Sustainable Development News

Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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Energy and Climate Change

Jury in on climate change, so stop using arguments of convenience and listen to experts
As a Nobel Prize winner, I travel the world meeting all kinds of people. Most of the policy, business and political leaders I meet immediately apologise for their lack of knowledge of science. Except when it comes to climate science. Whenever this subject comes up, it never ceases to amaze me how each person I meet suddenly becomes an expert. Facts are then bandied to fit an argument for or against climate change, and on all sides, misconceptions abound.

Environment and Biodiversity

Coalition Files Lawsuit to Block New Herbicide Combo
A coalition of environmental groups and farmers is trying to stay the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s October 2014 decision to approve Enlist Duo, a powerful new herbicide. Enlist Duo is a combination of 2,4-D and glyphosate, and it’s approved to be used on genetically modified (GMO) crops in six Midwestern states. Enlist Duo approval is expected to expand to 10 other states. The coalition argues that the EPA violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by not consulting with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service about the impact of Enlist Duo on two endangered species in those six Midwestern states, the whooping crane and the Indiana bat.

[Ed: I can’t resist a comment: I thought one of the major benefits of genetically modified crops was disease resistance, which begs the question, why is such a strong herbicide required?]

Economy and Business

Young farmers take to the online picket line to protect the Liverpool Plains from Shenhua Watermark Coal Mine SAUDI ARABIA – GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] countries are increasingly looking to sustainable and environmentally responsible developments as the region’s construction sector booms on the back of social infrastructure spending, according to industry experts.  Overall, as much as $2.87 trillion worth of projects are in the design, bid or construction stage in the GCC up to 2025, according to Zawya Projects data, with $1.53 trillion worth of real-estate projects under construction.   According to a report by Ventures Middle East, “GCC Focus on Sustainability in Construction,” GCC governments have acted swiftly in the past three years to embrace sustainable construction through education and legislation, creating business demand for “green” development.  Increased spending on social infrastructure and efforts to improve living standards and use outdoor space more effectively are also driving the construction market and boosting outdoor projects, according to regional experts.

Shell chief calls for climate action, but what are the firm’s motives?
In a speech last Thursday at International Petroleum Week – one of the biggest events on the industry’s calendar – Ben van Beurden, chief executive of Royal Dutch Shell, argued that big energy companies have not been assertive enough in the global warming debate and that they must advocate more strongly for climate action in the lead-up to the Paris Climate conference later this year. He argued that: The outcome of the political process is uncertain, but the trends behind it are unmistakable. Even more than the oil price, these trends will shape the future of the industry over the coming decades. For a sustainable energy future, we need a more balanced debate. Is he seeking to build industry momentum to come to terms with climate science? Is his speech a reflection of growing tendency for oil and gas companies publicly to point the finger at coal producers? Or is Shell positioning itself to tap into the lucrative business to be made from the deleterious effects of climate change?

BP predicts emissions rise of 25 per cent by 2035
BP’s chief executive has urged governments to set a global price on carbon, as the company predicted that, without drastic action, greenhouse gas emissions will rise 25 per cent by 2035. The company’s latest annual Energy Outlook 2035, unveiled today, placed environmental issues among the top three challenges that the global energy market is expecting to face over the next two decades. In particular, BP detailed how global emissions are expected to rise sharply over the next 20 years to a level that is incompatible with the global goal to limit temperature rises to no more than 2C.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Biofuel from trash could create green jobs bonanza, says report
Creating biofuels from waste produced by industry, farms, and households could generate 36,000 jobs in the UK and save around 37m tonnes of oil use annually by 2030, according to a new report. Across Europe, hundreds of thousands of new jobs could be created by using these ‘advanced biofuels’, which could replace 16% of the continent’s road transport fuel by the same year, the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) study said. But the gains will not come without ambitious policy to promote advanced biofuels, it warned.

Politics and Society

Geoengineering is no place for corporate profit making
“Save the world and make a little cash on the side.” That’s the motto of Russ George, the colourful entrepreneur behind Planktos Science who wants to put geoengineering into practice now. George is convinced that by adding iron sulphate to the oceans, he can stimulate plankton blooms and so suck enough carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to offset human emissions from burning coal and oil. In 2007, backed by a Canadian real estate developer, the Planktos ship set sail from San Francisco bound for the Galapagos Islands and loaded up with iron sulphate. George was going to make a killing by selling carbon offsets to whoever wanted them.

Sustainable and Seductive Architecture in Fire Island: Horace Gifford’s Legacy
Fire Island has long been known as a summer getaway for New Yorkers, who flock to the 30-mile-long, quarter-mile-wide sand bar that protects Long Island from the Atlantic Ocean. But this string of villages and resorts 50 miles away from New York City also became a laboratory for modern and experimental architecture. Many of the homes included sustainable and passive design features before those terms became part of our vocabulary. One talented architect, whose work until recently was largely forgotten, not only has left a lasting impact for his ideas on how homes could be sustainable, but also had a leading role in gay culture during what now are often seen as the halcyon days bookended by Stonewall and the 1980s AIDS crisis.

Built Environment

Open-source software aims to change game for smart facades
Facades are major determinants of building performance, however they can be a battleground for designers, engineers and clients to ensure great ideas are also compliant with Section J of the Building Code of Australia, which sets out requirements for building thermal efficiency. Where outcomes don’t meet thermal performance standards, variations mean innovation often becomes a casualty. InEnergy, a new open-source software tool engineered by Inhabit Group, aims to prevent the dumbing down of designs and assist clients and designers to achieve higher performance outcomes without adding to costs.

Food Systems

Drought adds urgency to irrigation and storage plans
Drought throughout much of the South Island and dry conditions in parts of the North look set to add urgency to water storage and irrigation schemes that are either underway or on the drawing board. ANZ estimates the current dry spell will shave at least 0.5 per cent off GDP growth… Irrigation NZ, which represents irrigators and the companies that support the industry, said water was starting to become an issue for Marlborough, which produces 73 per cent of New Zealand’s wine. “Dry conditions in Marlborough are only worsening and, like South Canterbury, this highlights the need for sustainable water storage solutions in susceptible areas so that in a bad year no one has their water cut off,” Curtis said.


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