Sustainable Development News

Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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Australia lobbies Unesco to stop it from listing Great Barrier Reef as ‘in danger’
The Australian government is undertaking frantic diplomatic efforts to avoid the Great Barrier Reef being listed as “in danger” by the UN, amid rising international concern over the opening up of a vast region in the state of Queensland for gigantic new coal mines. A draft decision on the reef’s status is expected to be delivered by the end of this month ahead of a meeting of Unesco’s world heritage committee in Bonn, Germany in June. Unesco has already expressed its concern over erosion of the reef, which has lost 50% of its coral cover over the past 30 years.

It has emerged that Australian ministers and diplomats have visited 19 countries that provide committee members, including Portugal, Japan and Jamaica, in recent months in a desperate lobbying effort to avert an internationally embarrassing blacklisting for the ailing reef. An “in danger” listing for the huge marine ecosystem, the world’s largest living entity, would prove highly problematic to mining companies attempting to open a massive fossil fuel frontier in Queensland’s Galilee basin, an area of underground coal the size of Britain.

Energy and Climate Change

NASA finds Antarctic ice shelf just a few years from disintegration
The last intact section of one of Antarctica’s mammoth ice shelves is weakening fast and will likely disintegrate completely in the next few years, contributing further to rising sea levels, according to a NASA study. The research focused on a remnant of the so-called Larsen B Ice Shelf, which has existed for at least 10,000 years but partially collapsed in 2002. What is left covers about 625 square miles (1,600 square km), about half the size of the US state of Rhode Island. Antarctica has dozens of ice shelves – massive, glacier-fed floating platforms of ice that hang over the sea at the edge of the continent’s coast line. The largest is roughly the size of France.

Amber Rudd seeks to unleash ‘solar revolution’ in new role as Energy and Climate Change Secretary
The new Energy and Climate Change Secretary has reportedly vowed to “unleash a solar revolution” across Britain that would encourage millions more homes to install solar panels on their roofs. Amber Rudd told her local newspaper that she was keen to see an expansion of the domestic solar industry under this Parliament. “I want to unleash a new solar revolution – we have a million people living under roofs with solar panels and that number needs to increase,” she told the Hastings and St Leonards Observer this week. BusinessGreen last month revealed the UK installed more new solar power capacity than any other European country in 2014 and is on track to retain its top-ranking position this year, due to a rush to complete projects ahead of deep cuts to subsidies for large scale solar farms at the start of April.

India, China urge rich nations to cut carbon deeper

Rich countries need to take the lead in cutting greenhouse gas emissions, the leaders of India and China have said in an unusual joint statement.Released at the end of two days of talks between Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping, it says developing countries need more finance and technological support to green their economies.“The two sides urged the developed countries to raise their pre-2020 emission reduction targets and honour their commitment to provide US$100bn per year by 2020 to developing countries,” it says.

China sheds emissions equivalent to entire UK output over first four months of 2015
China’s emissions are plummeting as the country famed for being the world’s biggest coal consumer starts to cut its use of the polluting fossil fuel faster than any other nation. Official data shows China has cut emissions during the first four months of 2015 roughly equivalent to all the emissions produced by the UK in the same period, according to analysis by Greenpeace’s Energydesk platform. It finds coal consumption in China fell by almost eight per cent from the start of the year to the end of April, with CO2 emissions dropping five per cent during the same period compared to the same time in 2014.

Fossil Fuel Divestment

Oxford University activists ramp up pressure to divest
Fossil fuel divestment campaigns met a variety of fates this week. The University of Washington promised to shed US$2.3 million of coal shares; Edinburgh University gave qualified support to quitting coal and tar sands; and London mayor Boris Johnson rejected outright calls to cut City Hall pension fund’s stake in fossil fuels. Next Monday, it is Oxford University’s turn to decide how to respond to activist demands it withdraw funds from the most climate polluting sectors. Alumni are trying a different tack to pile pressure on the University Council. More than 60 have pledged to hand back their degrees if the decision doesn’t go their way.

Activists call on EU to shut down £100m ‘slush fund’ for coal
Environmentalists are demanding that the EU close a research fund which they claim offers coal companies tens of millions of pounds of public money in grants. The European commission’s Research Fund for Coal and Steel (RFCS) has awarded €144m (£107m) to companies such as E.On UK, RWE Npower and UK Coal Production Ltd, according to research by Greenpeace Energydesk. Most of the the money is spent on mining infrastructure, management and unconventional use of deposits, and on coal preparation and upgrading.

Environment and Biodiversity

Going with the flow: scientists probe changes in the East Australian Current
The East Australian Current, a pivotal driver of climate for Australia’s eastern states, is changing as the planet warms but scientists know little about its dynamics. That knowledge gap should start to close with CSIRO’s new research ship, the RV Investigator, soon to deploy an array of six sensors moored off Brisbane from 40 metres below the surface out to waters almost five kilometres deep… As noted in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, the East Australian Current has advanced 350 kilometres towards the South Pole over the six decades, extending the range of sharks, tuna and other species while also affecting existing biota such as kelp forests.

