Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Today’s top story is about consumers being duped, buying eggs labelled free range when they are actually from caged hens, but a broader message ensues about the trust between business/brands and the consumer. This can easily be damaged and is hard to repair, the message to business being that, in order to survive, they need to listen carefully to consumer values. In other news, on how bad climate change might get (bad enough that we must take action now), the fascinating and important world of fungi, massive price drops in Australian renewable energy auctions, and a downturn in North Sea drilling, while the Carbon Tracker predicts peak fossil fuels by 2023.

Top Story

Mislabelled eggs can easily lead to cracks in consumer confidence |
Xue (Frank) Chen, a west Auckland egg farmer, has been charged by the Commerce Commission with illegally selling millions of caged eggs as free-range. Free-range eggs carry a great value for many consumers, who are willing to pay a premium price for them. This presents businesses with a strong economic incentive to misbehave. The potential to mislead consumers while making claims they will find hard to verify and evaluate – credence qualities, in economic jargon – is big… Trust is essential for the proper functioning of markets. It benefits consumers, traders, markets and society generally.

Climate Change

Frank Gibson: Climate change and the end of civilisation | NZ Herald
The end of civilisation. Sounds a bit apocalyptic … are we entering the end times? Well not quite but, according to Professor James Renwick, unless we (the human race) get our act together in the next few years we could be in for some pretty unpleasant times… James gave examples of the sort of journalism which implies that in the not too distant future irreversible, cataclysmic climate changes will end life on earth. His opinion on this, in common with the vast majority of genuine researchers is that no, humans are not going to be wiped out any time soon. However, without immediate measures to halt and eventually reverse climate change, humans may wish they had been wiped out.

The strange science of melting ice sheets: three things you didn’t know | The Guardian
Global average sea level is currently rising at a rate of about 3mm per year. This is primarily caused by ocean warming and the melting of ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica. The melting of this land-based ice in particular is gathering pace. As these vast, frozen lands melt and flow into the sea, certain parts of the world will face an increased risk of flooding. But the science behind how they affect sea level is complex.

‘Nature-based’ greenhouse gas removal to limit UK climate change | BBC News
UK – Planting millions of acres of trees and energy crops as well as restoring wetlands and coastal habitats could help the UK become carbon neutral by 2050. A new report says that these and other, newer technologies will be needed, even with stringent CO2 emissions cuts. The authors say Brexit could be an opportunity for farmers to switch to carbon-removing crops and practices. The plan is costly, the scientists say, but necessary and achievable.

Transport emissions continue to rise as Australia lags behind other nations | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – Australia is lagging behind other developed nations in the race to curb greenhouse gas emissions from transport, according to a new report. The report from the Climate Council, due to be released on Thursday, finds that Australia’s transport-related emissions have continued to rise because of policy inaction.

US activists launch climate change initiatives in absence of federal leadership | The Guardian
USA – America’s governors, mayors and CEOs are forging ahead with climate change initiatives despite the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and commitment to reviving the coal industry. But a report published today sets out a roadmap that could quicken that pace and cut carbon emissions to 24% below 2005 levels by 2025 in the absence of federal leadership.


Environment and Biodiversity

The secret life of fungi: Ten fascinating facts | BBC News
They’re all around us, in the soil, our bodies and the air, but are often too small to be seen with the naked eye. They provide medicines and food but also wreak havoc by causing plant and animal diseases. According to the first big assessment of the state of the world’s fungi, the fungal kingdom is vital to life on Earth. Yet, more than 90% of the estimated 3.8 million fungi in the world are currently unknown to science.

Penicillin alone has multiple uses - in antibiotics, the contraceptive pill and cheese production. Photo: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Penicillin alone has multiple uses – in antibiotics, the contraceptive pill and cheese production. Photo: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Keeping honeybees doesn’t save bees – or the environment | The Conversation
The European honeybee (Apis mellifera) is a social bee species that has been domesticated for crop pollination and honey production. Beekeeping is often promoted as a way to conserve pollinators and, as a result, is on the rise across the UK. It’s great to see people backing the pollinator movement, but managing hives does nothing to protect our wild pollinators. It’s the equivalent of farming chickens to save wild birds.

