Sustainable Development News

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

Turnbull punts Abbott, but don’t expect any instant miracles
What goes around, comes around. In Opposition, Tony Abbott displaced then Liberal leader Malcolm Turnbull by a single vote, just one week before the Copenhagen climate conference. The issue at hand – Turnbull’s support for Labor’s emissions trading scheme. In government, Turnbull has now displaced Abbott, by 10 votes, just two months before the Paris climate change conference. Climate change is not the only contention, but it is central to Turnbull’s plea for an end to government by slogans.


Energy and Climate Change

2015 and 2016 set to break global heat records, says Met Office
The world’s climate has reached a major turning point and is set to deliver record-breaking global temperatures in 2015 and 2016, according to a new report from the UK Met Office.  Natural climate cycles in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans are reversing and will amplify the strong manmade-driven global warming, the report concludes. This will change weather patterns around the world including more heatwaves, but it is possible that the UK will actually have cooler summers.

Greenhouse gases piling on heat, says British Met Office
Man-made global warming is set to produce exceptionally high average temperatures this year and next, boosted by natural weather phenomena such as El Nino, says Britain’s top climate and weather body. “It looks very likely that globally 2014, 2015 and 2016 will all be amongst the very warmest years ever recorded,” said Rowan Sutton of the National Centre for Atmospheric Science, which contributed to a Met Office report released yesterday. “This is not a fluke,” Sutton said. “We are seeing the effects of energy steadily accumulating in the Earth’s oceans and atmosphere, caused by greenhouse gas emissions.”

‘Godzilla’ El Niño: time to prepare for mega-droughts
Walking on cornflakes. That’s what it sounds like to hike through a rainforest in the grip of a strong drought. Each step crackles with dry snapping twigs and leaves. It’s frustrating for field biologists like us – we can forget about glimpsing anything but the most oblivious of wildlife. Rainforests aren’t supposed to be bone-dry like this, and normally they’re not. But at our Daintree Drought Experiment in far north Queensland, we and our colleagues have suspended more than 3,000 plastic panels above the forest floor to create an artificial mega-drought. The experiment began only three months ago but already the rainforest beneath is wilted and hurting.

Western Australian company receives gold standard certification for carbon emissions reduction
Perth-based carbon farming company Carbon Neutral has become the first Australian carbon emissions reduction project to receive Gold Standard certification. The certification, by the Geneva-based Gold Standard Foundation, recognises the project’s environmental, social and economic credentials.  Over the past eight years Carbon Neutral has established reforestation projects covering ten thousand hectares across Western Australia’s Wheatbelt, including properties in the shires of Morawa and Perenjori.

An Epic, 500-Year Snow Fail in California’s Iconic Mountains
From frustrated snowboarders to migrating birds arriving at shriveled wetlands to wildfires raging through national parks, the Sierra Nevada’s lack of snow has transformed just about every aspect of life in California. Farmers, fish, forests, gardeners, hikers, boaters, and more depend on Sierra snow for water. But now it’s clear that the “snow fail” in the 400-mile long mountain range has reached epic proportions: This year’s snowpack is the driest it’s been in at least 500 years, according to new research published Monday.

Environment and Biodiversity

Chile plans world’s biggest marine park to protect Easter Island fish stocks
In the pre-dawn gloom in a small harbour on Easter Island, three fishermen fill their boats. Instead of piling nets, they load rocks which they will use to drop a line tens of metres below the swelling waves. The lines will be hauled up hand over hand with their catch, huge yellowfin tuna. The technique would be recognisable to the fishermen’s ancestors who have worked these waters for hundreds of years. But this way of life on one of the world’s remotest inhabited islands is under threat, say local people and conservationists, from illegal fishing by industrial vessels that dwarf these tiny boats.

