Sustainable Development News

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

Could we set aside half the Earth for nature?
As of today, the only place in the universe where we are certain life exists is on our little home, the third planet from the sun. But also as of today, species on Earth are winking out at rates likely not seen since the demise of the dinosaurs. If we don’t change our ways, we will witness a mass extinction event that will not only leave our world a far more boring and lonely place, but will undercut the very survival of our species.  So, what do we do?

Laughing Hauorani women and children sitting in the forest in the Bameno Community Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park. Conservationists are belatedly recognising that indigenous people may be the world’s strongest defense against deforestation and biodiversity loss, yet most indigenous people still lack rights to their customary lands.

Laughing Hauorani women and children sitting in the forest in the Bameno Community Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park. Conservationists are belatedly recognising that indigenous people may be the world’s strongest defense against deforestation and biodiversity loss, yet most indigenous people still lack rights to their customary lands.
Photograph: Alamy

Energy and Climate Change

France becomes first major nation to ratify UN climate deal
President François Hollande on Wednesday finalised ratification of the Paris climate accord reached in December 2015, making France the first industrialised country to do so. “Signing is good, ratifying is better,” Hollande quipped at the Élysée Palace ceremony, flanked by environment minister Ségolène Royal, foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and other top officials.

Norway pledges to become climate neutral by 2030
Norway’s parliament has approved a radical goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2030, two decades earlier than planned. On Tuesday night MPs voted for an accelerated programme of CO2 cuts and carbon trading to offset emissions from sectors such as Norway’s oil and gas industries, which are unlikely to be phased out in the near future.

22 ways to cut your energy bills (before spending on solar panels)
AUSTRALIA – Besides wanting smaller bills, many residents also want to improve comfort, lessen their environmental impact and boost their home’s value. So here is a list of 22 things you can do to improve your home’s energy performance – some cheap, some free, and some that can even make you some money up-front as well as cutting your bills. Of course, to reach the ultimate goal of a home heated and powered by 100% renewable electricity you may still wish to put some solar panels on your roof, but why not consider the following actions first?

10 climate change-fighting energy apps to tap
There seems to be an app for everything, whether you’re looking for a ride across town, finding a place to crash for the night or even hoping to advance renewable energy. Energy is responsible for more than a third of global greenhouse gas emissions, primarily from burning fossil fuels for electricity. A cornerstone of the Paris Agreement coming out of the U.N. COP21 climate talks was investing in renewable energy, such as solar and wind, alongside energy efficiency. Want to be a part of expanding the renewables economy? Here are 10 nifty apps for businesses and consumers alike.

Apple launches new renewable energy company
US tech giant Apple has formed new renewable energy company Apple Energy to sell surplus solar power generated by its California and Nevada farms across the US.

Victoria steps up a gear with state renewable energy target
AUSTRALIA – The Victorian Government has followed up on last week’s pledge to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 with the announcement of new renewable energy targets of 25 per cent by 2020, and 40 per cent generation from renewable sources by 2025, up from the present 14 per cent. Renewable energy advocates have been quick to praise the announcement, which the government said will result in the building of up to 5400 megawatts of new large-scale renewable energy capacity and attract an estimated $2.5 billion of new investment.
See also: Wind farm boom looms as Premier Daniel Andrews looks to boost clean power

How the gas cartel is holding the nation to ransom
AUSTRALIA – Last week, Andrew Smith, Chairman of Shell Australia, suggested that NSW and Victoria may have to consider importing LNG from Queensland or Papua New Guinea if the states don’t act to get onshore gas out of the ground, took the ‘East Coast gas shortage’ argument to new heights of hysteria. But as the Australian Electricity Market Operator has clearly stated, the demand for gas on the east coast of Australia has fallen and there is no gas shortage. In fact, the global gas market is entering a large glut in supply – a glut that according to the Office of the Chief Economist will extend out to 2030.

India is hedging its bets on coal to bring power to the people
More than a fifth of India’s population lacks access to electricity, posing a major development challenge. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised to bring affordable access to electricity to all of these people by 2019. While Modi has committed to increasing renewable generation, India is also increasing coal production. India is the world’s third-largest coal producer and its second-largest coal importer. This is creating a growing tension between development and India’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change.

UK fracking firm plans to dump wastewater in the sea
A UK shale gas company is considering dumping waste water from fracking in the sea, emails from the company show. Ineos, which owns the Grangemouth refinery and holds 21 shale licences, many in the north-west, North Yorkshire and the east Midlands, has said it wants to become the biggest player in the UK’s nascent shale gas industry.

