Sustainable Development News

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

Environment, not agriculture, is New Zealand’s economic backbone
The environment and not agriculture is the backbone of the New Zealand economy, says 2015 Nuffield Scholar Dan Steele. Steele said farming and tourism depended on New Zealand’s environmental image to sell its products offshore, making the two inextricably linked  The sheep, beef and tourism operator at Blue Ducks Station, on the Whanganui River, has published the report  ‘Why being true to brand New Zealand is the best option for New Zealand agriculture’ after completing research for the scholarship intended to influence decisions affecting farmers.

Energy and Climate Change

May marks one more record hot month for the world
The streak continues: May was record warm for the globe, according to NASA data released Monday. It’s now even more likely that 2016 will be the hottest year ever recorded, despite the demise of one of the strongest El Niños on record. NASA put May at 1.67°F (0.93°C) warmer than the 1951-1980 average for the month, the first month since October 2015 to be less than 1.8°F (1°C) above average in their dataset, which extends back to 1880.

The Paris climate agreement needs coordinated carbon prices to be successful
The Paris climate agreement was an important success for climate diplomacy as nation states showed a strong will to cooperate on climate action. But instead of imposing binding national emission targets, the Paris Agreement is based on voluntary country commitments (known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions- INDCs). This poses some challenges.

Scotland beats climate emissions reductions target six years early
Scotland’s climate emissions have broken through a landmark reductions target six years early after a warm winter helped drive down energy use.  The Scottish climate change secretary, Roseanna Cunningham, said she was delighted that the country’s emissions had fallen by nearly 46% between 1990 and 2014, surpassing the government’s 2020 target of a 42% cut far earlier than expected.

Coal and gas to stay cheap, but renewables still win race on costs
Low prices for coal and gas are likely to persist, but will fail to prevent a fundamental transformation of the world electricity system over coming decades towards renewable sources such as wind and solar, and towards balancing options such as batteries. The latest long-term forecast from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, entitled New Energy Outlook 2016, charts a significantly lower track for global coal, gas and oil prices than did the equivalent projection a year ago. Crucially, however, it also shows a steeper decline for wind and solar costs.
See also: Solar and wind energy’s stunning cost falls to continue

Is coal the only way to deal with energy poverty in developing economies?
The availability of efficient and reliable energy for industrial, agricultural and household use is critical for productivity growth and improvement in human wellbeing. But many people across the planet live in a state of energy poverty. The energy-poor are people living without electricity services and clean energy – for cooking, lighting, heating and other daily needs. According to the World Bank, one-third of the world’s economies have severe energy crises and about 1.1 billion people lack access to electricity.

Why Apple’s new energy business should scare utilities
Backing large-scale solar farms in locales like California, Mongolia, China and Nevada may have just been a warm up for Apple’s foray into clean energy. As the tech site 9to5Mac reported late last week, the i-device giant has filed a federal application to become a solar company in its own right — sort of. More specifically, Apple is asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the green light to begin selling excess power through a subsidiary called Apple Energy LLC within the next 60 days.

Catalyst: Unboiling an egg (Video 8:43)
Unboiling an egg’ technology leads to new discoveries in renewable energy. You can’t unboil an egg, right? Wrong! Scientists from Flinders University in SA won an Ig Nobel Prize for successfully unboiling an egg. The technology, called the Vortex Fluidic Device, is now being used in research to make new biodiesels, and for cutting carbon nanotubes that can be used in ever-smaller solar cells.

Environment and Biodiversity

Revealed: first mammal species wiped out by human-induced climate change
Human-caused climate change appears to have driven the Great Barrier Reef’s only endemic mammal species into the history books, with the Bramble Cay melomys, a small rodent that lives on a tiny island in the eastern Torres Strait, being completely wiped-out from its only known location. It is also the first recorded extinction of a mammal anywhere in the world thought to be primarily due to human-caused climate change.

Singapore crushes illegal ivory worth $10 million
On Monday, June 13, Singapore crushed — for the first time — nearly 8 metric tons of confiscated elephant ivory worth about 13 million Singapore dollars (~$10 million). The ivory crush is intended to send a “strong signal of Singapore’s zero tolerance on the use of Singapore as a conduit to smuggle endangered species and their parts,” Singapore’s Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said in a statement.

Economy and Business

It’s the economy that needs to be integrated into the environment – not the other way around
BP’s call for a ‘meaningful carbon price’ is the latest example of wrongly trying to apply economic theories and tools to the environment… The paradox of environmental economics is that we feel compelled to price nature to make its loss visible on the balance sheet, but in doing so we legitimise its commodification and validate its critical overconsumption in an unbounded market system.

Sustainable innovation for business starts at home: Rochelle March, SustainAbility
In order to address climate change and live better lives, we must think ‘outside the model’ to consider business model innovations that can transform the way we build, power and use our homes. But while innovative products and processes provide important, if incremental, sustainability gains, business model innovations allow companies to transform whole value chains. Airbnb, for example, has disrupted the value chains of the hotel industry, transformed the travel industry and altered how people think of and use their homes. What other business model innovations exist that can help stimulate climate solutions and better living conditions within a complex economic system of homes?