Hawaii to experience worst-ever coral bleaching due to high ocean temperatures
Warmer-than-normal ocean temperatures around Hawaii this year will likely lead to the worst coral bleaching the islands have ever seen, scientists said. Many corals are only just recovering from last year’s bleaching, which occurs when warm waters prompt coral to expel the algae they rely on for food, said Ruth Gates, the director of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology. The phenomenon is called bleaching because coral lose their color when they push out algae.\

Five things dung beatles do with a piece of poo
Dung beetle behaviour has fascinated humans for thousands of years – including the ancient Egyptians, who incorrectly believed the beetles reproduced only from males. But Egyptian observations that the beetles’ ball rolling is influenced by the sun is accurate and could be the first recorded accounts of animal behaviour. Dung beetles evolved at least 65 million years ago, as the dinosaurs were in decline, and the mammals (and their droppings) were getting bigger. There are about 6000 species worldwide, concentrated in the tropics where they feed mainly on the dung of terrestrial vertebrates. Dung beetles have been cleaning up the planet ever since; but what on earth do they do with all that poo? Here are the top five most interesting.

‘McCaw’, first kiwi chick of the season welcomed at West Coast Wildlife Centre
Westland has welcomed its first kiwi of the breeding season, which has been named McCaw. McCaw is a rowi chick and was hatched at the West Coast Wildlife Centre in Franz Josef early this morning. Weighing in at 322 grams McCaw was named by the wildlife centre team to “let Ritchie and all our team of All Blacks know over in the UK that every “young Kiwi” back here in New Zealand is cheering them on”. Rowi are the rarest kiwi in the world with less than 500 birds left alive in the wild. McCaw took six-and-a-half days to hatch.

Environmental restoration of Lake Horowhenua nears next phase
NEW ZEALAND – The long road to restoring Lake Horowhenua’s environmental health is quickly approaching its second phase. Horizons Regional Council, on behalf of the Lake Horowhenua Accord, has applied for resource consents for several initiatives to help restore the lake to its former health. Thirty-four tasks will be undertaken as part of the Accord’s 2014-2016 Action Plan, which identifies the roles and responsibilities of the Accord’s five partners.  Among those projects are building a boat ramp to launch Horizons’ newly acquired weed harvester, installing a fish-bypass structure at the outlet to Hokio Stream and a sediment trap at the entry point of the Arawhata Stream.

The British Wildlife Photography Awards 2015 winners – in pictures
An image of gannets on a Shetland Island clifftop leads this year’s stunning selection of winning photographs that capture the diversity of British wildlife. Over 100 images and videos, including winning and commended entries, will be exhibited across the UK starting in London on 14 September.

Gannets British Wildlife Photography award

Economy and Business

Shell leaves Corporate Leaders Group on Climate Change
Royal Dutch Shell has left the influential climate change group it helped to co-found, as pressure mounts on the oil company to halt its drilling operations in the Arctic Ocean. Last week the Prince of Wales Corporate Leaders Group, based at Cambridge University, announced Royal Dutch Shell was no longer a member of the prominent business-led campaign group.

How fast food is reinventing itself as healthy and caring
Public health campaigners, scholars, dietitians, journalists, politicians, filmmakers, celebrity chefs and the public frequently lambaste fast food corporations for causing and exacerbating the global obesity “crisis”. It is hardly surprising then that the global food and drink industry (also described by critics as “big food”) is keen to promote itself as “part of the solution”.

Eco road trip: Rotorua, New Zealand
The flashy aerial displays of the Karearea (New Zealand falcon) were the star of the show at Wingspan, New Zealand’s only bird of prey centre in Rotorua, until we got a private audience with a ruru (morepork). Bleary eyed and wobbly on its feet, it emerged from its hiding place for its dinner, served in bite-sized chunks by Katie, one of the centre’s falconers. It wasn’t all easy pickings, however. Katie launched a piece into the air and, quick-as-a-flash, and without a sound, the ruru had swooped to grasp it in its tiny talons.

Australian egg producer fined for false free range claims
Australian Egg producer Darling Downs has been fined A$250,000 (NZ$280,000) for labelling a product as “free  range”,  when it came from hens that never stepped foot outside. The Federal Court has declared Queensland-based RL Adams, trading as Darling Downs Fresh Eggs, had engaged in misleading conduct and made misleading claims in regards to its “free range” egg lines. The eggs were sold under Darling Downs’ Mountain Range and Drakes Home Brand’ labels, sold in Queensland, New South Wales and the Northern Territory.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Chef turns waste into gourmet
The average Kiwi household tosses over $560 worth of food per year, a collective 120,000 tonnes annually or enough to feed 260,000 people. Ben Barton, head chef of Scarecrow, an Auckland restaurant, grocer and florist, hopes to challenge chefs both at home and in restaurant kitchens to waste less by taking advantage of traditionally trashed foods. Barton says that if he can use what we usually throw away to create gourmet meals, we need to seriously reconsider our eating habits… “What does it say when society throws away food of such a quality and quantity that it can be used as the basis of a gourmet meal?” asked Barton, who hopes to change our attitudes towards waste by increasing demand for it.

