Sustainable Development News

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

Human toll of pollution: WHO says 12.6m die from unhealthy environments each year
Geneva: The World Health Organisation has put a number on the people estimated to have died as a result of living or working in an unhealthy environment and it’s big -12.6 million. That number represents one in four of all deaths globally and underscores the devastating impact of the chemicals and waste we’ve been putting into the air, water and earth since the end of World War II.

Rescuers spray hydrogen peroxide at the site of a chemical warehouse explosion in Tianjin, China, in August. From that 170 people were killed. Photo: Getty Images

Rescuers spray hydrogen peroxide at the site of a chemical warehouse explosion in Tianjin, China, in August. From that 170 people were killed. Photo: Getty Images

Energy and Climate Change

Doubling global renewables by 2030 could save $4.2tn – research
Doubling the share of renewables in the global energy mix to 36% by 2030 could save the world economy up to $4.2tn a year, research by the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena) showed on Wednesday.

How Cheap Oil Is Accelerating Investment In Sustainable Energy
An increasingly unprofitable global oil market is driving fuel prices to historic lows and hemorrhaging investment in conventional energy sources. Breaking with tradition, cheap oil no longer foretells disaster for renewable energy companies. On the contrary, disillusioned fossil fuel investors are seeking high-growth opportunities—just in time to ride the renewables wave in the wake of the 2015 Paris climate talks.

What will shake Malcolm Turnbull from his climate coma?
AUSTRALIA – First, the good news. According to the International Energy Agency, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions stayed flat for the second year in a row in 2015 – a clear sign that the nexus between economic growth and increasing energy emissions has been broken… But here’s the bad news. While the world’s two biggest emitters are managing to bring their energy emissions under control, those of Australia are continuing to soar – by around 4.5 per cent since the Coalition government dumped the carbon price nearly two years ago.

Al Gore urges world leaders to sign Paris climate deal
Segolene Royal, France’s environment minister who recently took over as chair of the UN-led climate negotiations, has said that between 80 and 100 countries are expected to sign the agreement in New York on 22 April. The agreement is due to take effect in 2020, but requires at least 55 countries representing at least 55 percent of global emissions to ratify it first.

Environment and Biodiversity

Indonesia offers a cool million to whoever can help take the heat off its peatlands
Indonesia wants to restore its peatlands, which are important for biomass production, water supply, carbon storage and biodiversity conservation. But first it needs to know the extent and depth of its peatlands.  In early February, the Indonesian government, in partnership with the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, announced the Indonesian Peat Prize, a million-dollar competition to find an accurate and fast way to do this. Never before has mapping soil been so attractive. Eager mappers around the world are seeking collaboration with Indonesian counterparts to enter the competition.

These Rare Birds Are Being Slaughtered for Their ‘Ivory’
The helmeted hornbill is a huge, cackling bird native to the tropical forests of Southeast Asia. It has a wrinkly, featherless neck and a long, black-and-white banded tail. Atop its short spike of a bill is the “helmet”—a solid wedge of keratin (the same material that makes up your fingernails) called a casque. That wedge, which male hornbills use for head-to-head airborne combat, may be their undoing.

Methane-eating bacteria could reduce the impact of our big appetite for fish
A California-based company has been busy working on a non-animal, non-vegetable feed for fish farms made using a bacterium called methylococcus. It may not sound like something edible but when placed in fermentation tanks and fed methane, before being spun at high speed to remove the water, it creates dried pellets that prove appetising for fish.

Drought and rising temperatures ‘leaves 36m people across Africa facing hunger’
More than 36 million people face hunger across southern and eastern Africa, the United Nations has warned, as swaths of the continent grapple with the worst drought in decades at a time of record high temperatures.

Sam Judd: Should we import foreign bugs to help our environment?
NEW ZEALAND – New Zealand has a rather embarrassing history of bringing things into our country that are intended to help us, but end up being a hindrance… But now, we are again seeing plans to introduce controls to help our environment. A proposal to introduce dung beetles to reduce the harm of farm effluent, has had the green light and yesterday, the Te Ao Turoa Environment Centre in the Manawatu began to release them onto farms with funding from the Manawatū River Leaders’ Forum.

Economy and Business

Avery Dennison RFID Labels Improve Efficiency and Cut Waste in Apparel Industry
Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology is transforming both consumers’ shopping carts and companies’ supply chains by allowing intelligent barcodes to talk to a networked system that tracks products from Point A to Point Z.

GE, Cisco bank on smart lighting going mainstream
In mid-February, General Electric’s newly minted Current division scored a massive contract to install smart LED lighting across every single one of banking giant JPMorgan Chase’s 5,000 U.S. branch offices. After it is completed, the project could cut energy consumption across the bank’s facilities in half.

Coca-Cola, Starbucks join Beijing emissions trading system
Coca-Cola and Starbucks have joined Beijing’s emissions trading scheme, according to an announcement by the Chinese capital’s government. Shell Tongyi Petrochemical and Siemens China have also entered the city’s cap-and-trade system which will cover their Beijing-based carbon emissions.

Renewable power makes business sense: Bloomberg joins RE100
Bloomberg L.P., the global financial software, data and media company, has joined RE100 and set an ambitious goal to use 100% renewable electricity by 2025. Bloomberg’s commitment furthers the company’s ongoing efforts to prove that sustainable business practices are good for the environment and good for business.

How energy economics could help electrify public transit
At the December climate talks in Paris, it was noted that, in the absence of significant changes, the transportation sector is on track to become the fastest growing industrial contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions. However, the transportation sector continues to face serious challenges in curbing emissions. Although effective strategies for reducing transportation emissions exist, they have been difficult to advance, largely because of costs.

