Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
If you like what you see, you are welcome to sign up (on the right) for free sustainable development news delivered direct to your inbox each weekday morning.

Top Story

Rapid switch to renewable energy can put Paris climate goals within reach
Countries can deliver on the promises of the historic Paris climate change agreement by rapid scaling up wind and solar power to 36% of the global energy mix by 2030, an international energy gathering will be told on Saturday. The International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) meeting in Abu Dhabi – the first major global gathering since Paris – is seen as an important test of countries’ readiness to put those plans into action.

Energy and Climate Change

Doubling of renewables will add $A1.9 trillion to global economy by 2030
ABU DHABI – A doubling in the world-wide deployment of renewable energy could deliver $A1.9 trillion of economic benefits by 2030, and could boost the economies of major fossil fuel exporters such as Australia, according to a major new report. A detailed study by the International Renewable Energy Agency says that a doubling in renewable energy around the world to 36 per cent of electricity by 2030 would not just get the world halfway to its climate goals – as it suggested in a separate study last year – it would also deliver substantial benefits elsewhere.

Paris climate deal offers flame of hope, says UN official
The Paris climate agreement kindled “a huge flame of hope”, establishing a new model of 21st-century diplomacy, the woman behind the deal has declared. In her first public reflections on the climate accord signed in December, Christiana Figueres, the UN climate change official, said that after two decades of meandering negotiations, countries had at last discovered their “higher purpose” and risen to the challenge of dealing with global warming.

Why Does So Much U.S. Coal Come from Federal Land?
By hitting “pause” on granting new federal coal leases, the Obama administration is facing up to an uncomfortable reality in its drive to meet climate targets: Nearly 41 percent of American coal comes from government-owned land. The price industry pays to mine that coal hasn’t changed in more than 30 years. Now, the Interior Department plans for the first time to factor impacts on the environment and human health into the deal.

Environment and Biodiversity

Marine protected areas around the world do not support corals and fish: researchers
Marine protected areas around the world are failing to protect most of the evolutionary diversity of the world’s coral and fish, a new study has found… Focusing on 805 species of coral and 450 species of labrid fish, the team, which included scientists from James Cook University, Queensland, and Université de Montpellier in France, calculated how much of the species’ geographic range was covered by the marine protected area network.

Number of England’s marine conservation zones nearly doubles
Seahorses, stalked jellyfish, dolphins and seagrass meadows are among the marine wildlife gaining better protection with the announcement of 23 new marine conservation zones (MCZ) by the government on Sunday. However, a leading expert criticised the MCZs as useless “paper parks” that offer no real protection from the dredging and trawling that has devastated large areas of England’s seas for decades.  The 23 new zones stretch from the coast of Northumberland down to Land’s End and include Europe’s longest chalk reef off Cromer in Norfolk.

Upper Hunter farmers praise results of four year soil improvement program
A group of Upper Hunter farmers are reaping the rewards of carbon-enriched soils.  17 landholders across the region participated in a four-year project, funded by Rio Tinto, investigating techniques to boost soil fertility. Methods such as rotational grazing were used, with results showing an average carbon increase in the top soil layer of almost 12 per cent. Merriwa farmer Kim Fenley participated in the trial and said he is surprised by the outcome.

Young people, supported by the tourism industry, lead charge for water quality
NEW ZEALAND – A group of young Kiwis, backed by the nearly $12 billion tourism industry, are winding their way down the country to expose the state of New Zealand’s deteriorating waterways. They are collecting stories and memories about rivers and lakes from ordinary New Zealanders, and releasing the subsequent short films online… They will also gather support for their petition, which urges the government to enshrine a standard of swimmable, not wadeable, rivers into legislation.

Economy and Business

Corporate leaders still in denial on climate change
Too many people in the corporate sector are still in denial about climate change, according to Katherine Garrett-Cox, the CEO of investment firm Alliance Trust.  Speaking at a Guardian Sustainable Business debate on the role of business in tackling climate change, Garrett-Cox, herself an outspoken advocate on the issue, said: “Within the last 12 months, I’ve had conversations with CEOs of major corporates in Europe and they just say, ‘It’s not real, it’s not something I should be bothered about’.” It is “scary” how little discussion there is at boardroom level about whether climate change is a risk at all, she added.

London is the global hub for green finance says UNEP
London is a global hub in the fast-growing green finance arena, according to a new report released on Thursday by the UN Environment Programme. The report comes as policymakers and financial institutions are focusing on how to mobilise the required capital to implement the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change which were agreed last year.

Flagship plan to rescue flood-hit home owners already looks out of its depth
UK – From April 2016, Flood Re will come into operation. It is a private reinsurer, created with legislative support, which will allow insurance companies to surrender the highest risks. Flood Re will allow affordable insurance for those living in vulnerable areas. In the short term, it will be funded by collecting a levy on insurers operating in the market, estimated at around £10 per house insured per year.

