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.

Top Story

Clean energy defies fossil fuel price crash to attract record $329bn global investment in 2015
London and New York, 14 January 2016 – Clean energy investment surged in China, Africa, the US, Latin America and India in 2015, driving the world total to its highest ever figure, of $328.9bn, up 4% from 2014’s revised $315.9bn and beating the previous record, set in 2011 by 3%. The latest figures from Bloomberg New Energy Finance show dollar investment globally growing in 2015 to nearly six times its 2004 total and a new record of one third of a trillion dollars (see chart on page 3), despite four influences that might have been expected to restrain it.

Energy and Climate Change

China pushes global renewable capacity beyond 900GW
China’s ambitious green energy rollout pushed the global renewables industry pass its latest milestone last year, as global installed capacity hit a record 913.5GW, according to new data released this week by research firm GlobalData. The country installed more biopower, small hydropower and onshore wind than any other in 2015, and retained its title as the leading installer of solar power for the second year running, said Ankit Mathur, GlobalData’s Practice Head for Power.

Confidence in renewable energy sector ‘evaporated’ after Abbott cut: BloombergEnergy investment AUS
Investment in large-scale renewable energy in Australia remains stagnant almost two years after the Abbott government began a review of the sector, according to an annual survey by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Investors spent just $15 million since February 2014 on big wind, solar or other clean energy projects that were not otherwise supported by government programs such as the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

Australia 5th in world in small scale rooftop solar PV in 2015
Australian homes and businesses added 713MW of small-scale rooftop solar in 2015, and spent some $2.2 billion doing so, according to the latest data. The installations – which contrast to a big decline in large scale investments – means that Australia ranked 5th in the world in small scale solar installations in 2015. The 2015 effort meant that Australia now has 23.2 million solar panels installed, or the equivalent of one panel per person in the country.

Power sector carbon emissions jumped 3.8 million tonnes in 2015: Pitt & Sherry\
Australia’s greenhouse gases from its power sector jumped by 3.8 million tonnes in 2015, potentially making it harder to meet the country’s international promises to cut total emissions. Pollution from power stations – which account for about a third of Australia’s total carbon emissions – was up 2.4 per cent compared with 2014, according to data compiled by Pitt & Sherry and The Australia Institute.

New York State to phase out coal by 2020 in bid to become ‘international capital’ for clean energy
New York’s State Governor Andrew Cuomo yesterday announced plans for the US state to eliminate all use of coal by 2020 as part of a new environmental package designed to accelerate New York’s transition away from fossil fuels and towards wind and solar power. The environmental package, which was announced during Cuomo’s State of the State address, will see the state’s remaining coal-fired power stations close or transition to cleaner fuels within the next four years.

Global warming could stave off next ice age for 100,000 years
Global warming is likely to disrupt a natural cycle of ice ages and contribute to delaying the onset of the next big freeze until about 100,000 years from now, scientists have suggested.

Climate change ‘made record UK rainfall in December more likely’
Climate change made the UK’s record December rainfall, which caused the devastating floods, 50-75% more likely, a preliminary scientific investigation has found… The results, which were analysed at the University of Oxford and the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, showed natural variation was equally influential in stocking the storms with rain and hurling them at northern Britain.

Is business action on climate change believable? – Guardian Live event (Podcast 1:31:10)
Are businesses still in denial about climate change or has the mood changed following the Paris talks? At a Guardian Live event, an expert panel question whether 2016 will be the year companies help kickstart a global movement to reduce climate emissions.

Environment and Biodiversity

Sam Judd: Dancing with wolves
NEW ZEALAND – I recently saw Riley Elliot, the shark scientist, speak at a conference.  He backed up his gnarly stories about being up close and personal with great whites by giving the crowd an explanation of what happens when you take out apex predators – such as sharks – from the ecosystem. Essentially, when you mess with nature it disrupts the food chain and can have a negative impact on other species. The phenomenon is called a ‘trophic cascade’.
Ed: Article includes a must watch video (4:33)

Why we should learn to love all insects – not just the ones that work for us
Insects, which include more than a million described species, represent roughly two-thirds of the biodiversity on Earth. But they have a big PR problem – many think of insects as little more than crop-eating, disease-carrying jumper-munchers. But in reality, species fitting this bill are but a tiny part of an enormous picture. A dominant narrative has emerged in an effort to clear the good name of our six-legged friends. Insects are the unsung heroes, the little things that run the world. This fact is undeniable. Insects are critical to the existence of the world as we know it, whether through pollinating plants, controlling populations of agricultural pests, or helping with the decomposition of animal waste.

