Sustainable Development News

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

Surge in renewable energy stalls world greenhouse gas emissions
Falling coal use in China and the US and a worldwide shift towards renewable energy have kept greenhouse gas emissions level for a second year running, one of the world’s leading energy analysts has said.
See also: Global energy emissions plateau despite economic growth, International Energy Agency data shows

Energy and Climate Change

February’s global temperature spike is a wake-up call
Global temperatures for February showed a disturbing and unprecedented upward spike. It was 1.35℃ warmer than the average February during the usual baseline period of 1951-1980, according to NASA data. This is the largest warm anomaly of any month since records began in 1880. It far exceeds the records set in 2014 and again in 2015 (the first year when the 1℃ mark was breached). In the same month, Arctic sea ice cover reached its lowest February value ever recorded. And last year carbon dioxide concentration in our atmosphere increased by more than 3 parts per million, another record. What is going on? Are we facing a climate emergency?

The road from Paris – what have countries done since COP21?
To paraphrase Naomi Klein: this should change everything. But will it? The COP21 agreement by up to 200 of the world’s nations to limit global warming to below 2°C and possibly even 1.5°C has yet to be implemented in legislation. On 22 April the UN will host a Paris Agreement signing ceremony at its New York HQ, but its promises will only become fully effective if 55 countries that produce at least 55 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions ratify or approve it.

Australia must quit coal by 2035 to meet emissions targets, says Climate Institute
Australia will need to rid itself of coal power generation completely by 2035 if it has any hope of meeting its obligations under the Paris Climate Agreement, the Climate Institute has warned in a submission on the nation’s climate policy framework tabled on Wednesday.

Bennett signals end to ‘two-for-one’ emissions deal
NEW ZEALAND – Big industrial emitters of greenhouse gases will lose their right under the emissions trading scheme to offset only half of their emissions, Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett told an international energy conference in Wellington… “It was always a temporary measure,” said Bennett of the concession. “It is abundantly clear that if the ETS is going to work, carbon must cost more than it does right now.” It appears the widely expected decision has not yet been made formally by the Cabinet, but Bennett said she expected to conclude the review of the ETS within “the next couple of months”.

Barclays: German coal generation to be worthless by 2030
The 46,000MW of black and brown coal fired generation currently in service in Germany will be worthless in little more than a decade if the country adopts the targets embraced at the Paris climate change conference, a new analysis from Barclays says. The analysis, from leading energy analyst Mark Lewis, says coal fired power generation would have to be almost completely eliminated by 2030 in a scenario that would require a substantial carbon price (€45/t) and the end to the current energy market design.

Battery storage for households: How products compare in price and performance
Australia is already recognised as the principal global testing ground for battery storage technologies, which is why nearly all the major battery storage developers are releasing products here to take advantage of high network charges and the highest penetration of rooftop solar PV. But which is the best product?

Tasmania energy crisis: State facing worst-case scenario as dam levels continue to deteriorate
The Tasmanian Government is bracing for a worst-case scenario of Hydro Tasmania’s dam levels reaching a minimum of 6.5 per cent. The dams, which are used for hydro-electric generation, are currently at a record low of 14.8 per cent and falling by more than 0.5 per cent every week.

Environment and Biodiversity

Southern right whales back from brink of extinction
New Zealand was once home to about 30,000 southern right whales. A century of human hunting drove the population to the brink of extinction, and by the early 1920s there were probably just 15-20 mature female southern right whales surviving in a New Zealand population that may have numbered as few as 110 individuals. These are the key findings in a scientific paper, published today in the Royal Society Open Science journal, looking at the impacts of human hunting on southern right whales in New Zealand.

Manawatu’s first dung beetles released on farm
NEW ZEALAND – …The beetles could eliminate effluent issues of point source discharge and diffuse discharge. “The beetles bury the poo so there is nothing on the surface to wash into rivers,” Horton said. Dung beetles also offered advantages for farmers, as well as the environment. “The soil can cope with drought situations better, farmers don’t have to put on as much chemical fertiliser and an additional benefit is when the beetles bury the dung it removes internal gut parasites from the animals.”

