Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Some useful tips on how to raise an argumentative child
The old adage that children should be seen and not heard is nothing but wishful thinking. Children are naturally inquisitive and they usually can’t help verbalising their curiosity. Asking “why?” is the most natural thing that children can do as they attempt to make sense of the world. This simple – and tough – question allows them to construct a wide range of knowledge and to build a depth of understanding. So how can we make the most of the “why?” years and develop our children into effective inquirers, critical thinkers and autonomous actors? This is an important question: people with these characteristics have the potential to contribute strongly to our economic and political future.

Energy and Climate Change

Giant wind and solar complex to challenge Abbott’s coal plans
AUSTRALIA – The Canberra-based renewable energy development company Windlab is proposing a world-leading mega wind and solar project for north Queensland, in a proposal that could directly rival a Coalition push to build a new coal-fired generator in the same area. Roger Price, the CEO of Windlab, told RenewEconomy on Tuesday that the company was proposing a 600MW wind farm combined with a 600MW solar PV farm in what it is calling the Kennedy Energy Park. The facility, to be located near Hughenden, around 300km inland for Townsville, would deliver up to 80 per cent of local electricity demand – and at a capacity factor of around 70 per cent – at rates cheaper than a new coal plant.

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation is meant to back winners, not minnows
AUSTRALIA – In defending the federal government’s decision to bar the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) from investing in wind and small-scale solar power, environment minister Greg Hunt explained to ABC Radio what he sees as the future direction for the CEFC. He said that the funding was to focus on projects that were “not mature and not commercial”… Yet despite Hunt’s claim that these objectives are consistent with the reasons why CEFC was first established, they are not. The CEFC was not designed to back minor players; it was set up to make money from relatively safe investments.

How baffling is the Abbott government’s assault on windfarms?
AUSTRALIA – The confirmation by Trade Minister Andrew Robb that the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) has been ordered to cease future investments in wind power is a major setback to renewable energy, investment and delivery. It also further isolates Australia as not only having abolished a price on carbon, but one that has scaled back its renewable energy target and now is winding back the wind power sector. The move is the Coalition’s next-best scenario to actually abolishing the CEFC, which it has sought to do twice now only to be blocked in the Senate. This constitutes a genuine trigger for a double dissolution if it is needed.

Renewed push for Port Augusta’s proposed solar plant after Clean Energy Finance Corporation change
AUSTRALIA – A community group advocating for a large-scale solar project in Port Augusta has plans to seize upon the Federal Government’s changes to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC). The Government recently gave the corporation a directive to not invest in wind farms and household rooftop solar projects… “We will be reaching out and not just to the Clean Energy Finance Corporation but to the Federal Government and the State Government and saying, ‘Look if you guys are wanting to invest in large-scale solar, here’s one that could really help a community’,” he said.

Surprising Countries Where Solar and Wind Are Booming
Across the globe, renewable energy is expanding faster than fossil fuels. It’s even taking off in countries that may surprise you. “Once again in 2014, renewables made up nearly half of the net power capacity added worldwide,” says Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme. After a two-year dip, they’re attracting more investment. Hydropower generates the largest share of renewable energy, followed by wind and biomass, but solar is growing the fastest.

Flanked by windmills, this dike protects farmland that is almost entirely below sea level in Flevoland, the Netherlands. Photograph by George Steinmetz, National Geographic

Flanked by windmills, this dike protects farmland that is almost entirely below sea level in Flevoland, the Netherlands. Photograph by George Steinmetz, National Geographic

UK doubles large-scale solar capacity with world set for new installation record
The UK has doubled its installed utility-scale solar capacity in 2015, taking it to more than 4GW, according to new figures released today (14 July).  New statistics from solar market analysts Wiki-Solar put the UK behind the USA and China in its installed large-scale solar capacity, having moved to third place ahead of Germany in the first quarter of 2015.

Correction to Q2 2015 clean energy investment figures
Bloomberg New Energy Finance is correcting the second quarter 2015 clean energy investment data that it released on Friday. This reflects the discovery of errors in the aggregating of project and deal-level data. The corrected figures show that global investment in clean energy was $73.5bn in the second quarter of 2015, substantially higher than reported on Friday. This number is 0.2% down on the equivalent quarter of 2014, and takes the total for the first half of 2015 to $127.9bn, down just 3% on H1 2014.

Fossil Fuel Divestment

Church of England governing body approves divestment policy
The Church of England’s governing body has thrown its weight behind efforts to slow climate change by backing the move earlier this year to divest its resources from from companies involved in extracting two of the most polluting fossil fuels.  In May, the Church Commissioners, who manage investments worth £6bn, took the decision to divest from tar sands oil and thermal coal – the first time they had ever imposed investment restrictions on environmental grounds.

