Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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When neither wildlife nor humans respect borders
Nature Without Borders is a collection of essays that chronicles conservation efforts in farmlands, pastures, rivers, and seas. People grow crops, harvest fish, and graze livestock in areas where many species of wildlife also live and hunt.

Energy and Climate Change

New climate pledges only buy eight more months before climate tipping point
New global pledges to cut greenhouse gases have delayed by just eight months the moment when the world is expected to breach a threshold that keeps global warming at safer levels, the world’s leading energy agency has found. In a new report the International Energy Agency has warned collective emissions targets, along with the energy plans in those countries yet to set out new goals, puts the world on track by 2040 to release more than the total greenhouse gases than can be allowed and still have a strong chance of keeping global warming below two degrees – a threshold known as the carbon budget. That is just eight months later than previous forecast, despite a new spate of targets and plans currently being pledged by countries, the agency said on Monday morning.

Greening the world energy mix in 9 graphs
There is good news and bad news in the International Energy Agency’s special report on climate change. Good news: global energy-related emissions did not grow in 2014, for the first time outside an economic crisis in 40 years. Bad news: national policies don’t go far enough to avert catastrophic climate change. Good news: the IEA has some ideas to bridge the gap.

Global Wind Day: 10 facts that will blow you away
To celebrate Global Wind Day, edie has pulled together 10 fascinating facts about wind; its power and the possibilities it holds to reshape our energy systems, decarbonise our economies and boost jobs and growth.

Wellington south coast roads threatened by waves
Part of the road around Wellington’s south coast, which has been closed for the past 24 hours, has finally reopened. The road from Lyall Bay to Moa Point closed at 2pm on Sunday, after strong winds washed boulders onto it. Wellington City Council spokesman Clayton Anderson said workers cleared the debris from the road and it reopened at 4.30pm on Monday. Earlier, Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown warned that all the city’s coastal roads were under threat as an increasing number of storm surges pummelled them. While waves had washed over south coast roads before, it was becoming increasingly common as a direct impact of climate change, she said.

Boulders were washed on to the road in Lyall Bay on Sunday.

Boulders were washed on to the road in Lyall Bay on Sunday.

Coles scores Australia’s first supermarket Green Star rating
The first Green Star rating for an Australian supermarket has been awarded to Coles at Hallam, in Melbourne’s outer south-east, opening the way for a much needed greater sustainability in this sector of retail property that typically consumes huge amounts of energy for refrigeration. The new outlet in Melbourne’s outer suburbs  achieved 4-Star Green Star with a range of initiatives including the first Life Cycle Assessment undertaken on an Australian supermarket, the Green Building Council of Australia said.

Fossil Fuel Divestment

Coal crash: how pension funds face huge risk from climate change
The pension funds of millions of people across the world, including teachers, public sector workers, health staff and academics in the UK and US, are heavily exposed to the plummeting coal sector, a Guardian analysis has revealed… The World Bank and the Bank of England have both warned that global action to cut carbon emissions could render fossil fuel reserves worthless, as analyses show most must remain in the ground. Coal, the most polluting fuel, is particularly at risk and investment bank Goldman Sachs declared in January the fuel had reached “retirement age”. A crunch UN summit in December is tasked with agreeing an international climate change deal.

Environment and Biodiversity

Tiny Team Uses Satellites to Bust Illegal Fishing Worldwide
Working late into the night in land-locked West Virginia, Bjorn Bergman helped authorities stop a fishing boat from illegally harvesting tuna and sharks thousands of miles away, off the Pacific island nation of Palau. In late January, Bergman analyzed swiggles on his screen that represented the movements of the Taiwan-flagged fishing boat ShinJyi Chyuu 33. A records search told Bergman that the boat did not have a permit to fish in Palau’s waters, but the zig-zag patterns playing across his monitor suggested that’s exactly what the crew was doing.

