Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
If you like what you see, you are welcome to sign up (on the right) for free sustainable development news delivered direct to your inbox each weekday morning.

Encouraging news in today’s top story, with Global Forest Watch calculating a massive 60% drop in deforestation in Indonesia last year meanwhile, there is concern that Africa will be the next land grab for palm oil with forests and inhabitants in the way. Picked up by many news agencies is a new modelling system that builds on and learns from other models is claimed to be scientifically accurate and predicts very warm weather for the next four years. This means a tough call for Australia with a proposal to divert environmental water to drought affected farmers to finish food crops and crops to feed animals. And tough calls for the New Zealand public with a proposed ban on whitebaiting to help save native fish and Countdown (Woolworths) banning people from using bring-your-own containers.

Top Story

Indonesia’s Deforestation Dropped 60 Percent in 2017, but There’s More to Do | World Resources Institute
In the midst of the second-worst year for tropical tree cover loss in 2017, Indonesia saw an encouraging sign: a 60 percent drop in tree cover loss in primary forests compared with 2016. That’s the difference in carbon dioxide emissions from primary forest loss equivalent to 0.2 gigatons of carbon dioxide, or about the same emissions released from burning over 199 billion pounds of coal.

Climate Change

Climate models predict the world will be ‘anomalously warm’ until 2022 | The Conversation
The next four years are going to be anomalously warm – even on top of regular climate change. That’s according to new research my colleague Sybren Drijfhout and I have just published. We developed a new prediction system we call PROCAST (PROabilistic foreCAST), and used it to predict the natural variability of the climate system. This refers to how the climate varies naturally from warm to cool phases that last a few years at a time, and is separate from the long-term trend of anthropogenic global warming. PROCAST predicts a warm phase for the next few years.


Climate researchers: Where NZ’s carbon act could fail | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – The Government is still to pick from three options for its proposed Zero Carbon Bill – forcing carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O) down to zero by 2050; doing this while also stabilising shorter-lived gases like methane; or requiring all gases to be reduced to net zero by the mid-century deadline. Victoria University climate change researchers Professor Dave Frame and Dr Adrian Macey argued only the second option would make for an effective Zero Carbon Act that was consistent with pledges already made under the Paris Agreement.

The US’ hidden methane problem | Climate Home News
USA – Across the US, a major, uncontrolled leak of a potent greenhouse gas is going unregulated and largely unnoticed. Climate Home News analysis of government data has identified roughly 300 active and 200 abandoned coal mines, which are the source of almost one-tenth of US methane pollution.

India doesn’t report its carbon emissions clearly, so we did | Climate Home News
India has ambitious climate change targets. However, existing inventories of its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions don’t cover recent years and lack clarity about methodologies and data sources, hampering the design of effective climate policies. To fill this gap, WRI India worked with other civil society institutions to facilitate the GHG Platform India, which documents GHG emissions at a more granular level.

Environment and Biodiversity

Palm oil: A new threat to Africa’s monkeys and apes? | BBC News
Endangered monkeys and apes could face new risks if Africa becomes a big player in the palm oil industry. Most areas suitable for growing the oil crop are key habitats for primates, a study suggests. The researchers, who are examining palm oil’s possible effect on Africa’s biodiversity, say consumers can help by choosing sustainably-grown palm oil. This may mean paying more for food, cosmetics and cleaning products that contain the oil, or limiting their use.

Breakthrough as New Caledonia votes to protect coral reef | The Guardian
New Caledonia has agreed to tougher protections around a huge swathe of some of the world’s last near-pristine coral reefs, in a move conservationists hailed as a major breakthrough. The Pacific nation, a French overseas territory, is home to a rich array of wildlife including 2.5 million seabirds and more than 9,300 marine species such as dugongs and nesting green sea turtles, many of which thrive in and around remote zones off the island nation’s coast.

Why we’re watching the giant Australian cuttlefish | The Conversation
Australia is home to the world’s only known site where cuttlefish gather to mate en masse. From May to August, if you head into the water around Point Lowly, South Australia, it will be a chilly 12℃. But you’ll be able to observe what look like aliens – hundreds, even thousands of tentacled organisms with their unusual distinctive W-shaped eye pupils, and pulsating colours moving across their body. Intent on mating, the cuttlefish will be totally oblivious to your presence.

Giant Australian cuttlefish in an intimate embrace. Numbers of giant Australian cuttlefish in the Upper Spencer Gulf fell dramatically between the late 1990s and 2013. Matt McMillan, Author provided.

Giant Australian cuttlefish in an intimate embrace. Numbers of giant Australian cuttlefish in the Upper Spencer Gulf fell dramatically between the late 1990s and 2013. Matt McMillan, Author provided.

Forest & Bird calls for end to commercial whitebaiting | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – Environmentalists have called for an end to commercial whitebaiting on the eve of this year’s season. Forest & Bird freshwater advocate Annabeth Cohen said ending the sale of whitebait would help alleviate the pressure on the struggling native fishes. “Until whitebait and their habitats are thriving, it makes no sense to allow companies to sell these fish for a profit, especially when four out of five of the species are at risk of disappearing forever,” Cohen said.

Habitat degradation is one of the key causes of declining whitebait populations. Photo / File NZ Herald

Habitat degradation is one of the key causes of declining whitebait populations. Photo / File NZ Herald

Amanda Black and Monica Gerth: Lose kauri and we lose a piece of ourselves | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – Kauri dieback is one of the biggest crises ever to face New Zealand’s forests. It threatens not only individual kauri trees, but the entire ecosystem around them. If kauri disappear, so do all the other plants and animals that depend on them. This disease also threatens something else many New Zealanders hold dear: the ability to go into forests, to hunt, to walk, to unwind, and to relax.

