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Wednesday 17 February 2016

Sustainable Development News

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

Wake up: We still have a long, long way to gohottestmonthJan16
People like me — professional optimists in the field of sustainability — are fond of pointing out the positive. And lately there have been many positives to point out, such as the global adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change… Last week I woke up from a happy dream about global agreements and was reminded of the following stark fact: While there are happy signs of forward motion on sustainability, all around us, we are still, in real physical terms, just getting started on the actual challenge of sustainability transformation. This is especially true in the business sector.

Energy and Climate Change

Global temperatures leap higher in January, smashing records
This year has got off to a scorching start, with global temperatures marching to new highs as a giant El Nino rode on the back of creeping climate change, data from Japan and the US show. Just a month after the world notched its hottest year on record, January’s  global land and sea-surface temperatures were 0.52 degrees above the average for 1981-2010, Japan’s Meteorological Agency reported.

Europe places bets on natural gas to secure energy future
The future of Europe’s energy supply is to rely heavily on natural gas for the coming two decades and beyond, according to a new strategy set out on Tuesday by the European commission… Gas will have to be imported, from sources including Russia, Norway, Qatar and other Gulf states, under plans set out in the commission’s “Sustainable Energy Security Package”.

Climate change update – debrief on COP21 Paris and what it means for you
NEW ZEALAND – With submissions on the Emissions Trading Scheme due on 19th February, Emily Dowding-Smith, SBN’s resident climate change geek, takes a look at COP21, what New Zealand advocated for and what it means for your business.

Why you should stay on the grid, even with your solar-powered batteries
Many Australian households have already installed solar photovoltaic (PV) panels to generate their own electricity, even selling some back into the grid. Now they will have the extra option of storing any electricity they generate to use whenever they like. But the idea of becoming self-sustaining and coming off the grid altogether is not the way to go if we are to have a system that doesn’t create winners and losers.

Environment and Biodiversity

Do fish have feelings? Maybe …
The question of whether animals other than humans can think and feel has been debated for centuries. Most of us would agree that humans have a level of consciousness, loosely defined as an ability to experience thoughts and emotions. But which other creatures have consciousness remains an open and controversial question.

Comment sought on huge North Kimberley marine park plans
A draft plan to create Western Australia’s largest marine park has been released for public comment by the State Government.  The proposed North Kimberley Marine Park will cover 1.8 million hectares, stretching from York Sound, north-east of Derby, to the Northern Territory border.

New smartphone app helping identify birds on Australian cotton farms
There are hopes that a new smartphone application will help Australian cotton communities identify bird life and their habitats. Industry extension group CottonInfo developed the app, which has turned a popular bird identification book Birds on Cotton Farms into a digital reference guide… “Just monitoring what birds are on your place can give you a lot of information about what’s going on in terms of your management,” he said. “Sightings of things like those rare birds are really important for the conservation of those species.”

Daily Grind: A day in the life of Batman Ben Paris
NEW ZEALAND – “Batman” Ben Paris: My job is to coordinate expert technical ecological advice to landowners, community groups and council staff to promote Auckland’s indigenous biodiversity.

Innovation Inspiration: What Bones Taught Airbus About Optimizing Strength
Airbus Group is taking innovation inspired by nature to the air by using 3D printing to help build a stronger, lighter-weight galley partition that mimics cells structure and bone growth. The design literally lightens each airplane’s load, allowing it to do things like save a projected 465,000 metric tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.

Economy and Business

State of Green Business: Supply chains go high tech
Supply-chain sustainability hotspots vary widely from sector to sector. Deforestation is closely linked to food and consumer goods, while conflict minerals pervade the electronics, jewelry and automotive markets. But the lack of transparency and centralized systems to track products from inception to sale make the field ripe for disruption, particularly as consumers, investors and activists gain more awareness of the issues at hand — and make their concerns known to companies.

Abuse of migrant workers is now a top risk for businesses
The illegal and often abusive treatment of migrant workers is one of the most pressing reputational risks for global corporations, according to a report released on Monday… It is rare for multinationals to employ illegal migrants directly, but claiming ignorance about abusive practices in their supply chains is no longer a defence, says the report.

Why can’t poor countries access the climate finance they were promised?
When the Green Climate Fund (GCF) was announced at COP16 in 2010, the intention was to give small, developing countries direct access to finance to protect themselves from climate change. Yet many of the smallest and most at-risk countries in the world now claim that they do not have the means to access these funds directly.

Ending the ‘arms race’ at the centre of utilities regulation
AUSTRALIA – Generators, retailers and consumers should be able to negotiate deals with energy, telecommunications and water network owners to keep the system honest, new research argues. Utilities regulators are hamstrung by legislation that allows utilities network owners to drag out decisions and pass on costs.

