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Tuesday 18 August 2015

Sustainable Development News

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

Dangerous or safe? Naomi Klein to talk climate and capitalism in Australia
Naomi Klein sounds slightly bemused that her ideas on capitalism and climate change are considered dangerous. “I think they are safe,” the globally renowned social activist and author says laughing. “I think Tony Abbott’s ideas are dangerous.” She tries another line: “I am about safety for the people and the planet. I am sorry to disappoint you all with my safety.” Klein will headline next month’s Festival of Dangerous Ideas at the Sydney Opera House, after a turn at the Melbourne Writers Festival. It will be her first trip to Australia in 14 years.

Energy and Climate Change

EU’s five biggest energy markets add 8GW to wind and solar capacity
Europe’s five biggest energy markets have added 8GW of wind and solar capacity in the first half of 2015, a new report has found.  The wind and solar capacities of the UK, Germany, Italy, France and Spain have grown to a combined total of around 175GW, according to Platts Renewable Power Tracker. Germany added around 2.9GW of wind power in the first six months of 2015, with around 1.8GW of this coming from German North Sea wind farms. The UK’s installed capacity of solar energy reached 7.7GW, as well as reaching 13.4GW of wind energy. The UK’s combined renewable energy output generated 2.7TWh of energy, according to Platts.

New app could cut domestic energy use by 10%
A new app that can reportedly cut household energy use by 10% is being rolled out to 200,000 Swedish homes.  The Energy Tree app analyses data from the smart power grid to discover households’ energy trends and encourages users to consume less energy through personalised feedback and guidance. “The Energy Tree combines behavioural science and gamification with data analytics to engage and motivate households,” said a statement from the app developers Greenely.

Artificial leaf could soon fuel the planet, Melbourne researchers say
Melbourne researchers say it may only be a matter of years before the artificial leaf is fuelling every community, house and car on the planet. The machine they have designed relies on a so-far largely untapped fuel source — hydrogen — and draws heavily on the plant process of photosynthesis, in which a plant converts sunlight into energy.

How Texas wind farms are putting intermittency concerns to rest
It is August and that means the latest version of The Wind Technologies Market Report (WTMR) has been released by the US DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) office. The WTMR is a chronicle of growth and economic and technology trends in the wind industry.  Wind power has begun taking its place as a substantial contributor to electricity generation in the US.  Due to its intermittent nature there is an increasing, and some suggest, premature, concern over limits on penetration.

Myths of the Australian climate change debate
AUSTRALI A – The Coalition announced it will cut emissions by between 26 and 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030. How to assess this? Climate targets are notoriously difficult to interpret and compare, but here are some things worth considering.

Tuvalese leaders discuss climate change
Imagine if a much wealthier neighbour put their hose over your fence and turned the water on and your property slowly became flooded, until you had no choice but to leave. That’s how the people of Tuvalu feel.  It’s predicted the Island nation, the smallest archipelago in the Pacific, could be underwater in the next 30 to 50 years due to rising sea levels. Tuvalese leaders spoke of their plight at a breakfast event in Mangere last week as part of a Climate Change Tour hosted by NZ NGOs including Tear Fund and Oxfam. The tour aims to create awareness around the effect climate change is having on our pacific neighbours, and continues in Christchurch and Wellington this week.

Fox News’ inner struggle with climate misinformation
Research has shown that Fox News is a major driving force behind climate denial, decreasing viewer trust in scientists and the existence of global warming. In 2013, only 28% of Fox News’ climate science segments were accurate, although that was an improvement over its 7% accuracy in 2012. Fox News anchor Shepard Smith has been one of the few voices on the network willing to accept the scientific reality of human-caused climate change. On the August 10 edition of Fox News’ Shepard Smith Reporting, Smith reported on biased industry-funded science by Coca Cola, and made the connection to fossil fuel-funded climate denial studies.

Indonesia’s reliance on coal power – in pictures
The country’s plan to build more than 100 new coal-fired power plants over the next five years could result in the premature deaths of nearly 30,000 people a year, according to new research by Harvard University and Greenpeace.

