Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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There’s no doubt of the top news story today: plastered all over the web are articles on the acceleration of sea ice melt in Antarctica. Elsewhere news from BP on their analysis of emissions rising again even while renewables surge ahead, Porsche names its new electric car to rival Tesla, an ethical dilemma arising from oil rigs at end of life, warmer waters equal less nutritious fish, and what would happen if there was a mass failure of corn crops around the world.

Top Story

‘Grim future’ on the horizon as Antarctic ice melt triples |
Antarctica has lost three trillion tonnes of ice over the last 25 years – roughly the volume of Wellington Harbour each day – with almost half of the melting happening in the last five years. A major analysis of the frozen continent’s ice sheets and glaciers found the loss has caused an 8 millimetre rise in global sea levels since the early 1990s. The rate of melting has tripled since 2012, with the 219 billion tonnes of ice being lost every year since then contributing to a 3mm rise in sea levels.

Sea level contribution due to the Antarctic ice sheet between 1992 and 2017, from data gathered by international scientists working on the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise.

Sea level contribution due to the Antarctic ice sheet between 1992 and 2017, from data gathered by international scientists working on the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Inter-comparison Exercise. Photo: Imbie/Planetary Visions

See also:

Climate Change and Energy

Short-term changes in Antarctica’s ice shelves are key to predicting their long-term fate | The Conversation
Antarctica’s ice sheet contains enough ice to raise global sea levels by around 180 feet if it all melted. But dramatic, eye-catching changes to Antarctica’s floating ice shelves, such as calving icebergs, are often highlighted in the news without a sense of long-term context or a clear connection to what is causing the changes.

Rise in global carbon emissions a ‘big step backwards’, says BP | The Guardian
The renewed upward march of global carbon emissions is worrying and a big step backwards in the fight against climate change, according to BP. Emissions rose 1.6% in 2017 after flatlining for the previous three years, which the British oil firm said was a reminder the world was not on track to hit the goals of the Paris climate deal. Renewable power generation grew by 17% last year, led by wind and followed by what BP called “stunning” growth in solar. But strong economic growth led to above-average energy demand, coal use bounced back in China and efficiency gains slowed down, causing emissions to jump, the company’s annual statistical review of world energy found.

Are solar panels a middle-class purchase? This survey says yes | The Conversation
The rate of growth in residential rooftop solar photovoltaics (PV) in Australia since 2008 has been nothing short of breathtaking. Our new research suggests that the households most likely to join in the solar spree are those that are affluent enough to afford the upfront investment, but not so wealthy that they don’t worry about their future power bills.

The explosion in rooftop PV uptake since 2008. Derived from Clean Energy Regulator data.

The explosion in rooftop PV uptake since 2008. Derived from Clean Energy Regulator data.

India on course to hit renewable energy target before 2022 | Climate Action Programme
India’s Power Minister has told reporters that he expects the country to hit its 175 gigawatt renewable energy target “well before 2022”. Speaking at a press conference in New Delhi this week, R. K Singh said the rate of progress on energy over the past four years had been “path-breaking”. “In the 48 years before 2014, the pace of capacity addition in generation was about 4,800 megawatts (MW) a year. In the 48 months of this government, the pace of capacity addition was 24,000 MW a year.”

See also: India’s power minister says the country can smash its 2022 renewable power goal. Will it happen? | Climate Home News

Environment and Biodiversity

Warmer water worsens fish nutritional quality – study | NZ Herald
Warmer water events can worsen the nutritional balance of fish, finds new research carried out in New Zealand. Conversely, the new study, just published in the Journal of Animal Ecology, found fish and squid caught when waters were colder than normal were of higher quality. Its lead author says the findings have implications for a range of species that eat fish – including us – and highlight another potential knock-on effect of climate change.

