Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Today’s top story is a reminder that we have a huge job ahead of us to clean up our environment, which is not to say we shouldn’t be eliminating single use plastic and purchasing mindfully, but the scale is much larger, and we need to support good policies. In other news, more analysis on what needs to happen to keep global warming to 1.5C, including the closure of 12 coal fired power plants in Australia by 2030 and six things the UK needs to do. Biodiversity is discussed as the Ugandan’s breed their well adapted Ankole cattle with better producing commercial breeds and Dirk Hartog Island off Australia’s top

Top Story

Reusable coffee cups are just a drop in the ocean for efforts to save our seas | The Guardian
Films such as A Plastic Ocean, and the huge success of Blue Planet II, have brought ocean plastic pollution firmly into the popular domain. Plastic has become ubiquitous through the world’s oceans, with fragments found in deep ocean trenches and the Arctic ice sheets. Furthermore, pictures of charismatic animals such as whales and turtles consuming or entangled in plastic provide powerful imagery of the problem to the public. There is no doubt plastic is a big issue. A study in the journal Marine Policy suggests plastic pollution might be reaching a planetary boundary, a term used to describe safe operational environmental limits within which the world can continue to function safely. Yet, for all the attention given to ocean plastic, it is not the biggest threat to the marine environment

Climate Change

Six climate questions for ‘Green GB’ | BBC News
UK – Next week, ministers are likely to ask their advisers how Britain can reduce carbon emissions in line with that target. They’ve declared what they’re calling Green GB Week – a celebration of the UK’s achievement as a world leader in tackling climate change whilst increasing the economy. But will they make the huge carbon cuts still needed on these six key issues?

‘Jaw dropping’: New Zealand offers lessons in tackling climate change | SMH
AUSTRALIA – Scott Simpson, New Zealand’s National Party environment spokesman, stunned a trans-Tasman investment meeting last week by stating that climate action was “too important to be playing politics with”. Or rather, it was the Australian delegates who were shocked, so used are they to the toxic debates in Canberra.


Environment and Biodiversity

How profit-driven inbreeding could bring the world dairy herd to its knees | The Guardian
Known for their distinctive long horns, the Ankole cattle of western Uganda have evolved over millennia to withstand their harsh environment, with its lengthy dry spells and abundance of local maladies such as trypanosomiasis, a disease spread by the tsetse fly. But after flourishing for almost 10,000 years, the Ankole have begun to rapidly disappear. Farmland is dwindling in Uganda due to the expanding human population, and Ankole require vast areas to graze. Local herders have responded to the pressure by replacing them, cross-breeding Ankole cattle with industrial species such as the European Holstein.

The Ankole longhorn of western Uganda are being replaced with industrial species that produce more milk and meat but are more susceptible to disease. Photograph: Juergen Ritterbach/Alamy

The Ankole longhorn of western Uganda are being replaced with industrial species that produce more milk and meat but are more susceptible to disease. Photograph: Juergen Ritterbach/Alamy

Indian activist dies during hunger strike over Ganges river pollution | The Guardian
INDIA – An Indian environmental activist has died on the 111th day of a hunger strike to pressure the government to clean the Ganges river. GD Agarwal, a former professor of environmental engineering at one of India’s top universities, died on Thursday afternoon in hospital in the north Indian city of Rishikesh, where he had been admitted earlier that day… The 2,525km Ganges, also known as Ganga or Gangaji, is worshipped by most Hindus as a goddess but for vast stretches is heavily polluted by the discharge of untreated sewage and industrial waste.

I’m face to face with Ningaloo’s living miracles and it feels holy | Tim Winton | The Guardian
It’s a very lucky person who swims with whales – but many take heart from knowing such ecosystems exist and believe they need to be protected.

I pull the outboard out of gear and let the boat’s momentum wash away until we’re dead in the water. Then I switch everything off – engine, echo sounder, even the radio – and there’s silence. Not even the sound of water lapping against the hull. Because it’s breathless out here today. The surface of the gulf is silky. The sky is cloudless, a shade paler than the water. And behind us, onshore, the arid ridges and canyons of the Cape Range are mottled pink and blond in the morning light. There’s only the two of us aboard, and although the air and water are still enough to be dreamlike we’re not at all relaxed. In fact, each of us is craning at opposite sides of the boat, heads cocked, tense with anticipation.

Dirk Hartog Island turns back the clock 400 years to a time before European settlement | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – One of Australia’s oldest historical sites is being transported back in time 400 years to recreate an ecosystem as it existed pre-European settlement. Dirk Hartog Island off Western Australia’s northern coast is the site of one of the world’s largest ecological restoration projects, which aims to return the isle to what it was before Dutch explorers first landed there in 1616. The 20-year project has just this month enabled the island to be declared free of feral cats, goats and sheep — paving the way for the reintroduction of native animals in the hope of providing threatened species with what Dirk Hartog Island Ecological Restoration Project manager John Asher called a “sanctuary to thrive”.

Photo: Banded hare-wallabies are among the first animals to be relocated to the island. (Supplied: Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions)

Photo: Banded hare-wallabies are among the first animals to be relocated to the island. (Supplied: Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions)

Leek orchids are beautiful, endangered and we have no idea how to grow them | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – Leek orchids don’t have many friends. Maybe it’s because they lack the drop-dead gorgeous looks of many of their fellow family members. Or perhaps it’s because they’re always the first to leave the party: as soon as sheep or weeds encroach on their territory, they’re out of there. Whatever the reason, you don’t see leek orchids around very often. Leek orchids are small, ground-dwelling native Australian orchids, so called for their single spring-onion-like leaf, which shoots up from an underground tuber each autumn.