12 Extraordinary Pictures Show Animals Headed for Extinction
The term “endangered species” usually brings to mind charismatic animals—fluffy pandas and majestic tigers. But there are thousands of lesser-known species that are in greater danger of disappearing. These animals, categorized as “critically endangered” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), face what the organization calls “an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.”  Two big threats are driving these animals toward extinction: habitat loss and poaching. To mark Endangered Species Day in the U.S. (May 15), here are pictures of 12 endangered species around the world, taken from National Geographic’s archive.

Queensland Government commits $8 million to Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative
The Queensland Government has announced $8 million for the continuation of the Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative. This is on top of the Federal Government’s commitment of $15.9 million for the water saving scheme in Queensland and New South Wales.  Queensland’s Minister for Natural Resources and Mines, Dr Anthony Lynham, said getting GABSI back up and running has been a priority.

Arctic pollution rules ‘not enough’
New guidelines have been passed to prevent pollution from ships in polar waters. The Polar Code, passed at a meeting in London of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), ban ships from releasing oil, sewage, chemicals and waste into the sea. The measures are set to come into force in 2017. But environmentalists say the regulations do not go far enough. WWF said a strong, legally binding Polar Code was particularly urgent in the Arctic, where new sea routes are expected to open up in coming decades.

Emirates Airlines Bans Hunting Trophies of Lions, Rhinos
Emirates Airlines will stop carrying hunting trophies of elephants, rhinos, lions, or tigers on its planes, the company announced this week. The decision is meant as a step “to eliminate illegal trade and transportation of hunting trophies worldwide and save wildlife heritage,” according to a statement from Emirates. By banning trophies on their flights the airline is essentially leapfrogging the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which regulates and allows for the sale of certain animal species.

Economy and Business

A new calculator aims to make business sustainability choices simpler
For companies trying to amp up their sustainability profiles, there’s no lack of challenges: from material sourcing to water consumption, electricity use to carbon production, every sustainability issue is a moving part, one of many interconnected concerns. A new calculator coming out in June aims to clarify the process and make it easier for companies to identify the economic and environmental impacts of every factor – and adjust their operations accordingly.

The Roadmap Series, Phase V: The Sustainability End Game
[This is the fifth article in a series building on five phases of sustainable business thinking.]  Each phase represents a big shift for the company, perhaps none more than Phase V. If earlier phases focused on how we do things, Phase V asks us to rethink what we do. In the final state, success will mean solving customer problems in ways that are inherently advantaged because we create environmental and social value in the process. In this stage, new solutions will quickly be adopted because they are inherently more profitable and because old solutions will lose their social license to operate. This is because conventional competitors — whose business causes harm — will be seen as irresponsible and perhaps even exploitive, while new solutions will enjoy wide stakeholder support. That’s a lot of change in a short paragraph and there are not many examples to prove it yet. One that illustrates the point happened in Seattle.

Bank of America Commits Another $600 Million for Second Green Bond
On Thursday, Bank of America Corporation announced that it has issued its second green bond for $600 million in aggregate principal amount, as part of its ongoing commitment to promoting a low-carbon economy by advancing renewable energy and promoting energy efficiency. The bond is intended for projects under the bank’s $70 billion, multi-year environmental business commitment. B of A launched a 10-year, $50 billion environmental business initiative in 2013 to advance low-carbon economic solutions through lending, investing and facilitating capital, providing advice and developing solutions for global clients. The $50 billion commitment builds upon the bank’s initial $20 billion, multi-year commitment announced in 2007 and achieved four years ahead of schedule

Meat processor Alliance Group aims to slash energy use
NEW ZEALAND – Alliance Group aims to reduce carbon emissions by 3300 tonnes over the next three years. The target is part of a new energy management agreement with the Energy Efficient and Conservation Authority (EECA). The agreement, announced by Alliance chief executive David Surveyor and EECA chief executive Mike Underhill, includes a thermal and electricity use reduction of about 10 Gigawatt hours a year by 2017. This is the equivalent annual energy use of about 960 households. Surveyor said reducing the company’s energy use makes good business and environmental sense and that the new partnership with EECA was the next phase of Alliance’s energy management journey.

