Sustainable Development News

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

World’s oceans warming at increasingly faster rate, new study finds
The world’s oceans are warming at a quickening rate, with the past 20 years accounting for half of the increase in ocean heat content that has occurred since pre-industrial times, a new study has found.

Energy and Climate Change

India to smash solar power targets
India will significantly overachieve on its solar power targets for 2016, a consultancy firm has forecast. Bridge to India, a solar consultancy company, estimated that around 2 gigawatts of solar power capacity will be added across the country between January and March 2016.

New 25MW solar plant to break new ground in Australia energy market
A Perth-based solar power systems company, Sun Brilliance, is proposing a 25MW solar plant on the outskirts of the Western Australia capital, in a development that breaks new ground on a number of fronts in the Australian solar market. The $42 million project will be the biggest solar plant to begin construction without a direct subsidy from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, which has supported the 102MW and 53MW solar plants in Nyngan and Broken Hill, and the 57MW single tracking plant at Moree…

Bengalla coal mine dam overflow makes it three spills under EPA investigation
AUSTRALIA – Environmental regulators are investigating an overflow from a dam at the Bengalla coal mine, making it three recent mine spills in the Hunter under review. The Bengalla coal mine dam began to spill last Friday but there was no failure of the dam wall, according to mine operators, Rio Tinto. This month walls at two other sites – Rio’s Warkworth mine and Peabody Energy’s Wambo mine – collapsed during heavy rains in the region, potentially spilling millions of litres of sediment-laden water into nearby rivers.

How low oil prices can be good for the environment
Over the past year and a half, oil prices have declined from over $100 a barrel to less than $35 a barrel. Should environmentalists be worried that this will cause people to turn away from clean energy and fail to meet climate pollution goals? In my judgment, no. On balance, the break from high oil prices can be good for the environment. I believe we should celebrate our good fortune if we are entering a period of lower energy prices. But we must make sure that we do not squander the benefits by weakening our resolve to transition to efficiency and clean energy supply. We must instead expand our efforts to provide a suite of carrots and sticks, new regulations in some areas and reduced regulation in others, to encourage more efficient transportation systems, which account for the lion’s share of oil use.

Damming the Mekong – the myth of ‘sustainable hydropower’
Dam builders have a new mantra, writes Tom Fawthrop: ‘sustainable hydropower’. Repeated at every opportunity, it is based on the unproven idea that large dams can be made ‘sustainable’ by promising future ‘mitigation’. And so it is at the Don Sahong dam in Laos which is about to devastate the mighty Mekong and the 60 million people who depend on it for food and livelihood.

Environment and Biodiversity

Wettest ever December broke UK river records, hydrologists confirm
Last month broke a host of UK records for rainfall, rivers and groundwater, in addition to it having already been confirmed as the wettest and warmest December on record. According to the The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), which collects all the hydrological data available for the UK, December 2015 set the following records…

Jason ocean height mission blasts off
A US-European satellite that is fundamental to our understanding of the oceans has launched from California. Jason-3 will measure the shape of the global sea surface to an accuracy of better than 4cm. It will track currents, tides, winds, wave heights, and will help forecast the intensity of storms. But the new mission will also maintain the reference data-set on sea-level rise. This shows the world’s oceans to be rising at more than 3mm per year.

Researcher warns dangerous irukandji jellyfish moving south
A marine researcher says the dangerous irukandji jellyfish will become common place on southern Queensland beaches within a decade. Irukandji have been found in Western Australian, the Northern Territory and as far down as Fraser Island in Queensland.  James Cook University Associate Professor Jamie Seymour has researched venomous and dangerous animals for more than 20 years, and is currently based at the Australian Institute of Tropical Health and Medicine in Cairns. He said as water temperatures rise, the stingers drift further south, and could become a staple of beaches as far south as the Sunshine Coast.

How the Japanese tsunami sent marine invaders across the ocean – and why you should be worried
When the tsunami waters withdrew from the devastated coast of Japan in March 2011 they took with them a vast amount of debris consisting of potentially millions of objects, and sent it rafting across the Pacific Ocean. On this debris came a host of Japanese marine animals and plants – in fact, more than 300 living species have so far been found to have washed ashore in North America and Hawaii.

Monarch butterflies disappearing from Nelson as paper wasps take hold
NEW ZEALAND – Two summers ago Nelson couple Chrissie Ward and Tony Staufer raised 460 monarch butterflies in their small Nile St courtyard garden and watched them flit away.  Last summer 240. This summer so far, 17. They blame asian paper wasps and fear that the slaughter will get worse if people don’t act. Ward and Staufer are monarch butterfly enthusiasts and go to great lengths to provide the best conditions. They have dozens of the swan plants that the caterpillars feed on in various stages of growth and a high fence keeps out strong wind.

Economy and Business

Carbon trading market vital for Southeast Asia
A global carbon trading market is vital for Southeast Asia’s efforts to address climate change, the Asian Development Bank said on Monday. According to a new report from the ADB, the Southeast Asia region had the fastest growth in carbon dioxide emissions in the world between 1990 and 2010. The region will continue to rely mainly on coal-fired power plants, making it one of the biggest contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions, the new report says.