A worker on a break looks over an open-pit coal mine in Makroman, East Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo. At its most destructive pattern of operation, coal extraction transforms mountain tops into giant holes using explosives, the cheapest way employed by many coal mining companies in Indonesia

A worker on a break looks over an open-pit coal mine in Makroman, East Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo. At its most destructive pattern of operation, coal extraction transforms mountain tops into giant holes using explosives, the cheapest way employed by many coal mining companies in Indonesia
Photograph: Kemal Jufri/Greenpeace

Environment and Biodiversity

How Cleaning Up China’s Environment Can Also Be Good For Its Economy
China’s 13th five-year plan, due for release in 2016, will reportedly include the most ambitious environmental reform agenda attempted in history. A study by Goldman Sachs predicts that, as a result, the Chinese environmental market could be a multibillion-dollar opportunity. As pollution in China reaches crisis proportions, leading to a drag on the economy and a rise in social unrest, the government is taking bold steps to remedy the “airpocalypse” situation through a full-scale “war on pollution.” One of the biggest challenges, however, will be the ability to finance this green revolution.

Grave warning for NZ’s freshwater life
NEW ZEALAND – More needs to be done to reverse the plight of New Zealand’s dwindling freshwater species, researchers say. The Society for Conservation Biology’s new report, titled Diagnosis and Cure, examines the decline of species living in our fresh waterways and suggests solutions, including a law overhaul and improvements to policy, monitoring and management. The authors noted that three quarters of the country’s native freshwater fish, mussel and crayfish species were now listed as threatened with extinction, something they blame on excessive nutrient run-off from over-intensive agriculture, extraction of water, river engineering, and human and industrial waste discharged to waterways.

Australia’s ‘other’ reef is worth more than $10 billion a year – but have you heard of it?
You’ve heard of the Great Barrier Reef – but what about its southern equivalent? The Great Southern Reef covers 71,000 square km. Its kelp forests contain unique and diverse marine life by global standards, and it contributes more than A$10 billion to Australia’s economy each year. Although most Australians live and play around the Great Southern Reef, they have little awareness of its value and significance, and too few resources are allocated to understanding it. This paradox has been revealed by new research in collaboration among scientists across southern Australia.

Mike Baird is right, culling sharks doesn’t work – here’s what we can do instead
AUSTRALIA – New South Wales is the latest Australian state to hear calls for sharks to be culled, in response to a spate of fatal and non-fatal incidents. NSW Premier Mike Baird has implemented a new surveillance program, while resisting calls for a cull on the basis that it doesn’t work. Put simply, there is no scientific support for the concept that culling sharks in a particular area will lead to a decrease in shark attacks and increase ocean safety… Sharks have inhabited this planet for more than 400 million years, and have survived five mass extinctions. Earth is now entering its sixth – this time caused by humans – and sharks are at the pointy end, with 90% of the species already considered threatened.

Economy and Business

Glencore set for more flash coal shutdowns
Glencore is expected to run more shutdowns across its Australian coal business in the next six months, similar to its unprecedented blanket shutdown last Christmas, to avoid selling coal at a loss or heavy discount into a depressed market.  Analysts expect a weak interim profit result when Glencore reports on Wednesday, and concerns persist over the Swiss giant’s debt levels and the sustainability of its dividend. Glencore, which is one of the biggest coal producers in Australia and the world’s dominant thermal coal exporter, is already cutting capital spend in an attempt to offset the impact of the commodity-price rout on its cash flow.

Top Challenges, Opportunities and Trends for Socially Minded Brands
When it comes to social branding there are two key challenges. First, a company must have a clear definition of its brand and an authentic desire to have a positive impact on the world. For many brands this could be a challenge, as motives and marketing have become so fractured and there also exists a fear of leading an authentic conversation across social media in case it invites too much scrutiny, accountability and, potentially, a PR crisis. Brands also face the challenge of managing real-time messaging across a wide array of social media channels where each has a specific focus and style of engagement. To effectively manage engagement across these platforms, brands must invest in leadership, marketing and employee training in social storytelling.

Eco-friendly shower system receives huge support
An eco-friendly shower system called Nebia has received astronomical backing in the few days since the project was posted on Kickstarter. The shower atomises water into a fine mist, dispensed from the shower head or removable hand wand, significantly reducing water wastage whilst providing enough for a proper wash. Nebia has been in the planning stage for five years, and now it has already received immense support on its Kickstarter page. Donors committed over $1m in the first two days of the campaign. The initial stated goal was a mere US$100,000.

Survey: Most U.S. Consumers Would Choose Renewable Packaging to Help Mitigate Climate Change
A new survey suggests U.S. consumers are largely unaware of the severity of global resource scarcity, but their choice of packaging would be impacted if they had readily available information on how renewable materials mitigate climate change. Conducted by food processing and packaging company Tetra Pak and the Global Footprint Network, the survey asked 1,000 U.S. consumers about their grocery spending habits. Only 41 percent of respondents reported being “very aware” of resource constraint issues. However, fully 86 percent agreed that if they knew the use of renewable packaging contributed to reducing carbon emissions, it would impact their choice of packaging.

