Sustainable Development News

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

Orang-utans play video games too, and it can enrich their lives in the zoo
Visiting the orang-utans at the zoo brings us face to face with some of our closest relatives. Moments of connection with these intelligent creatures can be powerfully emotional. We heard recently about the amazing experience of a visitor to Melbourne Zoo who sat to breastfeed her child and was watched with interest by a female orang-utan. Families are also regularly captivated by the antics of the Zoo’s youngest orang-utan, who seems to delight in playing near children on the other side of the glass. Now Zoos Victoria and technology researchers are collaborating to explore whether digital technologies could let orang-utans choose to interact safely with visitors in entirely new ways.

Energy and Climate Change

Record-breaking temperatures ‘have robbed the Arctic of its winter’
This year’s record-breaking temperatures have robbed the Arctic of its winter, sending snowmobilers plunging through thin ice into freezing rivers and forcing deliveries of snow to the starting line of Alaska’s legendary Iditarod dogsledding race.

Photo of the Day: Fossil fuels on thin ice
If NASA’s latest “shocker” of a global heat record doesn’t scream “climate emergency” quite loud enough for you, this heavily symbolic image out of Canada might do the trick.

Image Credit: Government of the Northwest Territories

Image Credit: Government of the Northwest Territories

Environment and Biodiversity

Shipping companies join Prince William bid to shut wildlife trafficking routes
The world’s largest shipping and airline companies, port operators and transport groups will commit on Tuesday to trying to shut down the main international wildlife trafficking routes. The initiative, to be signed by 40 organisations, is led by Prince William and backed by the world’s largest conservation groups including Conservation International and WWF.

EcoCheck: Australia’s Southwest jarrah forests have lost their iconic giants
When the first European settlers travelled into the jarrah forests of Australia’s Southwest, they found a vast area of giant trees and imagined an inexhaustible forest. The timber industry took off. Within 100 years, Western Australia’s Conservator of Forests, Charles Lane Poole, noted that: “Sentiment may dictate the preservation of a few … as reminders … but whole forests of giant trees will no longer be seen.” How right this early conservation visionary proved to be.

Lake Wanaka algae a long term conundrum for Wanaka Community Board
NEW ZEALAND – The mysterious contents of a white container beside Lake Wanaka have been revealed to Wanaka Community Board members by water supply contractors, Veolia. It is an Actiflo algae treatment plant, which the Queenstown Lakes District Council has been trialling for three months, in the hope of finding a solution to the filter-clogging algae in Wanaka’s drinking water supply.

Economy and Business

Do We Still Need a CFO …?
…or should the role be replaced by a ‘Chief Value Officer,’ as suggested by Marga Hoek in her new book, New Economy Business? A CVO role would focus on broader value creation and is responsible for integrated reporting and integrated thinking within the organization. Many voices are suggesting we rethink our form of capitalism, and in this wake the groundswell for the topic of Integrated Reporting as proxy for Integrated Thinking is ever increasing, and new momentum was added in recent weeks:

From emerging to submerging: the debt burden killing off the age of the BRICS
Over the past three decades, global interest in emerging markets has soared, and when the financial crisis of 2008 hit, emerging markets were largely thought to be the next engine of global growth. Insofar as they have complied with this investor aspiration over the past few decades, they have also adopted a negative aspect of the developed economies to which they aspired: corporate leverage. As the corporate emerging giants of the developing world have grown, so too have they issued debt at disproportionately faster rates.

Unilever Foundry, Indiegogo Partner to Crowdfund Sustainability Solutions
Social entrepreneurs have a new opportunity to launch and scale their sustainability solutions – through a new partnership between crowdfunding platform Indiegogo and the Unilever Foundry, the ‘entry-point’ for startups seeking to connect with Unilever and its venture capital arm, Unilever Ventures.

United Flights from LA to San Francisco Now Use Biofuel, Create 60% Less Emissions
Regularly scheduled United Airlines flights between Los Angeles and San Francisco will be fueled by a blend of 30 percent biofuel and 70 percent traditional fuel, reducing an estimated 60 percent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared with regular fuel. Other airlines have tested biofuel, but United says it has “made history … by becoming the first U.S. airline to begin use of commercial-scale volumes of sustainable aviation biofuel for regularly scheduled flights,” with this new initiative.

Cost of dodgy Pacific tuna fishing over $600m – report
The true cost of dodgy fishing in Pacific tuna fisheries – potentially stretching over $600 million – has been condemned as “larceny on the high seas”. The figure has been revealed in a new 100-page report, prepared by marine consultant company MRAG Asia Pacific for a Pacific economic forum. It is the first ever attempt to quantify the volume and value of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in Pacific tuna fisheries.

Australian renewable energy jobs continue to fall
The number of Australians working in renewable energy has fallen 3 per cent in the past financial year. The decline caps off a 27 per cent collapse (about 5100 jobs) since 2010-11, when subsidies and other government support for the industry were at their most generous, and comes after investments in new projects cooled and the national renewable energy target sputtered… The Australian trend sits amid a backdrop of growing global renewable energy employment. The International Renewable Energy Agency previously found 7.7 million people worked worldwide in the industry in 2014, up 18 per cent from the previous year.