Today’s jobs, tomorrow’s sustainability profession
I was excited to partner with GreenBiz on its 2016 State of the Profession Report. This year’s report finds salaries are up, budgets are up and headcount is up. All encouraging and good news.

CEDA calls for a social price on carbon
The Committee for Economic Development of Australia has called on the government to establish a social price on carbon as a foundation for policy and investment decision-making to mitigate climate change. The Australia’s economic future: an agenda for growth report also identified climate change as one of the key areas that needs to be addressed to drive growth in Australia to 2020.

It’s boom time for clean tech stocks
AUSTRALIA – Companies on the Australian CleanTech index are outperforming the ASX200 and the ASX Small Ordinaries index, according to data released today by Australian CleanTech. The CleanTech Index, comprising 64 firms with a combined market capitalisation of A$23.7 billion, rose from 50.03 to 52.96 over the month of May 2016, recording a 5.9 per cent gain. This compared to the ASX200 gain of 2.4 per cent and the ASX Small Ordinaries Index gain of 4.0 per cent. The CleanTech Index has also outperformed the wider market over the past 12 months, leading the ASX200 by a massive 21.7 per cent.

How to have a social impact that matters
Every year businesses spend millions of dollars on community investment. Yet much is frittered away on partnerships that have little discernible value for either the community or the business. How can you do good while also doing good business?

Waste and the Circular Economy

Minister says UK government ‘fully backs’ microbeads ban
The UK government now fully backs a legal ban on polluting plastic microbeads in cosmetics and toiletries, environment minister George Eustice said on Tuesday.  A ban across the EU could be passed as early as 2017, he said, to stop the tiny particles entering the seas and harming wildlife.

Politics and Society

Departing U.N. climate chief on Paris, Trump and aiming high
When Christiana Figueres took on the leadership of the United Nations secretariat on climate change, the diplomatic collapse of the Copenhagen Summit was fresh in everyone’s minds. Now, just over six years later, she prepares to leave office riding high on a wave of global enthusiasm following the first global agreement on climate change. BusinessGreen caught up with Figueres to look back on the remarkable transformation that has swept through the global climate movement — discussing her role as a “gardener” for climate action, why U.S. business holds the Trump card in American climate policy, and why victory always goes hand-in-hand with optimism.

YourVote: Great Barrier Reef should be prioritised over coal mining, survey shows
A thumping majority of Australians want the health of the Great Barrier Reef prioritised over coal mining, according to a survey of more than 63,000 Fairfax Media readers. People living in mining states, the lower-educated, older people and men were less likely to agree to such a trade-off. However the result suggests neither major party has fully grasped the strength of public sentiment for protecting the natural wonder, which is suffering from declining water quality, and record coral bleaching largely caused by warming oceans.

Queensland’s 50-year vision for its southeast must take heed of all region’s future needs
AUSTRALIA – The Queensland government recently launched a call for ideas to shape a revised plan for the future of Southeast Queensland. The deputy premier and minister for infrastructure, local government and planning, Jackie Trad spoke recently of the opportunities for Southeast Queenslanders to grow communities sustainably and protect the region’s amenity – its environs, facilities, services and values.

Federal Election 2016: An ALP government would grab back environmental controls
AUSTRALIA – A Shorten government would consider a national environmental protection authority as part of efforts to grab back key conservation controls devolved by the Coalition from Canberra to the states. Under the Abbott-Turnbull governments, “the national environment has been placed under great pressure”, Mark Butler, Labor’s shadow environment minister, told Fairfax Media. “It’s important to reaffirm the Commonwealth’s role.”
Related: Labor to return environment legal centres

Built Environment

Green homes are only as green as their users
New research out of Michigan State University has found that more than 50 per cent of potential energy savings from energy efficient homes can be lost if users don’t know how to use the buildings properly. A study, published in Procedia Engineering, found that incorrect use of airconditioners, thermostats, ventilation and humidity control could have a dramatic effect on predicted energy savings from efficient homes.

World’s Tallest Wooden Building Will Be Built In Vienna
Vienna will soon be home to the world’s tallest wooden building. Designed by Rüdiger Lainer and Partner, the so-called HoHo project will be built in the Seestadt Aspern area, one of Europe’s largest urban development sites. It will stand 276 feet tall and house a hotel, restaurant, and wellness center together with apartments and offices. It will cost about $65 million to construct.

Calling the Construction and Demolition sector!
NEW ZEALAND – The building industry is booming. Construction and demolition waste accounts for almost half of what we throw away each year in NZ. SBN is working to tackle this. But we need your help.  How can we reduce waste in the construction and demolition sector? Can we shift from demolition and disposal to deconstruction and reuse?

Food Systems

Nelson, Marlborough and West Coast could see snapper catch increase
NEW ZEALAND – A proposal to increase snapper catch in the Top of the South has been applauded by Marlborough’s recreational fishers. The Ministry for Primary Industries proposed the total allowable commercial catch in the Top of the South, and most of the West Coast, be increased from 200 to 250 tonnes.  The recreational catch in the area would be increased by 160 tonnes, from 90 tonnes to 250 tonnes. Marlborough Recreational Fishers’ Association president Peter Watson said he welcomed the review.


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