Sustainable Development News

Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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Eight million tonnes of plastic are going into the ocean each year
You might have heard the oceans are full of plastic, but how full exactly? Around 8 million metric tonnes go into the oceans each year, according to the first rigorous global estimate published in Science today. That’s equivalent to 16 shopping bags full of plastic for every metre of coastline (excluding Antarctica). By 2025 we will be putting enough plastic in the ocean (on our most conservative estimates) to cover 5% of the earth’s entire surface in cling film each year.

Around a third of this likely comes from China, and 10% from Indonesia. In fact all but one of the top 20 worst offenders are developing nations, largely due to fast-growing economies but poor waste management systems. However, people in the United States – coming in at number 20 and producing less than 1% of global waste – produce more than 2.5 kg of plastic waste each day, more than twice the amount of people in China. While the news for us, our marine wildlife, seabirds, and fisheries is not good, the research paves the way to improve global waste management and reduce plastic in the waste stream.

Energy and Climate Change

Geneva talks: countries agree draft text for deal to fight climate change
Almost 200 countries agreed a draft text for a deal to fight climate change on Friday, but put off hard choices about narrowing down a vast range of options for limiting a damaging rise in temperatures. Government delegates adopted the 86-page draft as the basis for negotiations on the deal due to be agreed later this year. But the document includes radically varying proposals for slowing climate change – one foresees a phase-out of net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, for instance, while another seeks a peak of emissions “as soon as possible”. “Although it has become longer, countries are now fully aware of each other’s positions,” said Christiana Figueres, the head of the UN climate change secretariat, referring to an earlier 38-page document which formed the basis of discussions.

7 burning issues on the road to a Paris climate deal
At last, progress. After six days’ discussion in Geneva, nearly 200 governments have revealed their demands ahead of a global climate change deal. That’s the good news. A less enticing reality is that they have collectively created an 86-page document comprising an avalanche of options and proposals. This is now the official negotiating text for an agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions, set to be signed off in Paris this December. Between now and then it will need to be radically cut down to a set of practical goals that world leaders can understand. We have picked out seven themes worth following over the coming months.

Leaders’ Valentine’s Day gift to the green economy (Blog)
It is the Valentine’s Day gift many within the green economy had been hoping for. After several weeks of kicking chunks out of each other in what promises to be a brutal election battle, the three main party leaders have today risen above their narrow partisan interests and demonstrated some genuine statesmanship. In delivering a joint commitment to “work together” to set new emissions goals for the UK, seek an international treaty in Paris, and accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy David Cameron, Nick Clegg, and Ed Miliband have shown real leadership… As Unilever’s Paul Polman observed, “the importance of this pledge cannot be overstated”. It effectively commits the UK to seeking an ambitious and legally-binding climate treaty in Paris and it massively increases the chances of a stretching fifth carbon budget being agreed in 2016.

Air pollution from Europe and America is making the tropics drier
Air pollution pumped out by factories and power plants in Europe and North America has led to drier spells in the tropics, thousands of miles to the south. Scientists had long suspected this was the case and even had modelled the change in computer simulations, but now for the first time we have direct evidence – straight from a cave in Belize. Most of us, when asked to think about climate change, think of global warming and the unequivocal rise in greenhouse gases. But greenhouse gases aren’t the only pollutants we produce which have the potential to disrupt the climate.

Global Divestment Day

Fossil Free – Global Divestment Day ( We are demanding institutions do what is necessary to avert the climate crisis by divesting from fossil fuels.  Together, we are making fossil fuels history.

Fossil fuel lobby goes on the attack against divestment movement
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you,” said Mahatma Gandhi. The climate change campaign to divest from fossil fuels seems to be moving through those stages at express speed, with a sudden barrage of attacks from the coal and oil lobbies ahead of its global divestment day on Valentine’s day. The speed is appropriate given that the campaign, which argues the fossil fuel industry is a danger to both the climate and investors’ capital, is the fastest growing divestment campaign yet seen, moving quicker than those against tobacco and apartheid. It’s moving fast in the financial world too, with one finance executive calling it “one of the fastest-moving debates I think I’ve seen in my 30 years in markets”.