Adelaide could be first zero-carbon city in world with South Australia’s new entrepreneur contest
AUSTRALIA – Adelaide has launched a low carbon contest with an AU$250,000 (~US$187,000) prize, which is open to innovative entrepreneurs who can help the South Australian capital become the world’s first carbon neutral city. South Australia’s Low Carbon Entrepreneur Prize will transform groundbreaking ideas from around the world into real projects, and is the first initiative of the ‘Adelaide to Zero Carbon Challenge’ which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while stimulating opportunities for pioneering green businesses

Waste and the Circular Economy

Catalyst: Micro-plastics
Although microbeads from rinse off cosmetics have received a lot of attention lately, the tiny plastics most often being found in our seafood is a different kind of synthetic. We look into marine life in the US and Australia, to find out what plastics escape our household drains and what kind of damage they can do.

The Capsula Mundi Project – Raoul Bretzel  (Audio 5:57)
The Capsula Mundi project presents a new way to think about death and burial. The ashes or bodies of departed loved ones are placed in biodegradable egg-shaped pods (capsula) which are buried like seeds in the earth. A tree is then planted on top. Italian designers Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel are behind the project. Raoul tells Jesse Mulligan why we should ditch the coffin in favour of their creation.

How your Business can Benefit from the Circular Economy
NEW ZEALAND – At ‘Revolutionising Resource Use – How your Business can Benefit from the Circular Economy’, leading practitioners candidly discussed their approaches and the benefits they are deriving from the circular economy. Here are our top five takeaway learnings.

Politics and Society

Louisiana’s vanishing island: the climate ‘refugees’ resettling for $52m
Wenceslaus Billiot, an 88-year-old native of Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana, remembers growing up on a much different island than the two-mile sliver of his ancestral home that remains today. “When I was a kid I used to do trapping in the back,” he said, gesturing towards the back of the small, one-story house that stands elevated on stilts to escape the floods that roll in from the bayou after nearly every storm. “You could walk for a long time. Now, nothing but water.”

Memo to our latest cities minister: here’s what needs to be done
AUSTRALIA – With Taylor having been in the job for less than a month, we have not yet heard much detail of his views on cities and urban policy. But he has said “I’m the assistant minister for cities, not the assistant minister for inner cities, or even capital cities …” And to fulfil his “deep belief that consultation and proper public debate gets to wise outcomes”, what advice might we offer to the new assistant minister? Here are some suggestions to be going on with.

Obama expected to severely limit oil drilling in Arctic and Atlantic
The Obama administration promised to protect Atlantic waters for future generations on Tuesday, raising expectations that waters off the US east coast and Alaska would be protected from oil and gas drilling. The expected decision reverses Barack Obama’s move just last year to open up a vast swath of the Atlantic coast to drilling – and consolidates the president’s efforts to protect the Arctic and fight climate change during his final months in the White House.

Climate change deal: ‘Zero carbon’ laws promised by government
UK – Climate laws will be tightened to cut carbon emissions effectively to zero, the government has said. Under current law, emissions must be cut by 80% by 2050 – but ministers have said this does not go far enough. Following the climate deal in Paris, it is clear the UK must not increase CO2 at all because the warming threat is so severe, they added. No details of the law change have been given – and critics said the UK was failing to meet even current targets.

Scotland urged to adopt more ambitious carbon emissions target
Scottish ministers should aim to cut the country’s greenhouse gas emissions by a challenging but achievable 61% by 2030, an influential advisory committee has recommended.

Rangers Killed in Africa’s Oldest Park Push Death Toll to 150
The execution of two rangers in Virunga National Park by anti-government rebels has pushed losses of the guardians of this vast reserve in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo above 150 during the past decade. A third ranger went missing in the attack. The World Heritage Site is home to an impressive array of landscapes and wildlife, including famed mountain gorillas, but it’s been under a pall of violence because of instability in the region.

Environment Commissioner warns resource management reforms ‘go too far’
NEW ZEALAND – The Environment Commissioner has issued a warning that some resource management changes “go too far”.  Dr Jan Wright released advice to Parliament on the changes to the Resource Management Act, raising concerns about Government powers and the ability for the public to have their say on plan changes. Reforms would allow the Environment Minister to be able to “shut out certain voices” and make changes to council plans, she said.

Mary Robinson joins chorus against CSIRO cuts, says climate science ‘imperative, not luxury’
AUSTRALIA – Former president of Ireland Mary Robinson criticised the proposed cuts to CSIRO climate science in a speech made last night at the University of Melbourne’s Sustainable Society Institute.

Built Environment

Why BASIX water requirements should be replicated across Australia
NSW has outperformed the nation in water efficiency and according to the authors of a new report the reason is its BASIX rating system for housing and the rest of the country should emulate it. Dr Peter Coombes, principal of consultancy Urban Water Cycle Solutions said the benefits of BASIX has been wider than improving home efficiency; it’s given NSW the edge in resilience in terms of water use.

Commonwealth Bank first with sustainable branch template
AUSTRALIA – The Commonwealth Bank can now roll out Green Star-rated branches with ease after becoming the first financial institution to get Green Star certification for its “standard design” branch fitout. The bank received a 5 Star Green Star assessment from the Green Building Council of Australia, which it can now replicate across future branch developments and retrofit for its existing 1000-plus branches. The design incorporates low-VOC paint, FSC-certified timber, reduced water use and energy cuts of 40 per cent compared with typical branches.

The revolution of the charge: innovative transport solutions
NEW ZEALAND – Z Energy will install six rapid-charge electric vehicle charging stations at sites in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, starting with the first launch in Wellington on 24 March

Bayfair launches EV charging stations
NEW ZEALAND – Mount Maunganui’s Bayfair Shopping Centre has plugged into the future with the launch of its two new electric vehicle charging stations.  The new stations will fully charge standard electric vehicles in approximately six hours.


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