Sustainable Development News

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

China’s desertification is causing trouble across Asia
Creeping desertification in China is swallowing thousands of square kilometres of productive soil every year. It’s a challenge of gigantic and unprecedented proportions. The rate of desertification increased throughout the second half of last century and, although this trend has since stabilised, the situation remains very serious.

Energy and Climate Change

April breaks global temperature record
April was the seventh month in a row that broke global temperature records, Nasa figures show. Last month smashed the previous record for April by the largest margin ever, the data show. That makes it three months in a row that the monthly record was broken by the largest margin ever.

Fairness on the agenda as UN begins job of strengthening the Paris climate deal
The Paris Agreement.. requires countries to ramp up their efforts significantly over the coming years and decades. That job arguably begins today, with the opening of an 11-day meeting in Bonn, Germany, featuring the first session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA). The APA functions rather like a much more modest version of the Paris conference. Parties to the Paris Agreement send delegations, and small groups can be tasked with resolving specific issues before reporting back to the larger group for decision-making.

Low carbon opportunities for the global electricity utilities industry: report
Accenture Strategy recently published a joint report with the CDP “Low Carbon, High Stakes” looking at the opportunities of the low carbon economy for the global electricity utilities industry. The report identifies two new sustainable business models for electric utilities that positively empower consumers and help them decarbonize electricity usage.

British CCS ‘could service many parts of mainland Europe’
Carbon and capture storage (CCS) sites face no technical difficulties to permanently and safely store industrial-scale CO2 off the coast of the UK, and the hubs could potentially be developed to service mainland Europe, according to a new report produced for the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI).

World’s largest floating windfarm to be built off Scottish coast
The world’s largest floating windfarm is set to be built off the coast of Scotland after its developers were granted a seabed lease on Monday. Statoil, the Norwegian energy company, expects to have five 6MW turbines bobbing in the North Sea and generating electricity by the end of 2017. The company has already operated a single turbine off Norway.

Direct Action not giving us bang for our buck on climate change
AUSTRALIA – Direct Action is the centrepiece of Australia’s current greenhouse gas reduction efforts. To date, A$1.7 billion in subsidies has been committed from the government’s Emissions Reduction Fund to projects offering to reduce emissions. The scheme replaced Australia’s two-year-old carbon price in 2014 and is a key part of the government’s plan to reduce emissions by 5% below 2000 levels by 2020, and 26–28% below 2005 levels by 2030… In a new article in Economic Papers, I look into the economics of Direct Action and how it is working. I conclude that the scheme is exposed to funding projects that would have happened without government funding.


California Braces for Unending Drought
LOS ANGELES — With California entering its fifth year of a statewide drought, Gov. Jerry Brown moved on Monday to impose permanent water conservation measures and called on water suppliers to prepare for a future made drier by climate change… Despite winter rains that replenished reservoirs and eased dry conditions in parts of Northern California, Mr. Brown suggested that the drought may never entirely end, and that the state needed to adapt to life with less water.

India to ‘divert rivers’ to tackle drought
India is set to divert water from its rivers to deal with a severe drought, a senior minister has told the BBC. Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti said transferring water, including from major rivers like the Brahmaputra and the Ganges, to drought-prone areas is now her government’s top priority.  At least 330 million people are affected by drought in India.

Environment and Biodiversity

Coal dust kills coral, reduces growth of fish and seagrass, study shows
Questions about the risks of shipping coal through the Great Barrier Reef have been raised after a study showed coal dust released into seawater kills corals and slows seagrass and fish growth. Researchers at the Australian Institute of Marine Science in Townsville, Queensland, found corals exposed to the highest concentrations of coal dust died within two weeks. The scientists mimicked the exposure of marine species to coal dust by adding carefully controlled amounts of fine coal particles and measured their responses over time.

Sea Level Rise Could Help Marshes Ease Flooding
Along the mid-Atlantic coast, where waters are rising quickly, marshes are on the march, consuming forestland, farms and yards. “Habitats are changing fast here,” said Matt Whitbeck, a biologist at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland, where dead trees still jut from young marshes. Newly published modeling shows that a looming acceleration in sea level rise could further accelerate the spread of marshes worldwide.

