Friday 17 April 2015
Sustainable Development News
Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Energy and Climate Change
NZ greenhouse gas levels ease but remain well above 2020 target levels
New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions have eased but remain well above the target set for 2020. Despite the gap, Minister Responsible for Climate Change Issues Tim Groser – who jetted off to Washington DC on Wednesday night for a meeting on climate change – is confident New Zealand can reach its commitments. To get there though, it is expected to have to delve into international markets for carbon offsets. New Zealand’s commitment, reiterated by Groser in the past few days, is to get emission levels of greenhouse gases down to 5 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020. New figures from the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) put the emission of carbon dioxide equivalents at 81 million tonnes in 2013, 21.3 per cent above the 1990 level of 66.7 million tonnes.
Explainer: how does today’s Direct Action reverse auction work?
The Emission Reduction Fund (ERF) reverse auction, the first round of which runs today and tomorrow, is no different to a tender process used by the government to procure other types of goods and services. The process calls for confidential formal bids from different providers and generally chooses the lowest-priced ones – in this case, the bids are proposals to reduce emissions using money from the A$2.55 billion ERF, the central plank of the federal government’s Direct Action climate policy.
European Commission report pushes for shift towards climate-friendly investment
A new report gives European policymakers the tools to steer private finance towards climate-friendly investment. The European Commission’s report released in Brussels on Wednesday defines “climate-friendly investments” as those aligned with the EU’s transition to a low-carbon economy that limits global warming to 2°C. The report says the current share of climate-friendly assets in EU institutional investors’ portfolios is “tiny” – between one and two per cent. But, it says, the current investment rate is far lower than projected climate-related investment needs. “In the EU alone, the annual climate investment needs to 2020 are estimated to 200 billion euros, significantly more than the 120 billion that was invested in 2011/2012,” the report states.
Environment and Biodiversity
Marie Brown: Damaging our heritage is too easy
New Zealand’s rich natural heritage is globally significant and in serious decline. Despite extraordinary efforts by many of us, species like the kiwi and ecosystems such as wetlands continue to reduce in number and extent. We now hold the dubious title of having the highest proportion of threatened species in the world, and a range of other unfortunate accolades. More than 40 per cent of our birds, 74 per cent of our freshwater fish and 85 per cent of our lizards are threatened or at risk. How did we get here?
Kangaroos lost in Melbourne’s inner suburbs a growing problem, wildlife rescuers say
Wildlife rescuers in Melbourne say they are struggling to respond to growing reports of lost kangaroos roaming the city’s inner suburbs. Traffic was disrupted on St Georges Road and Sumner Street this morning when a swamp wallaby hopped across the busy Northcote intersection, sparking a swift response from police, council workers and Wildlife Victoria. The wallaby could not be caught, but was later seen approaching doorsteps on a residential street in Preston, before it retreated to the Merri Creek Trail.
Here are 13 remarkable animals facing extinction in NSW … and there are hundreds more
It’s an incredible statistic – in NSW around 59 per cent of all mammals, 40 per cent of all reptiles and 30 per cent of all birds are threatened with extinction. As recently discovered by English actor, southern highlands resident and newly minted quoll-lover Miriam Margolyes, NSW has “several pages” worth of threatened species. Here are some of the remarkable animals in danger of extinction in NSW, with figures revealing how many more per species are under threat for each category of vulnerability.
Economy and Business
Business and conservation leads to success
NEW ZEALAND – A Wairau Valley forestry block balancing good business with good conservation was one of the winners at the Marlborough Environment Awards. Sophie Preece finds out what’s in store for people attending the Manuka Island field day on Saturday. When the Manuka Island Trust bought a block of Marlborough farmland for forestry in 1992, they faced objections from conservation groups concerned for a rare fern bird habitat. More than two decades on, the operation has taken out the top forestry spot at the Marlborough Environment Awards, for integrating a successful production forest with conservation, landscape and recreational values.
KTM looks to build market’s IQ on energy software
Energy management group BuildingIQ is preparing for a run at the ASX boards, in a deal that could value the company at around $100 million. The company produces cloud-based software that forecasts and manages energy demand in commercial buildings. The technology adjusts heating, ventilation and air conditioning, using advanced algorithms, without the need for manual intervention. BuildingIQ is working with KTM Capital on an initial public offering, which is likely to be launched in coming months. The company is putting its prospectus together before investor meetings.
#BusinessCase: By 2025, Dow Expects to Generate $1B by Valuing Natural, Human Capital
The Dow Chemical Company announced today a strategic set of commitments designed to redefine the role of business in society. Dow says its 2025 Sustainability Goals use a global lens to magnify the Company’s impact around the world, driving unprecedented collaborations to develop a societal blueprint that will facilitate the transition to a sustainable planet and society. Through harnessing Dow’s innovation strengths, global reach, and dedicated employee population, the Company has set bold and aggressive sustainability targets designed to develop breakthrough product innovations, positively impact the lives of 1 billion people, and deliver $1 billion in cost savings or new cash flow for the Company by valuing nature in business decisions and advancing a circular economy.