Tui flashmobs hit Wellington | RNZ News
NEW ZEALAND – As the kowhai blooms, some residents around Wellington are being treated to frenzied, flocking displays by ever-increasing numbers of tui. Up to 40 or 50 birds can turn up in a frantic, noisy flashmob. After four or five minutes of frenetic activity, they then fly off squadron-like to find another golden kowhai nearby. Principal science advisor with the Department of Conservation, Hugh Robertson, said due to community trapping efforts, predator-free programmes and the effect of Zealandia, the numbers of tui flocking like this are growing and becoming more noticeable in residential areas.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Single use plastic bottles banned from half marathon in London | The Guardian
UK – The capital’s first marathon event pledging to be completely free of “single use” plastic drinks bottles is to take place in north-west London. The Harrow half marathon on Sunday 16 September will be the first time that London has staged a single use plastic-free running event. Single use plastic bottles are banned from the course. But runners will be able to rehydrate themselves at water stations along the 13.1 mile course with Ooho, water in biodegradable sachets made from a seaweed-based membrane.

Masses of discarded water bottles during the London Marathon. Photograph: Tom Jenkins for the Guardian

Masses of discarded water bottles during the London Marathon. Photograph: Tom Jenkins for the Guardian

Politics and Society

CSIRO releases future of health report: a vision for a new approach to health | CSIRO
AUSTRALIA – The CSIRO Future of Health report provides a list of recommendations for improving the health of Australians over the next 15 years, focussed around five central themes: empowering people, addressing health inequity, unlocking the value of digitised data, supporting integrated and precision health solutions, and integrating with the global sector.

Article 7 sanctions: a legal expert explains the EU’s ‘nuclear option’ | The Conversation
Several disputes between the European Union and national governments have raised a matter rarely discussed beyond Brussels – the potential for the union to sanction one of its member states by suspending its membership rights. This sanction is delivered by triggering Article 7 of the Treaty of the European Union. It’s a mechanism that has severe implications and has never actually been used. But concerns about the rule of law in Poland have raised intense discussions about using Article 7.


Global demand for fossil fuels will peak in 2023, says thinktank | The Guardian
Global demand for fossil fuels will peak in 2023, an influential thinktank has predicted, posing a significant risk to financial markets because trillions of dollars’ worth of oil, coal and gas assets could be left worthless. Explosive growth in wind and solar will combine with action on climate change and slowing growth in energy needs to ensure that fossil fuel demand peaks in the 2020s, Carbon Tracker predicted.

North Sea ‘at a crossroads’ as drilling sinks to 55-year low | The Telegraph
In the four years since oil markets began their descent into their deepest downturn ever, the North Sea has emerged with lower costs and rising flows of oil. But a landmark industry report has cast doubt on the future of the North Sea as drilling work to tap new reserves plummets to lows not seen since 1965.

Victoria renewables auction points to another fall in wind and solar costs | RenewEconomy
The Victoria government may not have been upfront about the fine details and costs of its ground-breaking renewable energy auction, but there is enough information floating around to suggest that another significant fall in the cost of wind and solar in Australia has occurred… It’s a price that puts new coal, let alone gas, well out of the ball park.

Greenpeace wants govt to use funds for solar panels instead of oil and gas | RNZ News
NEW ZEALAND – Greenpeace is calling on the government to kit out New Zealand homes with solar panels by using the funds currently subsidising the oil and gas industry. Earlier this year the government banned offshore exploration, and Greenpeace said the $88 million used to subsidise it could be used for solar panels and batteries for 1.5 million New Zealand homes over the next ten years.

Built Environment

Glass half full or half empty? Hello Tomorrowland! | The Fifth Estate
AUSTRALIA – Last week I had the privilege of playing MC at The Fifth Estate’s amazing Tomorrowland event. Dozens of ever-too-clever individuals giving us mind-popping insights into the future of everything, from how you have your say in your democracy to how your pizza gets to your door. All of which get me thinking, too. What’s the future going to be? Utopia or dystopia? A stairway to heaven or a highway to hell?

Rooftop solar kept out of the shade with new Victoria planning rules | One Step Off The Grid
AUSTRALIA – New residential planning rules are being rolled out in Victoria to protect the state’s more than 330,000 rooftop solar systems from being overshadowed – and thus their generating capacity diminished – by neighbouring developments. Victoria’s minister for planning Richard Wynne said the amendment to state planning provisions “to safeguard savings on power bills” had been approved, and would take effect later this month. The changes mean overshadowing of existing home solar panels and solar hot water systems must be considered in planning decisions, to ensure their capacity was not “unreasonably reduced” by any new development.

The What, Why, When guide to buying a battery electric vehicle in Australia | The Driven
AUSTRALIA – It’s six months since I first wrote an article like this – and with the many exciting changes that have been happening in the Australian market, it seems an ideal time to revisit it. A selection of new 300 – 500km range BEVs (Battery Electric Vehicles) are now finally trickling into Australian showrooms. We now have two setting the new price point of ‘around $50,000’, and three more will join them in the next few months. Tesla also now have a serious competitor to the Model X (and indirectly the S) with the Jaguar I-Pace.