Economy and Business

Unilever, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola Join Market Research Partnership to Tackle SDGs
There is yet another new group that can be filed under Sustainable Development Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals. Yesterday, Unilever and several industry partners announced the creation of an open platform to share their ideas, data, and insights on addressing key global challenges. The group, under the name Paragon Partnerships, aims to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs, or Global Goals) through collaboration and market research.

America’s largest coalminer Peabody Energy may file for bankruptcy
The largest American coalminer, Peabody Energy, is delaying an interest payment due this week and warned that it may have to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Shares of Peabody Energy plummeted more than 53% before the market opened on Wednesday. Its shares have already lost half their value in the last three months and 95% over the past year. A slowing global economy and toughening environmental standards have slammed the coal industry, which is already beset by bankruptcies, shuttered mines and layoffs.

Environmental and economic impact of British energy policy (Letters)
Ed: A selection of letters presenting opinions on British energy policy.

Waste and the Circular Economy

The Metaphors of Prosperity (Part 1)

“It isn’t that they can’t see the solution. It is that they can’t see the problem.”

– G.K Chesterton

It’s obvious to more and more people that the economy is struggling. What might be most in need of change is our way of thinking and perceiving the issues: it’s a question of framing.

Supermarkets pledge to cut food waste 20% by 2025
Britain’s leading supermarkets have pledged to drive down food and drink waste by a fifth within the next decade.  Retailers including Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Morrisons are backing a voluntary agreement, which also targets a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions created by the food and drink industry.

Politics and Society

The top 10 sources of data for international development research
It’s easy to be a bit nostalgic for work pre-internet, when research could involve exploring the dusty confines of the British Library or the excitement of digging out an old tome from a government archive with numbers on Ugandan coffee exports from 1957. But nothing really beats the satisfaction available today from downloading in just three or four clicks the entire import-export database for the same country. Yet, it can be tempting to make Wikipedia or Google the default for research. So, here are some gems which make international development research better, easier and more productive.

‘Very poor’: Environment office opposed miners using rehabilitation work as biodiversity offset
Coal firms won the right to claim the planting of grass or trees on old mine sites as conservation offsets for future woodland destruction despite strong opposition from environment department staff, new documents reveal. The reports detail the 2013-14 internal debate between the Department of Trade & Industry and the Office of the Environment and Heritage (OEH) over a plan that broadened the scope of what miners could count as compensation for habitats wiped out by new mines.

Fotofest 2016: artists capture human impact on a changing planet – in pictures
A new book, Changing Circumstances: Looking at the Future of the Planet, features artworks and essays from 34 leading artists on humanity’s effect on the environment, from climate change to waste. The book launch marks the Fotofest biennial in Houston, US, that runs from 12 March to 24 April

Soup – Bird’s Nest Ingredients by Mandy Barker.  Ocean tides turn discarded fishing line into nest-like balls collecting other debris in their path. ‘ I hope viewers of my work will feel a connection to the diverse collections of plastic my images show and start to question how their food packaging, hairbrush, computer, or shoe ended up in the ocean. If this shocks people – getting them to think and hopefully act – it will bring positive action to protect many species on our planet and ultimately the human race itself.’

Soup – Bird’s Nest Ingredients by Mandy Barker
Ocean tides turn discarded fishing line into nest-like balls collecting other debris in their path. ‘ I hope viewers of my work will feel a connection to the diverse collections of plastic my images show and start to question how their food packaging, hairbrush, computer, or shoe ended up in the ocean. If this shocks people – getting them to think and hopefully act – it will bring positive action to protect many species on our planet and ultimately the human race itself.’
Photograph: Mandy Barker/FotoFest International

Food Systems

DNA Test Results Bolster Credibility of MSC Labelled Seafood
Mislabeled seafood products have become a widespread problem: A recent study found that across 4,500 global samples, 30 percent of seafood products are mislabelled. The issue threatens reputable and sustainable fisheries and seafood traders, and can allow illegal and unregulated fishing practices to go undetected. Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing has been estimated at 11-26 million tonnes of landed fish each year, representing losses of $10-23.5 billion to the fishing industry.
See also: Sustainable seafood on more Australian tables as traceability practices improve


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