Environment and Biodiversity

Coral Reefs Doing Better Than Expected in Many Areas
Despite the unprecedented extent of coral bleaching around the world, a major new study has also found “bright spots” where corals are doing significantly better than anyone expected. And the reason for the improvement is simple: it comes down to how much the coral reefs are fished by people. This result has important implications for how reefs are protected, says Jack Kittinger of Conservation International, one of the study’s authors.

Local fishermen are often good stewards of the ocean, a new study finds. Here, villagers from New Britain Island, Papua New Guinea, work their waters. Photograph by David Doubilet, National Geographic Creative

Local fishermen are often good stewards of the ocean, a new study finds. Here, villagers from New Britain Island, Papua New Guinea, work their waters. Photograph by David Doubilet, National Geographic Creative

Norway pledges $14M to strengthen forest monitoring platform
The Norwegian government is providing World Resources Institute (WRI) with 115 million kroner ($13.85 million) over the next three years to strengthen Global Forest Watch, a platform for monitoring the world’s forests.

India puts 18 lions on trial for murder, and the culprit may get a life sentence – in a zoo
Police have rounded up 18 male suspects wanted for the murder of three in Gujarat, an arid western Indian state. If one is found guilty, he will be sentenced to life in prison. Or, a kind of prison at least: a zoo. The suspects are all Asiatic lions. The species is endangered, and its population has dwindled as human settlements encroach on its remaining habitat. As that process speeds up, humans and lions are, of course, more likely to come into contact, leading to murders that go both ways.

How a Hunting Reserve Became a Snow Leopard Sanctuary
For the elusive snow leopard in Kyrgyzstan, a satisfying meal consists of an ibex or an argali. As it happens, these wild relatives of goat and sheep—bearers of spectacular, curved horns—are also the quarry of trophy hunters.   Although a quota system has been in place to regulate the number of animals taken for trophies, until recently intense illegal hunting in Kyrgyzstan has severely depleted these ungulates, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which sets the conservation status of species. And as their main prey animals have grown scarcer, the numbers of snow leopards, which are endangered globally, have fallen too.

Economy and Business

Of Top Cotton Users, Over 75% ‘Appear to Do Virtually Nothing’ on Cotton Sustainability
More sustainable cotton has become more widely available thanks to collaborations such as the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) and other programs focused on minimizing the use of highly hazardous pesticides, improving working conditions, addressing biodiversity issues, and reducing water consumption in cotton agriculture. An estimated 13 percent of global cotton supply in 2015 was ‘more sustainable,’ and yet, less than one fifth of that amount was purchased as ‘more sustainable’ cotton, according to research commissioned by Solidaridad, WWF, and Pesticide Action Network UK (PAN UK). The rest is being sold as conventional due to lack of demand from brands.

Waste and the Circular Economy

3M, Aveda, Target Among Members of New Coalition Aimed at Advancing Circular Economy in U.S.
Today, more than 25 businesses and organizations announce the launch of the Minnesota Sustainable Growth Coalition, a business-led public-private partnership harnessing their collective expertise to advance the next frontier of corporate sustainability – the circular economy.

Politics and Society

The benefits of not showering (Audio 10:57)
When James Hamblin first stopped washing he got very smelly. But then things started to change. Hamblin is a senior editor at The Atlantic and he’s been working on a series about the microbiome  – the bacteria that lives on us.  We mess with the delicate balance by washing ourselves too often, and using chemical laden detergents, deodorants and soaps. So he decided to forgo washing or using deodorant. He tells Jesse Mulligan what happened.

Our cities will stop working without a decent national housing policy
We have to move the housing conversation beyond a game of political football about negative-gearing winners and losers. Australia needs a bipartisan, long-term, housing policy. Why? Because we have a slow-burn, deepening crisis that is affecting Australians who are already highly vulnerable and disadvantaged… The UN Rapporteur on Human Rights, following a visit in 2007, concluded that Australia was failing to deliver the fundamental human right of adequate housing because of the lack of any co-ordinated national strategy. Nothing has changed since 2007.

How Can We Move Beyond Flame Wars & Combative Political Discussions?
The United States today is in a strange place, and I assume the same goes for other countries to some extent or another. Public discussions, especially political discussions, have become increasingly combative. I think part of this is due to the detached, anonymous nature of discussing things on the internet — we are so detached from the effects our words have on others that we tend more to write in derogatory and combative ways — more so than we’d typically do in an in-person or even telephone conversation with the same people about the same things.


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