Fossil fuel divestment campaign grows as protesters target UK banks
At least 1,400 UK customers are set to move their accounts in protest at their banks’ multibillion-pound funding of the fossil fuel industry. The campaign, mirrored by actions in Australia and South Africa, is part of a global day of action by the fast-growing fossil fuel divestment movement. The Go Fossil Free campaign has already persuaded 180 institutions, worth $50bn (£33bn) and including local authorities, universities and churches, to sell off their investments in coal, oil and gas. The campaign will stage a series of protests on Saturday, with hundreds other events planned in more than 50 countries.

Students call on parents to divest from fossil fuels
Campaign group Push Your Parents has released a video showing students calling on their parents to email their pension funds about divesting from fossil fuels. The video has been released to coincide with Global Divestment Day. In the video, one student asks, “Dear Mum and Dad, did you know your pension is gambling with my future?” The video aims to start a conversation about climate change and the role pension funds, which often invest in fossil fuel companies, play in rising greenhouse gas emissions.

What has the divestment movement achieved so far?
Divesting from fossil fuels will make your clothes and your kitchen disappear. This is the latest hyperbole in the battle over the future of energy. A video, released this week by a lobbying group called Big Green Radicals, depicts the story of Joe, a cartoon man who ends up naked in his empty house after breaking up with his girlfriend, who happens to be a barrel of oil. Pro-divestment campaigners are also clinging to the Valentine’s Day motif.

Zero-cost solar systems come to Kiwi homes
Global Divestment Day focuses on the future of New Zealand by challenging consumers and businesses to move away from fossil fuels. Taking a step towards this goal Mr. Deepak Desousa from Henderson, Auckland will be the first person in the country to have solarZero installed. It’s an initiative of New Zealand company solarcity, whereby customers have panels installed on their roof but, rather than buying those panels, they instead buy the power produced from them at a rate lower than they can buy it from power companies. Furthermore, that rate is locked down for 20 years, giving customers freedom from spiralling power prices and the ability to forecast two decades ahead.

Environment and Biodiversity

Rock wallaby population rebounds as fence keeps out predators
A predator-proof fence protecting a population of wallabies in Western Australia’s Wheatbelt has helped the creatures rebound from critically low numbers.  The five-kilometre long electric fence was built around a group of black-flanked rock wallabies in a nature reserve near Kellerberrin in 2013, after a population of more than 100 crashed to just five. Of those animals, only one female was left.  A total of 22 wallabies were introduced into the specialised zone, which was designed to protect the animals from predators such as cats and foxes.  Department of Parks and Wildlife flora and fauna conservation officer Natasha Moore said the wallaby population had jumped to 39 since the introduction of the zone.

Family’s Kapiti Island legacy
In 1822 Te Rangihiroa invaded Kapiti Island with Te Rauparaha and Ngati Toa. Little could he have imagined that 193 years later, his descendants would still live there on a small slice of private land in the middle of a nature reserve. Te Rangihiroa’s great-granddaughter, Utauta Webber, refused to give up her land in 1897, when the Kapiti Island Reserve Act bundled all Crown-owned land into a nature reserve. Part of the island is still in private ownership, allowing the public surprising access to a 20-square-kilometre native treasure trove.  Barrett said it was important some nature reserves were open to the public. “Kapiti shouldn’t be important – it should be like this everywhere. But sadly it’s not, so if people want to see a wild kiwi they have to come somewhere like this. It’s important to have reserves that are locked away. But you have to have some that people can go to, so they can see what’s being done and see what New Zealand is in danger of losing if nothing is done. There’s no point in trying to save the takahe if no-one knows what they are and in a generation no one cares.”

What Do Animals See in the Mirror?
Asian elephants, magpies, and great apes are among the species that can self-recognize. Reflect on this: What do animals see when they look into a mirror? Our Weird Animal Question of the Week came to us from @iscavenger, who tweeted us after reading our January column “Why Do Dogs Watch—and React to—TV?” She asked about domestic dogs’ responses to mirrors, noting that some seem bothered by or stare at the looking glass. For one, though dogs can recognize other animals or dogs in mirrors, they can’t see themselves.