Economy and Business

Sustainable investments outperform the market, study shows | Climate Action Programme
New research has found that companies which invest on the basis of environmental concerns often receive higher returns. The study from risk analysts Axioma tracked the performance of portfolios which had incorporated environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into their investment strategies. An estimated 80 per cent of leading companies now use ESG metrics to support their investments, up from only 20 percent in 2011.

Europe could be hit with 1 trillion euros in coastal flood damage by 2100 | Climate Action Programme
Costs from coastal flooding in Europe could hit almost 1 trillion euros by 2100, according to researchers. The new study from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre estimated the costs to vary widely, between 93 billion and 961 billion euros a year, depending on the response from European nations. Current costs are estimated at 1.25 billion euros. The article is published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Footage shows volunteers struggling to stop waves of garbage washing ashore in Manila Bay | ABC News
PHILIPPINES – Student volunteers who set out to clean up Manila’s waterfront found themselves being battered by waves of rubbish driven ashore by heavy seas in Manila Bay. Video footage captured by a student from San Beda University in Manila shows a dense garbage carpet, with plastic bottles and other unidentifiable waste, crashing ashore.

Photo: The Philippines is the third biggest source of plastic ocean pollution in the world. (Facebook: Matthew Doming)

Photo: The Philippines is the third biggest source of plastic ocean pollution in the world. (Facebook: Matthew Doming)

Study: Switzerland emerges as most ‘deluded’ country over waste levels | Business Green
Study of 18,000 households around the world finds major gap between how much waste consumers think they generate, and how much food, clothing and possessions are actually going to waste. New research released today by Dutch removals specialist Movinga questioned thousands of heads of households from 20 countries around the world about how much food they waste, how much of their clothing is unworn, and what proportion of their personal possessions are surplus to requirements.

‘Bring your own’ container ban stuns enviro-friendly customers | RNZ News
NEW ZEALAND – Making environmentally friendly choices is something Emma Shi tries to do when she is out shopping – particularly at the supermarket. But last week she was shocked when she was not allowed to use her own container at the deli. “The girl at the deli said, ‘oh [we] have a new rule that [we’re] not allowed to accept people’s containers anymore because they’re worried people will get sick, not from their products but from not cleaning their own containers properly’,” she said.

Politics and Society

Climate change threatens property and lives, but politicians fail to work together | The Fifth Estate
AUSTRALIA – A much-anticipated Senate Inquiry into climate change’s impact on housing, buildings and infrastructure has seen the three major political parties unable to agree on a single recommendation. Referred to the Environment and Communications References Committee back in May 2017, the inquiry looked into climate change’s current and future impacts on the built environment, taking into account all projected climate scenarios.

Time for the federal government to catch up on political donations reform | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – Money in politics is regulated to reduce the risk of interest groups “buying” influence. Explicit quid pro quo is probably rare: as the saying goes, “you never bribe someone when you need them”. But the risk is in more subtle influence: that donors get more access to policymakers, or their views are given more weight.

CSIRO worried Great Barrier Reef Foundation could spend millions of dollars on overheads, emails reveal | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – The head of the CSIRO warned in internal emails that the Great Barrier Reef Foundation (GBRF) was in danger of spending “millions in overheads” after it received a controversial $444 million grant from the Federal Government. The email was one of many revealed in documents tabled in Parliament this week, after Labor initiated an order for the production of documents.

See also: Great Barrier Reef Foundation took big business on snorkelling tour of Hamilton Island | ABC News

Ruralists in Brazilian congress put nation’s protected areas at risk | Mongabay
BRAZIL – Bill PL 3,751 / 2015, moving through the Brazilian congress, would set a five-year deadline for the resolution of land issues and disputes, such as land ownership conflicts, in protected areas. If issues were not resolved within that timeframe, a protected area could have its protected status removed. There are currently more than 100 protected areas that have not had their permanent status implemented, and they would all be at risk.


Video of the Day: Counting Frydenberg’s NEG “lies” | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – Josh Frydenberg has been getting quite creative with the truth in his push to get the states – and his own party – to support the National Energy Guarantee. In particular, he has reverted to threats of “lights going out” and claims that high renewables penetration amounts to higher electricity prices. These are claims that have been shot down, again and again, by those who have some understanding of how the market works.


Food Systems

Calls for environmental water entitlements to be sold to drought-affected farmers | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – There are growing calls for the federal and state governments to start selling government-owned environmental water entitlements to farmers to alleviate the drought and to keep livestock alive. But the proposals would see wetlands and river courses starved of water with potential environmental stress from the drought exacerbated by the diversion of water onto farmland.

$5.50 lettuces if fertile Pukekohe land turned into houses |
NEW ZEALAND – A lettuce could cost $5.54 if Auckland’s urban sprawl continues to cut into the prime fruit and vegetable growing area of nearby Pukekohe, a report warns. Although only covering about 4300 hectares, the Pukekohe growing area contains some of New Zealand’s most fertile and productive soils and is on Auckland’s doorstep.

Urban sprawl is encroaching on the prime vegetable growing land of Pukekohe. Photo: Supplied

Urban sprawl is encroaching on the prime vegetable growing land of Pukekohe. Photo: Supplied