Mustering the ‘grasshoppers of the outback’: Adnyamathanha turn a profit from feral goats and saltbush
AUSTRALIA – For the Adnyamathanha people of the northern Flinders Ranges, feral goats have become a lucrative source of income.  In the arid country surrounding Nepabunna, a small Aboriginal community 600 kilometres north of Adelaide, the destructive pest is a common sight. But it is not only introduced goats which thrive in the region’s extreme heat and low rainfall.  Native saltbush and quandong are grown by the community for the bush foods market, in a bid to boost local jobs and income.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Greenpeace targets Coca-Cola Amatil as container deposit scheme decision looms
AUSTRALIA – A Greenpeace video mimicking a Coca-Cola Amatil ad has targeted an industry-backed container deposit scheme that “will not solve our enormous litter problem,” ahead of the NSW government’s decision on a scheme within months.The video reveals that more than 40 million cans and bottles are littered in NSW every summer, and calls for support of a “recycling plan that works,” in the form of a container deposit scheme.

Dr Pepper Snapple invests $6 million to close the loop on plastic
The company behind well known beverage brands such as Dr Pepper, 7 Up, Snapple, A&W root beer and Hawaiian Punch is the latest consumer goods giant to jump into efforts aiming to improve naggingly low recycling rates. As part of a new goal to increase overall drink container recycling rates to 60 percent by 2030, Dr Pepper Snapple Group has announced new investments in two groups: A $5 million, 10-year contribution to the Closed Loop Fund and a $1 million, three-year commitment to public recycling bin provider Keep America Beautiful.

Politics and Society

We can close the Indigenous nutrition gap – here’s how
AUSTRALIA – After years of neglect and a notable absence in last week’s Closing the Gap report, nutrition is finally being recognised as integral to closing the gap on Indigenous disadvantage. This belated realisation is puzzling, given poor diet is a major cause of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and some cancers. Nutrition is particularly poor in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, where it is estimated that at least 19% of the burden of disease is due to poor diet; much more than due to smoking.

Donald Trump warned against scrapping Paris climate deal
President Obama’s special envoy for climate change has warned Republican presidential hopefuls including Donald Trump and Ted Cruz that any attempt to scrap the Paris climate agreement would lead to a “diplomatic black eye” for the US. Speaking to journalists in Brussels, Todd Stern also said that a recent supreme court decision to block Barack Obama’s clean power plan would not affect US climate pledges, or plans to formally sign up to the Paris agreement later this year.

Sinking states: the islands facing the effects of climate change (in pictures)
As sea levels rise, communities living on the most vulnerable Pacific Ocean islands must make a decision: relocate or stay and face the rising tides.

A cemetery on the shoreline of Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands, is flooded from high tides and ocean surges. Some countries in the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat – a political grouping of 16 independent and self-governing states – lie barely a metre above sea level and fear they will disappear beneath the waves without drastic intervention. Photograph: Giff Johnson/AFP/Getty Images

A cemetery on the shoreline of Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands, is flooded from high tides and ocean surges. Some countries in the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat – a political grouping of 16 independent and self-governing states – lie barely a metre above sea level and fear they will disappear beneath the waves without drastic intervention. Photograph: Giff Johnson/AFP/Getty Images

Built Environment

Adapting to bushfires: a new idea of ‘fire-proof’ homes
We know the cost of fire. In a warming world, it is very likely we will see more frequent and more extreme fires. To adapt to these future fires we will need to change how we approach fire management and the safety of our homes. Fortunately there are good examples in contemporary Australia of how we might do so.

Masdar’s zero-carbon dream could become world’s first green ghost town
Masdar City, when it was first conceived a decade ago, was intended to revolutionise thinking about cities and the built environment. Now the world’s first planned sustainable city – the marquee project of the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) plan to diversify the economy from fossil fuels – could well be the world’s first green ghost town.

Food Systems

Farmers say recent devastating bushfires in south west of Western Australia could be an opportunity to improve the way they farm
Bushfire could be an opportunity for change, according to a group of proactive West Australian farmers.  A group of producers affected by recent devastating Waroona and Uduc bushfires in the south west of the state has just concluded a two-day fire recovery workshop focussed on using fire as an opportunity, not just immediate landscape recovery… Mr Doherty has worked with bushfire affected farmers across Australia and he said an event like bushfire could give farmers the opportunity to rethink the layout and operation of their farm. He said it could be a chance to take stock and consider the geography, the terrain and water systems on a property.

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