Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Top Story

Dumpster diving for dinner: do you have what it takes to eat ‘freegan’ food?
It’s a Sunday night, sometime after 9pm, I (Shady) am in my car, parked in front of Aldi in Wollongong. The lot is vacant, the sky black and threatening. I’ve been waiting, checking my phone, glancing up the street. A siren blares out behind me, and my heart pounds. I check the rear-view mirror: just a fire engine. A car pulls into the empty lot. Then another. I turn the key and trail in behind them. We drive around to the dumpsters on the far side of the parking lot and I slide in next to the small Toyota, leaving a space between us. I crank the window down. “Anne?” I ask. A woman in her early twenties with brown eyes and a ponytail says, “Nah, but she told us you were coming.” Her friend in the passenger seat smiles.

Energy and Climate Change

Burning all fossil fuels would ‘eliminate’ Antarctic ice, lift seas 58m: study
Burning all available fossil fuels would “eliminate” the giant ice sheets of Antarctica and lift sea levels by 58 metres, enough to inundate major coastal cities, according to US and Europe-based researchers. The combustion of available coal, oil and gas reserves would result in 10,000 billion tonnes of carbon emissions, and ensure West and East Antarctic ice sheets are destabilised and would ultimately melt, the study published on Saturday in Science Advances found. While the process could take as long as 10,000 years or longer to play out, even the current internationally agreed target of keeping global warming to 2 degrees above pre-industrial times would likely mean Antarctic melt alone elevated sea levels by several metres.

Threat to oceans from climate change must be key to Paris talks, say scientists
The dangers posed by global warming to the world’s oceans must be a key part of any future international climate change agreement, a group of marine research scientists are insisting, as up to now the role of the planet’s biggest ecosystem has been largely ignored at the long-running UN climate talks. The scientists are attached to the French research vessel Tara, which is completing a three-and-a-half year trip gathering information from across the globe for the world’s largest ever study of plankton. They plan to make their appeal at the crunch UN climate change conference in Paris this December.

Republicans leaders should take their own advice, listen to climate scientists
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum recently said we should “leave science to the scientists.” That’s good advice; especially since Republican Party leaders’ response when asked about climate change is inevitably “I’m not a scientist.” When it comes to questions of science, listening to scientific experts is always a good idea. The problem is that in this case, Republican leaders are failing to follow their own advice.

How strong are the world’s new climate targets? Here are four things to consider
Fifty-eight countries (including 28 in the European Union) have submitted their intended actions to reduce emissions ahead of the Paris climate conference at the end of the year. Known in the lingo as INDCs (or “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions”), these are voluntary pledges for carbon mitigation that individual nations are committing to achieve post-2020 and that will be the centerpiece of a new global deal. One way to look at these pledges is how big they are and how they compare between countries – for instance Australia’s target of 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2030, and the US’s target of 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. However just as important, if not more, is how the targets are going to be achieved. Not all efforts to mitigate climate change are equal.

Aviation & maritime emissions will rocket without clear targets, report warns
Global carbon emissions from the world’s aviation and maritime sectors could rise by 250% in 2050 without tangible targets from governments to reduce carbon rates, a report has warned.  The New Climate Economy has called on the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to lay out objectives to drastically reduce carbon rates, which are in danger of growing dramatically over the coming decades. The report, commissioned by the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, has recommended initiatives for the ICAO and IMO to implement, in an attempt to stop combined global CO2 emissions reaching 32% by 2050.

Carbon cuts just an illusion
New Zealand greenhouse gas emitters have been meeting their obligations under the emissions trading scheme with thoroughly debased coin. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that 74 per cent of the emission reduction units (ERUs) surrendered to the Government to balance last year’s emissions were imported carbon credits generated by the “joint implementation” provisions of the Kyoto Protocol. In 2013 they formed 91 per centof units surrendered; in 2012 it was 70 per cent. The integrity of these units has long been questioned. A new and painstaking study by the Stockholm Environment Institute, commissioned by the Austrian, Finnish and Swiss governments, confirms those doubts.

The 2020 solar household: independent, intelligent and efficient
When you look at the data on the uptake, and plummeting prices, of household solar PV – with battery storage following close behind – it is tempting to believe that the energy future has already arrived. But according to Mark Twidell – managing director of solar PV manufacturer SMA Australia and deputy chair of the Clean Energy Council – the focus on costs is misplaced. The real measure of solar’s success should focus on usability and accessibility. And in this department, we still have a bit of work to do.

Environment and Biodiversity

Forests of the future fundamental to achieving Sustainable Development Goals
The 14th World Forestry Congress concluded today with a declaration setting out a vision for 2050 that sees forests playing “a decisive role” in ending hunger, improving livelihoods and combating climate change, said the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The Congress “underlined that forests are critical to achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in a message to the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit, which will meet later this month in New York to adopt the 2030 development agenda,” FAO said in a news release.

