Sustainable Development News

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

Kigali deal on HFCs is big step in fighting climate change
They went to Kigali to eliminate hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and take 0.5C out of future global warming, and the 170 countries that successfully negotiated an amendment to the Montreal protocol treaty agreed to get rid of 90% of them. Not bad for four days and three long nights of hard work. The Kigali deal on HFCs is in fact fiendishly complicated and has taken years to negotiate in various technical and political forums. The final agreement, announced on Saturday morning caps and reduces the use of HFCs in a gradual process beginning in 2019.


Energy and Climate Change

How climate change triggers earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes
Devastating hurricane? More than 1,000 lives lost? It must be climate change! Almost inevitably, Hurricane Matthew’s recent rampage across the Caribbean and south-eastern US has been fingered by some as a backlash of global warming driven by humanity’s polluting activities, but does this really stack up?

Energy storage vital to keep UK lights on, say MPs
Large-scale batteries to store energy and devices that switch themselves off are likely to be key technologies for keeping the UK’s lights on while shutting down old coal and nuclear plants, an influential committee of MPs has said.
Read also: Energy subsidies should focus on storage and cutting demand, MPs say

The U.S. government just made its biggest clean energy purchase ever
On Friday in Maricopa County, Ariz., the U.S. government will hit a clean energy milestone: What officials are calling the largest procurement ever of renewable energy by the federal government, in this case from a desert solar array. The new 150-megawatt, or million-watt, Mesquite 3 solar array is located in Arizona, but the electricity it generates will be sent to California’s electric grid and will power roughly one-third of the electricity needs of 14 naval installations in the state, including San Diego’s naval base and the Marines’ Twentynine Palms and Camp Pendleton.

Canberra power play: How one man’s vision took ACT to 100% renewables
“We are only a small economy, but we are forward thinking. We are an early adopter, and that means we are a leader.” One would like to think that that was a comment made about Australia in a global context. After all, aren’t we supposed to be the “innovation nation”. But, alas, it is not. It is about the Australian Capital Territory, and the context is Australia and the partisan nature of energy and climate politics.

Reboot of SA coal plant like “restarting whaling” for lamp fuel
The proposed reboot of South Australia’s retired Northern coal-power plant as a federal government-owned generation asset has been slammed as “uninformed and baffling” by the state government, and likened to “restarting the whaling industry” to provide fuel for street lamps… South Australian energy minister Tom Koutsantonis said the idea, as well as being “astounding”, betrayed the Coalition’s fundamental lack of understanding of the energy market, considering the Northern Power Station had been closed by its private operators in May on commercial grounds.

Megan Woods: Climate change – the status quo is not enough
All the models suggest that globally if we were to continue on a business-as-usual pathway then the world would warm by 4degrees over the next 100 years. Domestic policies and actions now must become the focus. What does this mean for New Zealand? For Labour, it is critical that we have an integrated across government plan to reduce emissions.

Trees are much better at creating clouds and cooling the climate than we thought
The pre-industrial atmosphere contained more particles, and so brighter clouds, than we previously thought. This is the latest finding of the CLOUD experiment, a collaboration between around 80 scientists at the CERN particle physics lab near Geneva. It changes our understanding of what was in the atmosphere before humans began adding pollution – and what it might be like again in the future.

Environment and Biodiversity

Great Barrier Reef climate history unlocked as CSIRO maps offshore Queensland Basin
Scientists from the CSIRO are using cutting-edge technology to map the seafloor of the Queensland Basin to understand how the Great Barrier Reef responded to past climate change events.

Seagrass is a marine powerhouse, so why isn’t it on the world’s conservation agenda?
Seagrass has been around since dinosaurs roamed the earth, it is responsible for keeping the world’s coastlines clean and healthy, and supports many different species of animal, including humans. And yet, it is often overlooked, regarded as merely an innocuous feature of the ocean.