Rahui extended for fish sanctuary in the Bay of Islands |
Marine life at Maunganui Bay in the Bay of Islands will get a further reprieve from fishing with the extension of an official no-take zone. A rāhui or prohibition from taking any fish species (except kina [sea urchin]) was initiated under the Fisheries Act by local hapū [family tribe] Ngati Kuta and Patukeha of Te Rawhiti. Maunganui Bay, also known as Deep Water Cove, was closed in December 2010 under section 186A of the Fisheries Act 1996… Schools of fish have returned to the area since the rāhui after a surge in commercial and recreational fishing depleted the once-abundant fishery.

Kereru wins Bird of the Year | RNZ News
The kererū [wood pigeon] has swooped to victory in the Bird of the Year competition for the first time. Amassing 5833 votes, the wood pigeon held on to its early lead despite strong challenges from the kākāpō and the kakī. The kākāpō was runner up with 3772 votes and the kakī (black stilt) came in third with 2995 votes.

The kererū held on to its early lead to take the bird of the year title. Photo: WCC / Jan Kench

The kererū held on to its early lead to take the bird of the year title. Photo: WCC / Jan Kench

Economy and Business

Crunch Time for the Green Climate Fund: 5 Issues to Watch at Critical Board Meeting | World Resources Institute
The GCF is nearing the end of its first funding period and has successfully approved $3.5 billion for 74 climate projects in 78 countries around the world. But the last Board meeting ended in chaos, without progress on key agenda items, and left the fund facing a crisis of confidence. The world needs the GCF and similar funds dedicated to channeling climate funding to developing countries. That is why many eyes will be on the next GCF Board meeting, with stakeholders wondering if the governing body will come together and deliver results. At its upcoming meeting in Bahrain, the Board must get things back on track and restore confidence in the fund. There is a lot on the agenda for the meeting, but here are the top five issues to watch

Moves to stamp out ‘greenwash’ branding | RNZ News
NEW ZEALAND – Consumer advocates have produced guides offering clarity to stop shoppers paying extra for products that aren’t as environmentally friendly as these seem. This practice is called greenwashing and some warned the problem was only going to get worse, as shoppers look to make more sustainable choices with their wallet.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Mission Plastic Free: Can you do a weekly shop without buying plastic? | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – Supermarkets may be phasing out single-use plastic bags, but plastic still litters the aisles. The Herald on Sunday visited New Zealand’s three biggest supermarkets, armed with a shopping list of 17 kitchen staples or household items. Our mission: can you shop without buying single-use plastic or any plastic at all? And, would the supermarkets let us use our own containers, jars and reusable bags?

Politics and Society

‘No way coal can compete anymore’: Malcolm Turnbull’s son wants voters to dump Liberals | The Guardian (Video 1:120)
AUSTRALIA – In a video posted to social media, Alex Turnbull urges voters to kick out the Liberals in the upcoming Wentworth byelection – an election triggered y the ousting of his father, Malcolm Turnbull. He says the party has been taken over by ‘extremists on the hard right’ who have attempted to prosecute a ‘culture war’ over climate change. He speaks of the ‘terrifying’ IPCC report and how ‘insane’ it is not to take action.


Trial to run Monash University on 100% renewables backed by ARENA | One Step Off The Grid
AUSTRALIA – A ground-breaking microgrid trial that aims to run Victoria’s Monash University on 100 per cent renewable energy – generated and stored on-site – has won grant funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. ARENA said on Friday that it was joining with Monash and technology partner Indra Australia to trial the microgrid on the University’s Clayton campus – an effort towards which ARENA would provide $2.97 million in funding.

AEMC sees no market gaming, but says batteries will lower prices | RenewEconomy
It’s one of the biggest jokes in the energy industry – the deliberate manipulation of capacity, availability and bidding strategies that ensures that the big fossil fuel generators maximise their profits, at the expense of consumers. Consider it to be one of the privileges of the incumbent fossil fuel industry. They have done little to conceal it: their profits rose three-fold in the last year, representing a surge in market prices but little change in their cost of generation.

Fracking to start in Lancashire as legal challenge fails | BBC News
UK – Fracking for shale gas can go ahead for the first time in the UK since it was linked with earthquakes in 2011. Energy firm Cuadrilla has drilled two wells at its site in Lancashire since being given the go-ahead to extract shale gas by the government in 2016. Campaigner Bob Dennett tried to prevent work starting, arguing in the High Court that Lancashire County Council failed to assess safety risks properly. But Mr Justice Supperstone said there was “no evidence” to support the claim.

Related: Top climate scientist blasts UK’s fracking plans as ‘aping Trump’ | The Guardian

Food Systems

UK growers warn of shortages of onions, potatoes and other vegetables after extreme weather decimates crops | The Independent
UK – Vegetable yields have fallen by as much as 50 per cent in some parts of the UK, following a year of extreme weather events. Farmers have warned of the likelihood of shortages of major crops including potatoes, onions, carrots, leeks, parsnips, cabbages and Brussels sprouts, with consumers and retailers expected to see biggest impacts in the new year.