Sustainable Development News

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

The Nice attack and the corrosive effects of anxiety
The sickening carnage in Nice has become all too familiar and seemingly impossible to counter. It is unclear exactly who carried out the attack or what their motives were at this stage. Various government ministers in France have been lining up to declare “war” on the perpetrators. But given the seemingly endless supply of young men and occasionally even young women prepared to blow themselves up in the name of a cause, the chances of dealing effectively with the problem of homegrown radicals look increasingly implausible.

Energy and Climate Change

Clean energy investment in 2016 undershoots last year’s record
Investment slowdowns in China and Japan, as well as further reduction in the cost of solar, mean 2016 investment will fall well short of 2015’s upwardly revised $348.5bn.

Clean energy continues to grow as emissions decline
Americans are using less electricity as buildings become more energy-efficient and industrial power demand weakens, and a new report says that is leading to three trends: Declining carbon dioxide emissions, low electric power prices and the decline of coal, which has until recently been the primary fuel used to produce electricity.

Environment and Biodiversity

You scratch my back… the beneficial (and not so beneficial) relationships between organisms
To call someone a “parasite” is an insult. But the word has rather a different meaning in biology. Etymologically speaking, the earliest known record of the word parasite in the English language was in 1539, when it was defined as “a hanger-on, a toady, a person who lives on others”. The word itself was derived from the Greek parasitos, meaning “a person who eats at the table of another”. The social use appears to precede the scientific use, which was first recorded in 1646 as “an animal or plant that lives on others”. Parasite might trigger distant memories of school lessons about fleas and tapeworms. But is this view accurate? As with most things in life, the answer is not as straightforward as it first appears.

How is the unpredictable weather affecting our wildlife?
UK – It’s not exactly been a scorching start to the season – less of a “barbeque summer” and more of a “dodge the downpours” kind of summer – so extreme heat and drought is one thing our butterflies and birds haven’t had to cope with. The weather so far this year has been at the other end of the scale. Spring took a long time to get going with temperatures generally below average and snow falling in April. The start to summer has also been less than typical, with June being a washout for many parts of the UK. Together with last year’s cold, wet summer it could indicate problems for some of our insect populations.

Seized Ivory May Have Come From as Many as 140 Poached Elephants
Tanzanian authorities announced on Monday that they had seized 1.4 tons of elephant tusks and arrested a group of major international ivory dealers in Dar es Salaam, the country’s largest city… According to Elisifa Ngowi, the head of the NTSCIU task force, the tusks had been cut into 660 pieces, and suspects in custody allegedly revealed that the ivory was being readied for export to Vietnam and China.

Possum blitz still needed for TB wipeout
NEW ZEALAND – Eradicating bovine tuberculosis (TB) will require keeping possums at low numbers for at least a 10-year stretch in large bush areas, says retiring New Zealand TB management leader Dr Paul Livingstone. The veterinary scientist who has led research at Ospri, the government and industry-funded organisation which manages the TBfree programme, and at its predecessor the Animal Health Board, said just 30-odd years ago bovine TB was so prevalent the only hope was to control it, but now eradication could be seriously considered.

Economy and Business

Clean energy won’t save us – only a new economic system can do that (Opinion)
With… extreme events becoming more commonplace, few deny climate change any longer. Finally, a consensus is crystallising around one all-important fact: fossil fuels are killing us. We need to switch to clean energy, and fast. This growing awareness about the dangers of fossil fuels represents a crucial shift in our consciousness. But I can’t help but fear we’ve missed the point. As important as clean energy might be, the science is clear: it won’t save us from climate change.

How Volkswagen is using tried-and-tested tactics to avoid paying compensation
Volkswagen Group has so far paid a high price for admitting it knowingly sold diesel model cars designed to manipulate emissions tests. It has felt the wrath of shareholders, suffered its largest ever annual loss and been forced into an US$15 billion restitution settlement in the United States. By insisting that restitution will only be offered to consumers in the US and Canada, Volkswagen has adopted a crisis management strategy used by a raft of multinational companies that could see Australian consumers miss out.

Target Highlights Successes, Shortcomings in Ongoing Sustainability Journey
In 2015, Target wrapped up its five-year goals and built the foundation for the future of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practice, which is to make wellness a way of life; pursue sustainability for products and business operations; champion a more inclusive society; and invest and engage in their communities. Summarizing their progress and capturing important projects and milestones, Target’s 2015 Corporate Social Responsibility Report was released this week.

Shades of grey in stand-off over super emissions
Being seen to be a responsible company has become big business, both financially and reputation-wise. Last month the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) released a report revealing that 71 cents in every dollar invested in ASX200 stocks goes into companies shown as reporting on ESG [environmental, social and governance] to a “leading standard”. ACSI, whose members include super funds and asset managers that manage a combined $450 billion of 8 million members’ retirement savings, has been reporting on environmental, social and corporate governance for nine years. It is part of a growing push by the public to have greater access to what is going on inside companies.