Revealed: how a hunting boom left the Amazon basin with ’empty rivers’
The fashion for wild animal skins and furs drove a hunting boom in the Amazon basin through the 20th century… We’ve just used a gold mine of previously unanalysed historical documents and unpublished shipping records to properly quantify, for the first time, the scale of this skin trade. Our study, published in the journal Science Advances, reveals that some species are far more vulnerable than others, and points out implications for future management of Amazonian forests and forest wildlife.

From paper to tablet: A new way to record animal behavior
In recent years, technological innovations like camera traps and GPS collars have revolutionized wildlife research. However, when it comes to collecting field observations, scientists frequently still use the old-school method of a pen and a notebook. But maybe not for much longer… Enter Animal Observer, a free, new iPad app to help animal behavior researchers record observations of wildlife in the field. The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, in partnership with Oracle, initially designed the app for gorillas, but they have since added new features and made it customizable to broaden its applicability to a wide variety of species.

Hunted to the brink, but Africa’s reviled vultures are vital in fight against disease
Vultures are rarely viewed as the poster boys and girls of the natural world. They have repulsive eating habits and are strikingly ugly. Nevertheless, they play a critical role in maintaining the ecological health of many parts of the world.

Devil’s milk could be the killer ingredient in war on superbugs
Devil’s milk has proved to be an unlikely weapon in the increasingly desperate global fight against superbugs. Australian researchers have discovered that peptides contained in the milk of Tasmanian devils can kill some of the most deadly bacterial and fungal infections, including golden staph.

Why Victoria’s dingo and ‘wild dog’ bounty is doomed to miss its target
AUSTRALIA – On any given night, many farmers go to sleep worrying about what they might wake up to in the morning. Few things are more stressful than seeing your livestock, such as sheep, lying dead or seriously injured in the paddock. Sometimes dingoes, free roaming and unowned (“feral”) dogs, and domestic dogs, or their hybrids, are responsible for such a scene. But what’s the best way to deal with this situation?

Kenyan farmers using honey bees to protect crops from elephants
The belief that elephants are afraid of mice has been tested and seemingly proved by science television program Mythbusters. But it turns out elephants are also afraid of honeybees, and this is a life-changing fact for Kenyan farmers.

Fisheries officers confident Tasmania will be carp-free within months
AUSTRALIA – Fisheries officers are confident they will declare Tasmania carp-free next year, boosting the state’s reputation as a world-class trout fishery. It has been a two-decade battle for the state’s Inland Fisheries Service (IFS) to stop the carp wreaking the same havoc as they have in waterways interstate.

Economy and Business

Ban announces launch of new partnership platform to support financing for Sustainable Development Goals
Announcing the launch today of a new platform for scaling up innovative finance solutions to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the initiative can help in identifying and piloting innovative finance instruments that can drive investment and support well thought-out SDG interventions.

ShareAction: How can you motivate investors to act on the SDGs? (Interview)
Catherine Howarth, chief executive at ShareAction and Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum, discusses below what’s needed to make the investment case for the SDGs. ShareAction is a U.K.-based NGO campaigning for responsible investment by pension funds and other institutional investors. It demands transparency and accountability to the millions of people whose savings are managed by investment professionals.

Tree biodiversity critical to forest productivity, study finds
A team of more than 80 researchers collected data in 44 countries covering nearly all major forest ecosystems. In natural forests, they were able to show accelerating declines in productivity as the forest loses more tree species. Based on their calculations, the value of tree species biodiversity is $166-$490 billion.

Economic impacts of climate change on global fisheries could be worse than we thought
Marine fisheries have been estimated to support the livelihoods of 10 to 12 percent of the world’s population and generate an average of $100 billion in revenue every year. But global fisheries are facing a number of challenges: changes in markets, demographics, and over-exploitation will significantly impact global fisheries in the near future, while climate change is expected to pose a major challenge over the longer term. A study published last month in the journal Scientific Reports explores the potential economic impacts of climate change as it affects the amount and composition of fish in marine fisheries and leads to decreased catches.

