Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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Energy and Climate Change

Scientists Warn of Rising Oceans From Polar Melt
Two scientific papers released on Monday by the journals Science and Geophysical Research Letters came to similar conclusions by different means. Both groups of scientists found that West Antarctic glaciers had retreated far enough to set off an inherent instability in the ice sheet, one that experts have feared for decades. NASA called a telephone news conference Monday to highlight the urgency of the findings.

Angry head of renewable energy agency says axing will leave energy sector obsolete
The head of Australia’s flagship clean energy development agency says the organisation’s planned axing is a broken promise that will leave the country’s energy sector obsolete.  The Australian Renewable Agency chairman, Greg Bourne, blasted the decision in Tuesday’s budget to rip $1.3 billion out of the agency and reduce it to ‘‘a branch of an agency in the Department of Industry’’ with a ‘‘token amount’’ of funds.  ARENA ‘‘had always been supported (by the Coalition) all the way through, before the election, during the election, after the election’’, Mr Bourne told Fairfax Media.


Q&A: What Animals Tell Us About Love and Dating
People looking for love may already feel like their dating lives are pretty wild.  But you may not know exactly how wild until you read Jennifer Verdolin‘s new book Wild Connection, which reveals how our relationships and courtships often mirror those of other species in the animal world.  Take the prairie chicken. In an animal version of ladies’ night at a dance club, the males will congregate in front of females and put on elaborate moves and vocalizations—and will perform at these “nightclubs” for up to two months at a time.

Poachers Slaughter Dozens of Elephants in Key African Park
Garamba National Park, a remote 1,900-square-mile park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, issued an urgent alert Tuesday that it had been hit by poachers emanating from an area known to house the terrorist group the Lord’s Resistance Army.  According to African Parks Network (APN), an NGO that manages Garamba under agreement with the Congolese Institute for Nature Conservation, 33 elephant carcasses have been discovered so far. Most appear to have been killed in April, but ten carcasses were discovered Friday, their tusks removed.

Fishers deliver 20 hammerhead shark pups
A group of fishermen in the US turned midwives after they found the hammerhead shark they’d reeled in was about to give birth.  Noe Campos and his friends were fishing off a pier in Venice, Florida when they caught the shark.  After fighting for several hours to reel it in, Campos jumped into the water to try to untangle the line from a pole, he told news station WPTV.  But once they had the shark onshore they found it had a large bite mark.  “As soon as they roll it over, you can see this big hole,” another fisher Andrew Weedman, told WPTV.  And they could see the shark pups inside.

Economy and Business

Burma’s investment rush is leaving the poor majority behind
U Mya Hlaing sits on a bamboo floor in his rural home an hour down the river from Yangon, explaining how in a short time, he expects to lose it in the name of development. His fields of paddy rice, along with those of his village and neighbours, have been designated as a special economic zone. They will be bulldozed to make way for the flagship development project of the Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) in co-operation with the Myanmar government and Japanese and Myanmar companies. Electronics and garments factories will replace his homestead.

Selling energy as a service meets the poor’s needs and generates profits
Rather than trying to sell energy products with high up-front costs, innovative businesses are selling energy services.  Their business model is to retain ownership of the technology, and thus the associated risk, and to sell energy as a service – such as light and phone charging – for an affordable daily or weekly fee.

14 Hot ‘Couples’ in Sustainability to Watch this Year
It’s become nearly impossible to keep up with the multitude of promising partnerships being launched daily around sustainability — and that is great news, of course. This list presents an overview of 14 hot relationships that we believe represent crucial developments in this space. As we continue to watch them, along with many other movers and shakers, here is to the power of multiplying one another’s efforts in our shared pursuit of a sustainable economy.

Politics and Society

Climate change poses growing threat of conflict in the Arctic, report finds
Climate change poses a growing security threat and could cause conflict in the Arctic, a group of retired American generals and admirals said on Tuesday.  In a new report, the former military officers said the Pentagon had been caught out by the rapid changes under way in the Arctic because of the melting of the sea ice.  “Things are accelerating in the Arctic faster than we had looked at,” said General Paul Kern, the chairman of the Centre for Naval Analysis Corporation’s military advisory board, which produced the report. “The changes there appear to be much more radical than we envisaged.”

Environment organisations lose out
The government’s flagship Emissions Reduction Fund will have no further funding allocated beyond the $2.55 billion promised over the next four years, budget papers have revealed.  Previously Environment Minister Greg Hunt had committed to the four-year funding and left open the possibility further funds could be committed beyond the current budget.  But the $2.55 billion will be stretched out to 2023-24, with $75 million expected to be paid out in the first year of its operation, ramping up to $300 million in its second year.

Budget: slower start to Direct Action climate change plan than expected
The centrepiece of Tony Abbott’s Direct Action plan to tackle climate change will go ahead more slowly than anticipated, alongside the abolition of the carbon tax and the purchase of a new icebreaker ship.  The emissions reduction fund, which will work with businesses and households to cut carbon emissions, will receive $2.55bn of funding from 1 July, the budget confirmed.  But spending will be slower than anticipated because the fund will not make payments until the abatements are delivered.

Billions axed in clean energy: renewable target is next
There are billions of dollars of broken promises in the Abbott government’s first budget for low-emission and renewable energy programs – and wiggle room to break even more in the next few years.  Among last night’s surprises was that government has budgeted to spend just A$1.15 billion, or less than half of its centrepiece A$2.55 billion Emissions Reduction Fund over the next four years (see the budget excerpt on the right).\

National Water Commission abolished
The Budget Papers confirm that the National Water Commission will be scrapped from December, with the loss of nearly 30 jobs.  The move was widely expected ahead of Tuesday night’s Budget, and the Federal Government’s water spokesman Simon Birmingham has previously said that much of the Commission’s reform work has already been done.  The Commission’s important responsibilities for auditing and monitoring water policy reform will continue, but will be farmed out to other existing Commonwealth agencies

Australia dumps clean energy in favour of asphalt economy
The conservative Coalition government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott has dumped the last significant renewable energy assistance program and a host of other climate and science based research initiatives, as it bets the country’s economic future on a massive road building program and continued support for miners.  Treasurer Joe Hockey’ first budget – delivered Tuesday night – includes the abolition of the $3.1 billion Australian Renewable Energy Agency, an institution formed to help bring new and emerging technologies into production and deployment, and to help fund Australia’s world-leading solar research.


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