Sustainable Development News

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

Global coal consumption down an additional 2-4% in 2015

We’ve just posted a new research brief that describes how global thermal coal consumption will most likely fall by an additional 2 percent to 4 percent this year after peaking in 2013. It’s a remarkable shift driven by declining consumption in the biggest coal-burning countries, China especially.

Coal consumption 2015

Energy and Climate Change

It’s getting much easier for companies and cities to go 100% renewable
A long-term goal of 100 percent renewable energy is increasingly possible for large corporations and local governments, according to a new report by Clean Edge. Ron Pernick, managing director for Clean Edge, said he would have scoffed at such a report just a few years ago. “Now we’re seeing it,” he said. One of the largest areas to have achieved 100 percent renewable energy is Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, a state with nearly 3 million people. The windy rural northern German state is now producing as much renewable electricity as it consumes — although that is a net calculation.

Solar Prices Could Be 10% Less Than Coal In India By 2020
KPMG has released a report stating that by 2020 solar power in India could cost about 10% less than coal power, saying “Solar power price declines have beaten the expectations of most analysts since the beginning of 2015. In the ongoing NTPC solar park tender, solar prices have breached the INR 5/kwh and this is a landmark for the energy sector. Today, in India, solar prices are within 15% of power prices on a levelized basis. Our forecast is that by 2020, solar power prices could be up to 10% lower than coal power prices.” You can read the full report, titled ‘The Rising Sun – Disruption on the Horizon‘ here.

Paris 2015: UN Conference on Climate Change

Australia open to 1.5 °C climate target, “carbon neutral” in 2050
Australia remains open to including an option to tighten the global climate target to a maximum 1.5°C warming above pre-industrial levels, and may also support a long-term goal for the world to be “carbon neutral” by 2050. In a briefing to many of the more than 100 environmental NGOs and business representatives due to attend the Paris climate change conference which begins in late November, the Australian delegation underlined the point that Australia remained “flexible” in many of the key issues to be discussed at the two-week conference.

Finance for developing countries will help Australia in climate talks
For those who have been impatient to see the Turnbull government change position on climate change, the successful Australian campaign to return to the chair of the Board of the Green Climate Fund is an early signal. The fund is designed to support climate action in developing nations as part of the UN process.

Partnership For Responsible Growth Cites 14 Luminaries Supporting Carbon Fee
The Partnership For Responsible Growth has quoted 14 luminaries from around the world who are supporting a carbon fee/tax… including ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, former Secretary of State George Shultz, and Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagard. They are found below.

Paris climate summit march in doubt after talks deadlock
Talks between the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, and campaigners over the fate of a huge march before the forthcoming Paris climate summit have ended without agreement. In the wake of attacks in Paris last Friday, the French government proposed scaling down the protest from a march on 29 November – which organisers had hoped would draw hundreds of thousands of people – to a stationary rally. One activist source said organisers would respond flexibly to Fabius’s suggestions, but that a “kettled” rally of 5,000 people held in the Paris suburbs “would not be acceptable”.

Cartoon - We all oppose terror

Fossil Fuel Divestment

Divestment campaigners debut ‘Clean Capitalist Decarbonizer’
A group of campaigners have this week opened up a new front in their efforts to encourage investors to ditch fossil fuel assets with the release of a new interactive tool designed to help them assess the financial impact of divesting from carbon intensive firms. Divestment campaign group announced it has teamed up with analyst firm Corporate Knights and carbon offset specialist South Pole Group to launch the Clean Capitalist Decarbonizer.

Environment and Biodiversity

Tasmanian farmer produces cauliflower seed by breeding flies
AUSTRALIA – Most people on the land consider flies to be an absolute pest. But a vegetable grower on Tasmania’s central coast has become the first farmer in the country to breed flies to pollinate vegetables. Alan Wilson is growing cauliflowers under tunnels for seed production for Serve Ag in Devonport.

Palm Oil Giant Commits to Help Indonesia Through Peatland Rehabilitation, Traceability
On Monday, Golden Agri-Resources (GAR), the world’s second-largest palm oil producer, launched a peatland rehabilitation project in Indonesia and committed to 100 percent traceability to mill by the end of 2015. GAR’s Peat Ecosystem Rehabilitation Project will help develop fire prevention measures and long-term protection of one of the company’s concessions in West Kalimantan.

Conservationists urge Mauritius to halt cull of threatened fruit bat
Conservationists are calling for an end to a government cull of tens of thousands of fruit bats in Mauritius that they say is putting the survival of the threatened species at risk. Authorities began shooting 18,000 Mauritius fruit bats (Pteropus niger) on 7 November, despite protests and even though the species is protected on the Indian Ocean island and listed as vulnerable by the IUCN, the world’s conservation union.


New map of Earth’s groundwater to help estimate when it may run out
Less than 6 per cent of ground water in the upper two kilometres of the Earth’s landmass is renewable within a human lifetime, according to a new map showing the world’s hidden groundwater.”This has never been known before,” said the study’s lead author, Dr Tom Gleeson of the University of Victoria in Canada. “We already know that water levels in lots of aquifers are dropping. We’re using our groundwater resources too fast -faster than they’re being renewed.”

Autodesk helps D.C. stave off stormwater pollution
Cities across the globe historically have viewed stormwater as a public nuisance that causes damaging floods and spreads pollution. This view stands to only worsen in the new age of rising sea levels and increasingly severe and frequent extreme weather events. That’s because most cities have relied on functional but flawed “gray infrastructure,” according to Autodesk’s Brian Young, speaking during a recent GreenBiz Webinar on green infrastructure and the triple bottom line.