Environment and Biodiversity

Lizards in path of Transmission Gully motorway shifted to new $15k home
NEW ZEALAND – About $15,000 has been spent on swanky new digs for 56 lizards whose homes happened to be in the path of the Transmission Gully motorway. Major earthworks are just months away from starting on the four-lane, 27-kilometre inland motorway between Porirua and Paekakariki, north of Wellington. But before the diggers can rip in, the business consortium building the $850 million road has had to figure out what to do with the native reptiles and worms who call Transmission Gully home… Senior environmental advisor Reuben Mills said it took eight days to round up 46 copper skinks, six common geckos and four brown skinks, as well as about 20 peripatus worms, also known as velvet or walking worms, living among the boulders.

A peripatus worm. Paul Schilov/DOC

A peripatus worm. Paul Schilov/DOC

Following Nemo: marine life is heading south
The seas are warming. Collectively the oceans have absorbed more than 80% of the energy retained by the Earth through recent climate change. However, actual warming of the water has been very uneven, with some seas heating up much more quickly than others. Temperate rises have been most extreme where there are strong currents flowing from hot tropical regions towards the poles. And as warmer seas move further south, tropical wildlife is going with them, giving us a dramatic insight into how global warming is changing our oceans.

Science can drive the sustainability of our precious soils, water and oceans
Australia’s soil, water, vegetation and biodiversity, and our vast marine estate, are incredibly valuable national assets. They are fundamentally interconnected components of the continent’s diverse, unique and in many instances fragile ecosystems. As such, they need to be managed effectively. However, significant gaps in our understanding of each of these components, and the ways in which they interact, need to be addressed to support effective management.

Can Germany protect the wildlife havens on its former military bases?
Mike Onslow juts out his chin as he scans the deep slug tracks that motorbikes have carved into a 40m-year-old sand dune on the newly-created nature reserve of Borkenberge, his former training camp. “These ‘motocross’ guys are causing enormous, irreplaceable damage,” the lieutenant colonel says. “When I think about all the environmental protection work that the British army and the German federal authorities have done for this area, it really grips my bits.”… “These are the best conservation areas we have,” said Jurgen Rost, the director of the Rhine-Weser federal forestry agency. “There are no other places this wild and unsettled. Sometimes I think the military performed a public interest because they protected the nature here. Today we have another public interest, in making sure these spaces are not resettled or cut apart by roads.”

Large Hadron Collider discovers new pentaquark particle
Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider have announced the discovery of a new particle called the pentaquark. It was first predicted to exist in the 1960s but, much like the Higgs boson particle before it, the pentaquark eluded science for decades until its detection at the LHC. The discovery, which amounts to a new form of matter, was made by the Hadron Collider’s LHCb experiment.

Economy and Business

This Startup Wants to Sell You a Solar-Powered Scooter
Canadian startup Daymark has developed a fully electric, solar-powered scooter capable of playing music from built-in speakers, charging your phone and traveling up to 10 miles using its 24V battery pack, which is available in lithium or lead acid varieties. The Photon scooter re-charges under daylight during any kind of weather, gaining approximately 0.2 miles for every hour of exposure the 6W solar panel receives. Daymark plans to sell the scooter for from $299 USD/ $375 CAD. To get the scooters on the road, the company has launched a Kickstarter campaign where early buyers will be able to purchase first editions at discounted rates starting from $149 USD.

THRIVE Farmers, Second-Fastest Growing Company in Georgia, Cites Sustainability as Key to Rapid Growth
Mission-driven coffee startup THRIVE Farmers was recently recognized as the second-fastest growing company in Georgia by The Association for Corporate Growth in Atlanta. The company’s rapid growth is creating jobs and benefitting the economy far beyond its home state: Four years ago, THRIVE Farmers began to transform the coffee industry through an innovative revenue-sharing platform that provides stable, predictable pricing to coffee farmers, eliminating the toxic connection to volatile commodity markets; when farmers have direct access to the marketplace, maintaining ownership until the point of sale, they receive livable, predictable wages — up to 10 times more income than traditional models. As THRIVE succeeds locally, its platform creates economic sustainability in coffee-farming communities abroad through this transparent supply chain.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Monsanto, BP and Veolia agree to pay for cleanup of contaminated Welsh site
Monsanto, BP and Veolia have agreed to pay to contribute to the cleanup of a former quarry in South Wales that was polluted with a cocktail of toxic waste, including Agent Orange derivatives, dioxins and PCBs. The agreement, confirmed by Welsh officials to the Guardian, marks the end of a five-decade-long saga that began when thousands of tonnes of chemical and industrial waste from a Monsanto-owned plant in Newport was dumped at the Brofiscin quarry, near the village of Groesfaen, in the 1960s and 70s.


A discoloured stream running out of Brofiscin Quarry in south Wales. Toxic waste was dumped here in 1970s by contractors working for Monsanto. Photograph: Alamy

A discoloured stream running out of Brofiscin Quarry in south Wales. Toxic waste was dumped here in 1970s by contractors working for Monsanto. Photograph: Alamy

Focus on farm emissions to reduce crop loss, say UN experts
Policies for cutting a range of emissions from agriculture could prove one of the most cost-effective ways of tackling threats to food productivity and human health, say experts from the UN’s Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). Specialists working with the UNECE Convention on Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution argue measures to encourage better use or storage of manure and nitrogen will provide economic benefits to farmers, at the same time as curbing air pollution and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Bio-bean to bring coffee-to-biofuel service to UK stations
Commuters travelling through London’s busiest stations will be able to order their morning coffee safe in the knowledge it is not just their train journey that is helping to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Network Rail announced this week that following a successful trial at Victoria and Waterloo stations it has signed a deal with biofuel specialist Bio-bean to turn waste coffee grounds from concessions at six of its largest stations into biofuel.