Coal price rally raises Australian hopes – but it won’t last, say economists
AUSTRALIA – The rally in the price of key exports such as coal and iron ore that has promised a multibillion-dollar windfall for Australia’s treasurer, Scott Morrison, could be shortlived, economists have warned. Hopes have risen that the federal budget could benefit from as much as $23bn in additional tax revenues from exports, thanks to higher prices, especially for coal which has more than doubled in price in the past four months.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Marlborough among highest in national rural waste collection
NEW ZEALAND – A total of nearly 100,000kg of unwanted agri-chemicals, and 1,400,000kg of plastic containers, was collected nationwide. Among the chemicals handed in, or collected, from rural properties in Marlborough during the collection programme were a range of pesticides, fungicides, herbicides and insecticides, including banned 245T and dieldrin. The containers were processed and made into underground cable cover while large drums were cleaned for re-use, or recycled. The chemicals were disposed of, either in New Zealand or overseas, under strict regulations.

British households fail to recycle a ‘staggering’ 16m plastic bottles a day
British households are failing to recycle as many as 16m plastic bottles every day – a “staggering” number and nearly half the total of more than 35m which are used and discarded daily – according to new research.

Politics and Society

What if nature had the rights of a person (or a business)?
In recent years, the U.S. Supreme Court has solidified the concept of corporate personhood. Following rulings in such cases as Hobby Lobby and Citizens United, U.S. law has established that companies are, like people, entitled to certain rights and protections. But that’s not the only instance of extending legal rights to nonhuman entities. New Zealand took a radically different approach in 2014 with the Te Urewera Act, which granted an 821-square-mile forest the legal status of a person.

Majority of potential UK fracking sites are rich in important wildlife
Many of the areas that have been recently marked as potential sites for fracking are rich in wildlife that perform crucial functions from pollination to decomposition, researchers have found. Scientists say that almost two-thirds of the areas that have been labelled as suitable for shale gas extraction have levels of biodiversity equal to or above the national average, according to a new analysis of records collected from across the country.

Before the Flood: Leonardo DiCaprio hopes his new film will inspire climate action
“Try to have a conversation with anyone about climate change and people just tune out,” says Leonardo DiCaprio in his new film. “If the UN really knew how I feel, how pessimistic I am about our future, I mean to be honest they may have picked the wrong guy,” he says in Before the Flood, which shows him urging world leaders at the UN to act on fossil fuels.

Can money buy you happiness? It’s complicated
Consumer society is growing fast around the globe. In 2011 it was estimated that 1.7 billion people were living in what is considered to be the “consumer class” – and nearly half of them are in the developing world. Consumption of goods and services has grown at a staggering rate over the past few decades and prompts us to ask: does it makes us happy? The answer’s not as simple as you might think.

Hitting ‘rock bottom’: Prospect of big revamp of NSW environmental controls
AUSTRALIA – The Baird government is about to embark upon the biggest overhaul in decades of environmental planning rules that affect major coal mines and infrastructure projects. A discussion paper, to be released on Monday [today], will aim to change planning procedures to minimise the legal battles and community division that have convulsed towns such as Berrima, Bulga and Narrabri in recent years.

Built Environment

Global sea levels are rising fast, so where does that leave the cities most at risk?
Current projections of global average sea level rise are now expected to double by 2100, which would be severely damaging – if not disastrous – for many of the world’s coastal cities, from Ho Chi Minh City and Mumbai to New Orleans and Miami. Yet the upcoming United Nations conference on sustainable urban development, Habitat III, is unlikely to create the international platform needed to tackle such a global threat, according to Dan Lewis, head of UN Habitat’s urban risk reduction unit.

Government provides £35m funding boost for ultra-low emission vehicles
A £35m funding package to increase the uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) has been announced by Transport Minister John Hayes. The package, announced [last Thursday], will be used to drive up the amount of electric vehicle (EV) charging points across streets and workplaces throughout the country, in response to a 250% rise in registered ULEVs in just two years.


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