Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Our top story today shows how inquiry based learning can incorporate unusual projects, such as producing food, while fostering an understanding of where food comes from and a connection to production systems. In other news, many articles about more UK companies acting on pressure to reduce plastic, while Theresa May announces a package to reduce plastic waste; a poll shows the Australian public are overwhelmingly in favour of energy efficiency, which is great because it’s cheap to do with a big impact on emissions; and a piece to get you thinking about the connection of climate action to the financial economy.

Top Story

Pupils learn where food comes from in school gardens |
NEW ZEALAND – School gardens are helping Manawatu primary students know where their food comes from and learn more about science… “Students sell their produce at a market day to the parents and the community. The pupils do all the financial literacy to figure out how much needs to go back to keep the gardens running, how many seedlings and fertiliser to keep the garden producing. School gardens are helping primary students know where their food comes from and at the same time they are learning about science,” he said.


In their vegetable garden are Dezyah Cunningham, Jaelyn-May Baker, Zakia Sayed, Sareal Chapman and Jordan Foot. Photo: David Unwin/Stuff

In their vegetable garden are Dezyah Cunningham, Jaelyn-May Baker, Zakia Sayed, Sareal Chapman and Jordan Foot. Photo: David Unwin/Stuff

Climate Change and Energy

Energy efficiency: More popular than puppies… and coal | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – A survey released today shows extremely high levels of public support for energy efficiency policies, including programs like ‘Victorian Energy Upgrades’, minimum standards for rental homes and upgrading the efficiency of government buildings. The Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS), the Property Council of Australia and the Energy Efficiency Council asked YouGov Galaxy to test 1,000 voters’ views on a range of policies. A whopping 88 per cent of voters supported government investment in energy efficiency, and just 5 per cent opposed it. This gives energy efficiency a ‘net support’ (support minus opposition) of 83 per cent.

Less meat and more green power: Scientists cook up 1.5 degrees trajectory with minimal reliance on negative emissions | businessGreen
Scientists at Utrecht University in the Netherlands have modelled a way to hit tough global climate targets without resorting to the extensive use of negative emissions technology such as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). Using computer modelling, the scientists found that by using more renewable power and cutting down on agriculture emissions the world can hit 1.5 degrees with substantially less use of negative emissions technology.

Environment and Biodiversity

Carefully considering culture in conservation | CEED
While cultural differences in leadership styles and attributes have been thoroughly studied in business and politics, new research has found consideration of cultural differences in conservation leadership attributes is very limited in the current literature. Awareness and sensitivity of cultural differences is vital in projects, as cultural backgrounds can either facilitate or hinder conservation project outcomes – particularly when people from different backgrounds work together.

Peat mining consent granted despite DOC concerns | Radio NZ News (Audio 3:57)
NEW ZEALAND – Northland Regional Council has approved plans by Resin and Wax Holdings to dig up part of the Kaimaumau wetland, but conservationists fear it’ll do irreparable harm to the environment.
See also: Ngai Takato, Resin & Wax Holdings joint venture will help ‘future-proof’ iwi | NZ Herald 

Predator free NZ: the people protecting kiwi on the frontline of the war |
NEW ZEALAND – Predator control is a war, and the people on the front line think we can win it.  Those involved with conservation of the kiwi and other endangered species, believe we are making progress in the fight.  After losing 14 kiwi to predation in three years from 2014 to 2016, Pukaha Mt Bruce Wildlife Centre didn’t lose a single one in 2017 and managed to trap 40 ferrets, 55 stoats and 516 rats.

Increase in visitors could close high country walkways | Radio New Zealand News
NEW ZEALAND – Nearly 300 people have given feedback on a report looking into problems caused by increasing visitor numbers on the tracks. The Walking Access Commission prepared the draft report, which focuses on the South Island’s busiest tourist districts – the Mackenzie, Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago districts. It warns some high country landowners might withdraw access to their land due to the pressures from increasing visitor numbers combined with a lack of infrastructure.

Economy and Business

Comment: Why it’s time to bank on a greener future | NZ Herald
Picture in your mind all the world’s financial flows. Imagine this as an elaborate web that wraps around the globe, each thread an exchange of capital from one entity to another, from the smallest microfinance loans to the largest transactions among countries and multinational corporations. Now ask yourself: how much of this capital is misaligned to action on climate change? How much is flowing into fossil fuel reserves and high-carbon assets that will be stranded by any concerted international effort to prevent global warming?

Nature could help save $50bn in flood damages across US Gulf Coast | Climate Action Programme
USA – Scientists have found nature is the most cost-effective way of reducing the impacts of extreme weather events. The new study is the first to compare the costs and benefits of using natural solutions versus human approaches to reducing climate risks across the entire US Gulf Coast… The researchers found that restoring wetlands, oyster reefs, and marshlands was more cost-effective to militating against flood impacts than using so-called “grey infrastructure”, such as seawalls or levees. In fact, using nature-based solutions saved $7 for every $1 spent on restoration whereas artificial solutions were closer to $1 for $1.

