Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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You’ve probably heard there’s a heatwave happening in the northern part of our planet. The top story today outlines how widespread it is. These are record breaking temperatures. More climate news on the success of batteries in Australia but subject to unfair market mechanisms, and consultation on New Zealand’s Zero Carbon Bill closes this Thursday with controversy around whether to include methane. In other news, fantastic success in Queensland with artificial nesting hollows; research shows developing the Galilee Basin, including the Adani mine, won’t create new jobs; and on plastic waste, an interesting take on why Australia has reacted badly to company initiated plastic bag ban and a domestic firm says they could recycle all of NZ’s PET.

Top Story

Heatwave sees record high temperatures around world this week | The Guardian
Record high temperatures have been set across much of the world this week as an unusually prolonged and broad heatwave intensifies concerns about climate change. The past month has seen power shortages in California as record heat forced a surge of demand for air conditioners. Algeria has experienced the hottest temperature ever reliably registered in Africa. Britain, meanwhile, has experienced its third longest heatwave, melting the roof of a science building in Glasgow and exposing ancient hill forts in Wales.

Climate Change and Energy

Cape Town ‘Day Zero’ drought odds tripled by climate change | Climate Home News
The drought that threatened to turn off the taps in Cape Town was made three times more likely by global warming, according to a study released on Friday.

Spain hits 45% renewable power in first half of 2018 | Climate Action Programme
Spain’s transition to a low-carbon economy is making strong progress with almost half of all power now coming from renewable energy. Fresh data from Red Eléctrica de España, the country’s energy operator, shows that 45.8 percent of all electricity came from renewable sources between January and June.

Tesla builds case for 250MW virtual power plant after first trial success | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – The prospects for Tesla’s proposed 250MW “virtual power plant” in South Australia look significantly brighter after the success of its first trial and an enthusiastic response from the South Australia government. So far, some 100 Housing SA homes have received their 5kW of rooftop solar and the 13.5kWh Tesla Powerwall batteries, with another 1,000 homes to receive solar and battery storage under an agreement locked in by the previous state Labor government.

Tesla big battery powerless to stop S.A. price gouging | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – “I’ve never seen anything like it; with -$1k to +$14k in consecutive 5-minute periods. Chaos ensued.” That was the response of a senior Tesla Energy executive this week after the extraordinary scenes in South Australia’s electricity market on Monday, when the fossil fuel generators had a party and prices swung from $14,200/MWh to minus $1,000/MWh in a matter of minutes.

New Zealand’s zero carbon bill: much ado about methane | The Conversation
NEW ZEALAND – New Zealand could become the first country in the world to put a price on greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. Leading up to the 2017 election, the now Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern famously described climate change as “my generation’s nuclear-free moment”. The promised zero carbon bill is now underway, but in an unusual move, many provisions been thrown open to the public in a consultation exercise led by Minister for Climate Change James Shaw.

Environment and Biodiversity

Climate change good news for underwater farming fish, study finds | ABC News
Climate change could be a good thing for a species of fish that farms its own food, according to a university study. The herbivorous damselfish maintains an algae garden that it weeds and defends from other animals. A University of Adelaide study looked at damselfish waters containing a lot of carbon dioxide and found climate change would actually help damselfish grow more food.

Rainbow lorikeets, gliders and cockatoos call man-made hollows home | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Rainbow lorikeets, sugar gliders and micro bats are competing for man-made tree hollows springing up across the Gold Coast. A council audit of Australia’s largest tree hollow program has found almost every new home produced is being used by birds and animals. The hollows are cut into trees using a chainsaw, and mimic natural hollows as closely as possible.

Photo: About 85–90 per cent of the more than 400 tree hollows are being used by native animals. (Supplied: Steve Collom)

Photo: About 85–90 per cent of the more than 400 tree hollows are being used by native animals. (Supplied: Steve Collom)

The science and art of reef restoration | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – Coral reefs around the world are in crisis. Under pressure from climate change, overfishing, pollution, introduced species and apathy, coral colonies and fish communities are steadily deteriorating. Coral cover in the Great Barrier reef has declined by an alarming 50% since the 1980s. Some leading scientists believe that the Great Barrier Reef is at a terminal stage. One way to address this is through reef restoration. At it’s simplest, this involves the addition of coral or habitat to a reef. It’s generally undertaken on existing coral reefs, but can also be done on rocky reefs or bare sand. We have looked back through the decades to celebrate the history of reef restoration, not just in science but also in art, business and politics.

Silent Evolution by Jason deCaires Taylor. Taylor makes sculptures and sinks them beneath the sea to create artificial reefs. © Jason deCaires Taylor

Silent Evolution by Jason deCaires Taylor. Taylor makes sculptures and sinks them beneath the sea to create artificial reefs. © Jason deCaires Taylor

No explosion in croc numbers preliminary Queensland crocodile survey finds | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Preliminary results from the Queensland Government’s estuarine crocodile population survey suggest there has not been an explosion in croc numbers in the state. The Department of Environment and Science embarked on a three-year survey last year, the state’s most comprehensive in more than a decade, following two fatal attacks and calls from the Katter’s Australian Party for a crocodile cull.

