Sustainable Development News

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

Reports Show We’re Beginning to Understand, Quantify Our Dependence on Ecosystems
Researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) on Monday outlined in a series of reports how governments, organizations and corporations are successfully moving away from short-term exploitation of the natural world and embracing a long-term vision of “nature as capital” — the ultimate world bank upon which the health and prosperity of humans and the planet depend. The reports, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that significant progress has been made in the past decade, and that people, policy-makers and leaders around the world are beginning to understand ecosystem services as far more than a tree to cut or fish to harvest.

Energy and Climate Change

Crowdsourcing Global Climate Action: POC21
Climate negotiations are boring, involve mostly bureaucrats, and often ignore or forget about important, on-the-ground issues. Enter POC21, a proof of concept for open-sourcing sustainability. “From [August 15 to Sept. 20] the global best of open source, +100 makers, hackers and designers will join forces at the stunning Chateau de Millemont near Paris to bring to life what we call the smallest functional and replicable cell of a sustainable society, right in front of the castle. Five weeks of co-living and co-making to show to the world that true sustainability beyond the bothersome buzzwording is feasible, looks and works awesome and is huge fun too.” The idea is that bringing these people together will create a catalyst for ideas and projects that can be scaled up to quickly build a sustainable society. By showing climate negotiators that sustainability is not only achievable, but desirable, POC21 hopes to spur real action at COP21 happening just down the road.

UK and France ‘may miss EU renewable energy target’
Britain, France, Netherlands, Malta and Luxembourg are projected to miss binding goal of getting 20% of energy from renewable sources by 2020  The UK, France and Netherlands are set to miss a key EU renewable energy target and should review their policies to get back on track, the European commission has said.

Air travel is terrible for the environment. Can new tech change that?
Summer is upon the US, and with it peak airline travel: this July, more than 80 million passengers will cross American skies. But what’s good for vacation relaxation is terrible for the environment. According to the WWF, airline travel is the fastest growing source of global greenhouse gas emissions, leaving trucking and coal-burning power plants in their wake. Already, the 3 billion flights each year produce about 5 per cent of the world’s output from all sources.

Venezuela: The climate paradox of the petro-state
Awash with the world’s cheapest gasoline, more oil not less is the way out of Venezuela’s economic ruin. Basic goods shortages, runaway inflation and a debased currency are suffocating Nicolas Maduro’s two-year presidency. As sliding oil prices halt drilling and deprive it of vital export earnings, fossil fuels for the OPEC member with the planet’s largest proven oil reserves are everything.” The Orinoco Belt is the cash cow,” Russ Dallen, a Miami-based head bond trader at Caracas Capital Markets, said of the 513 million barrel basin of heavy crude deposits. “Aside oil, the government has no other means of income.”

Need to assess renewable energy potential? There’s an app for that
Businesses and individuals can now make use of a free smartphone app to calculate the renewable energy generation potential of a given location. The Global Atlas pocket has been launched today by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and is designed to allow renewable energy “prospectors” and investors to comprehensively research projects’ before making early investment decisions. The app draws on data from 1,000 maps provided by 67 governments and 50 datacentres, and is designed to provide detailed information on whether a region or site represents a good prospect for renewable energy generation.

Oil found on Foxton Beach extends 10km to Himatangi
NEW ZELAAND – A cleanup on a 10km stretch of beach in Manawatu has begun following an oil spill from an unknown source. The oil has been found along the coastline between Foxton Beach to just north of Himatangi Stream. A Horizons Regional Council incident response team was alerted to the spill and mobilised about 2pm on Monday. Initial assessments showed the oil was light to sporadic in most places with a few heavier areas along the shore.

Environment and Biodiversity

Kauri log exports ‘closely monitored’
NEW ZEALAND – The export of kauri logs as Maori carvings is closely monitored and is not being used as a loophole, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says. Northland conservationists have complained large logs are being dug out of wetlands and sold overseas. The ecologically sensitive wetlands are badly damaged in the process, the Far North Protection Society says.

