Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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Energy and Climate Change

Solar panel ‘trust mark’ powered-up for government buyers and consumers
The peak body for Australia’s solar industry, the Australian Solar Council (ASC), has moved to give government purchasers and consumers far greater confidence in the quality and performance of panels on the local market.  As the uptake of photovoltaic cells rapidly increases, the ASC has a launched a new ‘trust mark’ it expects will become the industry standard for local and state government installations, including those put to public tender.  The quality assurance stamp from the industry is a big deal for government, industry and consumers because it will for the first time create a standardised benchmark against which products can be assessed rather than wading through reams of complex technical documentation.

Solar industry leads 14% rise in renewables jobs, global data shows
The number of people working in the global renewable energy industry grew by 14% to 6.5 million in 2013, according to a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena). However, employment in renewable energy in the UK is stagnating, according to the most recent government data.  The biggest renewable sector employer worldwide is the solar panel industry, which employed 2.27 million people, according to Irena, a body comprising 168 member nations.


West Antarctica Glaciers Collapsing, Adding to Sea-Level Rise
A massive glacier system in West Antarctica has started collapsing because of global warming and will contribute to significant worldwide sea-level rise, two teams of scientists warn in a pair of major studies released Monday.  Scientists had previously thought the two-mile-thick (3.2 kilometers) glacier system would remain stable for thousands of years, but new research suggests a faster time frame for melting.

BP oil spill: methane persisted in sea after microbe cleanup
Scientists on Sunday said that methane which leaked from the 2010 oil-rig blowout in the Gulf of Mexico persisted in the sea for months beyond a presumed cleanup of the gas by marine microbes.  As much as half a million tonnes of natural gas, 80 percent of it methane, leaked into the deep sea as a result of the blowout on April 20, 2010, on BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig.  The leak triggered a surprising “bloom” of marine bacteria that feasted on the gassy hydrocarbon plume.

‘Immediate action’ needed at Solomon Islands gold mine: UN
Solomon Islands risks an environmental disaster unless immediate action is taken to prevent leaks at the country’s only gold mine, the United Nations warns.  The Gold Ridge mine, operated by Australian company St Barbara, was found to have an extremely high level of contaminated water in its tailing dam following last month’s flash floods.

Economy and Business

Promising business models for sustainable growth
Many companies are interested in developing sustainable growth strategies, but struggle to know where to start. A number of new business theories promise to point them on their way.  A common starting point for most businesses is the desire to reduce their negative impacts on society and the environment while simultaneously growing sales. Finding ways to increase product efficiency understandably plays a vital role in this pursuit.  “Everything – from aircraft to cars to white goods – is getting more efficient as an individual unit,” says Dax Lovegrove, former head of business sustainability and innovation at environmental charity WWF. “But consumption of these products is going sky high.”

IKEA rolls out 3.9MW of rooftop solar – largest in Australia
Swedish furniture giant IKEA has announced it will install 3.9MW of rooftop solar PV systems across all of its Australian east coast stores and warehouses, a project that will result in the nation’s largest commercial solar development so far.  The project – which will see more than 16,000 panels installed across IKEA Australia’s five stores in Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales, as well as two merchandise pick-up locations – will have an annual output of 5,495 million kilowatt hours (MWh) of electricity; enough to power 778 family homes for a year.

Politics and Society

‘Green tape’ cuts: industry wins, locals and the environment lose
Deep cuts to environmental programs and staff predicted in today’s federal budget aren’t the only “green” cuts that Australians should be concerned about.  The federal government is currently holding an Inquiry into streamlining environmental regulation, ‘green tape’, and one stop shops, which looks set to completely change the way environmental regulation works across Australia.

Why facts alone don’t change minds in our big public debates
Whether discussing vaccination, climate science, the state of the budget or educational reform, it is common to hear calls for “the facts”. The appealing simplicity of the word “fact” is instrumental in its frequent employment as a persuasive device, but it is a deceptive siren call if you really want to change someone’s mind.  There is a strong tendency, particularly in those supporting a scientific position, to think that if only the facts could be made clear, people would follow the logical pathway to an inevitable and common conclusion.

Saudi Arabia’s green decree brings hopes of sustainability
The kingdom has given construction developers five years to go green. How will this change life in the oil-rich kingdom?  The new regulations are wide-reaching, addressing soil and land preservation, noise pollution from operating machinery, hazardous and radioactive waste that enters Saudi Arabia’s coastal waters and other harmful pollutants.

Food Systems

Bhutan could be world’s first wholly organic nation within a decade
Bhutan could within a decade become the first country in the world to go wholly organic in its food production, according to key politicians in the Himalayan kingdom.  Agriculture and forests minister Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji and opposition leader Pema Gyamtsho, who held the post in the previous government, say there is a united commitment to rid the country of chemical fertilisers and pesticides.

A lesson in biology for farmers
Claiming a certified organic status can take years and must follow strict guidelines, but a Narrikup sheep producer says you can improve the health of your farm by going biological before organic.  Stephen Frost runs Stonemeal Farm, and says turning to biological farming has saved him money every year on chemicals and pest control.

Miracle grow: Indian rice farmer uses controversial method for record crop
An Indian farmer has set a state and possibly a national record for growing rice using a neglected method of cultivation that has been dismissed by academic researchers and received little financial backing from agribusiness.  According to Jaisingh Gnanadurai, joint director of agriculture in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, farmer S Sethumadhavan from Alanganallur has harvested a record yield of nearly 24 tonnes of paddy rice per hectare using the system of rice intensification method (SRI).

Built Environment

Sid Thoo: The future of sustainability (Recommended)
Association of Building Sustainability Assessors chair Sid Thoo recently spoke at the DesignBUILD conference on “the future of sustainability”. Following is the first part of an edited transcript of his presentation, where Sid talks about his thoughts on the term sustainability, why it needs to be thought of as more than an added extra, and why an article in The Fifth Estate means he’ll probably never be invited to speak at a Green Cities conference.


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