Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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New research, formed by 11 teams at a Stanford forum, confirms that carbon taxes work and, while the economy will slow, the benefits outweigh the costs. This confirms other recent reports that acting now on reducing greenhouse gas emissions is less costly than procrastinating and being forced into action later. Similar stories today where Lord Deben criticises UK politicians for not doing enough now and leaving a mess for our children to deal with; the Australian Energy Market Operator reports that solar, wind and storage are cheaper, no new coal plants are needed; and doctors in NZ are urged to back a strong Zero Carbon Bill for the health of kiwis. In other news, a China-EU deal is struck to collaborate on climate action; calculating your nitrogen footprint; and how social farms can help disaffected kids get back on track.

Top Story

Comprehensive study: carbon taxes won’t hamper the economy | Dana Nuccitelli | The Guardian
Eleven teams participated in a recent Stanford Energy Modeling Forum (EMF) project, examining the economic and environmental impacts of a carbon tax. Among the eleven modeling teams the key findings were consistent. First, a carbon tax is effective at reducing carbon pollution, although the structure of the tax (the price and the rate at which it rises) are important. Second, this type of revenue-neutral carbon tax would have a very modest impact on the economy in terms of gross domestic product (GDP). In all likelihood it would slightly slow economic growth, but by an amount that would be more than offset by the benefits of cutting pollution and slowing global warming.

Climate Change and Energy

EU and China agree sweeping joint statement on climate action | Climate Home News
Climate change will become a “main pillar” of the relationship between the European Union and China, said leaders on Monday. The joint statement, adopted at a summit in Beijing, committed the world’s largest and third largest carbon polluters to driving progress in UN climate talks. They said they would push for agreement on the rulebook of the Paris climate deal, negotiations over which stalled this year, with continuing disagreements between Chinese and European diplomats.

UK politicians ‘failing to rise to the challenge of climate change’ | The Guardian
UK – The government’s official climate change adviser says politicians and policymakers are failing to rise to the challenge of a rapidly warming planet and will be judged harshly by future generations unless they act now. Lord Deben, chair of the UK’s Climate Change Committee (CCC), said “anyone who read the news” could see mounting evidence of alarming trends – from melting polar ice to record heatwaves and rising sea levels. He called on politicians to “make the connections” between these events and act with more urgency.

UK goes 1,000 hours without using coal-fired power | Climate Action Programme
UK – In the UK, the decline of coal power is continuing in dramatic fashion. 1,000 hours have passed in 2018 without the need to draw on Britain’s remaining coal plants. In 2017, the country went 624 hours across the whole year without using coal; in 2016, just 210 hours.

‘Quicker, quieter, cleaner’: Government launches green aviation R&D push | BusinessGreen
UK – Weeks after controversially backing plans to expand Heathrow, the government has today unveiled a major new R&D programme designed to curb carbon emissions across the aviation sector and usher in a new era of electric flight. Speaking at the Farnborough Air Show today, Business Secretary Greg Clark announced £343m of government and industry-backed funding is to be invested in a wide range of new research programmes, including a number of projects designed to slash the environmental impact of new planes.

AEMO: Cheapest way to replace coal is solar, wind, storage | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – AEMO says 70TWh of coal is to retire by 2040, and the cheapest way to replace it is with solar, wind and storage, and just a tiny bit of gas. And no coal. But it wants more transmission lines and renewable zones to manage this transition.

Doctors urged to back fresh effort on climate change | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – Health professionals have urged their colleagues to back bolder action on climate change, calling the Government’s proposed Zero Carbon Bill “essential for the health and wellbeing of New Zealanders”. Public health physicians Dr Andrea Forde and Dr Scott Metcalfe, and Wellington-based policy analyst Liz Springford, set out the importance of tackling climate change in an editorial just published in the New Zealand Medical Journal.

Consultation on the Zero Carbon Bill closes Thursday. People can make submissions via the Ministry for the Environment website.

Environment and Biodiversity

Rights not “fortress conservation” key to save planet, says UN expert | The Guardian
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, has released a report highly critical of the global conservation movement and calling for indigenous peoples and other local communities to have a greater say in protecting the world’s forests.

An Embera woman from the Bajo Lepe community in Panama featured in the UN Special Rapporteur’s recent report. Bajo Lepe still does not have title to its land. Photograph: Cameron Ellis/Rainforest Foundation US

An Embera woman from the Bajo Lepe community in Panama featured in the UN Special Rapporteur’s recent report. Bajo Lepe still does not have title to its land. Photograph: Cameron Ellis/Rainforest Foundation US

Setting a New Course for the Ocean | World Resources Institute (Podcast 23:28)|
As an expert on the Ocean, you might think Thomson would be pessimistic. After all, the seas are under threat from seemingly every direction. Plastic pollution is clogging the Pacific. Reefs around the planet are bleaching and dying, some of the most biodiverse habitats on Earth are disappearing before our eyes. Carbon pollution is causing the Ocean’s pH to drop, upsetting a delicate chemical balance. However, Thomson says he’s confident the world will do right by the Ocean.