Gates open to fish migration at Hamilton’s Parana Park
NEW ZEALAND – Something fishy is going on at the Waikato River this weekend.  It involves a flood of scientists, games and a whole lot of migrating native fish.  The World Fish Migration Day at Hamilton’s Parana Park will open the gates for adults and kids  to gain an insight into what’s happening in the Waikato’s waterways.  There will be creek tours, native fish displays, expert explanations on helping native freshwater fish, as well as games and competitions – all in a full-on family day.

Economy and Business

Regenerative Business, Part Three: It’s Not About Better Problem Solving
By focusing on what is at the core of what’s trying to happen instead of what already is happening, a company is able to introduce profound and transformative disruptions into an industry. For example, PayPal bypassed the problems created by banking infrastructure by enabling people to engage in exchange directly. Instead of working on improving what exists, a regenerative business asks what customers are trying to pursue and invents the means to support them. This requires reigning in the strong tendency to start with what is already in the system – instead focusing on the evolutionary impulse behind what people are striving to accomplish but unable to figure out how.

A 2020 roadmap for corporate sustainability
Today’s world is markedly different from 2010, when we launched our Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability, with 20 specific expectations for sustainable corporations in the 21 st century. That’s why we — at our annual conference in Boston earlier this month — announced updated Ceres Roadmap expectations calling for accelerated action on key issues, including climate and clean energy, natural resource protections and fair, safe and equitable workplaces.

How Eastman Chemical nudges designers toward sustainable alternatives
It has been six years since $9.6 billion conglomerate Eastman Chemical committed to ensuring at least two-thirds of its new product revenue was tied to “sustainably advantaged” materials. And as of its latest environmental progress report, the company remains ahead of that goal. Generally speaking, Eastman’s definition of sustainable products and technologies refers to materials or chemicals that have a less invasive impact on the environment than competitive alternatives.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Designer Creates Glueless Shoe
A Japanese footwear designer, Roderick Pieters, has worked together with fashion brand Proef to create a glueless shoe. The pairs of easy-to-assemble footwear are put together using rope and are designed to address challenges in the fashion industry’s current production and distribution methods, instead creating a product that can be easily disassembled and repaired by its owner.


Politics and Society

Election 2016: Greens push to double Perth’s tree canopy by 2040
AUSTRALIA – The Greens want to double Perth’s tree canopy by 2040 and have every resident living within five minutes of a green corridor. The party wants the State Government to contribute $7.6 million for the plan, as well as $29 million in Commonwealth funds for its wider Green Cities policy. WA senator Scott Ludlam said it was estimated Perth had lost 75 per cent of its original bushland and 80 per cent of wetlands.

Poll: Punters Are Looking For Stronger Environment Policies
Australia’s environmental groups have delivered some good news for the Labor party as it heads into the second week of this year’s Federal election campaign, with a ReachTel poll revealing its more ambitious conservation and climate policies are likely to go down well in the electorate.

Food Systems

Crunchy Kelp (Audio 6:09)
NEW ZEALAND – Rob Emett used to dive to eradicate seaweed, now he’s harvesting it, drying it and is turning it into seasonings. In 1998 Rob was on the team employed to get rid of an introduced seaweed that was taking over around Stewart Island and Bluff. It had arrived in the ballast water of visiting ships. He says while he was trying to eradicate it, he worked out it was Wakame seaweed, a seaweed that’s highly valued in Japan and China and Korea.

Dunedin climate could be key to survival of critically endangered Nelson plant
NEW ZEALAND – A critically endangered plant that was only ever found around the Nelson coastline is now being grown in a nursery in Dunedin in a bid to save the species from extinction. Coastal peppercress Lepidium banksii was once an important food source for Maori and was also used by Captain Cook to ward off scurvy in sailors. It is considered to be amongst the 10 most endangered species in New Zealand.

Disney film’s advice credited for award winning dairy farm
NEW ZEALAND – A Waikato dairying couple credit a Walt Disney movie for crystalising their approach to environmental and business farming, writes Gerald Piddock. Look beyond what you can see. The line from the classic children’s film The Lion King has played an important role in dairy farmers’ John Hayward and Susan O’Regan’s​ decision making when when it came to farming sustainably.


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