Week’s Best Space Pictures: Space Smiley Face, Mercury Megacrater

Space Smiley Face
Space Smiley Face

A galaxy cluster appears to flash a smile at Earth in a newly released image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The eyes in this cosmic smiley face are actually very bright galaxies—technically known as SDSS J1038+4849—while the smile lines are arcs caused by an effect known as strong gravitational lensing. When cosmic objects align with one right in front of the other, the foreground object’s gravity can act as a lens, warping and magnifying the background object’s light. Read on for more…

Economy and Business

Galapagos: Anatomy of an EcoCruise
The definition of “eco-tourism” is hard to nail down. If forced to, I’d probably say something like: Eco tourism is any travel whose primary purpose is the enjoyment of nature in its wild state and upon which special effort has been made to minimize negative externalities – and maximize the positive ones.   As such, anything from a camping trip to the local state park to an elaborate international adventure would probably qualify.  In terms of grander trips, the Galapagos is probably one of the more well known eco-tourism destinations. So what are the basic ways tour companies are minimizing impact? And how are they going above and beyond?

7 Brands We’re Crushing On this Valentine’s Day
When it comes to corporate responsibility, far too many major brands are like a bad boyfriend: Sure, their claims sound great at first, but it doesn’t take much follow-up before their true colors come out, leaving you disappointed and in desperate need of a rebound. But hey, Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and no one wants to hear those stories. To celebrate this day of love, this week we’re tipping our hats to seven brand crushes that have never let us down.

Dot Green Community Inc. Announces the New Top Level Domain .Green Opens For Business February 12
DotGreen Community, Inc., steward of the new .green Top Level Domain (TLD) name, announces the availability on February 12, 2015 of the world’s first cyber real estate designated for the green economy. This “Landrush” phase of the .green domain name rollout allows first movers in business, marketers, the environmental community, and the public to acquire priority registration for premium names with a .green address. The Landrush phase lasts through March 14.

Sub-Saharan African countries are failing to plan for climate change
Right now, African countries are busy investing in infrastructure and development to help support current economic growth. Many of these long-lived investments – such as ports, large dams, and social infrastructure, such as hospitals and schools – will most likely last well beyond 2050. But by then, Africa’s climate may look quite different to what it does today. Factoring climate change into long-term investments and planning decisions is essential for supporting climate-resilient development – but it’s not happening. New research, coordinated by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), shows that governments and businesses across sub-Saharan Africa are failing to consider long-term climate information in their investments and planning decisions.

Waste and the Circular Economy

The hidden trade in our second-hand clothes given to charity
Leaflets from charities and clothing recycling companies fall through the letterbox all the time asking for donations of old clothes. In supermarket carparks there are clothing banks for unwanted, wearable clothes, but where do all these clothes go? Torn clothes are recycled and used again as things like insulation materials, and soiled garments end up in landfill or incinerated. Some go to high street charity shops, but estimates indicate only 10-30% are sold in the UK. Most donated clothes are exported overseas. A massive 351m kilograms of clothes (equivalent to 2.9bn T-shirts) are traded annually from Britain alone. The top five destinations are Poland, Ghana, Pakistan, Ukraine and Benin.

Recycled fashion: how do we close the loop? – live chat
Imagine the jumper you’re wearing now had skeletons in its closet. Imagine it was once a completely different piece of clothing in a previous life. That’s the idea behind eradicating waste in fashion. Fashion is now affordable to millions of consumers, but the low-cost, high volume business model that allows this also encourages a culture of disposal, with an estimated 350,000 tons of clothing sent to landfill each year in the UK alone.  With cotton prices fluctuating and agricultural land for food running out, the fashion industry is under increasing pressure to reduce its waste and become less dependent on virgin resources. Recycling textiles is one way of addressing both. On Wednesday 18 February, 1.30pm – 2.30pm GMT, experts in fashion and the circular economy will join us online to take your questions.

Politics and Society

Millennials Want To Work At Organizations That Focus On Purpose, Not Just Profit
Millennials have taken on an almost mythic air in our country. We project on them both the worst—they’re all lazy and apathetic!—and the best—they’re all progressive and caring—about our society. But as they become more and more important consumers and members of the work force, it’s important to find out how they’re actually shaping our society. Here’s an idea: Why not ask them? For the past few years, Deloitte has conducted a Millennial Survey to gauge how the generation, which now makes up the majority of the workforce, thinks about business’s role in society. The big takeaway: a focus on purpose and people is, for many millennials, just as important as a company’s ability to generate profit.



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