Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Energy and Climate Change

Germany, the emerging green superpower
A week at the American Academy in Berlin leaves me with two contradictory feelings: One is that Germany today deserves a Nobel Peace Prize, and the other is that Germany tomorrow will have to overcome its deeply ingrained post-World War II pacifism and become a more serious, activist global power. And I say both as a compliment. On the first point, what the Germans have done in converting almost 30 per cent of their electric grid to renewable energy from near zero in about 15 years has been a great contribution to the stability of our planet and its climate. The centrepiece of the German Energiewende, or energy transformation, was an extremely generous “feed-in tariff” that made it a no-brainer for Germans to install solar power (or wind) at home and receive a predictable high price for the energy generated off their own rooftops.

Could this be the world’s most efficient solar electricity system?
A new solar electricity generation system that developers claim is the most efficient in the world, is being tested in South Africa’s Kalahari desert. The Swedish company behind the project – which combines military technology with an idea developed by a 19th-century Scottish engineer and clergyman – says it is on the verge of building its first commercial installation.  In the remote Northern Cape province, huge mirrors reflect the sun across the brown Kalahari sand. This is the test site for Swedish company Ripasso, which is using the intense South African sun and local manufacturing know-how to develop their cutting-edge kit.

Marshall Islands may stop registering oil rigs in future, says foreign minister
The Marshall Islands, the world’s third largest shipping registry, may stop registering oil rigs because of climate change, according to the Pacific nation’s foreign minister Tony de Brum. The minister has advocated on the international stage for the survival of his islands, which are already suffering the effects of global warming. But he admitted that the 183 drill ships and platforms that reportedly sail under the Marshallese ensign were an uncomfortable reality as one of the tiny nation’s major sources of income.

Fossil Fuel Divestment

Boris Johnson rejects London motion on fossil fuel divestment
Boris Johnson has rejected a motion by the London assembly calling on City Hall’s pension fund to divest from fossil fuels, arguing the UK needs to press ahead with fracking to avoid being reliant on the Middle East and Russia for gas. The mayor of London, who was appointed to the cabinet this week, said that a more realistic approach was needed than divestment, which he called a “sudden cliff edge”.

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine divests from coal companies
The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, has sold off investments in coal companies from its £16m endowment in a bid to rid itself of ties to firms that contribute most significantly to climate change. Campaigners say it is the first health research organisation in the world to do so. A spokesperson for the university told the Guardian on Wednesday: “The school’s investment committee has recently decided to disinvest from coal. We are continuing to review our other energy investments.”

Environment and Biodiversity

Queensland drought spreads to a record 80 per cent of the state
Queensland’s drought has spread to a record 80 per cent of the state, the largest area ever officially recognised as being in drought. The State Government has added four council areas to the list of drought declared places. Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries Bill Byrne said the summer wet season had been too patchy to benefit the hardest hit areas. He said Bureau of Meteorology advice that the tropical Pacific is in the early stages of El Nino meant prospects for drought-breaking winter rain and spring rains were not good.

Multinationals cannot prevent palm oil deforestation on their own
As the world’s largest producer and exporter of palm oil, Indonesia counts on this much-used commodity – that generates almost $20bn a year for the country and employs millions – to drive growth and development. But the palm oil boom has triggered controversy. With Indonesia set to increase production by 50% by 2020 to meet rising demand, the question is not one of palm oil or not, but of how to maximise the economic and development benefits while minimising the adverse social and environmental effects.  To achieve this, the government needs to bring together all palm oil stakeholders, including private businesses and smallholder farmers, to lead on innovative yet decisive change that will boost sustainability and governance in the sector and steer the country towards a deforestation-free palm oil industry.

Economy and Business

Challenges Can Help Foster Innovation in Sustainability, Environmental Protection
While no situation is exactly the same, there are countless examples of companies in a variety of sectors that have used challenges to harness technological innovation to achieve environmental and business objectives. As with the pulpwood plantation model, below are a few examples of how companies have embraced adversity and used these challenges as catalysts to advance sound environmental policies while simultaneously fulfilling broader business performance goals.

Waste and the Circular Economy

New Circularity Indicators Enable Companies to Assess Products in Context of Circular Economy
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation and Granta Design have launched new indicators which, for the first time, enable companies to assess how well a product or company performs in the context of a circular economy. The new Circularity Indicators measure the extent to which the material flows of a product or company are restorative. In doing so, they will enable companies to measure their progress in making the transition from linear to circular models, and to identify areas of further opportunity.

Politics and Society

Budget 2015: Winners and Losers
The federal budget 2015 has pretty much given nothing to the sustainability sector, except for the centrepiece small business measures, which might be beneficial for small and medium enterprises in the sector. But the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and Clean Energy Finance Corporation are still on the chopping block and a commitment not to fund urban rail projects seems to remain.

Built Environment

Jimmys Beach facing another major erosion event
The rebuilding effort underway at Jimmys Beach, south of Forster, could be dealt a heavy blow in the next few days with huge swells on the way. Much of the roadway behind the beach was washed away during recent storms that struck the Hunter and Great Lakes. Vehicle access to a number of homes along The Boulevard has been blocked since the storms, and Great Lakes Council has begun reconstruction work.

Food Systems

Citrus farmer growing native foods is value adding to produce
From the road, the wattle trees planted in neat rows on Mark Lucas’s citrus farm in South Australia’s Riverland could be mistaken as a windbreak for his oranges and mandarins. But in reality they are food flavouring gold.  Mr Lucas has been growing native foods such as wattle seed, salt bush and warrigal greens alongside his other fruit crops.  He has been able to value add to his wattle crops by turning them in to an essence, used to flavour everything from his wattle seed infused balsamic vinegar to silver medal winning wattle seed dark ale brewed at a local brewery.


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