Sustainable Development News

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

Kering: Monetising environmental impacts helped secure our future
Putting a financial value on the whole range of a company’s environmental impacts is the best way to get business executives to understand sustainability issues, according to luxury goods firm Kering. The French firm, which owns Gucci, Puma, and Yves St Lauren among other big-name brands, has effectively valued its natural capital through Environmental Profit and Loss (EP&L) accounting. A bold first for the industry, the EP&L system aims to assign a financial value to the environmental impacts of the group’s entire supply chain – from the leather for its shoes through to the metal for zippers and everything in between.

Energy and Climate Change

Paris climate summit pledges won’t avoid dangerous warming – UK and UN
The greenhouse gas emission cuts being pledged by the world’s nations will fall short of restricting global warming to 2C, the UN’s climate chief and UK government sources have warned. A rise beyond 2C, the internationally agreed safety limit, may push the climate beyond tipping points and into dangerous instability. The expected pledges are likely to limit temperature rises to about 3C.

BHP, BCA named as ‘climate obstructionists’ on new investor website
Australian mining giant BHP Billiton and the Business Council of Australia have been named on a global list of companies and trade associations that are actively obstructing climate change legislation, in a new report by the US-based Union of Concerned Scientists. The report, a product of research conducted by USC and Cambridge University, has revealed that 45 per cent of the 100 largest global industrial companies are obstructing climate change legislation – 95 per cent of which were members of trade associations demonstrating the same behaviour.

UK drops out of top 10 renewable energy ranking for first time
The UK has dropped out of the top ten of a respected international league table on renewable energy for the first time since it began 12 years ago. In its quarterly report published on Wednesday, EY said the new Conservative government had sentenced the renewable energy industry to “death by a thousand cuts” and investor confidence in the sector had collapsed because of policy changes over the summer.

Wind power could meet a quarter of EU energy demand by 2030
The proportion of Europe’s electricity demand met by wind power is set to double from 10 per cent to 25 per cent over the next 15 years, providing the EU delivers on its climate pledges, the European Wind Energy Agency (EWEA) has predicted. In a report published today, the EWEA said it expects wind power installations to reach 320GW of capacity by 2030, up from 128.8GW today. Some 254GW of this increase will come from offshore installations, while 66GW will come from new onshore projects.

Malcolm Turnbull wants to embrace ‘disruptive technology’ – he can start with solar power storage
In his previous job as communications minister, Turnbull would have been very familiar with the Internet’s capacity as a “disruptive” technology – one with the power to disrupt existing business models and render them obsolete. But it is in the power sector where the most disruptive potential is arguably now to be found. While predecessor Tony Abbott placed his faith in fossil fuels and expressed a distaste for renewables, Australia has been quietly but dramatically embracing solar energy. Our research suggests a strong future for disruptive green innovations that are being developed faster here than elsewhere, offering a new industrial option as the resources boom tails off.


Are Corporate Eyes Watching Water?
Climate change is only one of the issues to which corporate leaders must be attentive. We live in a world that is increasingly sees acute water problems — in some areas too little (drought), in others too much (flooding), and elsewhere poor quality (pollution, algal blooms, or saltwater intrusion, among other issues). New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has pointedly stated that governments that are inattentive to water issues “are playing with fire.” Companies must become increasingly adept at not only running their core business well, but also demonstrating judicious water management and stewardship. Yet, few companies are seriously assessing how water stress, in all of its forms, could play out for supply chains, operations, and ultimately profits as well as return on investment.

Global drought: why is no one discussing fresh water at Cop21?
Around the world, fresh water supplies are drying up: California in the US and São Paulo in Brazil are enduring historic droughts, groundwater sources have been plundered in south Asia, and globally more than 750 million people lack access to safe drinking water. The global fresh water shortage is one of the world’s most pressing challenges, yet the issue is not scheduled to be discussed at Cop21 – the UN’s climate change conference – in Paris this December.

Environment and Biodiversity

Ocean’s health is hard hit
Populations of marine mammals, birds, reptiles and fish have dropped by about half in the past four decades, with fish used in human food suffering some of the greatest declines, the WWF warned yesterday. The conservation group cautioned that over-fishing, pollution and climate change had significantly shrunk the size of commercial fish stocks between 1970 and 2010. WWF’s Living Blue Planet Report indicated that species that are part of the global food supply could be the hardest hit. One family of fish that includes tuna and mackerel had declined 74 per cent during the 40-year period, it found.