Waste and the Circular Economy
AGL’s irrigation trial using CSG waste water found to be ‘unsustainable’
AUSTRALIA – AGL has ended its trial of using coal seam gas waste water for irrigation in northern NSW after regulators found it left behind unacceptably high levels of salt and heavy metals. Peter Jamieson, an operations chief with the NSW Environment Protection Authority, told a meeting in Gloucester on Wednesday that the agency determined the trial was “unlikely to be sustainable in the long term”, according to a power point slide shown to the gathering.
Volunteers remove two tonnes of rubbish from 15 south-east SA sites
The Environment Department says about two tonnes of rubbish was removed from south-east South Australian beaches and national parks last month. Volunteers helped to collect waste from 15 sites in areas including the Coorong, Robe, Mount Gambier and Beachport. Ross Anderson from Natural Resources South-East said litter included ropes and fishing debris left by visitors. He said the department does not often find cases of illegal dumping.
Levi’s Gives 5 Tips to Reduce the Water Footprint of Your Jeans
With water issues afflicting California and other areas throughout the country, every little action to conserve water counts. And one such action includes how consumers wash their jeans, according to Levi Strauss. Jeans largely are made up of cotton, which require significant quantities of water to grow. More than 2,000 liters typically are needed to produce enough cotton to make a single pair of jeans. But this only accounts for around 45 percent of an average pair of jeans’ net water impact, according to a 2007 life cycle assessment by Levi’s. To this end, Levi’s announced in March that it has saved one billion liters of water since 2011 through its Water<Less™ process, which reduces the water used in garment finishing by up to 96 percent.
Politics and Society
The climate crisis: five demands from young voters
You Talk, They Listen is a series of events we’re hosting at universities around the UK – each focussing on the topics you care about most in the run-up to the election. From climate change, to freedom of speech and immigration – young people talk and politicians listen. Rick Edwards, TV presenter and writer, will host each night – so you may get the chance to quiz him on his new book, None of the Above, on why young people aren’t voting and why they should be.
How to live without power bills
Thirty five years ago, Albie and Felicity ‘Fill’ Burgers moved a house onto 50ha of land. Albie taught at the local school until he retired, and developed a fascination with alternative energy which led him to develop his own solar hot water system. With the success from that he looked into a bigger project, something that would give a return. After a lot of research he decided to set up solar panels to harvest the sun.
Al Gore: Coal industry campaign on energy poverty is extremely misleading
The global coal industry has mounted a “cynical and misleading campaign” to present coal as a solution to world poverty, according to former US vice-president Al Gore and global investment manager David Blood. Writing in the Guardian on Thursday, the pair said that as investors have grown increasingly worried about coal assets being overvalued, coal’s industrial masters and political friends have embarked on a desperate fightback based on tenuous arguments and exploits an urgent humanitarian need.
Big business using trade groups to lobby against EU climate policy
When we embarked on our research into how trade groups are lobbying on EU climate policy, we knew trade associations were likely to be influential. However, we were surprised at just how important they are to companies, and how ferociously opposed some have been to recent progressive European Union climate policies. These EU policies include attempts to strengthen the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, and targets on energy efficiency and renewable power. The policies and regulations put in place in Brussels matter to businesses. Some companies see the transition to a low-carbon society as a business opportunity, while others see it as a threat to their bottom line. It’s no surprise then that companies want to have a voice in the making of EU policy on climate change.
Marine sanctuaries face new mining threat after permits issued for petroleum exploration
Permits that would allow industry to look for petroleum in marine sanctuaries have been quietly granted by the Abbott government while it reviews 40 freshly minted marine reserves. The permits could lead to seismic testing in areas off the West Australian coast, where no mining exploration could have occurred if the government had not called a review. The licence has been granted to Oslo-based company Spectrum-Geo, which wants to conduct seismic testing off the WA coast from Geraldton and the Abrolhos Islands.
Good news: fatal shootings are now less common in Australia, NZ, Canada and even the US
Here’s a good news story you probably haven’t read about before: numbers of fatal shootings are falling in Australia, and have been for around 30 years. And we’re not alone. The rate of fatal shootings has been declining in New Zealand, Canada and – most surprisingly – even the United States over the past few decades. So what’s going on that’s leading to those improved firearm fatality rates? And why is it so hard to have a sensible discussion about effective ways to tackle gun violence?
Proposed WA strata law reform could be sustainability boon
Proposed changes to Western Australia’s strata laws could increase the amount of dense mixed-use infill development and make it easier for residents to put sustainability features like solar panels on their roofs, advocates of the reforms say. However, there is concern the reforms don’t go far enough in promoting sustainability and that termination schemes could affect vulnerable residents. The changes, which are to be delivered by the State Land Information Authority, Landgate, are a response to a growing population and an increase in strata titles, which now comprise one-third of new lots in WA.