Politics and Society

‘If you have a degraded environment, you’re impoverished’: Justice Brian Preston
Brian Preston, chief judge of NSW Land and Environment Court, joins Peter Hannam for a chat over lunch.
During one summer in his youth, Brian Preston scaled the pinnacle of the highest Mayan pyramid at Tikal​ and was mesmerised as the Guatemalan jungle below came alive with toucans and monkeys at sunrise. “Just for a moment there you could almost put yourself back into the time of the high priests,” said Justice Preston, who is now the chief judge of the NSW Land and Environment Court. “To look out to the horizon, to look over the rainforest, they must have felt that power, that they were closer to their gods.”

How Dolphins Healed An Author’s Broken Heart (Book Talk)
Susan Casey was living the dream. She had an apartment in Manhattan, a top job as an editor at Oprah Winfrey’s O magazine. Then her father died and her world fell apart. To try and heal her grief, she went to Maui. She had been a competitive open water swimmer all her life and one day, while swimming offshore, a pod of dolphins surrounded her. The experience haunted her. She gave up her life in New York, moved to Hawaii and began work on her book Voices in The Ocean: A Journey Into The Wild and Haunting World of Dolphins.

Obama’s climate plan is another half-baked carbon trading scheme
The US Clean Power Plan puts a national limit on greenhouse gas emissions for the first time. Despite a few critics, environmentalists have on the whole reacted positively. Yet, as societies around the world are already struggling with the effects of climate change, is Obama’s plan ambitious enough? As he acknowledged himself, “there is such a thing as being too late when it comes to climate change”. We suggest precisely that: his plan is too little, given that it has arrived so late.

New South Wales Water Minister takes hard line on buybacks
New South Wales took a hard line against any further water buybacks in the Murray-Darling Basin for the environment, at the water minister’s meeting in Sydney. NSW Water Minister Niall Blair says he is not apologising for a strong stand against any more “untargeted” buybacks of productive water, saying the state’s farmers and irrigators are hurting and the Basin Authority is not listening.

New plans announced for urban development, biodiversity, hazards and aquaculture
NEW ZEALAND – Environment Minister Nick Smith has outlined proposed new blueprints for urban development, aquaculture, biodiversity and natural hazards. Dr Smith today released the Government’s Programme of National Direction under the Resource Management Act… Along with the four new National Policy Statements – work which would be supported by funding of $20 million over the next four years that was included in this year’s Budget – new National Environmental Standards were being proposed for telecommunications facilities, plantation forestry, pest control, air quality and contaminated soils. National Policy Statements – blueprints used under the RMA to lay out nationwide environmental policies and objectives – have already been put in place for freshwater management, renewable energy generation, electricity transmission and coastal policy.

Built Environment

£100,000 electric-car loans on offer for Scottish businesses
A new £2.5 million fund will give Scottish businesses access to an interest-free loan of up to £100,000 for electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles.  The Electric Vehicle Loan, which also offers up to £50,000 for individual motorists, is open to anyone looking to buy a new electric or plug-in hybrid car or van. The loan is funded by the Scottish Government agency Transport Scotland, and can cover 100% of the cost of an electric car and be repaid over a period of up to six years.

L.A. to have more bike and bus lanes, less car lanes
Los Angeles, California, has caused a significant amount of environmental damage as it has expanded. It has seemed the iconic imagery and sense of opportunity that the city provides came with an inherent cost. But now the L.A. City Council has taken an impressive new approach, which looks set to change L.A. for very much the better, whilst also maintaining what has made it great. Leaders have endorsed sweeping changes to the arrangements of roads in the city, including some of its major boulevards, including adding more bike and bus lanes, and removing car lanes.

Glass Paint: Secret to Keeping Metal Roofs Cool on Sunny Days
New York and other cities see a climate fix in white paint, which is coating more rooftops as way to cool buildings and cut energy use. They may soon have another option: paint made of glass. Scientists have created a glass paint that can bounce sunlight off metal roofs and keep them at air temperature. This is no minor feat. The sun can heat metal surfaces so much that playground slides or stadium bleachers can become too hot to use.

Food Systems

Patumahoe colony caged chicken farm appeal date set
NEW ZEALAND – Craddock Farms has adjusted its proposal for one New Zealand’s largest colony-caged hen farms in Patumahoe by adding up to 120 10-metre-chimneys to its sheds. The Environment Court will hear the company’s proposal for a 310,000-chicken farm in the rural community on November 13, almost one year after Auckland Council held a limited-notification resource consent hearing on the case.

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