Coelacanth fish has leftover lung in its abdomen
The coelacanth, an elusive deep-sea dwelling fish once thought extinct, has an obsolete lung lurking in its abdomen, scientists have discovered. The lung was likely rendered defunct by evolution as the fish moved into deep water, the international team of researchers report in the journal Nature Communications. Like all fish, today’s species of coelacanths use gills to extract oxygen from the water they live in. But millions of years ago, coelacanth ancestors probably breathed using the lung, the scientists concluded.

Polar invasion: how plants and animals would colonise an ice-free Antarctica
…With ice-caps and glaciers receding already in the Peninsula region, native land plants and animals are benefiting from more easily available liquid water. Already we are starting to see increased populations, greater areas occupied and faster growth rates, consequences only expected to increase – everything is currently limited by the extreme physical environment.

NZ forests face threats in warming world
New Zealand’s unique beech forest could be squeezed up and out by other natives like rimu as the world heats up, new studies suggest. Rimu and other warmer-loving podocarp forest trees would likely have an advantage and spread out in the South Island under climate change over plants that favour the cool, said Victoria University researcher Matt Ryan. His analysis is part of a larger body of work looking hundreds of thousand of years into the past for clues of the potential consequences of the expected 2 to 4 degree rise in temperatures by the end of the century.

This Lion Expert Was Banned From Tanzania for Exposing Corruption (Book Talk)
Born in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1950, Craig Packer is one of the world’s foremost lion experts. In 1978 in Tanzania, he set up the Serengeti Lion Project to study and conserve the park’s lions, serving as its director for 35 years, until his revelations of corruption in the government’s wildlife sector got him barred from entering Tanzania. He is the Distinguished McKnight University Professor at the University of Minnesota and a Fellow of the American Academy Of Arts and Science. In his new book, Lions In The Balance: Man Eaters, Manes and Men With Guns, he describes the plight of the African lion—and what we have to do to save them.

Economy and Business

US and Australian taxpayers pay billions a year to fund coal – report
Coal subsidies are costing US and Australian taxpayers billions of dollars a year, according to a new report. The research examined the subsidies given to coal production in the US’s largest coal field, the Powder River Basin, and found they totalled $2.9bn (£1.9bn) a year. This equates to $8 per tonne, almost 25% of the sale price.  Ending the subsidies would lead to cuts in coal use equivalent to shutting up to 32 coal-fired power stations, the researchers found, leading to a large reduction in carbon emissions.

Woodside’s failed Papua New Guinea power play shows the growing desperation in the gas sector
Woodside’s failed A$11.6-billion acquisition of Oil Search Ltd is a sign of both desperation and wider trends in the oil and gas industry. Woodside’s interest in Oil Search is based on the fact that the latter is one of several companies, alongside ExxonMobil and Santos, who are jointly developing gas with the Papua New Guinean government in PNG. Typically, a business strategy for an oil and gas company is to seek projects in regions with stable governments, to minimise their risk. What is evident from Woodside’s interest in Oil Search’s onshore gas activities is that it is seeking much cheaper and easier-to-extract assets, at the expense of the political stability that is usually a requirement.

Air NZ unveils new sustainability plan
Air New Zealand has launched a swathe of new projects and goals as part of its new “sustainability framework” aimed at being economic, environmental and social. Chief executive Christopher Luxon unveiled the company’s plans which included several significant milestones, at a breakfast event attended by several hundred business leaders and managers in Auckland this morning. Under the new plan, Air New Zealand will be implementing a supplier code of conduct to ensure its suppliers are committed to similar social and environmental goals, as well as using ethically sourced materials.

Fundraising for fishing research
How do you put a value on catching dinner from the sea? Finding recreational fishing’s dollar value to the national economy is the New Zealand Marine Research Foundation’s aim. The 600,000 tonnes of seafood taken from the wild aquaculture annually brings in $1.2-$1.5 billion, making the commercial fishery our fourth largest export earner. Recreational fishing advocacy group LegaSea says this gives the commercial industry more clout when it comes to government legislation.