Animal venoms don’t just cause pain, they may soon be a cure for it too
Bites or stings from venomous animals or insects can be dangerous; they lead to numerous fatalities globally each year despite the development of antivenoms that can neutralise many of their worst effects. But research into their molecular components shows venoms aren’t all bad. Many contain bioactive components (mini-proteins or peptides) that are so stable to the body’s enzymes and selective of their biological target that they’re increasingly being used as new research tools… Indeed, the fact that many venomous animals have evolved not just hundreds but often thousands of unique peptides makes venoms a largely untapped chemical treasure chest.

African lions likely to gain enhanced protection status
African lions are set to gain greater international protection this year in the wake of the killing of Cecil by an American dentist in Zimbabwe in 2015. Tough new US regulations on the importation of lion trophies will come into force on 22 January. Separately, the global body that governs trade in species also expects moves to enhance the status of lions in 2016. The number of lions in Africa has declined by half since the 1990s.

Economy and Business

Supply chain audits fail to detect abuses, says report
The clothes you are wearing, the food you ate for dinner last night, and the component parts of your mobile phone – who made them, and how? Maybe they have a sticker or stamp that guarantees the environment wasn’t harmed, that any animals were treated humanely, or that workers were treated well. What if those claims aren’t true? And what’s more, what if the audits that produce those stamps make labour conditions and environmental standards worse by preventing governments from regulating and legislating? That is the claim in a new report (pdf) released today from the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute, part of Sheffield University.

Waste and the Circular Economy

UK’s last resident killer whales ‘doomed to extinction’
Western European waters are a global hotspot for lingering toxic PCB pollution, research reveals, damaging the reproduction of orcas and dolphins…  The UK’s last pod of killer whales is doomed to extinction, with new research revealing western European waters as a global hotspot for the lingering legacy of toxic PCB pollution. The persistent chemicals, used in electrical equipment but banned in the 1980s, are still leaking into the oceans and were also found in extremely high levels in European dolphins, whose populations are in decline.

Cleaning up cement industry emissions with carbon conversion
Cement manufacturing is one of the most carbon emissions intensive industries on the planet, but a handful of innovative companies are working hard to change that. Among the most promising innovations, according to HeidelbergCement, the world’s second or third largest cement company, is technology that takes carbon dioxide from cement’s smoke stack flue gas and uses bioengineering to convert it to low carbon fuel for transportation.

Epson develops world’s first office paper recycling machine
Seiko Epson has developed what it believes to be is the world’s first compact office papermaking system using waste paper, but not water. The PaperLab will begin commercial production in Japan this year and will be released worldwide at a later date.

Recycled safety mats trialled in Invercargill trails
NEW ZEALAND – The Invercargill City Council is trialling recycling rubber safety mats to help keep trampers on their feet at Seaward Bush. Council rangers installed a series of safety mats salvaged from a playground upgrade to one section of the Seaward Bush boardwalk in early November.

Politics and Society

How your meal affects your mood
Your thoughts, moods and behaviours are the product of your brain – an exquisite spider’s web of neuronal connections and witch’s brew of neurochemicals. It is this brew that is prone to change, and when “unbalanced” can cause dramatically altered behaviour. And your diet may have more to do with how you think than you would first suspect.

Clean your way to happiness: unpacking the decluttering craze
Sydney’s first Muji store opened in 2015 and with it came attractive minimalism, simplicity, and functionality – a kind of consumption that was somehow about consuming less. The Japanese retailer offering home-wares, furniture, clothing, and stationery describes its formation as the “antithesis to the habits of consumer society” and sells items that have undergone a “careful elimination and subtraction of gratuitous features”. It is hard not to be seduced by long-lasting items that challenge the planned obsolescence of products…

Katherine Short: Fishing parks decision disappointing
NEW ZEALAND – The two proposed recreational marine parks will do little for sustainability of the fish species concerned, blue cod and snapper, in the absence of strict controls on the numbers of recreational fishers and the amount of fish they take within the parks. The proposal is vague on how the reporting and monitoring of the parks will occur. This will not ensure all who fish will be responsible.

Kids ask US presidential candidates to debate science
The Republican and Democratic candidates for president both held debates just days after the Paris climate summit, yet the debate moderators didn’t ask a single question about climate science—remarkable considering that climate change has emerged as a major global science, economic, environmental, tech, civil infrastructure, and foreign policy challenge. US journalists have similarly avoided asking the candidates about other major science, health, tech, and environmental issues. So Susan, who wants to be a scientist, decided to volunteer with other kids to create what may be the most memorable political ad you’ll see all year.

Built Environment

Lessons from London: how hosting the Paralympics can make cities more accessible
In order to secure their bid for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games, organisers had to make two key promises to do with transport. One was to make public transport a key part of their sustainability agenda. The other was to make London 2012 more accessible than any previous games. London 2012 was planned as a public transport-driven games, and the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) took action to maximise its usage.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.