainable development
This month’s long-awaited release of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) text was the result of years of negotiations on trade ties between nations around the Pacific Rim. Some six weeks earlier, another set of deliberations came to an end as the United Nations unveiled its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aim to eradicate poverty and reduce inequality by addressing critical issues such as food security, health care, access to education, clean and affordable water, clean energy, and climate action. Unfortunately, the two documents are incompatible.

Climate risk could undermine investments, report warns
A report has warned that investors could be hit hard amid changes in short-term market swings, triggered by climate impact concerns. University of Cambridge experts said global investment portfolios could see losses of up to 45%. No investor was “immune from the risks posed by climate change”, they added.

‘Ethical investing’ surges as activists ramp up corporate campaigns
“Ethical investing” is becoming more popular in Australia as activists target corporations to push for change on issues such as asylum seekers and mining, according to analysts. Research shows demand for investment in companies deemed “ethical” is growing, according to the most recent figures from the Responsible Investment Association of Australasia (RIAA). Demand for ethical funds had doubled in two years, from $15.2 billion to $31.6 billion in December 2014, the report said.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Achieving a Circular Economy: U.S. Focused Report Released
A new report released this week by the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USCCF) and titled, “Achieving the Circular Economy: How the Private Sector Is Reimagining the Future of Business”, explores a combination of the latest circular economy thinking and some of the most pertinent examples in the U.S. market. The report was support by Veolia North America and DOW and produced in collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Trending: Behavior Change Campaigns Aim to Boost Recycling Rates in the US, UK
Organizations in the United States and United Kingdom continue to concoct clever ways to convince their citizens that recycling is worthwhile. In England, a new behavior change campaign is trying to reinforce that every little bit helps: If every Londoner recycled one extra plastic bottle a week for a year, enough energy would be saved to power Wembley Stadium for two years – a venue that can hold 90,000 people. So Resource London is asking Londoners to recycle “just one thing,” in its new “Recycle for London” campaign.

Rogue recyclers risk fines as surveillance cameras installed in Mildura garbage trucks – Localisation Information
AUSTRALIA – Do you remember what you put in your recycling bin last week? Chances are that even if you do not, it has been captured on camera. Last month, Mildura Rural Council announced that contractors would start using recycling trucks fitted with cameras.  Drivers will monitor what is being put into, and coming out of, recycle bins. As part of the initiative, which started on November 1, residents who repeatedly put non-recyclable items into their recycling bin will receive written notification and advice on how to recycle properly.

Trade bodies call for more demand-side measures in circular economy package
A joint letter from UK trade organisations has urged greater focus on demand-side measures in the EU circular economy package. According to recent leaks, the package is likely to contain stronger drivers to push waste out of landfill and up the waste hierarchy. This would include higher recycling and landfill diversion targets. But the trade bodies, including ADBA, CIWM, ESA, Institute of Civil Engineers, REA and the Resource Association, want measures to stimulate stronger and more stable market demand for recycled materials.

UK Chef’s New TV Show Waging ‘War on Waste’
The latest celebrity chef-led TV show is going beyond delicious meals to dish out hard truths about waste. Chef-turned-food-waste-activist Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall “is on a mission to reduce the amount of waste that Britain produces,” in the new BBC One series, “Hugh’s War on Waste.”The show primarily focuses on food waste, but other industries and waste streams are highlighted in the course of Fearnley-Whittingstall’s investigation. The UK wastes more foodthan any other European country; the show explains that one-third of food produced goes uneaten and that the average family in discards £700-worth (over US$1,000) of food a year.

Politics and Society

Hamilton student sues government over climate change targets
NEW ZEALAND – A law student is suing the government, after she claims it has failed to set appropriate targets for climate change reductions.  Sarah Thomson, from Hamilton, has filed a case with the High Court in Wellington against the government’s Minister for Climate Change Issues Tim Groser. The 24-year-old claims the government has failed to set emissions targets that reflect the science on climate change and she is calling on the High Court to review New Zealand’s emissions targets.

See also:

Hillary Clinton proposes $30bn lifeline for hard-hit coal communities
Hillary Clinton on Thursday unveiled a $30bn plan to help America’s coal communities adjust to a climate agenda increasingly driven by renewable energy sources. After setting ambitious goals to combat climate change in recent months, the Democratic presidential frontrunner’s latest proposals detail how a Clinton administration would seek to alleviate the impact on mining communities of a transition away from coal-fired power plants.

Science Museum ends sponsorship deal with Shell
The Science Museum will not renew a controversial sponsorship deal with Shell in which the oil company provided significant funding for its high-profile climate change exhibition. The museum in London answered a freedom of information request saying: “No, the Science Museum Group [formerly the National Museum of Science & Industry] does not have plans to renew its existing sponsorship deal or initiate a new deal or funding agreement with Royal Dutch Shell.”

Built Environment

Economic framework for urban greenery launched
AUSTRALIA – Local councils will now be able to put a dollar value on their urban greening activities, thanks to an Australian-first economic framework launched today (Thursday) at Victoria University in Melbourne. The Economic Framework for Green Infrastructure is a joint effort by City of Melbourne, City of Banyule, City of Kingston, City of Moonee Valley and Victoria University in partnership with the Victorian Government. City of Melbourne Environment Portfolio chair Arron Wood said the framework would allow better decision-making and investment by councils.

Britain ‘must abandon Churchillian rhetoric’ in face of rising seas
Britain must abandon “Churchillian rhetoric” and claims it can “hold the line” against rising seas, and instead plan ahead for increasing coastal erosion, according to the National Trust. Despite a growing risk of seaside flooding from climate change and rising sea levels, 12,495 new homes and businesses in England have been built in areas of medium to high risk from coastal change over the last 10 years.

Case study: The Carbon Positive House
When you think of building your dream home, what do you imagine? For me, it’s creating a warm, open space filled with natural light, that is energy efficient (better yet, produces its own electricity) and made from sustainable materials. Oh, and there are killer views to boot. But, having watched one too many episodes of Grand Designs, I’m aware that building your dream home can turn into a nightmare if deadlines are missed, which can lead to rising costs and delays to construction. So, what if you could have your dream home built in a weekend? Better yet, a day?

Food Systems

Study finds labelling does not empower shoppers to make ‘ethical food choices’
Do you care if the food you buy is grown locally? Does it matter if it is sustainable or free-range?  And how much does labelling help you make ethical food choices? Ethical food is a growing market, and what motivates shoppers to make ethical food purchases has been the focus of an Adelaide University study. Senior research associate Dr Heather Bray said focus groups had been used to better understand attitudes towards labelling.

How Do Crickets and Algae Stack Up Against Beef?

The growing world population’s increasing hunger for protein could lead to serious environmental repercussions. Livestock farming is still the primary source of protein, and has massive environmental impact compared to vegetable farming and other forms of agriculture. Beef remains the most resource-intensive to produce, but new research suggests the resource burden of other sources isn’t clean cut.


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