Economy and Business

Developing new Galilee Basin coalmines will cost 12,500 jobs, analysis shows | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – Developing new coalmines in the Galilee Basin would cost 12,500 jobs in existing coalmining regions and replace only two in three workers, modelling by the Australia Institute shows. Job creation has long been an aggressive rallying call for supporters of Adani’s Carmichael megamine and other proposals in the untapped Galilee Basin, which combined would produce 150m tonnes of thermal coal each year.

The power of engagement and intrapreneurism in sustainability leadership | GreenBiz (Book Exerpt)
Daniel Pink wrote in his remarkable book “Drive” about what motivates people, saying it boils down to three things. “It’s about autonomy, the desire to steer your own ship; it’s about mastery, the ability to be able to steer that ship well; and it’s about purpose, knowing that your journey has some wider, broader meaning.” Engagement also requires that people feel they are treated fairly; that they are listened to; and that they are cared for.

WeWork says employees can’t have any meat at events or on expenses | The Guardian
WeWork, the real estate company that rents out and manages office space, has announced that they will no longer hold any staff events that include meat, and that staff will not be able to expense any meals that include poultry, pork or red meat. In an email to staff, WeWork co-founder Miguel McKelvey also said that WeWork’s upcoming Summer Camp event, a music and food festival which is only open to WeWork members, will not serve any meat options.

Apple sets up $300m clean energy fund in China | Climate Action Programme
Apple and 10 of its suppliers are teaming up to develop clean energy projects in China. The company has launched what it is calling a ‘first-of-its-kind investment fund’ to help its suppliers gain access to renewable sources. The $300 million fund will develop an estimated 1 gigawatt of renewable energy projects within China over the next four years – enough to power 1 million households. Lisa Jackson, one of Apple’s policy chiefs, and a former head of the US Environmental Protection Agency, commented: “At Apple, we are proud to join with companies that are stepping up to address the climate challenge.”

Waste and the Circular Economy

Why plastic bag bans triggered such a huge reaction | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – Woolworths’ and Coles’ bans on plastic bags have been applauded by environmental groups, but were reportedly met with abuse and assault and claims of profiteering. Even comedians saw value in the theatre of the bag ban. This reaction is due to supermarkets breaching their “psychological contract” with customers. When both major supermarkets appeared to back flip in the face of irate customers it only compounded the problem”.

Lower Hutt firm wants to recycle all New Zealand’s plastic bottles |
NEW ZEALAND – A Lower Hutt firm believes it has the solution for New Zealand’s growing pile of plastic drink bottles. Flight Recycling is offering to recycle all our polyethylene terephthalate (known as PET), a plastic commonly used in drink bottles, food containers and meat packaging.

Councils to lobby Government to ‘eliminate’ single-use plastic bags and drinking straws |
NEW ZEALAND – New Zealand could soon be free of plastic bags and straws as local councils advocate for their demise. Single-use plastic items will most likely be phased out of all council facilities and events following overwhelming support for the idea at Local Government New Zealand’s (LGNZ) annual conference on Sunday. The national body has committed to lobbying central government to “urgently develop and implement a plan to eliminate the use of single-use plastic bags and plastic straws” after 95 per cent its members approved the plan.

Customers call out companies on unnecessary waste and use of plastic |
NEW ZEALAND – Auckland woman Hannah Hurst got an environmental fright when she ordered a modular bookcase from Freedom Furniture. Inside she found each item individually packed in plastic, paper, two layers of polystyrene and two layers of cardboard. “At first I thought, ‘wow this is a bit over the top,'” Hurst said. “And then I got quite annoyed and angry at how much packaging there was, and the type – so much polystyrene.”

Politics and Society

Poll: Few Kiwis think world will overcome climate challenge | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – Kiwis overwhelmingly think New Zealand should take action on climate change even if other nations don’t – and few believe humanity will do what’s needed to escape the worst impacts. That’s been indicated by a new survey one leading climate scientist says is a blunt message that people want leadership on the issue.

Consultation on the Zero Carbon Bill closes Thursday. People can make submissions via the Ministry for the Environment website.

Disaster-Focused Headlines from the Congo Often Hide Signs of Progress | World Resources Institute
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO – Disaster-focused headlines are what most of the world reads about the Congo. Global attention on the DRC’s challenges is important, but this type of reporting doesn’t tell the whole story. Instead, it helps fuel public perception that the place is beyond hope, and ignores the fact that the country has good news, too — and that every day, the people there are going about their lives as best they can.

Built Environment

UK schools banning school run to protect pupils from air pollution | The Guardian
UK – Schools across the country are moving to ban the school run amid growing concern about the devastating impact of air pollution on young people’s health. The Guardian has found that thousands of schools in cities and towns – from Edinburgh to London, Manchester to Ellesmere Port – are taking measures to try to deter parents using their cars. These include closing roads, setting up “park and stride” schemes, walk-to-school initiatives and “playing dead” protests.

Food Systems

Mackenzie Basin: Fonterra dairying criticism rejected | RNZ News
NEW ZEALAND – The Dunedin businessman behind a planned mega-dairy conversion in the Mackenzie Basin is shrugging off criticism from Fonterra about further intensification on the vulnerable landscape. Murray Valentine has 9600 hectares of land at Simon’s Pass near Twizel and wants to irrigate 4500 hectares of that. Originally, he was granted resource consent for 15,000 cows, but plans to put 2000 on it by next year, rising to a maximum of 5500 cows when consents are gained for extra cow sheds.