Graphic Shows How Animals Are Traded Around the World
Tiger claws are sold to treat insomnia, and the skin of tiger noses is bought to heal wounds. Along with “tiger wine” made from ground-up bones, these are just a few of the ways that nearly 1,700 tigers were bought and sold around the world in 2013. This new graphic from National Geographic and Fathom Information Design—the first in a new series we’re calling Data Points—reveals many surprises in the animal trade. The United States is the biggest exporter of rhesus macaques, for instance, one of the main species used in medical research (and at times as NASA test-flight subjects). And reptiles are the most-traded animals in the world.

WWF – Magical Mekong: New Species Discoveries
The Greater Mekong Region (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam) teems with life. Irrawaddy dolphins splash in the Mekong River, wild elephants and tigers roam Thailand’s forests, and giant ibises stalk the watering holes of Cambodia’s Eastern Plains Landscape. In total, over 430 mammal species, 800 reptiles and amphibians, 1,200 birds, 1,100 fish and 20,000 plant species call this region home.4 Every year, scientists describe new species increasing this tally and highlighting how much more is left to discover: between 1997 and 2014, 2,216 new species were discovered.  In 2014, new species included a soul-sucking “dementor” wasp, a color-changing thorny frog, a stealthy wolf snake, the 10,000th reptile species discovered in the world, a bat with remarkable fangs, a new crocodile newt, a feathered coral, four Thai “Princess” moths, the world’s second-longest insect, and two orchids discovered through the wildlife trade.

Economy and Business

Energy companies embracing domestic solar and storage systems in scramble to protect profits
The battle lines in the fight to power the nation are rapidly being redrawn as the emergence of domestic solar and storage systems have forced the big utilities to scramble to protect their shrinking fiefdoms. Six months ago, the big three power companies – AGL, Origin and EnergyAustralia – were spending considerable time and resources fighting to have both large and small scale Renewable Energy Targets (LRET and SRES) either cut or abolished.In the past few weeks the rhetoric has been all about the lucrative growth opportunities for their small residential solar businesses.

Greenpeace ‘Click Clean Scorecard’ Rates Top Websites on Renewable Energy Use, Transparency
If you’ve ever wondered about the energy powering your favorite websites, a new tool from Greenpeace is here to help. On Thursday, the advocacy group released a new browser extension tool that shows which of the most popular websites are moving most ambitiously towards renewable energy use. Users that download the extension (compatible with Google Chrome) can distinguish leaders from laggards by the color of a cloud icon that appears green, yellow, or red whenever they open a new site.

Waste and the Circular Economy

RIT Joins Group of Universities Furthering Global Understanding of Circular Economy
Rochester Institute of Technology has become a Pioneer University within the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF)’s Higher Education program, joining a select group of universities worldwide dedicated to accelerating a global transition to a regenerative, circular economy. RIT joins the program as a result of its pioneering research and teaching on the emerging concept of the circular economy — an industrial economy that is restorative by intention and eliminates waste through thoughtful design.

The three biggest circular economy myths holding back businesses
The circular economy is gaining ground. The European Commission has announced it will present an ambitious circular economy strategy in late 2015, China has set up government-backed association CACE to encourage circular growth, and Japan has been practicing it for decades. But progress towards a circular or even half-circular economy has been halting. Indeed, when I explain the premise of the circular economy to people, they are less stunned by the opportunity than by our collective disregard for it. Why? The power of inertia is important, of course, but I have also come across a number of myths on the subject.

Beer by-product to become biofuel
New Zealand brewer DB Breweries are attempting to create commercially viable biofuel from the by-products of brewing beer. In a statement released today, the brewer announced that its “brewtroleum” will be made using ethanol derived from beer by-product which will be mixed with normal petroleum. The brewer said it hoped to create the biofuel, which would emit less carbon than normal petrol, by next month.

Politics and Society

Hillary Clinton mocks climate sceptics at Presidential campaign launch
US presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton used the opening speech of her campaign to label climate change as “one of the defining threats of our time”. Economic policy and opportunities for more jobs dominated the 45-minute address, held at New York City’s Roosevelt Island on Saturday. But Clinton – who steered US climate negotiations during her time as Secretary of State – used her platform to lash out at opponents still committed to trashing climate science.