Waste and the Circular Economy

New report on EU remanufacturing shows untapped potential
A new report from the European Remanufacturing Network (ERN) has presented an outlook for remanufacturing across the EU. The topline figures present a fairly familiar story. Remanufacturing is profitable in many industries, provides skilled employment, and saves resource and energy use – but remains undervauled and underused. Through interviews and research, the authors of Remanufacturing Market Study have gathered detailed data on the current level of remanufacturing in the EU, across nine key sectors including aerospace, medical equipment, electronics, furniture and rail. The study reveals economic value, employment figures and approximate carbon benefits. The hope is that this will lead to increased understanding and remanufacturing intensity in Europe.

Glenelg wastewater ‘too expensive’ to be reused, high costs result in wastage, Opposition says
AUSTRALIA – Too much wastewater is being let out to sea because the cost of reusing it is too high, South Australia’s Liberal Opposition says. Figures have revealed the Glenelg wastewater treatment plant has been pumping most water out to sea with only a small percentage being piped to parklands and other facilities for reuse. Opposition water spokesman Tim Whetstone said more councils would use the recycled water if it was more affordable.

Politics and Society

Shock figures to reveal deadly toll of global air pollution
The World Health Organisation has issued a stark new warning about deadly levels of pollution in many of the world’s biggest cities, claiming poor air quality is killing millions and threatening to overwhelm health services across the globe. Before the release next month of figures that will show air pollution has worsened since 2014 in hundreds of already blighted urban areas, the WHO says there is now a global “public health emergency” that will have untold financial implications for governments.

The Key to Achieving the SDGs? Transform the Global Goals Into Local Goals
The 17 Global Goals may seem abstract but they are anything but. They relate to our air, fire, earth and water in very concrete terms. They reference worldwide priorities but also serve as guidance on a national and local level. Here in The Netherlands, for example, we’ve been called upon to work actively to sustainable energy, protection of biodiversity, reduce food wastage, stimulate responsible procurement policy, reduce pollution impact of cities, etc. The SDGs can be read as an election program for a party yet to be founded, with a clearly defined 15-year time frame.

Tim Grafton: Take long view of risk management
Managing risk matters. It’s something our bodies do well. We sweat instinctively to cool the body when we exercise. Our “sixth sense” tells us to avoid threatening animals. What we don’t do well is manage those things that occur very infrequently. We tell ourselves “it could never happen to me”. Think earthquake and floods. Imagine if there were 100 independent risks with a once in 10,000 years probability that any one of them would happen to you. You might well think none will ever happen, but you would be wrong. You should expect one of those to happen to you if you live 100 years.

Protesters hold ‘funeral’ for heritage trees felled to make way for Sydney’s light-rail project
About 150 protesters have gathered on the edge of Sydney’s Centennial Park to mourn the loss of more than 60 heritage trees felled by Transport for NSW contractors last week. The trees, which ran along the edge of Alison Road and Anzac Parade in Randwick, were removed to make way for the $2.1 billion City-South East light-rail project. A minute’s silence was held for the trees, some of which protesters say were more than 100 years old.

What’s left in the wake of South Africa’s abandoned gold mines
The name is derived from “happy prospect” in Afrikaans, and once upon a time, life and the gold haul were both good at the Blyvooruitzicht Gold Mine, 50 miles west of Johannesburg. But two years after the mine’s owners abandoned it because it was unprofitable, sewage runs in the streets of the old mining village, tailings impoundments cover nearby towns in dust and illegal miners rule the abandoned shafts.

Built Environment

Defying the ‘one-hour rule’ for city travel, traffic modelling drives policy madness
Most mathematical modelling used to guide our economy is simplified and only modified when it becomes so out of touch that it is dangerous. When the Atlantic cod fishery collapsed the model being used to set fishing quotas was still suggesting the fishery was healthy. In retrospect it seems a kind of madness to have kept using it. Traffic modelling in Australia is now similarly out of touch. A recent study by the Bureau of Transport Industry and Resource Economics modelled the future of traffic in Australian cities. If it had been a mere academic study it would not be dangerous, but it is now being used to justify massive road spending.

Push for air tightness standards as CSIRO uncovers poor new build performance
Close to half of 129 new homes tested for air tightness across Australia’s capital cities have returned poor results, a new CSIRO study has shown, with the body recommending minimum air tightness standards be set in the National Construction Code. Almost half of the houses tested scored above 15 air changes an hour at 50 Pascals pressure (15 ACH@50Pa), which is considered the upper limit for a newly constructed house in Australia, according to the CSIRO’s House Energy Efficiency Inspections Project.

British and Chinese firms agree landmark zero-carbon homes deal
Up to 8,000 zero-carbon homes are set to be built in the UK thanks to a £1.1bn deal between UK solar developers WElink Energy and British Solar Renewables (BSR) and the China National Building Materials Group (CNBM).

Food Systems

Food Waste the Elephant in the Room for the Hospitality Industry
When I get to share what we at LightBlue do to help hotels to address their Food Excess issue, people often ask: “What, do you get hotels to reduce the variety of food?” or “you can’t force people to finish their plates, can you?” The answer is a clear no – we cannot and will not do that, as guest satisfaction and brand standard are central in every improvement offered to our partners. However, we realized that by implementing a food excess monitoring system with clear categories (spoilage waste, preparation waste, buffet waste and customer plate waste), we’ve been able to help properties reduce their food waste by 45 percent.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.