South Australian researchers looking to make more alcohol out of wine waste product
Improving the processing of wine waste to produce more alcohol is the focus of new research at South Australia’s University of Adelaide.  Researchers are looking at ways to make the processing of grape marc; the solid waste left after crushing the juice from grapes, more sustainable.

Wellington’s Kaibosh is rescuing kai and minimising waste
NEW ZEALAND – Kaibosh are a not-for-profit organisation that rescues quality surplus food from the food industry and redistributes it to community groups that support people in need. Started in 2008 by Robyn and George Langlands, Kaibosh heavily depends on the philanthropic gestures of financial backers, volunteers and donations from the public.  Kaibosh’s refrigerated truck collects food several times a day from various donors (including supermarkets, cafes and food producers).The food is then weighed and stored overnight at Kaibosh HQ until it’s picked up the following morning by representatives of the community organisations Kaibosh works with.

Politics and Society

The Banality of Ethics in the Anthropocene, Part 1
Among the great crimes of the 20th century the most enduring will surely prove to be human disruption of the Earth’s climate. The effects of human-induced climate change are apparent now and will become severe this century, but the warming is expected to last thousands of years. That is so because extra carbon dioxide persists in the atmosphere for a very long time, but also because changes in the climate are triggering changes in the Earth System as a whole, changes that cannot be undone.

Vivienne Westwood launches celebrity Arctic campaign
Andy Gotts has photographed almost 60 celebrities wearing the Save the Arctic T-shirt designed by fashion icon and activist Dame Vivienne Westwood, in a project that has taken 18 months. Here are more than a few of his pictures.

NSW Minerals Council accused of backflipping on key mining policy change
The NSW Minerals Council has been accused of double standards for campaigning against a balance of economic, environmental and social concerns for mining approvals that it supported just three years ago. The council, the peak mining body in the state, has been vocal in its opposition to plans by the Baird government to remove a provision in the State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP)  that made the economic significance of the resource “the principal consideration” when determining approval.

Africa’s border disputes are set to rise – but there are ways to stop them
African national borders are afflicted by a multitude of troubles that straddle villages and communities. These can include military skirmishes, cattle rustling, terrorism, secessionist movements, smuggling, ethnic violence, people trafficking, irredentism and agrarian revolts. Border disputes have been a reality on the continent through the millennia. But Africa certainly has its own peculiar set of problems, most by dint of the Berlin Conference which partitioned the continent into lucrative pieces for the colonisers. But the conference never meant to achieve a meaningful delimitation of Africa. As Lord Salisbury admitted not only was the delimitation largely arbitrary, but the mapping exercise was far from a precise art.

Built Environment

Transport only sector to increase emissions since 1970
Figures released today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that Transport is the only sector in the UK that has seen increased emissions since 1970.  Transport emissions rose from 72 million tonnes in 1970 to 117 million tonnes in 2014, growing as a proportion of overall emissions from 11% to 28%. The uptick is largely associated with the spiralling number of cars on the road, but since 2008, more efficient cars and a rising number of hybrid vehicles have helped bring emissions back down somewhat.

Extend UK national park model across London, say campaigners
The national park concept should be extended from the countryside to the urban jungle, say the backers of a bid to have Greater London declared the world’s first “national park city”. Advocates of the idea want to increase London’s green spaces, which currently make up 47% of its total land area, to 51% by 2051, and to help children connect with nature.

Sea level rise back in Queensland’s planning framework
AUSTRALI A – The Queensland government has quietly put long-term climate change-related sea level rise back into coastal hazard area mapping, it has been revealed. The former Newman LNP government removed a requirement in state planning policies for local governments to plan for a 0.8-metre sea level rise by 2100, and even forced one council to remove climate change-affected sea level rise from its planning policy.

Chifley Tower wins world’s best performance upgrade award
AUSTRALIA – The sustainability upgrade of Sydney’s Chifley Tower has won the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat’s 2015 Performance Award.. A green retrofit and upgrade program was undertaken between 2008 and 2014 that included upgrades to lighting, lifts, HVAC, the building information management system, and waste management systems. The CTBUH said the Performance Award recognised the building that had the least environment impact on the urban realm using measured data. “It is increasingly being recognised that the industry needs to focus on actual “performance” rather than “best intentions”,” the jury said.

Food Systems

Could ‘balanced harvesting’ really feed the world and save the oceans?
Scientists and policymakers are simultaneously looking for new ways to feed the world and save the oceans. Global seafood demands are increasing, and fisheries and aquaculture already have large impacts on marine ecosystems. The concept of “balanced harvesting” aims to address both of these issues, and was the subject of several recent high-profile studies – including in Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Fish and Fisheries.


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