Costa makes Litter Prevention Commitment with #costacleanup
UK – Staff from more than 650 Costa stores headed out to the streets in a mass litter-pick on Sunday (13 September) to commemorate the coffee shop chain partnering with environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy.  More than 1,900 Baristas were on hand to help with the ‘Big Tidy Up’, England’s biggest litter-picking campaign launched by Keep Britain Tidy, with progress tracked on Twitter using #costacleanup.

Politics and Society

Corbyn appoints shadow energy and environment secretaries
Jeremy Corbyn has named his shadow secretaries for energy and environment as the new Labour leader looks to push forward his ambitious energy reform programme.  Corbyn, who was elected Labour leader on Saturday (12 September), has elected Lisa Nandy to head up the shadow Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and Kerry McCarthy to lead the shadow Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

Republicans are becoming the party of climate supervillains
As Politico recently reported in a news story that seems better suited for bad a Hollywood movie script, Republican Party leaders are actively trying to sabotage the critical international climate negotiations that will happen in Paris at the end of this year.  “Top Republican lawmakers are planning a wide-ranging offensive — including outreach to foreign officials by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office — to undermine President Barack Obama’s hopes of reaching an international climate change agreement that would cement his environmental legacy.” Republican Party leaders have often argued that the United States shouldn’t take action to curb its carbon pollution unless China and other countries do as well.

Built Environment

Nine out of 10 new diesel cars exceed EU pollution limits, report finds
Nine out of 10 new diesel cars break new EU pollution limits when tested on roads rather than test tracks, according to a new report. On average, the cars emit seven times the permitted level of NOx gasses, with the worst car producing 22 times the legal limit. Models from every major motor manufacturer breached the limit when they were evaluated in real-world conditions.

Doctors warn air pollution in Newcastle equivalent to smoking ‘almost a cigarette a day’
AUSTRALIA – A group of doctors say air pollution in parts of Newcastle is now at a level equal to smoking almost a cigarette a day. After a year of operation, three out of six of the Environment Protection Authority’s new air quality monitors in Newcastle recorded fine particulate matter above the advisory standard of 8 micrograms per cubic metre. More than 20 doctors have written to the state’s Health and Environment Ministers seeking a meeting to discuss their concerns.

Government releases guide to 7 star homes
AUSTRALIA – The federal government, through the Department of Industry and Science’s website, has released free architect-designed plans and specifications for homes that achieve a minimum seven star NatHERS rating in a range of climate zones. The Design For Place suite includes a set of floor plans and elevations for a single-storey house, coming in three versions depending on block size. It also includes specifications and construction techniques to achieve minimums of seven star NatHERS in climate zones ranging from Darwin to Hobart, with some zones able to achieve ratings of up to nine stars.

The Lake Weyba Drive House in Noosaville, Queensland, part of Sustainable House Day 2015.

The Lake Weyba Drive House in Noosaville, Queensland, part of Sustainable House Day 2015.

C40 comes together to tackle building efficiency
Leaders from cities including Tokyo, New York, London and Singapore will meet in Sydney on Wednesday for a C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group workshop designed to improve the cities’ building efficiency. At the private building efficiency network workshop, the representatives of 13 cities representing close to 100 million people will work to develop ways to improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions in residential and commercial buildings.

Food Systems

Greenpeace apprehends illegal fishing in South Pacific
Overfishing is an increasingly detrimental problem in the Pacific Ocean, and agencies like Greenpeace argue that not enough is done under the law to regulate the industry. Illegal fishing activities further threaten endangered marine life and diminishing fish populations. Greenpeace patrol ship the Rainbow Warrior apprehended a Taiwanese tuna longliner, Shuen De Ching No. 888, fishing without permission near Papua New Guinea this week. The captain of the ship allowed Greenpeace team members to board the ship. There were immediate red flags raised by inaccurate records and the captain’s apparent lack of fishing knowledge or experience.


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