Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
Sign up to the newsletter if you would like the news direct to your inbox each weekday morning.
Energy and Climate Change
Sea level rises due to climate change could cost Australia $200b, Climate Council report finds
Future sea level rises could put more than $200 billion of Australian infrastructure at risk, a report by the Climate Council has found. The report, Counting the Costs: Climate Change and Coastal Flooding, showed sea levels were likely to rise by between 40 centimetres and one metre over the next century. The Climate Council succeeded the Australian Climate Commission, which was axed after the Federal Government took office last year. The report’s lead author, Professor Will Steffen, warned national income would be hit with huge losses if action was not taken to protect against rising sea levels and extreme weather events. “You’re looking at anywhere from three tenths of a per cent of loss of GDP per year, all the way up to 9 per cent loss of GDP per year,” Professor Steffen said. That upper scenario is higher than the growth rate of GDP per year, so you’re looking basically at staggering economic costs if we don’t get this under control.”
Why $100bn invested in wind or solar will produce more energy than oil
French investment bank Kepler Chevreux has produced a fascinating analysis that has dramatic implications for the global oil industry. It estimates that $100 billion invested in either wind energy or solar energy – and deployed as energy for light and commercial vehicles – will produce significantly more energy than that same $100 billion invested in oil. The implications, needless to say, are dramatic. It would signal the end of Big Oil, and the demise of an industry that has dominated the global economy and geo-politics, for the last few decades. And the need for it to reshape its business model around renewables, as we discuss here. “If we are right, the implications would be momentous,” writes Kepler Chevreux analyst Mark Lewis. “It would mean that the oil industry faces the risk of stranded assets not only under a scenario of falling oil prices brought about by the structurally lower demand entailed by a future tightening of climate policy, but also under a scenario of rising oil prices brought about by increasingly constrained supply. “
Vermont’s Largest City Now 100% Powered by Renewables
Burlington, Vermont now acquires all of its energy from renewables sources, including wind, hydro, and biomass, after the recent purchase of 7.4 megawatt Winooski One hydroelectric project. The city of 42,000 people, through the Burlington Electric Department, will get around one-third of its power from a biomass facility that primarily uses wood chips from logging residue; one-third from wind energy contracts; and one-third from the hydroelectric stations Winooski One and Hydro-Québec. Vermont has a statewide goal of securing 90 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2050, which includes electricity, heating, and transportation.
Japan turns to floating solar islands as it seeks to end reliance on nuclear power
Two companies in Japan recently announced they are to begin building two huge solar power islands that will float on reservoirs. This follows Kagoshima solar power plant, the country’s largest, which opened in late 2013 and is found floating in the sea just off the coast of southern Japan. These moves comes as Japan looks to move on from the Fukushima disaster of 2011 and meet the energy needs of its 127m people without relying on nuclear power. Before the incident around 30% of the country’s power was generated from nuclear, with plans to push this to 40%. But Fukushima destroyed public confidence in nuclear power, and with earthquakes in regions containing reactors highly likely, Japan is now looking for alternatives.
Sydney’s waters could be tropical in decades, here’s the bad news…
Welcome to tropical Sydney, where colourful surgeonfishes and parrotfishes are plentiful, corals have replaced kelp forests, and underwater life seems brighter, more colourful and all-round better. Or is it? While this vision of a future Sydney is just an embellished cartoon of what climate change would do off the city’s coastline, our recent research does point to a widespread “tropicalisation” of temperate coastlines such as Sydney within the next few decades. This may sound pleasant, but it can lead to unwanted consequences.
Indonesia moves to stop forest fire pollution as haze grips Singapore
Indonesia’s parliament on Tuesday voted to ratify a regional agreement on cross-border haze as fires ripped through forests in west of the country, choking neighbouring Singapore with hazardous smog. Officials in Singapore and Malaysia have responded furiously to Indonesian forest fires, which have intensified and become more frequent in recent years. Singapore’s air pollution rose to unhealthy levels on Monday as Indonesian authorities failed to control fires in Sumatra island’s vast tracts of tropical forest… Authorities have said most of the fires are deliberately lit to clear land for commercial plantations, such as paper and palm oil, and have arrested people caught in the act.