Politics and Society

Will a “grand bargain” solve the humanitarian funding crisis?
The aptly titled report, “Too important to fail” from the High Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing was launched in Dubai yesterday. Does it offer viable solutions to the widening gap between humanitarian needs and available resources? Is the “grand bargain” it offers enough to transform a struggling aid system?

The ‘necessity defence’– should climate activists be allowed to break the law?
Can you break the law to stop climate change … and get away with it? That’s exactly what five climate change activists wanted to argue at a recent criminal trial in Seattle, Washington. In September 2014 the group tied themselves to a 25ft (8 metre) high “tripod” over a railway line in Washington State, US, to block a train carrying crude oil which, if used, would have contributed directly to carbon emissions and so climate change. The activists, now known as the “Delta 5”, relied on the so-called “necessity defence” to justify their actions and avoid criminal liability.

Knitting Nannas arrested at coal seam gas protest in northern New South Wales
AUSTRALIA – Police have charged three members of the Knitting Nannas anti-coal seam gas protest group after they chained themselves by their necks to a wastewater plant gate in northern New South Wales. The three women — Dominique Jacobs, 51, Angela Dalu, 71, and Therese Mason, 49 — locked themselves to the gate of the Santos Leewood facility near Narrabri with bike locks on Monday morning.

TransCanada Shows How the TPP Will Threaten Climate
TransCanada’s lawsuit against the U.S. government — which utilize a dispute mechanism in NAFTA — could be a sign of what’s to come if the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) moves ahead as planned.

Environmental groups rally against bid to drill in Great Australian Bight
Remote, windswept and until now largely undeveloped; some of the relatively few Australians who live near the Great Australian Bight fear that the spectacular and largely pristine coastal region could be at risk. Petroleum company BP is pushing forward with a proposal to drill off the South Australian coast, despite having its initial plan rejected. An alliance opposing the project has now formed, with the high profile Sea Shepherd Conservation Society joining the Wilderness Society and local community groups. That alliance is raising the spectre of an oil spill, like the one BP presided over in the Gulf of Mexico.

Built Environment

What is a garden city – and why is money being spent on building them?
The government is investing more than £300m in building what George Osborne has described as the first “proper” garden city in nearly a century, near Ebbsfleet, Kent. To understand what garden cities are, and why they should be invested in, we need to go back a bit – in fact, more than 100 years. At the turn of the 20th century, Ebenezer Howard proposed building a constellation of towns, each with about 32,000 residents. Famously expressed through a series of diagrams, these towns would be largely self-contained places to live and work. They would be located around industrial cities like London which themselves, over time, would be decentralised into smaller garden city-style settlements. All these places would be linked by electric rail and canal to permit the easy movement of people and goods.

Weak EU tests for diesel emissions are ‘illegal’, say lawyers
Planned new ‘real driving emissions’ (RDE) test limits that would let cars substantially breach nitrogen oxide (NOx) standards are illegal under EU law, according to new legal analysis seen by the Guardian. The proposed ‘Euro 6’ tests would allow diesel cars to emit more than double the bloc’s ‘80 mg per km’ standard for NOx emissions from 2019, and more than 50% above it indefinitely from 2021.

Report: UK’s low-emission bus registrations tripled in 2015
More than half of all new buses and coaches registered in the UK in 2015 met the latest Euro-VI emissions standard, marking a threefold increase compared with 2014. According to new figures released this week by the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT), just 10 Euro-VI compliant models were registered in 2013, rising to 526 in 2014, and 2,143 – equating to 53.5% of all new buses and coaches – last year. SMMT said this surge in demand comes as the regulatory period of grace which has allowed operators to choose older technologies for their fleets is due to end.

Germany to launch €2bn electric car initiative
Germany is looking to introduce a €2 billion funding package to subsidise electric vehicle purchases. The initiative is being led by German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel and includes a plan to add more EV charging stations across the country. The initiative also includes a plan to scale up the number of electric vehicles for federal offices. The German government is aiming for a total of one million EVs to be on the roads by 2020.

Nissan electric vehicle sales soar, as industry celebrates fresh green car investment
Nissan has reported another record year for sales of its iconic electric LEAF, with new registrations rising 29 per cent last year to 5,236. The company said the performance meant it outsold other 100 per cent electric vehicles by more than two-to-one and retained its position as the best-selling pure electric vehicle (EV) in the UK for fourth year running.

Government pledges £75m for low-carbon vehicle projects
The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) has announced £75m of funding for five new low-carbon and energy efficient automotive technologies in its continued effort to promote growth and increase jobs in the sector.

Food Systems

Urban Pantry vegetable garden workshops
Urban Pantry was started by Emily Harris and aims to create and promote urban gardens across Auckland. Ms Harris once worked in corporate law, but decided to leave the job to start Urban Pantry. She realised rooftop and urban gardening was the perfect way for apartment dwellers like herself to experience the practical and enjoyable pastime.


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