Tasmanian devil and birds of prey carcasses found dumped in Cygnet bushland
AUSTRALIA – The carcasses of five Tasmanian devils, two wedge-tailed eagles, a brown falcon and a sparrow hawk have been found dumped in bushland in Tasmania’s south. Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE) officials said the devil and raptor carcasses were found under orange plastic by a bushwalker in the Cygnet area. Wildlife ranger Matt Jones said they were all threatened or specially protected species. “Indications show that they may have been poisoned but there’s no confirming that,” he said.

Economy and Business

Scottish wind industry gives back with record £8.8m for community projects
Community projects funded by Scotland’s onshore wind industry have hit a record high of £8.8m a year.  According to research from Local Energy Scotland, cash offered to communities by Scottish wind farms has funded a variety of community projects across Scotland including building a new town hall in Aberdeenshire, sending a dance school from West Lothian on a street dance trip to Germany and funding community car and cycle clubs.

Pure Advantage positioning New Zealand’s ‘100 per cent pure’ marketing brand for climate change
A group of businessmen are leading a campaign to make New Zealand cleaner and greener and to capitalise on opportunities created by climate change. The not-for-profit organisation Pure Advantage has identified seven industry sectors which have the potential to add value to New Zealand’s economy. Research commissioned by Pure Advantage pinpoints potential in areas including agri-tech, biodiversity, bio-products, housing, renewable energy, smart grid and waste to value.

Six things business needs to know about water and sustainability
While the debate over climate change continues to rage, most people agree that the era of cheap, easy access to water is over. Estimates suggest demand for water will exceed viable resources by 40% by 2030 if we continue business as usual. Water issues are not, of course, the same the world over; drought in California is mirrored by flooding in Bangladesh. Nor are they limited to these extreme examples. Brazil, a typically rainy country, has had to implement water rationing, and even Britain has opened a desalination plant to tackle water shortages. But what do companies need to know to adapt to this new era?

‘Cunning’ bid to prospect and mine West Coast seabed
NEW ZEALAND – The Minister for the Environment has been urged to rule on a “cunning” bid to prospect and possibly mine a vast area of seabed directly off the West Coast. Trans-Tasman Resources, which spent $65 million in a failed bid to mine ironsands from the South Taranaki seabed, has shifted focus to now apply for a prospecting permit here. But because the permit area falls within the 12-mile nautical limit, it will not need a marine consent from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) if it proceeds to the mining stage.

Using big data could alert us to risks in the food supply chain
As shoppers, we’ve become used to the reliable presence of brands in supermarkets. The idea of food scarcity and disruption to supplies doesn’t come into plans for our weekly food shop. But the reality for many global food manufacturers is uncertainty. The problem is widespread, particularly with ingredients that only grow in specific climates, such as vanilla, tea, coffee and palm oil.

Politics and Society

Insecurity at record high among Australians: Lowy Institute poll
One of Australia’s top international policy bodies has found record levels of insecurity among Australians. The Lowy Institute’s annual poll has found both a heightened fear of our international environment and a declining optimism about our economic prospects, as well a willingness to do more to tackle climate change. Alex Oliver is the program director for Polling at the Lowy Institute and she joined me in The World Today studio earlier.

QLD Labor promises to tighten environmental protection laws
AUSTRALIA – Leaked figures obtained by the ABC reveal that land clearing rates have soared in Queensland since the then Campbell Newman government loosened restrictions a few years ago. Labor has promised to tighten the laws, but environmentalists claim it’s dragging its feet while clearing continues across the state.

Built Environment

Green spaces improve schoolchildren’s mental development, study finds
Green spaces within and around city schools improve the mental development of young children, a study has found. The findings may partly be explained by reduced exposure to traffic pollution, experts believe. Other influences could include the psychological effect of having views of fields and trees rather than roads and buildings.

Timber buildings – evidence of lower costs emerge
So timber buildings really do cost less to build. New research appears to prove the case and the timber development sector is educating the rest of the industry.  Timely too, as the National Building Code has proposed that timber buildings up to eight storeys could fall under the deemed to satisfy provisions. Meanwhile a New Zealand company is eyeing the potential and plans to operations to supply Australian market.


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