UK ‘Borrowing Hub’ Challenges Consumption Economy
The “sharing economy” has become a buzzword of sorts in recent years. Everything from cars to homes and even people’s dogs can now be “shared” with strangers connected through digital technology. But what about everyday “stuff”? That old guitar collecting dust, the hammer buried in your drawer or even… your trusty unicycle? The sharing economy is particularly popular in the United Kingdom, where research has shown some 65 percent of adults already are part of it, benefiting from £4.6 billion ($7.1 billion) worth of savings or earnings.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Creating renewable plastics that don’t cost the Earth
Imagine a future where packaging is made entirely from waste material and biodegrades to harmless by-products. Or where your home’s cavity wall insulation foam is made from captured CO2 emissions. Or where construction materials, vehicle components and engineering plastics are sophisticated biological composites comprised of tough cellulose fibres embedded in naturally derived polymers. Such inventions are or are poised to enter the mainstream, driven by considerable consumer and economic pressure to replace conventional plastics made from petrochemicals with new materials, derived from natural sources such as plants or gases like CO2.

Orange is the new black gold: how peel could replace crude oil in plastics
Today’s society is totally reliant on the chemicals and materials that are obtained from our diminishing supply of fossil fuels. As such, there is an increasing global focus on the development of renewable chemical feedstocks from a variety of sustainable sources such as sugarcane and fatty acids in the production of biofuels. And the chemically rich essential oils contained within waste citrus peels are another such source that is being investigated with real zest. This is promising, as the orange juice industry uses highly inefficient and wasteful juicing processes, with almost 50% of the fruit thrown away. This gives a real opportunity, then, to develop a sustainable supply of chemicals from the diverse and plentiful molecules locked within the peels.

Plans submitted for UK’s largest nappy recycling plant
Recycling specialist Knowaste has submitted a planning application to build the UK’s largest facility for recycling nappies and other hygiene products at a site in Hayes, west London. Knowaste was the first company in the UK to recycle absorbent hygiene products (AHP), which include nappies, incontinence pads and feminine hygiene products, setting up a pilot treatment facility in the West Midlands between 2011 and 2013. The original site processed an average 12,000 tonnes of the waste a year, including a total of 117 million nappies. However, Knowaste estimates the new £14m Hayes 180 site, which is planned for launch in early 2017, would handle at least 36,000 tonnes of AHP waste per annum.

Meet the major players in the circular economy
The Circular Economy is one of the integral ways to make sustainable business happen. Circular business models thrive on longevity, reuse and capacity sharing — they disrupt, uncover customer value and drive resource efficiency.  Many would agree that society needs to adopt this circular thinking, but how do we really make it happen at large?

Politics and Society

David Attenborough backs huge Apollo-style clean energy research plan
An Apollo-style research programme to make renewable energy cheaper than fossil fuels has won the backing of Sir David Attenborough, who says this alone would be enough to halt climate change. The renowned naturalist joins a group of eminent scientists, business executives and politicians backing a 10-year public research and development plan to cut the costs of clean energy and deliver affordable technologies to store and transport solar and wind power. In a letter to the Guardian, the group argue that the approach, mirroring the intense Apollo programme that put men on the moon, “will not only pay for itself but provide economic benefits to the nations of the world”.

More people die from air pollution than Malaria and HIV/Aids, new study shows
More than 3 million people a year are killed prematurely by outdoor air pollution, according to a landmark new study, more than malaria and HIV/Aids combined. Wood and coal burning for heating homes and cooking is the biggest cause, especially in Asia, but the research reveals a remarkably heavy toll from farming emissions in Europe and the US, where it is the leading cause of deaths.  The report warns that, unless action is taken, the number of deaths – already equivalent to six deaths every minute – will double by 2050. “This projection should sound alarm bells for public health agencies around the world,” said environmental health expert Professor Michael Jerrett, at the University of California and who was not involved in the research.

The internet is eating your memory, but something better is taking its place
With technology now well ingratiated into our everyday life, researchers have been investigating the lasting impact that it is having on the way that we learn and remember information. Some research has suggested that our reliance on technology and the internet is leading to “digital amnesia”, where individuals are no longer able to retain information as a result of storing information on a digital device.