Pope Francis warns of destruction of world’s ecosystem in leaked encyclical
Pope Francis will this week call for changes in lifestyles and energy consumption to avert the “unprecedented destruction of the ecosystem” before the end of this century, according to a leaked draft of a papal encyclical. In a document released by an Italian magazine on Monday, the pontiff will warn that failure to act would have “grave consequences for all of us”.

Media scare stories are the real drivers of transparency
A host of transparency tools are available to consumers wanting to assess the transparency of brands, yet to date their direct impact on consumer behaviour appears to have been nominal at best.  Steve New, associate professor at the Saïd Business School and an expert on supply chain management, says this is in part because consumers don’t make much of an effort to understand the supply chain, though when they do “they are generally well-meaning and horrified to discover the environmental degradation and forced labour that exist in the making of their favourite products,” he says.

Island Nation Burns Boats to Deter Illegal Fishing
In a fiery crackdown on illegal fishing, officials from the Pacific island nation of Palau burned a cluster of Vietnamese fishing boats off their coast on Thursday, sending black smoke and flames over turquoise water. Palau law enforcement captured the wooden vessels in recent weeks. The ships’ captains remain incarcerated in Palau while the 77 crew members are being sent home on two remaining fishing boats, with enough food and fuel to make it back to Vietnam. “We hope to send a very clear message to poachers, who are raping our marine environment,” Tommy E. Remengesau, Jr., the president of Palau, told National Geographic. “We will not tolerate any more unsustainable acts. Palau guarantees, you will return with nothing.”

Jane Fonda on Arctic oil drilling: ‘This is the fight of our lives’
Three years ago, Jane Fonda says, she sat at her kitchen table telling her boyfriend, music producer Richard Perry, that the world was coming to an end and that maybe that’s exactly what humans deserved. She was walking the environmental talk – living in a solar-powered house, driving a Prius – but her efforts were a personal pact to live responsibly. Three months ago, she picked up Naomi Klein’s environmental treatise, This Changes Everything, and decided the personal was no longer enough: it was time to get political again, over drilling for Arctic oil.

More Than a Badge: What We Can Learn About Sustainability From the Boy Scouts
My recent meeting with the Boy Scouts of America and their suppliers radically shifted my view of what the Scouts are about. My impression of the Boy Scouts was stuck in my experience as a Scout back in the ‘70s. As a middle schooler, I joined the Scouts to hang out with my friends. I loved the outdoor activities and the pursuit of merit badges. Fast-forward 40 years to the Scouts Supplier Summit. In preparation for the Summit, I learned the Boy Scouts had introduced a Sustainability Merit Badge, built a platinum LEED-certified camp and training center, and were integrating sustainability into their properties, education efforts, and leadership programs.

The shipping containers tackling South Africa’s chronic childcare shortages
Access to affordable childcare is a worldwide problem, particularly so in South Africa where just 16% of all children from birth to age four receives care from a government-regulated programme, according to Unicef. Matchbox Africa is striving to reverse this shortfall. The Cape Town-based organisation installs repurposed shipping containers in non-white township communities to provide permanent spaces for existing community-run creches. But, unlike other charity projects entering a community and starting from scratch Matchbox taps into an established community network of local

Poll reveals growing demand for ‘sustainable’ holidays
Demand for green holidays and eco-resorts is set to keep climbing, according to a global survey of over 32,000 travellers. The poll from travel and hotel booking website revealed that 52 per cent of respondents claim that they are likely to favour a destination that can offer a reduced impact on the environment. The survey revealed the market for specifically ‘green’ holidays remains niche – only 10 per cent of respondents said they had taken a sustainable trip, defined by the company as an eco-tour, a volunteering trip, a farm stay, a camping trip or a trip to learn about new cultures. But a majority of respondents insisted environmental impacts were a consideration when selecting a trip.

Built Environment

Turning red lights to green
NEW ZEALAND – Drivers may be less frustrated by the apparent whims of traffic signals if a research project by Victoria University of Wellington associate professor, Dr Paul Teal, goes ahead. The multidisciplinary project aims to bring together economists and engineers to design a traffic control system that reduces operational costs and delays, thereby delivering both economic and social benefits.


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