Sustainable Development News

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

The best way to reduce your personal carbon emissions: don’t be rich | Vox
One of the perennial debates around global warming has to do with the role of individual choices. What responsibilities do individuals have to fight climate change? Are people who advocate for political action on climate change hypocrites if they drive to work, fly to climate conferences, or have three children? A study… from researchers in Sweden and British Columbia, analyzes 148 separate individual actions available to citizens of the developed world and, drawing on 39 different sources, attempts to calculate their carbon impact. This pretty infographic is the result:

(Environmental Research Letters)

(Environmental Research Letters)

Climate Change

Leaders move past Trump to protect world from climate change | The Guardian
Far too little is being done to protect people from the heatwaves, storms and floods being supercharged by climate change, according to a high-level international commission. It aims to rebuild the political will to act that was damaged when US president, Donald Trump, rejected the global Paris agreement. The Global Commission on Adaptation is being led by Ban Ki-Moon, Bill Gates and Kristalina Georgieva, CEO of the World Bank. It involves 17 countries including China, India, South Africa, Indonesia, Canada and the UK.

Environment and Biodiversity

Can we balance conservation and development? Science says yes | World Economic Forum
For too long, dire messages and gloomy assumptions about the fate of the planet have lent an air of hopelessness to one of the biggest challenges facing society. Conservationists feel stymied. Businesspeople feel villainized. We have come to accept the view that preserving the planet and growing the economy are mutually exclusive. But maybe this dichotomous view of human needs and conservation is itself the problem. What if advancing conservation and human development is not an either-or proposition? What if we can do better in both?

Greener UK: Campaign groups set out four ‘green benchmarks’ for Brexit | Business Green
UK – If the government is serious about ensuring a ‘Green Brexit’ it must plug all the environmental governance gaps that will result from exiting the EU and deliver “significant improvements” to the UK’s existing policy framework, the Greener UK coalition has warned. The coalition of 13 major UK environmental groups this week set out its four “green benchmarks”, which it argues must be met in order for the government to ensure there is no weakening of domestic environmental protections after Brexit, as ministers have promised.

Related: ‘Unacceptable’: Scotland and Wales reject post-Brexit carbon tax plan | Climate Home News

Green light for Tasmanian wilderness tourism development defied expert advice | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – The Commonwealth government’s decision to wave through a controversial tourism development in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area was made in defiance of strident opposition from the expert statutory advisory body for the region’s management, it was revealed today. In August, federal environment minister Melissa Price’s office decided the proposed luxury development on Halls Island did not need to be assessed under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Why do we demolish buildings instead of deconstructing them? | Ensia
USA – Just a few years after starting a non-profit reselling used building materials in the early 1990s, Ted Reiff’s organization, The ReUse People, hit a wall. “We couldn’t get enough materials to supply the demand,” he says. Despite tons of donated and salvaged doors, windows and structural beams coming in to his San Diego-based operation, the amount of people seeking cheap materials for homebuilding and renovation projects was overwhelming. “We were constantly getting cleared out every day.”

In addition to keeping materials out of landfills and cutting down on the use of raw materials, deconstruction also creates job opportunities that aren’t available with demolition. Photo courtesy of The ReUse People of America, Inc.

In addition to keeping materials out of landfills and cutting down on the use of raw materials, deconstruction also creates job opportunities that aren’t available with demolition. Photo courtesy of The ReUse People of America, Inc.

Why aren’t we mining landfills for valuable stuff like metals and soil? | Ensia
USA – The car tires were abundant and easy to spot. As were newspapers, made from trees with tough cell walls. Then there were tons of soil aged and packed with decomposed garbage from the 1980s, when Madonna belted out “We are living in a material world, and I am a material girl” and Star Wars brought us a future that didn’t seem to include trash cans anywhere. At the closed Perdido Landfill in Escambia County, Florida, they’re digging into the past to eliminate old garbage that could contaminate groundwater and clear space for future trash. In the process, they’re also mining for any treasure that could help offset the cost of doing so.

Many old dumps contain useful materials. Whether they’re worth extracting depends on how we value other benefits such as preventing pollution and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Many old dumps contain useful materials. Whether they’re worth extracting depends on how we value other benefits such as preventing pollution and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

UK restaurants and cafes bin 320m fresh meals a year, data shows | The Guardian
UK – Almost 900,000 perfectly edible, freshly prepared meals end up in the bin in the UK every day, new figures reveal, because they haven’t been sold in time by restaurants and cafes. This means that more than 320m meals are thrown away by British food establishments every year – enough meals for everyone in the UK five times over, according to food waste app Too Good To Go.

Politics and Society

Drug trafficking at sea is devastating island states, ministers say | The Guardian
Ministers from tiny island states including Palau, the Solomon Islands and Kiribati are calling for help over the “devastating” impacts of criminal networks in the fishing industry. Fishermen, unable to work because stocks are so low, are being lured into gun-running and drug trafficking by international organised crime, the nations’ officials told an industry conference in Copenhagen this week.

Australia should be ‘exporting sunshine, not coal’, economist Jeffrey Sachs tells Q&A | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – Economist Jeffrey Sachs has criticised successive Australian governments for “defending a 19th or 20th century industry” rather than taking decisive action on climate change, saying Australia should be “exporting sunshine, not coal”. “Make a plan, make a timeline, tell the world how you’re going to decarbonise, and then we’ll all be happy to hear from Australia that there’s really a plan,” Sachs said on the ABC’s Q&A program on Monday night. “All we see is one PM after another falling over this issue.”


‘We are leaving carbon generation behind’: ScottishPower quits fossil fuels through Drax deal | Business Green
UK – ScottishPower has today announced it is to become a 100 per cent renewable energy operator, making it the first of the ‘Big Six’ to quit fossil fuels. The energy giant today confirmed it has agreed to sell its 2,566MW gas generation business to Drax Smart Generation in a cash deal worth £702m.

Food Systems

Farmers facing drought are on the front line of climate change | SMH
AUSTRALIA – When you live on the land, droughts can be soul destroying. They creep up silently, and slowly but surely tighten like a vice. They get into your bones. There’s no knowing when the drought will break, or just how far you’ll be pushed. I am a fourth generation sheep farmer from Crookwell, about an hour north of Canberra. When the autumn rains failed this year I reduced my stock by almost half. It looks as though the spring rains are going to be light, so I’m making plans to tighten my belt and sell more of my stock if I have to. We’re now down to our lowest sheep levels since the millennium drought ten years ago.

Farmers demand united approach to tackle climate change | Climate Action
UK – Guy Smith, Deputy President of NFU, voiced his opinion at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit panel in Parliament, saying that farmers are ready to play their part in minimising climate change. They want to strive towards net zero emissions, reduce agricultural emissions and initiate negative emissions. The NFU have called for a united approach to ensure successful outcomes in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to minimise the effects of climate change.

Would you eat slaughter-free meat? | BBC News
There’s a looming crisis over the world’s growing appetite for meat. Could a chicken running around a farmyard in San Francisco hold the key to a solution? In 1931, Winston Churchill predicted that the human race would one day “escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium”. Eighty-seven years later, that day has come as we discovered at Just, a food company in San Francisco where we tasted chicken nuggets grown from the cells of a chicken feather.