Nightmare or opportunity ahead, Otago irrigators told
NEW ZEALAND – The year 2021 is crucial for Otago irrigators as they count down to the expiry date of existing water rights under the Otago Regional Council’s revolutionary regional water plan. “We are in an incredible state of change in Otago. Every irrigator will be affected by it,” Dunedin-based farm environmental consultant Susie McKeague told Irrigation New Zealand’s annual conference in Alexandra. McKeague presented the findings of her report Opportunities and Challenges for Otago Irrigators at the organisation’s annual meeting.

Economy and Business

Book review: climate change, what everyone needs to know
A new book makes the case that those who understand the basics of climate change and clean energy will be the “smart money” in the coming years. Those who don’t, however, will make bad decisions for themselves and their family. They might, for instance, end up holding coastal property after prices have begun to crash due to due the growing twin threats of sea level rise and storm surge.

Business must respond to sustainability – top consumer trends released
NEW ZEALAND – Kiwis are more interested than ever in choosing the sustainable option when purchasing goods or services and while mainstream businesses are starting to respond to demand, new research from Colmar Brunton says there’s more to be done  Colmar Brunton’s 2015 Better Futures Report focuses on consumer behaviour towards socially, environmentally and economically responsible brands. Data gathered annually over the past seven years shows very clear and compelling trends are emerging.

Kia to invests $10.2bn in ‘green car’ roadmap
South Korean carmaker Kia will invest $10.2bn over the next five years expanding its range of electric vehicles, improving the fuel efficiency of its range, and developing a commercial hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. The spending commitment forms part of the firm’s “green car roadmap”, announced yesterday, which sets out its ambition to become a leader in the eco-friendly car market by 2020.

Palau protects marine wealth to pay for its future
The recent decision by the Pacific island nation of Palau to end fishing in a California-sized swath of tuna-rich ocean comes at a time of record overfishing and will help the populations of bigeye and yellowfin to recover, scientists say. Officials hope that the new reserve will boost sustainable tourism revenues as well as fish populations, as ordinary divers and even snorkelers will be able to experience the difference that protection measures can make.

Investments aren’t gender-neutral when female entrepreneurs face a $320bn credit gap
Bertha Nzabanita survived the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, but her husband did not. As a single mother, she struggled to make do with the one coffee field and dilapidated house he had left her. Then Nzabanita discovered Musasa, a coffee cooperative that gave her and other widows from the genocide a stable market for their coffee allowing them to increase their income.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Study Calculates Potential E-Waste Profitability At €2.15 Billion
Economic analysis conducted by a European research group has calculated the overall worth of bringing e-waste streams into the circular economy to be €2.15 billion in Europe. That figure could rise to €3.67 billion as the volume of electronic products increases. The European research group analyses 14 common categories of e-products: “liquid crystal display (LCD) notebooks, TVs and monitors; light emitting diode (LED) notebooks, TVs and monitors; cathode ray tube (CRT) TVs and monitors; mobile phones; smart phones; photovoltaic panels; hard disk drives; solid state disks; and tablets.” They looked at the potential of recovering the valuable and scarce metals and critical materials in those products.

Manufacturers should take advantage of cheap materials to invest in circular economy, say ING
ING Bank has said there is an opportunity to take advantage of cheap material prices to invest in being prepared for the circular economy. Looking at metals in particular, its report Metals, a dangerous complacency? suggested that now is the optimal time to invest in new business models before prices rise.

Politics and Society

Tuhoe: Let us run schools, healthcare, welfare, housing
One of New Zealand’s most famous Maori tribes, Tuhoe, is negotiating to take over social services for its people in an ambitious bid to end welfare “dependency”. The iwi wants to take over welfare payments, schools, healthcare and housing within its Urewera tribal area from Whakatane south to Lake Waikaremoana. Tuhoe chief executive Kirsti Luke said a majority of Tuhoe people in that area were on benefits, and tribal leader Tamati Kruger said the iwi aimed to change that.

Built Environment

Climate change and cities: a prime source of problems, yet key to a solution
Cities are home to half the world’s population and produce around 75% of the world’s GDP and greenhouse gas emissions. By 2050, between 65% and 75% of the world population is projected to be living in cities, with more than 40 million people moving to cities each year. That’s around 3.5 billion people now, rising to 6.5 billion by 2050; a huge and singular event in human history. This places cities at the centre of economic activity affecting how economies grow, how resources are allocated, how innovation takes place, whether innovation is used well or badly and, if badly, how much damage it inflicts on others now and in the future.

€6.4m EU funding for new technology to measure building efficiency
The Built2Spec project aims improve the accuracy of building efficiency ratings in order to eliminate the “performance gap” that currently exists between the official energy rating of buildings and the amount of energy they use in practice.

Food Systems

Move over meat: how the UK can diversify its protein consumption
The UK is a country of meat eaters. The typical diet is high in processed meats containing salt and unhealthy fats, and low in fibres and nutrients from fish, fruit, vegetables, nuts and grains. “We have limited our food choices without even knowing it. We don’t need to eat as much [meat] as we are,” says Duncan Williamson, food policy manager at WWF. “Chicken is about to become the most consumed protein on the planet, overtaking pig. The footprint of producing this much white meat is unsustainable.”

Rata earns all 12 Conscious Consumers badges
Worm wee, hot compost and broad beans have helped Zealandia’s cafe go green. Rata has become the first cafe in New Zealand to earn all 12 Conscious Consumers badges. The badges, which are independent endorsements for the hospitality industry, reflect practices that support local businesses which use ethical produce, are environmentally-friendly, treat people fairly and ensure animal welfare.


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