Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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The top story today is an amazing piece of work by a Lithuanian artist who created an SOS message in a palm oil plantation in Indonesia to highlight the disconnection between what people buy and the impact at the source of obtaining the ingredients.  In other news there are signs of action in the UK on dealing with plastic waste, albeit with complaints the action is not fast enough.  On the other hand a group of “retail giants” are joining together to tackle consumer demands for sustainable practices.

Top Story

SOS carved into palm oil plantation to highlight impact on Indonesia’s people and wildlife | ABC News
INDONESIA – A Lithuanian artist has carved a giant SOS message into an Indonesian palm oil plantation to draw attention to the damage done by deforestation and highlight the impact on people and wildlife. Ernest Zacharevic curated the Save our Souls project as part of a campaign on the impact palm oil plantations have on tribal communities and endangered species such as the orangutan. “We, as consumers, are so detached from the source of our commodities that we are no longer able to see the consequences of our daily choices,” Zacharevic said.

Photo: Forest cover in Indonesia has dropped by nearly a quarter since 1990, according to World Bank data. (Facebook: Ernest Zacharevic)

Photo: Forest cover in Indonesia has dropped by nearly a quarter since 1990, according to World Bank data. (Facebook: Ernest Zacharevic)

Climate Change and Energy

Hundreds of Queensland state schools to go solar | One Step Off The Grid
AUSTRALIA – The Queensland government is tapping rooftop solar in a bid to slash the power costs of one of its largest energy users – its state schools – by up to 20 per cent. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on Tuesday said on Tuesday that her government would roll out solar and energy efficiency measures across around 800 state schools through a new program called Advancing Clean Energy Schools, or ACES.

Powershop to tap customer battery storage in new virtual power plant | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – Renewable energy retailer Powershop and Canberra-based energy management company Reposit Power have joined forces to create yet another virtual power plant, that will tap customer battery storage capacity at times of peak demand. The VPP, called Grid Impact, will give Powershop customers guaranteed quarterly payments for allowing the retailer activate their solar charged batteries at designated times.

Rain or shine: new solar cell captures energy from raindrops | The Guardian
CHINA – A solar panel that can generate electricity from falling raindrops has been invented, enabling power to flow even when skies cloud over or the sun has set. The new device, demonstrated in a laboratory at Soochow University in China, places two transparent polymer layers on top of a solar photovoltaic (PV) cell. When raindrops fall on to the layers and then roll off, the friction generates a static electricity charge.

Environment and Biodiversity

Watch: Trapping Auckland’s elusive long-tailed bat | NZ Herald (Video 2:39)
NEW ZEALAND – Scientists have succeeded in tagging some of New Zealand’s most elusive native creatures: the long-tailed bat. A team of researchers ventured into Auckland’s Waitakere Ranges to trap the threatened species as part of efforts to better understand their habitat and movements.

Turning farmer’s roadside drain into a healthy freshwater ecosystem |
NEW ZEALAND – Canterbury’s Ararira-LII River is one of five New Zealand catchments included in Fonterra and DOC’s $20 million, 10-year, Living Water partnership. Like the Wairua River in Northland, the Peat Lakes in Waikato, Pukorokoro-Miranda in the Firth of Thames and Waituna Lagoon in Southland, the Ararira-LII catchment is environmentally degraded, much of that blamed on dairy farming. Generally known as the LII (pronounced ‘L-two’), the catchment covers 6600ha and includes 12 dairy farms, along with lifestyle blocks, sheep and beef, deer, horticulture and cropping and the towns of Lincoln and Springston.

Carex secta has been planted to create shade, sandbags filled with river gravel stabilise the bank and rocks, stones and logs vary the flow and create a variety of habitats.

Carex secta has been planted to create shade, sandbags filled with river gravel stabilise the bank and rocks, stones and logs vary the flow and create a variety of habitats.

Economy and Business

‘Better Retail Better World’: Retail giants sign up to sweeping new environmental goals | BusinessGreen
UK – Facing growing pressure over the use of plastic packaging and perennial questions about the impact of its supply chain, the retail industry today unveiled a wide-ranging new strategy designed to bolster its environmental performance and support the UN’s Sustainable  Development Goals (SDG).

Investors bet on component makers in electric car shift | Reuters
As carmakers ramp up spending on self-driving and electric vehicles (EVs), many investors are betting their component suppliers will be the first winners from the technology shifts.

So much for voluntary reporting: companies fail to come clean over climate risk | SMH
AUSTRALIA – This is where voluntary reporting gets you. Almost a year after the Financial Stability Board’s Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) released its final recommendations, encouraging companies to come clean over the financial risks climate change poses to their business, barely a handful have acted. Market Forces has released a study of 73 ASX100 companies that fall into “high risk” categories by the TCFD. Half still fail to identify climate change as a material business risk and only 10 have produced scenario analysis explaining how they expect to be compatible with an economy that holds global warming below 2°C, a key TCFD recommendation.

Waste and the Circular Economy

From old bottles to new insulation: Knauf Insulation and Veolia cut ribbon on £10m recycling facility | BusinessGreen
The UK’s circular economy received a major boost late last week as waste management giant Veolia and energy efficiency specialist Knauf Insulation jointly opened a major new glass recycling facility in St Helens. The companies said the site represented a “world-first facility” that uses cutting-edge technology to “separate glass at a micro-level with exceptional accuracy, delivering an ultra-pure glass cullet”.

Cooking up creative solutions for food waste problem costing billions a year | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – The average Australian household throws away a whopping 14 per cent of their weekly food shop, and even more unsold produce is dumped by supermarkets and farmers daily. The Federal Government wants to halve food waste by 2030, but according to Julie Broad from charity Food Rescue that goal will only be met with innovative solutions.

Politics and Society

Spring Statement: Greener vans and plastic taxes, Chancellor promises action to tackle ‘environmental challenges that threaten our future’ | BusinessGreen
UK – Wide-ranging call for evidence on how to crack down on plastic waste accompanied by new plans to incentivise white van drivers to switch to cleaner models.  Chancellor Philip Hammond has today called on businesses and environmental groups to work closely with the government to combat the scourge of waste plastic and tackle “the environmental challenges that threaten our future”. As had been previously trailed, Hammond used the Spring Statement to officially launch a call for evidence entitled “Tackling the plastic problem – Using the tax system or charges to address single-use plastic waste”.
See also: Government launches plastic call for evidence: The green economy reacts

Labor’s Investment Guarantee a boon for building efficiency | The Fifth Estate
AUSTRALIA – All businesses will be able to immediately deduct 20 per cent of investment in eligible energy efficient depreciable assets over $20,000, under a new plan revealed by the federal Labor Party. If elected, the plan could have a massive impact in the built environment sector, according to industry. Announcing the plan, shadow climate change and energy minister Mark Butler the plan would boost investment in energy saving projects, lower bills, cut emissions and add jobs.

Greens electric car push: end sale of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030 | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – The Greens have proposed introducing mandatory fuel efficiency standards, ending the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, and imposing a four-year 17% tax on luxury petrol and diesel cars as part of an electric vehicle policy announced on Tuesday.

Built Environment

Formula E’s new racing car demonstrates rapid advances in EV technology | The Climate Group
As the ABB FIA Formula E Championship reveals its new electric racing car at the Geneva Motor Show today, Sandra Roling, Head of EV100, The Climate Group, looks at the growing momentum in the electric vehicle market – and how it is bringing us closer to a better, healthier and more convenient future for everyone.

Formula E race car. Courtesy of ABB FIA Formula E

Courtesy of ABB FIA Formula E


Food Systems



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