Clean Energy Deal Tracker: Facebook, Microsoft and L’Oreal shape strong quarter | GreenBiz
Large companies announced deals for at least 1,731 megawatts of capacity in renewable power during the first quarter of this year, in a sign of continued strong corporate demand for clean energy. The amount of clean energy that businesses contracted for during the first three months of 2018 was more than half the amount that companies agreed to buy during all of last year, according to figures compiled by GreenBiz Research and the Rocky Mountain Institute’s Business Renewables Center.

UK Labour supports call for ‘climate damages tax’ on oil companies | Climate Home News
UK – UK Labour supported a call by Vanuatu for a “climate damages tax” on fossil fuel producers at a meeting of Commonwealth heads of government in London this week. “It is eminently reasonable that those most responsible for the damages caused by climate change should pay a greater share,” said UK Labour shadow international climate change minister Barry Gardiner.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Don’t believe the label: ‘flushable wipes’ clog our sewers | The Conversation
The manufacturer of White King “flushable” wipes has been fined A$700,000 because these are not, in fact, flushable. The wipes, advertised as “just like toilet paper”, cannot disintegrate in the sewerage system, and cause major blockages.  So-called flushable wipes, now sold for everything from make-up removal to luxury toilet paper, are a growing hazard to public health. Sydney Water says 75% of all sewer blockages in the city’s waste-water system involve wipes.

As public pressure grows, Clipper is latest brand to end use of plastic in teabags | The Guardian
UK – The UK’s longest-established Fairtrade tea brand has become the latest to ditch synthetic sealants in its teabags, amid mounting consumer pressure on manufacturers to help cut down on plastic pollution. Clipper Teas – which champions the unbleached teabag – hopes to introduce a new, fully biodegradable bag free of polypropylene, a sealant used across the industry to ensure bags hold their shape, by the summer.

Blenheim Palace makes plans to eliminate plastic waste | Climate Action Programme
UK – One of the UK’s largest and grandest stately homes has announced plans to eliminate plastic on its grounds. Blenheim Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, stated late last week that it will stop selling plastic water bottles and replace plastic straws with paper ones.

May announces £60m fund to clear oceans of plastic ‘scourge’ | businessGreen
UK – Prime Minister will urge other nations to join the fight against ocean plastic at a Commonwealth meeting today. Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged £61.4m in funding to turn the tide against ocean plastic, as part of a new initiative from Commonwealth countries to tackle the problem. Announcing the move on Saturday, May dubbed plastic waste a “scourge” on the world’s oceans and promised to harness collective action from Commonwealth nations to “effect real change”.

Recycling hope for plastic-hungry enzyme | BBC News
Scientists have improved a naturally occurring enzyme which can digest some of our most commonly polluting plastics. PET, the strong plastic commonly used in bottles, takes hundreds of years to break down in the environment. The modified enzyme, known as PETase, can start breaking down the same material in just a few days. This could revolutionise the recycling process, allowing plastics to be re-used more effectively.

Politics and Society

NEG: a bipartisan agreement to disagree? | SMH
AUSTRALIA – Energy investment is a long-term game. Energy infrastructure lasts 20, 30, 40 years. It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about powerlines, fossil power stations or solar farms. So certainty about government policy is absolutely critical. When you’re investing in the energy sector you need to know what the targets are going to be for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Australian government’s National Energy Guarantee (NEG), as revised late last week, is making good progress but currently still could lock in uncertainty unless both major parties act in our national interest.

See also:

The courts are deciding who’s to blame for climate change | Dana Nuccitelli | The Guardian
There are numerous ongoing legal challenges in an effort to determine who’s responsible for climate change. Exxon is under investigation by state attorneys general, cities are suing oil companies over sea level rise costs, and Our Children’s Trust is suing the federal government for failing to protect their generation from climate change. At the heart of these legal challenges lies the question – who bears culpability for climate change and liability for its costs and consequences?

Who’s defending Canada’s national interest? First Nations facing down a pipeline | The Guardian
CANADA – Last Saturday, Indigenous leaders stood arm-in-arm in front of the gates of Kinder Morgan’s pipeline worksite in Burnaby, British Columbia. For weeks before, hundreds of non-native people – environmentalists, federal parliamentarians Elizabeth May and Kennedy Stewart, even an engineer formerly employed by the Texas oil corporation – had marched to the same place. In each case, police approached, read aloud their violation of a no-go zone, and arrested and shackled them. Now it was the turn of half of the leadership of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, including Grand Chief Stewart Phillip. They waited in the rain for hours. But the police never came.

Built Environment

Fremantle offers up another site for “leading-edge” sustainable development | The Fifth Estate
AUSTRALIA – The City of Fremantle is offering up one of its underutilised land holdings to be transformed into a medium to high-density development incorporating cutting edge sustainability. The announcement comes as the council fronts an inquiry into the federal government’s role in the development of cities, arguing for policy interventions to limit Perth’s urban sprawl. The 25,316 square metre Knutsford Street depot has been identified as one of the council’s top five corporate actions in meeting its One Planet Council obligations.


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