Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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A leaked final draft of a UN paper confirms that we’re not doing enough to reduce emissions and will likely exceed 1.5°C warming, in our top story today.  Don’t miss the article on palm oil also with a warning: sustainable palm oil may not be possible.  I am quite obsessive about avoiding palm oil by reading ingredients lists – this is an easy thing we can all do to help reduce demand.  Palm oil has more than 200 names but is most commonly called ‘vegetable oil’.  In better news, in the EU more divestment from fossil fuels due to climate risk, NZ finally declines a West Coast coal mining approval, and NSW is rolling out an extensive electric charging network.

Top Story

Exclusive: Global warming set to exceed 1.5°C, slow growth – U.N. draft | Reuters
Global warming is on course to exceed the most stringent goal set in the Paris agreement by around 2040, threatening economic growth, according to a draft report that is the U.N.’s starkest warning yet of the risks of climate change. Governments can still cap temperatures below the strict 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7° Fahrenheit) ceiling agreed in 2015 only with “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in the world economy, according to the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The final government draft, obtained by Reuters and dated June 4, is due for publication in October in South Korea after revisions and approval by governments.

Climate Change and Energy

‘Absolute rort’: Snowy Hydro seeks to expedite pilot 2.0 project nod | SMH
AUSTRALIA – Snowy Hydro, developer of the proposed multi-billion dollar pumped hydro scheme, has sought fast-tracked environmental approval for pilot works that would disturb 114 hectares of a national park and excavate about 750,000 cubic metres of rock. The company, now fully owned by the Commonwealth, is seeking to avoid having exploratory works related to the so-called Snowy 2.0 project declared a controlled action by the federal environment department, according to its lodged claim. Controlled actions involve closer environmental scrutiny and could delay the venture.

Environment and Biodiversity

‘Sustainable palm oil’ may not be so sustainable after all | ABC News
Vision of an orangutan seemingly under assault from heavy machinery in Indonesia went viral on social media last week, briefly putting the issue of illegal palm oil operations back in the spotlight. The footage, originally shot in 2014, shows the animal clambering to get away while an excavator pushes the lone tree it is sheltering in to the ground. The men who can be seen pursuing the animal were from International Animal Rescue (IAR) and the Agency for the Conservation of Natural Resources (BKSDA) and were attempting to sedate and capture the animal before relocating it.

Researchers found that poverty increased while access to healthcare per capita decreased in villages neighbouring certified and non-certified plantations. (Getty Images: Sutanta Aditya)

Researchers found that poverty increased while access to healthcare per capita decreased in villages neighbouring certified and non-certified plantations. (Getty Images: Sutanta Aditya)

Volgograd: how a dam on the mighty Volga almost killed off the caviar fish | The Conversation
RUSSIA – The floodlights will soon be turned on at the newly built Volgograd Arena for the first World Cup match to be held there, between England and Tunisia. But, as an expert in the illegal caviar trade, I know Volgograd because the energy powering those same floodlights will be generated by the nearby Volgograd HydroElectric Station. This is the largest hydro power plant in Europe, and a dam which has played a pivotal role in driving sturgeon – the source of the iconic Russian delicacy, black caviar – to the brink of extinction.

Belugas are classified as ‘critically endangered’. Shutterstock

Belugas are classified as ‘critically endangered’. Shutterstock

China and India’s border dispute is a slow-moving environmental disaster | The Conversation
Chinese and Indian competition on their shared Himalayan border is more likely to create a slow-moving environmental catastrophe than a quick military or nuclear disaster. The Himalayan plateau plays a crucial role in Asia. It generates the monsoonal rains and seasonal ice-melts that feed rivers and deliver nutrients to South, Southeast and East Asia. Almost half the world’s population and 20% of its economy depend on these rivers, and they are already threatened by climate change. China and India’s competition for their headwaters increases this threat.

Mozambique: the secret rainforest at the heart of an African volcano | The Guardian
MOZAMBIQUE – Standing in a pit in the red soil of a mountaintop forest in northern Mozambique, Dr Simon Willcock was dirty but very excited. “Undisturbed forest is incredibly rare,” he said. “That is why we scaled a 125-metre-tall cliff with a pickaxe.” Willcock, from Bangor University in Wales, knew of no other rainforest in Africa that scientists can confidently say has not been disturbed by humans. “It’s a unique site in Africa,” he said, plunging the axe down into the chest-deep hole with a whump.

Where have all our insects gone? | The Guardian
UK – The start of summer is the time of year when the nation’s insects should make their presence known by coating countryside windows with their fluttering presence, and splattering themselves on car windscreens. But they are spectacularly failing to do so. Instead they are making themselves newsworthy through their absence. Britain’s insects, it seems, are disappearing.

Faecal transplants ‘could save endangered koala’ | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – Scientists believe they have found a new weapon in the battle to save endangered species: faecal transplants. They say that by transferring faeces from the gut of one animal to another they could boost the health and viability of endangered creatures. In particular, they believe the prospects of saving the koala could be boosted this way.