Irrigators are Canterbury’s biggest rule-breakers
NEW ZEALAND – Nearly one in five monitored consent holders with permission to take water in Canterbury were significantly breaking the rules, according to figures from the regional council. After an unusually dry season in which river flows dropped significantly, it has emerged hundreds were caught breaching their resource consents for taking water. Many were either taking too much water, or taking water during a restricted period.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Turning plastic waste into housing
Ahead of his “material transformation” presentation at the upcoming Green Cities conference, HASSELL principal Ken McBryde describes a novel solution to the waste and housing crises.

Trending: New Materials, Traceability Could Help Mould Circular Economy for Plastics
With the opportunity to curb over $80 billion in annually industry losses, a circular economy for plastics seems pretty appealing. Several projects in Europe are working to make this happen: Earlier this month, Sustainable Brands covered a collaborative effort between the cities of London, Amsterdam and Copenhagen to improve plastics capture, but companies, non-profits and research centres are also working together to improve traceability and create new materials to help facilitate the transition to a circular economy for plastics.

Politics and Society

Denmark the ‘happiest country’ and Burundi ‘the least happy’
Denmark is the world’s happiest country while Burundi is the least happy, according to a new survey. The fourth World Happiness Report also found that countries where there was less inequality were happier overall. Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Finland, which like Denmark have strong social security systems, made up the rest of the top five.
See also: Australia among the world’s happiest countries: report

‘I wasn’t contributing anything to saving our beautiful planet’: from consumer magazine editor to frog conservationist
No longer happy working in media and advertising, Mea Trenor gave it all up to go back to school for zoology. Now she’s racing to save an endangered frog from extinction – if only she can find it first.

IMAX and UNEP launch environmental film campaign
IMAX Corporation, the Canadian-US theatre giant, launched an ambitious corporate social responsibility initiative on Wednesday in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme. The #IMAXBigPicture campaign is designed to leverage the power of film to promote awareness and understanding of environmental issues and encourage people to live more sustainable lifestyles

SeaWorld to End Controversial Orca Shows and Breeding
As Tilikum lies dying in a tank in Orlando, SeaWorld made a major announcement Thursday: After several years of pressure from activists and the public, the company will end its orca breeding and theatrical shows programs.

Conservation Kids NZ make Marlborough Sounds adventure possible for Synergy Youth
NEW ZEALAND – A group of children and their mentors will have the chance to see dolphins, seals and native birds after being chosen to go on a conservation trip in the Marlborough Sounds… The trip will be guided by Conservation Kids founder Tash Luxton, who will use her knowledge of the area to educate the children “We are firm believers that inspiring children to take action for conservation is achieved by first providing that important connection,” Tash says.

Report on scaling up private investment in rooftop solar unveiled in India
NEW DELHI: A report titled Scaling Up Private Investment in Rooftop Solar was launched today by Piyush Goyal, Minister of State with Independent Charge for Power, Coal, New and Renewable Energy. The product of an in-depth study by the Solar Rooftop Policy Coalition… the report looks at ways to increase private investment in rooftop solar in India.

Climate change a vote-changer at federal election, says poll
Almost half of Australian voters say policies on climate change, renewable energy and the Great Barrier Reef will influence the way they vote at the next federal election, according to new polling shared exclusively with Guardian Australia.

Queensland to introduce new vegetation laws to stop land clearing
AUSTRALIA – The Queensland Government is set to introduce laws it says will stop “skyrocketing” tree-clearing rates in the state. Deputy Premier Jackie Trad said the laws would close “loopholes” created by the Newman government. The previous government relaxed rules in its changes to the Vegetation Management Act, allowing the clearing of native vegetation for high-value agriculture projects. It also introduced a series of self-assessable codes for landholders to manage clearing in certain areas.

Mary Robinson: ‘climate justice’ must play a key role in the Paris Agreement
In 2011 in Durban, South Africa, a new negotiating group was established to begin deliberations on a climate agreement to begin after 2020. At that time, “climate justice” sat squarely in the remit of non-governmental organisations but was not used in official discussions. Four years later, at the Paris climate conference, the call for climate justice was brought inside the walls of the negotiations. It is even included in the preamble to the official Paris Agreement.

A ‘budget for the next generation’ can’t ignore climate change
“Doing the right thing for the next generation is what the government and this budget is about,” chancellor George Osborne told parliament on Wednesday. “I am not prepared to look back at my time here in this parliament, doing this job andsay to my children’s generation: I’m sorry. We knew there was a problem … but we ducked the difficult decisions and we did nothing.” However, despite rising global temperatures now shattering all records, the issue of climate change did not get a single mention in his speech. Worse than the missing words, the budget did almost nothing to support the clean energy economy the UK needs to develop for the 21st century, and did a lot to block it.

Budget sets out plastic and glass recycling targets
UK – New packaging targets for plastic and glass have been confirmed by Chancellor George Osborne (pictured) in this year’s Budget. In the Budget documents, the Government revealed that the existing packaging target for plastic will be reduced to 49% in 2016 and then increased each year to 2020 to 57%.

Built Environment

Getting green in the ground – and on the roofs and walls
AUSTRALIA – While consulting arborists and tree growers are finding their industry is expanding, Stephen Fitzgerald, Director of Arboriculture Pty Ltd, says there is still some way to go in terms of planning, architecture and even engineering treating trees as a normal part of the built environment.


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