Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Pope’s climate change encyclical tells rich nations: pay your debt to the poor
Pope Francis has called on the world’s rich nations to begin paying their “grave social debt” to the poor and take concrete steps on climate change, saying failure to do so presents an undeniable risk to a “common home” that is beginning to resemble a “pile of filth”. The pope’s 180-page encyclical on the environment, released on Thursday, is at its core a moral call for action on phasing out the use of fossil fuels.  But it is also a document infused with an activist anger and concern for the poor, casting blame on the indifference of the powerful in the face of certain evidence that humanity is at risk following 200 years of misuse of resources. Up to now, he says, the world has accepted a “cheerful recklessness” in its approach to the issue, lacking the will to change habits for the good of the Earth.

More on the Pope’s encyclical:

Energy and Climate Change

Climate aid key to Paris deal, says Amber Rudd
Climate aid to developing countries is likely to be the biggest sticking point hindering a global deal at the UN climate talks in Paris later this year, according to the UK’s energy and climate secretary. Amber Rudd, who will lead the UK’s negotiating team, said that creating a meaningful financial package for developing countries is “absolutely essential” for brokering an agreement. She affirmed the UK’s commitment to meeting the global goal of making $100bn (£65bn) a year available by 2020 to help developing countries adapt to and mitigate the worst effects of climate change.

Report Confirms: 2015 Is (Yet Another) Big Year for Solar
New solar energy installations will grow faster this year than previously expected, according to Mercom Capital, which will make 2015 another strong year for the global solar market. Releasing an update to its 2015 solar market report, Mercom predicts new installations will reach 57.4 gigawatts worldwide in 2015.

Environment and Biodiversity

300 arrested in global wildlife raids
A series of raids conducted across Asia, Africa and Europe resulted in more than 300 arrests and over 600 seizures of assorted wildlife contraband — from several tons of ivory and rhino horns to whale ribs and sea horses, authorities said on Thursday. Law enforcement agencies from 62 countries took part in the operation codenamed “Cobra III” along with international organisations such as Interpol and Europol, according to a statement released by organisers in Bangkok.

DNA From Elephant Dung, Tusks Reveals Poaching Hot Spots
“We got poop samples from Togo!” announced Samuel Wasser, the head of the Center for Conservation Biology at the University of Washington, Seattle, carrying a battered cardboard box into his lab for analysis. Three larger boxes also arrived that day in February, marked “OPENED FOR KENYA CUSTOMS.” Inside were masses of jumbled vials, each containing a fragment of ivory from illegal shipments of elephant tusks seized by authorities in Mombasa, Kenya. Wasser was less interested in where the ivory had been seized than in matching DNA in the samples to that in elephant dung—detective work he’s been doing for the past 15 years in an effort to locate the main sources of smuggled ivory.

Bittern conservation programme flying high as birds boom again
The once beleaguered bittern is booming, literally and figuratively, with conservationists hailing the success of a project aimed at bringing the shy member of the heron family back from the brink. Scientists tracking the bird’s foghorn-like booming song have recorded more then 150 different males across England and Wales – up from just 11 in 1997. Its recovery is attributed to the restoration and management of the sizeable tracts of wet reedbed required for its successful breeding.

Horowhenua coast oil spill spans 14km but source still a mysterys
NEW ZEALAND – The oil spill on the Manawatu-Horowhenua coastline has affected a larger area than expected and authorities still do not know where it is coming from. Ian Lowe, who is co-ordinating the clean-up for Horizons Regional Council, confirmed the extent of the spill, but was reluctant to speculate about its source. “Our area of operation is approximately 14.3km; however there are sections within that where there is no oil, especially on the outskirts. The areas affected by oil approximately total 11km,” he said. “I have no idea where it has come from. Sampling is not back yet and is due late Friday or on Monday.”

Economy and Business

‘Once in generation’ chance to reform climate insurance
Policymakers have a “once in a generation” chance to reform insurance to help those most at risk from climate change impacts, say researchers. A Cambridge University team is calling for insurance reforms to be explicitly mentioned in the UN’s forthcoming Sustainable Development Goals. They outlined their proposals at an insurance summit at the UN, New York. G7 leaders recently pledged to help 400 million people have access to insurance cover against extreme weather events.

Tom Steyer On Campaign Finance: If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em
Money is a good thing. It allows us to function as a society. Money is simply a representation of value. Everything in the universe has a value. Things can have positive value or negative value. For example, sandwiches have a positive value, and diseases have a negative value. We pay to have sandwiches, and we pay to not have diseases. Likewise, we can assign a value to having someone represent us as an elected official. Or, we could assign a value to preventing someone from representing us as an elected official. Assigning a “willingness to pay” value for or against a candidate for public office is a useful exercise in understanding how much support a candidate has.

Politics and Society

Environmental movement making a real impact in the US, study finds
The environmental movement is making a real difference in the US, according to a new research that shows states with strong green voices have significantly lower emissions of the gases that drive global warming. The study is one of the first to quantify the real impact of green politics on the environment. It reveals that more environmentally-friendly states, such as New York and Vermont, have cut their greenhouse gas emissions despite rising population and affluence. But other states like Texas and Wyoming, where scepticism about climate change is much stronger, have seen emissions rise.

Is it time for an antibiotic-free label on our food?
A post-antibiotic age in which common infections and minor injuries can kill is too frightening to contemplate. Yet it is a very real possibility for this century, says the World Health Organisation (WHO). To help slow the emergence of bacteria resistant to antibiotics we need to reduce our dependence on antimicrobial drugs and drastically cut their misuse and overuse in humans and animals, say experts.

Standing ovation deserved
When writing about the environment, it is hard sometimes not to get caught up in the negative. I was all set to do this again today with a rant about abusive drivers (and commenters) who can’t seem to grasp the fact that sharing the road with cyclists is a good thing because less cars on the road is better for our health and waterways. But my goal in these efforts is to give people an idea that may help to change behaviour positively for a better environment, which inevitably results in better health and social outcomes too. Exceptionally clever psychologists like the team at Studio Huss have told me that to achieve behavioural change we must focus on more positive than negative content.

Built Environment

ASBEC on why we need a pathway to sustainable, productive infrastructure
Have you ever stopped to think how the infrastructure planning of the past affects your life today? Chances are you’ve flushed the toilet, answered your phone, turned on a light, taken a train or a car across a bridge or through a tunnel in recent days. If you have, you’ve experienced the long term results of infrastructure decisions taken decades, or even centuries ago. In the same way, infrastructure decisions that we take today remain crucial to our own future reality, and that of future generations of Australians.

NZ: Christchurch – leadership projects show betterment pays off
Advocates of green building are gaining traction in Christchurch, with betterment in energy performance and earthquake resilience a key feature across commercial, residential and civic development projects. NZGBC chief executive Alex Cutler said that in the aftermath of the earthquakes, the idea of rebuilding sustainably was often put in the “too-hard basket”. However, Ms Cutler said, because green buildings delivered good returns for owners and provided attractive environments for tenants, they were a vital part of drawing businesses back to the central city.


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