First helicopter drops of cane toad sausages prompt design tweak | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Stinky sausages made of cane toad flesh have been scattered from helicopters in a wide-scale trial that researchers hope will give native animals a fighting chance. The sausages were air-dropped across a remote Kimberley cattle station just ahead of the cane toad frontline. They were developed as part of a taste aversion program to try to prevent native species like quolls from being killed by the toxic toads.

Stop UNESCO site grazing, DOC urged | newsroom
NEW ZEALAND – Earth Day in 2005 was a good one for conservation in New Zealand. Conservation Minister Chris Carter announced the Nature Heritage Fund had spent $3.2 million buying South Westland’s Landsborough Valley Station, which was added to Mt Aspiring National Park. “This purchase will resolve once and for all an ongoing problem of cattle grazing inside the national park and world heritage site,” Carter said, adding that the public would be able to enjoy it for generations to come.

Government declines controversial application for coal mine at Te Kuha |
NEW ZEALAND – A controversial application to mine coal on conservation land on the West Coast has been declined by the Government. The company behind the mining proposal said the announcement was “just another kick in the teeth” for the West Coast community, while environment groups have celebrated the decision as one “future generations of New Zealanders will be thankful for”.

Economy and Business

Legal & General divests from companies failing on climate change | Climate Action Programme
One of the Europe’s largest asset managers is taking strong action against global companies which aren’t doing enough to address climate change. London-based Legal & General, which has close to £1 trillion worth of assets under management, has released its latest assessment of how 84 global corporations are responding to the risks posed by climate change.

Australian firms told to catch up on climate change risk checks | The Guardian
Australian companies are not doing enough work to model the risks of climate change and how it will affect their profitability, a new report by a thinktank says. Progressive thinktank the Centre for Policy Development says that while most companies have committed to considering what climate change and the Paris climate agreement means for their business strategy, too few have begun using scenario analysis techniques to model what its impacts could be and how to respond to it.

McDonald’s to phase-out plastic straws in UK and Ireland | Climate Action Programme
UK – This could be the final straw. McDonald’s will bring forward plans to replace plastic straws with paper alternatives in all of its UK and Irish restaurants. The fast food chain made the announcement today, stating online “You asked. We listened”. From September, all 1,361 restaurants will be provided with paper straws, saving millions of tons of plastic.
Related: No plans to ditch McDonald’s straws here despite UK move | Radio New Zealand News

Politics and Society

‘Protection racket’: Royal Commission, senators to probe water woes | SMH
AUSTRALIA – The Murray-Darling Basin Authority has been accused of withholding information about how it manages the nation’s biggest river system as it resists disclosures to the Senate and a Royal Commission that gets underway on Monday. The authority, along with the Turnbull government, applied last week to have an injunction preventing officials from giving evidence at the South Australian Royal Commission. Former authority staffers are understood to have been told by the commission to seek legal advice before becoming witnesses.
Related: Plan to shrink lakes under Murray-Darling Basin Plan is ‘environmental vandalism’, whistleblower warns | ABC News

Mount Isa children continue to live with high levels of lead, alarming parents and experts | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Amita Chanaria and her 17-month-old daughter Myra have lived in Mount Isa for just two months. Already, the toddler has too much lead in her body. “I went two weeks back to get a normal check-up for my daughter … and they did a prick test and her levels came out to be 6.1 [micrograms of lead per decilitre of blood],” Ms Chanaria said. “I was a bit concerned and alarmed as well at the same time because I didn’t expect it to happen, not at all, within two months I don’t expect her lead levels to go high.”

Nats change tune on commission for climate change | Radio New Zealand News
NEW ZEALAND – The National Party has changed its tune on setting up a Climate Change Commission, but does not agree with all aspects of the government’s Zero Carbon Bill. Party leader Simon Bridges wrote to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Climate Change Minister James Shaw offering to take a bipartisan approach to climate change policy. The government has set up an interim Climate Change Commission and is consulting on its Zero Carbon Bill.

Built Environment

How hot is your neighbourhood? Areas of Perth feel the heat as tree canopies dwindle | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – The average ground temperatures of different areas of Perth can vary by as much as 9 degrees Celsius, and tree canopy levels have a big influence on how hot your suburb feels. But local councils warn an increasing pressure to comply with strict infill development targets is putting canopy levels at risk, and potentially turning up the heat as a consequence.

Tritium tapped as NRMA rolls out NSW EV fast-charge network | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – More good news for Australian electric vehicle enthusiasts this week, as the NRMA kicks off the roll-out of a $10 million EV fast-charging network across New South Wales and the ACT. NRMA said on Friday it had begun work on a planned DC charging network, first announced last October, after tapping Brisbane-based company Tritium to supply the hardware for the job. The deal will see Tritium’s award-winning Veefil-RT 50kW fast chargers installed at at least 40 publicly-accessible sites, to ensure that 95 per cent of NSW/ACT EV journeys are within 150km of a fast charge.