Economy and Business
Climate change report: prevent damage by overhauling global economy
The world can still act in time to stave off the worst effects of climate change, and enjoy the fruits of continued economic growth as long as the global economy can be transformed within the next 15 years, a group of the world’s leading economists and political leaders will argue on Tuesday. Tackling climate change can be a boon to prosperity, rather than a brake, according to the study involving a roll-call of the globe’s biggest institutions, including the UN, the OECD group of rich countries, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and co-authored by Lord Stern, one of the world’s most influential voices on climate economics.
Fixing climate change may add no costs, report says
In decades of public debate about global warming, one assumption has been accepted by virtually all factions: that tackling it would necessarily be costly. But a new report casts doubt on that idea, declaring that the necessary fixes could wind up being effectively free. A global commission will announce its finding overnight that an ambitious series of measures to limit emissions would cost $US4 trillion or so over the next 15 years, an increase of roughly 5 per cent over the amount that would likely be spent anyway on new power plants, transit systems and other infrastructure. When the secondary benefits of greener policies – such as lower fuel costs, fewer premature deaths from air pollution and reduced medical bills – are taken into account, the changes might wind up saving money, according to the findings of the group, the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.
Waste and the Circular Economy
Berlin duo launch a supermarket with no packaging
It works like this. You bring your own containers and have those weighed. Berlin-based supermarket Original Unverpackt labels your containers. You shop. When you get to the till, the weight of your containers is subtracted and you pay for the net weight of your groceries. The label is designed to survive a few washings so you can come back and skip the weighing process for a while. Founders Sara Wolf and Milena Glimbovski say there’s a rising demand for products and services that deal with sustainability and that people demand alternatives to the “lavish” handling of our resources.
Politics and Society
Why we’re getting ready to march for climate change
On Sunday, September 21st, a huge crowd will march through the middle of Manhattan. It will almost certainly be the largest rally about climate change in human history, and one of the largest political protests in many years in New York. More than 1,000 groups are coordinating the march — environmental justice groups, faith groups, labor groups — which means there’s no one policy ask. Instead, it’s designed to serve as a loud and pointed reminder to our leaders, gathering that week at the United Nations to discuss global warming, that the next great movement of the planet’s citizens centers on our survival and their pathetic inaction. As a few of the march’s organizers, though, we can give some sense of why we, at least, are marching, words we think represent many of those who will gather at Columbus Circle for the walk through midtown Manhattan.
Seven things we learned from Lord Stern’s New Climate Economy report
A major new report says the world can tackle climate change without harming economic growth. Here’s the digested read:
- Greener cities would be cheaper to build
- We need to repair farmland
- Renewables could soon provide half of our new electricity supply
- Fossil fuel subsidies need to be ditched
- Green bonds could fund a move to a low carbon world
- R&D will be crucial
- It won’t work without governments’ help
China bans dirty coal to fight pollution
China has banned the sale and import of coal with high ash or sulfur content in a move to promote cleaner coal and improve the nation’s air quality. Coal with ash content of more than 40 per cent and sulfur of more than 3 per cent are banned from sale and import into China starting 1 January, according to a regulation posted on the website of the National Development and Reform Commission. Lignite containing ash of more than 30 per cent and sulfur of more than 1.5 per cent is also prohibited. China, the world’s largest consumer of coal, is restricting the dirtiest grades to fight pollution. It will encourage imports of higher-quality supplies after pollution raised smog levels in Shanghai and Beijing and sparked social unrest in cities such as Maoming and Hangzhou.
Report: built environment key to sustainable economic growth
There are major opportunities to achieve strong economic growth while also cutting carbon emissions, a new report has found, and cities, land use and energy are the three key sectors to lead the charge. The New Climate Economy Better Growth, Better Climate report, which has been led by former Mexican President Felipe Calderón, Lord Nicholas Stern and a global commission of business, government and finance leaders, was launched today (Tuesday) ahead of the UN Climate Summit next week. The report finds that economic growth and climate action are not incompatible, and in fact action on climate change can lead to strong economic growth.
Share your pictures of good and bad packaging
How many tins, cartons and plastic pouches did you throw away when you made last night’s dinner? How much bubble wrap, foam or polystyrene protection came through your door uninvited with your latest internet order? Chances are, there might be quite a lot. According to Defra, each year over 10m tonnes of packaging are placed on the UK market, with about half ending up in households. While 67% was recycled or recovered in 2011 (compared to 27% in 1998), there is still a long way to go in combating the unwieldy amount of packaging globally. We want to know how much packaging waste you’re encountering everyday and would like you to send us pictures of the stuff.