Researchers air criticisms of NZ’s 2050 pest wipe-out mission | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – Two conservation researchers have criticised New Zealand’s mission to clear the country of rats, stoats and possums by 2050, calling current policy “badly designed and unachievable”. But the alternative they’ve proposed has itself been criticised by the Department of Conversation (DoC) as a “business-as-usual” approach that won’t give our species the big boost they need to survive.

Economy and Business

Trump is wrecking the climate and free trade. Here is a common solution for both | Climate Home News
Countries affected by US tariff increases are weighing their options for retaliation. Many of the same countries have pledged to lead the fight against climate change. By basing their countermeasures on the carbon footprint of US goods, these countries can defend their trade interests and underscore their commitment to climate action.

Soy giant Louis Dreyfus pledges deforestation-free supply chain | Mongabay
The Louis Dreyfus Company (LDC), a global commodities trader, has announced a plan to eliminate the destruction of native vegetation from its soy supply chain in Brazil and across Latin America. Particularly important to environmentalists, LDC pledges to avoid buying soy from producers who have caused new deforestation in the Cerrado biome.

Wood Mackenzie: Global oil demand could peak by 2036 | BusinessGreen
Global oil demand could peak within 20 years driven by a rapid shift towards electric vehicles (EVs). That is the conclusion of one of the world’s most influential oil consultancies, Wood Mackenzie, which last recently warned its clients oil demand could begin to decline much earlier than many of oil majors expect.

Designers hopeful for greater transparency in fashion supply chain | RNZ News
NEW ZEALAND – Local fashion designers are hopeful the closure of New Zealand’s two largest high-end fashion fabric providers – Charles Parsons and Cooper Watkinson Textiles – will help pave the way for greater transparency within the industry.

Waste and the Circular Economy

You’ve heard of a carbon footprint – now it’s time to take steps to cut your nitrogen footprint | The Conversation
Nitrogen pollution has significant environmental and human health costs. One way to understand our nitrogen use is to look at our nitrogen footprint. Our earlier research showed that Australia has a large nitrogen footprint. At up to 47kg of nitrogen per person each year, Australia is far ahead of the US (28kg per person), the second on the leaderboard of per capita reactive nitrogen emissions. Australians’ large nitrogen footprints are created largely by a diet rich in animal protein and high levels of coal use for energy.

As synthetic microfibers infiltrate food, water and air, how can we prevent future release? | Ensia
In 2013, ecologist Mark Anthony Browne published a report that implicated synthetic apparel as a possible source of microplastic pollution. In the years since Browne first approached the apparel industry, numerous additional studies have shown that synthetic microfibers shed by clothing and other manufactured products are being ingested by fish and shellfish, and can be found in food, drinks, and even air. It’s still unclear whether microfibers pose a real threat to the health of humans or other living things. Yet, under the specter that they might, academic, nonprofit and apparel industry scientists have started to look at ways to stem the flow of microfibers into the environment.

Politics and Society

How farms can help improve the lives of disadvantaged young people | The Conversation
UK – A couple of years ago, I met Adam (not his real name) at a farm in Dorset. Adam was 14 and had been excluded from mainstream education due to behavioural difficulties and a disruptive home life. He had consequently become involved in regular underage drinking and antisocial behaviour. The farm where I met him is not a normal farm, but a social one, where the therapeutic use of farming practices and animal assisted therapy is used to provide health, social and educational care services for disadvantaged young people that have become disengaged with mainstream education.

The young people learn to care for a variety of animals. Sarah Hambidge, Author provided

The young people learn to care for a variety of animals. Sarah Hambidge, Author provided

Built Environment

New handbook: want modular buildings? How about sustainable as well? | The Fifth Estate
AUSTRALIA – Here’s a practical handbook pitched to those familiar with modular building – and those not so familiar – from the highly regarded James Murray-Parkes at Brookfield Scientific Solutions Group and Monash University’s Yu Bai. The book, which is free to download, explains key concepts, how design should factor in re-use of materials at least once, and how modular design need not comprise bespoke quality outcomes.

How can we stop building occupants wasting energy? | The Fifth Estate
You’ve probably heard stories about pesky building occupants who just won’t go along with what the clever designers intended for their low-energy building. There has been much head-scratching about how to deal with this problem, both in influencing occupant behaviour and the amount of control they should be given, such as the ability to open windows and control over heating/cooling.

Food Systems

Country of origin proposal scaled back |
NEW ZEALAND – Two weeks before the deadline for public submissions on mandatory country of origin labelling, a pared-back version of the proposed law has been released. The select committee considering the Consumers Right to Know (Country of Origin of Food) Bill has recommended limiting labelling rules to some fresh and frozen and minimally produced goods.

Blatant abuse in NZ shows our animals need an independent protector | (Opinion)
NEW ZEALAND – Like many Kiwis, I was shocked watching the footage of a Northland sharemilker assaulting a dairy cow with a steel bar. It was later revealed the same farm had a rat-infested offal pit filled with the unburied carcasses of hundreds of cows and calves. Blatant animal abuses like this shouldn’t be tolerated in a modern country and risk our agricultural exports.