How Not to Get Attacked by a Bear
To gain more insight into bear attacks and how to prevent them, scientists recently completed a study—not yet published—examining 675 bear attacks on people. Their research revealed distinct patterns of bear behavior that can help people stay safe in bear habitat. “There is a lot of mythology out there about why bear attacks happen,” says Tom Smith, a biologist at Brigham Young University in Utah. “If I wanted to make a key point, it is that the vast majority of these negative encounters are avoidable. People don’t need to go out into bear country and get hurt, nor do bears. These incidents are largely preventable, but humans have to take more responsibility.” Here’s how to be smart in bear habitat—whether it’s in the deep wilderness or your own backyard.

Pope Francis faces challenge persuading US’s Catholic leaders on climate change
Activists from the Catholic church and other faith traditions are preparing a vast mobilisation around the pope’s visit this month culminating in a vigil and 24 September rally on Washington’s Mall where they are hoping to draw crowds of 300,000. But they described a disconnect between the enthusiasm of community groups and the patchy response from the church leadership.

Favouring Christian over Muslim refugees is bad for everyone
The unfolding refugee crisis has been marked by stories of displacement, violence and despair. There have been frenzied debates about the appropriate responses, compassion and humanitarianism…. Yet there is an additional dimension to this refugee crisis that is only just beginning to emerge. In some Western countries and among some parties, it appears that refugees are no longer perceived as one homogeneous group deserving of sympathy and asylum. Instead, what is gradually emerging is an emphasis on religion rather than common humanity, with a preference being shown for Christians over Muslims.

Built Environment

WA releases liveable neighbourhoods policy for public comment
More compact, healthier communities with a greater focus on active and public transport could be coming to Western Australia, thanks to a new policy released by the Western Australian Planning Commission for public comment. The revised draft of the Liveable Neighbourhoods policy has been developed to guide the design of new communities in the Perth and Peel areas, as well as regional centres across WA. “As we move towards accommodating 3.5 million people across Perth and Peel by 2050, it is important we have all of the supporting frameworks in place,” WA planning minister John Day said. Feedback is open until 5pm Friday 13 November 2015.

Making electric cars fun: why the newest Porsche runs on batteries
After a slow start, electric vehicles are gaining in popularity. London is now host to an electric car-sharing service, which proved successful in Paris. Sales of electric vehicles have seen significant rises in the last year. Now Volkswagen has unveiled a battery-powered Porsche that is capable of travelling 500km on a single charge and refuelling in just 15 minutes. Not that long ago the traditional car industry was accused of limiting the progress of electric vehicles… But recent years have seen numerous big brands join the race to lead the electric car market – from Nissan and Renault to VW’s Audi and now Porsche models.

How a Tesla travelled 9,000kms through Queensland without super-charger network
A previous trip reported in Renew Economy Tesla return trip Brisbane – Canberra – Brisbane illustrated my motivation for environmental protection, EVs and sense for adventure. This time around, I propped it up a notch higher proving that it is perfectly possible to combine this life vision and mission with a very enjoyable family holiday.

Food Systems

Organic certifier says enquiries about converting to organic farming rising
Organic certifier, The National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia, says there is growing interest from broadacre farmers in converting to organic production. NASAA general manager, Ben Copeman, said high prices for organic grain are driving up grower interest, including that from West Australian grain growers.  “We’ve heard reports of extraordinary prices being paid for certified organic grain.” He said across agricultural industries there was growing interest in going organic.

Help FreshPaper Spread the Word About Its Food-Saving Potential to 100M Super Bowl Viewers
FreshPaper looks like an ordinary square of paper, but extends the life of fresh produce by 2-4 times thanks to a unique blend of spices that naturally inhibit bacterial and fungal growth, as well as slow down the ripening process. The sheets can be placed in drawers, cartons and bags of produce to keep the food fresh throughout the supply chain.

Healthy Tips: Packing a better lunch
This time of year a lot of attention is paid to kids’ lunches, but just because you’re grown up doesn’t mean you need a good lunch any less. Whether you head to work five days a week or are out running errands, bringing your lunch has big advantages over eating out or picking up something to go. When you DIY, chances are you’ll eat better-quality food in saner portions with more of what you need, such as vegetables and whole grains, and less of what you don’t, including excess calories, saturated fat and sodium.


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