Decommissioned rigs: Precious marine habitats or giant lumps of ocean waste? | ABC News
Australia’s offshore oil and gas structures are starting to come to the end of their lifespans — and while the default is currently to completely remove them from the ocean, some experts believe they should remain where they are. Australia has over 2,000 wells, around 30 platforms and thousands of kilometres of undersea pipeline around its Commonwealth waters. Offshore platforms are effectively huge artificial reefs, according to ecologist Peter Macreadie from Deakin University.

The fact rigs support sea life doesn't mean they shouldn't be removed, Greenpeace's Nathaniel Pelle says. (Getty Images: Kampee Patisena)

The fact rigs support sea life doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be removed, Greenpeace’s Nathaniel Pelle says. (Getty Images: Kampee Patisena)

Mass slaughter of wedge-tailed eagles could have Australia-wide consequences | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – At least 136 wedge-tailed eagles were intentionally poisoned last week in East Gippsland, with concerns that more are yet to be found. In the past five years I have used satellite tracking devices to research wedge-tailed eagles’ movements across Australia, and I’ve never encountered raptor deaths on this scale. It’s been suggested that the birds were killed to protect lambs. Tragically, not only was this illegal cull unnecessary – evidence suggests that eagles do not often kill livestock – but it could also have ecological consequences right across Australia.

Wombat rewilding project lifts numbers but hotter weather, traffic has them staying put | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – A wombat rewilding program is showing an increase in population numbers, but weather trends, weeds and road dangers are hindering their movement. What began in 2015 with 13 orphaned wombats placed back into the wild at a biobank site at Mulgoa in western Sydney, has grown to an estimated 19 animals.

One in five British mammals at risk of extinction | BBC News
UK – The red squirrel, the wildcat, and the grey long-eared bat are all facing severe threats to their survival, according to new research. They are among 12 species that have been put on the first “red list” for wild mammals in Britain. The Mammal Society and Natural England study said almost one in five British mammals was at risk of extinction. Factors such as climate change, loss of habitat, use of pesticides and disease are to blame, the report said. The report is described as the first comprehensive review of the population of British mammals for 20 years.

Economy and Business

Macquarie issues £500m loan for green projects | BusinessGreen
Macquarie, the Australian bank which last year bought the Green Investment Bank, has issued a £500m loan facility to fund green energy, energy efficiency, clean transportation and low-carbon building projects.

World Bank reconsidering support for its last coal plant | Climate Home News
KOSOVO – The World Bank is reassessing its support for the only coal power plant project left on its books. The bank was considering guaranteeing loans to the Kosovo C lignite-fired power station, proposed to be built just outside the Kosovan capital Pristina. It was the last exception to a policy against backing coal projects. But on Wednesday, a World Bank spokesperson told Climate Home News it was finalising work on a study of the country’s options for rebuilding its crumbling power sector.

These 8 nature-based startups from around the world are going to save it | GreenBiz
ETIFOR provides technology transfer services linking scientists with market players. But Leonardi’s passion project is an ambitious effort to help burgeoning entrepreneurs in the environmental sector. Business is booming in the arena of “nature-based business,” which includes ventures ranging from ecological restoration companies to ecotourism to sustainable commodity production. One study estimates that ecological restoration in the United States is a $25 billion-a-year industry that directly employs 126,000 people and supports 95,000 jobs indirectly — more jobs than logging, coal mining or iron and steel.

Porsche finds name for new EV model to compete with Tesla, Jaguar | RenewEconomy
Porsche, the German sports car manufacturer who made public their commitment to zero-emission vehicles with an 80 foot high pylon of solar panels and an EV supercharger last year, have now officially christened its flagship electric vehicle, the Taycan. The Taycan was first introduced as the Mission E concept vehicle in 2015, and at the time was seen as a possible contender to compete against Elon Musk’s Tesla Model S.