Scientist Mike Joy ruffles dairying feathers again
NEW ZEALAND – “Some dairy farmers regard me as the devil”, says Dr Mike Joy with a grin. If he is, this devil is well disguised. Genial and polite, the Massey University freshwater ecologist fails to sport an obvious satanic air. Nevertheless, in the farming and business community he touches a nerve. Mention his name  to a group of farmers and wait for the collective sigh. Yet again he has elicited that reaction with the recent publication of a paper New Zealand Dairy Farming: Milking Our Environment for All its Worth, in which Joy and two co-authors claim it would take $15 billion to clean up the environment damaged by dairy farming – more than the dairy industry is worth to the economy.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Ideas sought on keeping plastic out of waterways
NEW ZEALAND – If plastic trash diminishes your enjoyment of Auckland’s beautiful marine environment, perhaps you could share your ideas on how to address the problem. Up to 85 per cent of plastic litter gets washed into stormwater pipes, or rivers, then carried out to sea, says the NGO Sustainable Coastlines. Trevor Jones, from Henderson, sees plastic rubbish blowing around every day, “even though there are ample rubbish bins around to put it in”, he says.

Plastic bag ban bylaw touted
NEW ZEALAND – Waikato councils should be looking at ways to introduce a ban or levy on the use of plastic bags if central government won’t step in, says Green Party waste spokesperson Denise Roche.  Roche was in the Waikato at the weekend on the sixth stop in a nationwide campaign to reduce and ultimately ban the use of plastic bags in New Zealand.  The plan is to gain 10,000 signatures on postcards to present to the Minister of Environment, Nick Smith, and force the hand to declare single use plastic bags a priority product for waste minimisation.

Politics and Society

Charlize Theron: Mad Max landscape awaits unless we tackle climate change
The actor Charlize Theron, who takes a leading role in the new Mad Max movie as a one-armed warrior driving five sex slaves to safety, has expressed her fears that a bleak future awaits the planet unless global warming is addressed.  The film is set 45 years in the future, in a post-apocalyptic world desperately short of water and fuel and ruled by a barbaric dictator who enslaves men and imprisons women for breeding and breast-milk. “It felt very grounded in real events,” said Theron at a press conference for the film, which opens worldwide this week, following its gala premiere at Cannes on Thursday. “The idea of globalisation and global warming and drought and the value of water, and leadership becoming completely out of hand.”

New Zealand climate politics film now on YouTube
Hot Air – climate change politics in New Zealand is an award-winning feature length documentary which argues that corporate interests have prevented successive governments from acting on climate change. The film’s Wellington premiere at the International Film Festival last year was a sell-out. It was also nominated as a finalist in the New Zealand Film Awards for Best Documentary and Best Editing, and won the 2013 Bruce Jesson Senior Journalist Award. However, co-director and producer Alister Barry is disappointed that Hot Air has not created more public engagement with climate change issues. The film has just been released on YouTube for free viewing, making it accessible to a wider audience.

Anti-Arctic drilling activists hold ‘Shell No’ protest
Hundreds of activists decked out in neoprene wetsuits and life jackets took to the waters of Elliott Bay on Saturday in kayaks, canoes, paddleboards and other vessels to send the message that Royal Dutch Shell should cancel its plan to drill in the Arctic Ocean. The “Paddle in Seattle” ” a daylong, family friendly festival in a West Seattle park and an on-the-water protest by “Shell No” kayaktivists ” was held only blocks from where Shell’s Polar Pioneer drilling rig is docked at the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 5. The brightly colored boats lined the grass as paddlers loaded gear while lights on the towering rig twinkled in the background.

Built Environment

The Whole House Reuse Project
Whole House Reuse is a project aimed to illustrate the range of materials used in a modest home, and how much wastage is occurring as a result of the widespread demolition taking place in Christchurch and throughout the rest of the country. Project leaders Rekindle, along with supporters the Sustainable Initiative Fund, want to encourage the development of new approaches and construction techniques around future usage of materials which are currently being discarded as waste. The project evolved from an original intention to show the resilience left in the material of a single Residential Red Zone home in Christchurch. The building would otherwise have been destroyed, but instead it was painstakingly deconstructed in 2013. All of the materials in the house were catalogued and a design brief was written up.

Food Systems

Green grows the caffeine now
More than 2.25 billion cups of coffee are drunk a day – globally, not just in Auckland – and coffee is said to be the second-most ­traded commodity after oil. Its consumers increasingly don’t want to be ­implicated in exploiting the Third World and the planet. And many businesses and organisations are working to help them enjoy a cup of coffee with a clear conscience. Like his ­father before him, Daniel Kinne is a Papua New Guinea coffee farmer and is part of the Fair Trade supply chain. Recently in Auckland, he is chairman and co-founder of the Highland Organic Agriculture Co-Operative (Hoac), which farms in the Okapa district on land owned by tribes and divided into clan groups.

What’s the best step coffee brands can take to support farmers?
Last month consumers were encouraged to switch to independent coffee shops after major brands including Costa, Caffè Nero and Starbucks scored poorly in an assessment of their social and environmental impacts. As one of the most valuable commodities exported from developing countries, it’s vital the relationship between farmers and the coffee brands they supply is closely scrutinised… Join a panel of experts online on Tuesday 19 May, 1-2pm BST to discuss the lucrative global coffee industry and how business can better support producers.


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