World-first study into meat-eating rainbow lorikeets finds more herbivorous birds changing diets
AUSTRALIA – A Brisbane professor conducting the world’s first study into meat-eating rainbow lorikeets says he is shocked to discover more species of herbivorous birds are also changing their diets. In March the ABC revealed a population of rainbow lorikeets were eating meat from a backyard feeding station on a property at Elimbah, north of Brisbane. Bill Watson, who owns the property, has been feeding chicken mince to wild birds for more than a decade. In 2007, he discovered the rainbow lorikeets were taking meat, followed by scaly-breasted lorikeets a month ago and just recently, cockatoos.

How This Cave-Dwelling Fish Lost Its Eyes to Evolution
Few animals have ignored the warning “use it or lose it” as spectacularly as the Mexican blind cavefish (Astyanax mexicanus), which no longer has eyes. Now scientists may have solved the riddle of why the fish lost their eyes in the dark. With food so scarce in caves, the animals have to save their energy—and being sightless gives them a major boost, according to a team from Sweden’s Lund University. The researchers cracked the puzzle by looking at members of the same fish species that live aboveground, in rivers of Texas and Mexico, and which have perfect vision. For the study, the team acquired captive cavefish and measured the energy cost of their sight. They did this by calculating the oxygen consumption of their eyes and vision-related parts of their brain.

Economy and Business

Campus sustainability positions growing
Positions and offices within the field of campus sustainability continue to grow and evolve, according to the 2015 Salaries & Status of Sustainability Staff in Higher Education report from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). The report presents results of a recent Higher Education Sustainability Staffing Survey and attempts to increase understanding of the continuously growing career field of sustainability in higher education.

Refugees will have the right to work – why not employ them?
Europe may be deeply divided over how to host hundreds of thousands of refugees coming to the continent this year, but some companies are now considering the struggles new arrivals will face finding work.  Business leaders in Germany have responded to the refugee crisis by calling for the thousands of people arriving each day to be given help to find employment. “If we can integrate them quickly into the jobs market, we’ll be helping the refugees, but also helping ourselves as well,” the head of the BDI industry federation, Ulrich Grillo, told the AFP news agency earlier this week.

Viet Nam Signs Sustainable Development Agreement for Fisheries, Aquaculture
VIET NAM – The Directorate of Fisheries has made a commitment to supporting a sustainable fisheries and aquaculture sector through the signing of an agreement on the Public Private Partnership (PPP).The agreement was signed with six members: the World Wildlife Fund Viet Nam, GIZ, the Sustainable Trade Initiative, the Viet Nam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP), the Viet Nam Institute for Fisheries Economics and Planning and the Viet Nam Fisheries Society. The agreement is expected to optimise Vietnamese fisheries production, trade and consumption as well as to help improve environment management in the long term, reports VNS.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Keep New Zealand Beautiful Clean Up Week
Imagine a country where all New Zealanders care about and actively work to restore, enhance and protect our environment…  Keep New Zealand Beautiful Clean-Up Week takes place from 14th to 20th of September 2015.  It’s easy to get your branch, local community or school involved… Last year alone, nearly 80,000 volunteers helped us to Keep New Zealand Beautiful. Keep New Zealand Beautiful Week is not just about the clean-ups. These events build and strengthen community spirit and allow people to demonstrate their pride in where they live.  Find an even near you: Volunteer Created Cleanup Events

Council aims for a waste-free city
NEW ZEALAND – Last year, according to the Ministry for the Environment, tidy Kiwis sent 2,930,764 tonnes of rubbish to landfill. Of that total, 77 per cent came from the North Island, and in the first half of this year, Kiwis have thrown away 1,570,105 tonnes of rubbish already – not including recycling. According to Auckland Council, New Zealand’s biggest city sends about 1.2 million tonnes of rubbish to landfill annually. In addition, more than 100,000 tonnes of material is recycled across the Super City each year which, when combined with general waste, is the equivalent of about 720,222 Toyota Corollas. The council’s waste minimisation goal is a lofty one – zero waste by 2040 – waste planning manager Parul Sood says.

Politics and Society

Development must target the millions of children affected by humanitarian crises
In two weeks, world leaders will ratify a new consensus to build a better world: the sustainable development goals. But we will not reach these development goals – nor can development be sustainable – without reaching the millions of children living in the midst of humanitarian crises. Consider a few data points. Children living in countries affected by humanitarian crises – conflicts, natural disasters and health emergencies – account for nearly half of all under-five deaths. How can we achieve SDG3, good health for all, if we don’t reach these children?

How to communicate the sustainable development goals to the public
At the end of the month the new sustainable development goals (SDGs) will be revealed.  If you’re a development worker, campaigner or a hard-core follower of international affairs this might not be news to you. But most of the world hasn’t got a clue. A survey in 2013 showed that just 4% of people in the UK had heard of the millennium development goals (MDGs) and had an idea of what they were. So how can we encourage people outside the sector to care about the MDGs’ post-2015 successor, the SDGs.