Fixing fashion: Remaking the way we make clothes (Book Exerpt)
..Certainly a handful of ateliers remains in pockets of old world Europe; but these are staffed by either very old craftspeople or an elite class of younger artisans working within the very small world that is haute couture. But for the most part, the service-dominated post-industrial age of globalization, and business’s often-blind drive to achieve scale and efficiency, have killed much that was once creative in our everyday lives.

Politics and Society

Oldest Park Ranger Overcomes Assault, Embraces History
Betty Reid Soskin, the oldest full-time national park ranger in the United States, is two months shy of her 95th birthday. The National Park Service itself is only five years older than that. For the last 10 years, Soskin has served as an interpretive ranger at the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park in Redmond, California, where you’d get little argument that she is the most beloved and sought-after park ranger. But on June 27, an intruder broke into her home in Richmond, California, and punched her several times.

Betty Reid Soskin poses for a portrait at the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park in 2013.

Betty Reid Soskin poses for a portrait at the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park in 2013.
Photograph by Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

From food supplies to coastal defences, the UK is ill-prepared
It is written like a school report – “could try harder” – although the phrase that recurs through the UK Climate Change Assessment released last week is “more action needed”. Subjects like flooding and soil loss need “new stronger or different government policies” to deal with them. But that is not all. There are a significant number of new problems being caused by the already-changing weather patterns and warming climate that are “research priorities” because no one yet knows enough about them to form a response. Among these are risks to food supply and some forest trees dying from drought and heat.

Abolition of Decc ‘major setback for UK’s climate change efforts’
The abolition of the Department of Energy and Climate Change has been condemned by former ministers as a major setback to British efforts to combat global warming. Decc was closed in a series of sweeping changes to the government unveiled by the new prime minister, Theresa May, on Thursday. Its functions, which include representing the UK at international climate talks, responsibility for meeting carbon targets and levying subsidies for green energy, have been transferred to a beefed-up business department led by Greg Clark.

Indonesia’s energy, agriculture targets could undermine its climate goals: report
Indonesia will have to address a number of inconsistencies between its climate policies and some of its sector development plans if it wants to cut emissions in line with its commitments, according to a new report on the implementation of REDD+ in the country.

What are New Zealand’s environmental priorities over the next 20 years?
By the end of the year the Government will have a “road map” of what New Zealand’s environmental research priorities should be. The 20-year vision would be politically neutral and help the Government make “sensible decisions” using science, said the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor Sir Peter Gluckman. A discussion document released on Friday outlines the issues, such as climate change and protecting native species, for the public to voice their opinions on.

Climate change needs to be treated with more urgency, says scientist
A leading climate scientist has welcomed a new 20-year Government “roadmap” that singles out climate change as an environmental research priority for New Zealand. But Dr James Renwick, of Victoria University of Wellington, argues the issue could have been treated with much more urgency in the discussion document, which is now out for consultation.

Built Environment

European Commission set to establish post-2020 transport efficiency standards
Plans outlined in a leaked draft document from the European Commission (EC) to introduce efficiency standards for new cars, vans and trucks by the mid-2020s has been lauded as a “step in the right direction” by Transport & Environment (T&E).

Welcome to Tesla Town: the new Melbourne suburb with a Powerwall in every home
Less than six months after Australia received its first shipment of Tesla Powerwalls, plans for what could be the world’s first “Tesla town” – a mini-suburb on the outskirts of the Melbourne CBD whose new-build homes will include rooftop solar and Tesla battery storage as standard design features – are being unveiled by local property group Glenvill, as the green development’s first 60 homes go on sale this week.

Food Systems

The horticultural potential of Taranaki without dairy
NEW ZEALAND – Ursula Bil-Teitink desperately needs more locals growing fresh fruit and vegetables for her to sell. As Taranaki’s representative of newly established national food distributor, Ooooby (out of our own backyard) she home delivers boxes of fresh vegetables and fruit in North Taranaki but can’t keep up with demand. Her aim is to source produce locally, but so far she only has two registered growers in Taranaki.

Huge cacao plantation in Peru illegally developed on forest-zoned land
A massive cacao plantation in the Amazon rainforest of northern Peru has been dealt another legality blow. Researchers say that the vast majority of the operation is situated on land officially zoned for forest, not agriculture, making plantation activity there illegal. The seven-square-mile plantation has been at the center of heated disputes between conservationists and United Cacao, the company operating the plantation (under subsidiary Cacao del Peru Norte).


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