Waste and the Circular Economy

My daughter and I paddled 22 miles, picking up plastic. Here’s what we found | The Guardian
UK – One My Little Pony, two crabbing buckets, five balloons, six balls, seven straws, nine shoes, a dozen coffee cups, 20 carrier bags, 205 plastic bottles and lids, polystyrene and a huge amount of rope. That is just a fraction of what my six-year-old daughter, Ella, and I collected over the course of two days last weekend, as we paddleboarded around the Salcombe-Kingsbridge estuary in south Devon, scouring the foreshores of every creek and cove for 22 miles.

Plastics going straight to landfill as China waste ban bites | Radio New Zealand News
NEW ZEALAND – Plastics that were once able to be recycled are now heading straight to New Zealand landfills as China’s waste import ban starts to bite… The Auckland University of Technology is this week telling staff and students not to put plastics graded 3 to 7 into its recycling bins. AUT spokeswoman Alison Sykora said while cans, bottles and some plastics were still accepted, the rest – such as yoghurt pottles or coffee lids – was now rubbish.

Plastic pollution: Has our action come too late? | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – From a just-implemented ban on microbeads to new moves to phase out single use plastic bags, efforts to curb plastic pollution have reached an unprecedented pace. But is today’s action decades too late? Jamie Morton asked Auckland University of Technology marine biologist Steph Borrelle.

Politics and Society

‘True’ peace, requires standing up for human rights, says UN chief Guterres | UN News
In a message marking the 100-day countdown to the International Day of Peace, observed annually on 21 September, Mr. Guterres reiterated the importance of human rights for lasting peace. “There is more to achieving peace than laying down weapons. True peace requires standing up for the human rights of all the world’s people,” he said. “Let us stand up for human rights for all, in the name of peace for all.” The theme of the commemorations this year is ‘The Right to Peace – The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70.’

Trump’s Environmental Rollbacks Put Thousands of Lives at Risk, Harvard Analysis Finds | InsideClimate News
USA – Using the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s own numbers, two Harvard scientists have calculated that 80,000 more lives will be lost per decade if President Donald Trump’s administration fulfills its plans to roll back clean air and water protections. The researchers, terming their tally “an extremely conservative estimate,” also estimated that the repeal of regulations will lead to respiratory problems for more than 1 million people. Their essay was published Tuesday in the authoritative Journal of the American Medical Association.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, 3 Essentials for Making Community Forestry Work | World Resources Institute
Community forestry has long been hailed as a strategy for reducing poverty and improving conservation by empowering communities to manage their forest resources directly, but it is a recent experiment for the DRC. In the two years since the country passed its community forestry legislation, WRI and local partners such as CODELT have rolled out a series of pragmatic tools and guidelines to help communities and authorities navigate the application process.

Why Hawaii’s carbon neutrality pledge matters | GreenBiz
Depending on where you sit, Hawaii’s latest climate aspirational declaration that as of yet has no clear path forward — to become carbon neutral by 2045 — may seem either preposterous or prescient. But whether you’re optimistic or pessimistic about the outcome, the action sends a clear signal to both consumers and businesses: Hawaii is serious about decarbonizing, and in a way that doesn’t penalize the local economy.

Food Systems

7 surprising things about the carbon footprint of your food | Climate Home News
Everything we buy has a carbon footprint and food is no exception. Yearly, we produce five billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent from crop and livestock production. From seed to mouth, it can be easy to forget how much in terms of production goes into our food. So here’s a couple of things you may not already know about the carbon footprint of your favourite dishes.

Climate Change Could Lead to Major Crop Failures in World’s Biggest Corn Regions | InsideClimate News
Climate change will increase the risk of simultaneous crop failures across the world’s biggest corn-growing regions and lead to less of the nutritionally critical vegetables that health experts say people aren’t getting enough of already, scientists warn. Two new studies published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences look at different aspects of the global food supply but arrive at similarly worrisome conclusions that reiterate the prospects of food shocks and malnutrition with unchecked global warming. While developing tropical countries would likely be hardest hit, the destabilizing financial effects could reach all corners of the globe, the authors say.