Why Is the Man Who Predicted Climate Change Forgotten? (Book Talk)
In his time, the German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt was an icon, as famous as Darwin or Goethe. But the global dominance of Anglo-Saxon culture, the increasing specialization of science, and anti-German sentiment arising from two world wars elbowed him into the shadows. German-born Andrea Wulf, author of The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World, has made it her mission to put a new shine on his reputation—and show why he still has much to teach us.

Kiribati president lashes Peter Dutton for ‘vulgar’ joke about rising sea levels in Pacific, urges action on climate change
The president of Kiribati has lashed out at Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, labelling him morally irresponsible for making a “vulgar” joke about rising sea levels in the Pacific. Responding more in “sadness” than anger, Anote Tong said Mr Dutton has “got to search his own soul”.  “What kind of a person is he? As long as there is this kind of attitude, this kind of arrogance in any position of leadership, we will continue to have a lot of tension,” he said.


Tasmanian council workers praised for protecting plover nest
AUSTRALIA – In Tasmania, the West Coast Mayor has praised council employees working on the Strahan Airport for rescuing a family of plovers. The birds are a protected species, and are known for vigorously defending their nests, swooping on passers-by. The workers were doing maintenance work to remove moss on the runway when they noticed a bird’s nest containing four eggs directly next to it. West Coast Mayor Phil Vickers said the fact they managed to work around it without disturbing the birds shows how times have changed

Russel Norman says Greenpeace critical for humanity’s future
NEW ZEALAND – Russel Norman wants to save the world. On Friday the Green Party MP and former co-leader announced he was stepping down from parliament and taking on a new job as Executive Director of Greenpeace New Zealand. “As I’ve grown older – and you know I’m 48 years old now, so I’ve been around a while – it’s like, the environmental issues now are so pressing. … These are global, massive issues and how we deal with them in the next decades is going to determine what kind of future my children, your children, all our children inherit,” he says.

Chris Packham: ‘It has a psychopathic element, taking pleasure from killing’
UK – Even though it started over a hen harrier – and there will be those of us, shamingly, who don’t know what one of those looks like – there was something quintessential about the row that broke out this week between Chris Packham, hero of Springwatch, and the Countryside Alliance, champions of blood sports. Packham wrote a column in the BBC’s Wildlife magazine in which he criticised wildlife charities for being too meek. Frankly, it could have been said by anybody, of whatever political stamp, about any charity; they’re all way too meek about everything. But he was making a specific point, which he elaborated to me, on his garden bench near Southampton, looking out on to a view so perfect that I had the sense of imminent disaster.

Sawmill owners ‘forced’ to destroy Pilliga forest in NSW
AUSTRALIA – In an unexpected development, sawmill owners in western New South Wales say they’re worried that they’re being forced to destroy the Pilliga Forest in order to meet their timber contracts. To meet their long-term agreements signed with Government, they say they have no choice but to harvest younger and younger trees.

Built Environment

One in four major cities won’t be able to provide clean water to residents
They are two of the biggest cities in the world and both are set to grow significantly over the next decade, yet Mumbai and São Paulo are still unable to supply the clean and safe water residents need…  Much of the focus on water scarcity has been on agriculture, which accounts for the lion’s share of global water consumption – more than 90% of the total on average. Yet the fundamental reason for the precipitous drop in water supplies is the explosive expansion of cities and their growing demand for high quality water.

Sustainable House Day shows how to get power bills down to $200 per year
AUSTRALIA – Imagine if your annual electricity bill was less than you currently pay in a month. Two homes with annual electricity bills of less than $450 per year are among 43 houses open across Victoria this Sunday as part of Sustainable House Day. Electricity prices in Melbourne have increased by more than 80 per cent in the last seven years according to a recent report, while the Live in Victoria website says a medium-sized Victorian household will pay $517.50 a month for energy. But Helen Millicer said the power costs for her Elsternwick home are less than a tenth of that.

Food Systems

Gardening: Time to get growing (+recipes)
As we head into spring, many food-lovers will be making the most of a vegetable garden and starting to plan and plant a garden harvest. Make sure you remove the last of the winter crops from the vege patch and make way for the new season. It’s the perfect time to plant beetroot, celery and kale – just in time for the salad season. Choose a sunny, sheltered spot that’s easy to access for watering. As Garden to Table children will tell you – building a good foundation is the key to success in your garden and the better the soil, the more successful your vege garden.

Going organic
[What] Does organic really mean, and how do we recognise certified organic produce? New Zealand has a reputation of being clean and green, but when farms compromise healthy standards for healthy profits, consumers don’t always know how pure the foods on their dinner table are. To counter this, certification programs for organic farms and producers set a standard which consumers can trust.

Start your own organic garden
Developing an organic vegetable garden need not cost a fortune, nor should it be something that you think you need to pay an expert to do. If you live in an urban environment I would definitely recommend a raised vegetable garden. The reason for this is you do not often know the history of your piece of turf. You patch may have a history of horticulture, heavy industry or just be full of building rubble just under the topsoil. You can build a raised garden out of easily found or recycled materials and make your own compost. By doing this you are creating toxic free soil to grow your new vegetables in.


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