Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Energy and Climate Change

Ten companies directly responsible for third of Australia’s greenhouse gas pollution, Australian Conservation Foundation report finds
The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) has taken aim at the coal-fired power industry and the mining sector in a report naming and shaming Australia’s top 10 worst polluters. The report has found just 10 companies are directly responsible for a third of Australia’s greenhouse gas pollution based on data from the Clean Energy Regulator. Energy Australia, responsible for the Yallourn coal-fired power station in Victoria, is the worst offender at number one with a 20.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent gases. The next two biggest polluters were Macquarie Generation and AGL Energy. Of the miners, Rio Tinto was the worst at number four.

Wales passes ‘groundbreaking’ law to protect future generations from climate change
Government-run organisations in Wales will have to consider environmental and social sustainably development in every decision they make under a major new law passed by Welsh Assembly Members yesterday. The Well-being of Future Generations Bill, which is the first law of its kind to be passed by any government in the world, aims to ensure that Wales is both economically and environmentaly resilient and will help ensure that communities can adapt to the impacts of climate change, such as rising sea levels and increasing flood risks. At its heart the law aims to deliver on six key goals, namely to build a country that is prosperous, with a resilient environment, healthy people, equal opportunities and strong communities, while promoting the Welsh language.

Poll: Scots want more wind power
More Scots support wind power than ever before, with a new poll finding support has risen as more turbines have been built. Over 70 per cent of the 1,003 adults surveyed by YouGov said they supported the continued development of wind power as part of our energy mix, compared to 64 per cent in February 2013. “The wind energy sector is thriving in Scotland, providing jobs, investment and helping to tackle climate change – and these figures show it’s doing all of this with the Scottish public right behind it,” said Joss Blamire, senior policy manager at Scottish Renewables, which commissioned the poll.

The quiet revolution that’s changing the way we use energy
This quiet revolution began in the UK in 1990 with the first regulations supporting renewable electricity. The rules obliging energy companies to support non-fossil-fuel-based electricity were originally conceived to support nuclear power after privatisation, with renewable sources such as wind power added subsequently. Twenty-five years and a couple of policy re-designs later, including significantly the Climate Change Act passed by Ed Miliband, the UK has a renewables sector which, though still dependent on subsidies, is starting to make serious in-roads into conventional energy systems.

Fossil Fuel Divestment

Wellcome Trust sold off £94m ExxonMobil oil investment
The Wellcome Trust has quietly sold off a $138m (£94m) investment in ExxonMobil, the oil giant which previously funded climate change denial, the Guardian can reveal. But the medical charity, which says “climate change is one of the greatest contemporary challenges to global health”, has refused to divest all its fossil fuel assets, as called for in a Guardian campaign launched on Monday. Doctors and Wellcome Trust grant recipients labelled this stance contradictory and called for full divestment. The UN World Health Organisation (WHO) said health professionals should take a leading role in fighting climate change and that divestment by the Wellcome Trust would be in line with calls from UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon to cut such investments.

Environment and Biodiversity

World’s Largest Single Marine Reserve Created in Pacific
British Prime Minister David Cameron’s government announced the creation of the world’s largest contiguous ocean reserve on Wednesday, setting aside 322,000 square miles (830,000 square kilometers) around the remote Pitcairn Islands in the South Pacific for special protection. The new reserve is nearly three and a half times bigger than the landmass of the United Kingdom—larger than the state of California—and is home to a stunning array of sharks, fish, corals, and other marine life, says Enric Sala, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence who led a five-week Pristine Seas expedition to the island group in March 2012 that helped establish a scientific case for the reserve.

Bad Palm Oil Production Practices Linked to Devastating Air Pollution, Haze, UCS Says
On top of the fact that palm oil production — the biggest driver of deforestation in Southeast Asia and parts of Africa and South America — is responsible for the rampant release of carbon emissions, the destruction of vital habitats for endangered species such as orangutans and the Sumatran tiger, and the production of methane-rich wastewater, a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) links unsustainable palm oil production practices with significant air pollution in Southeast Asia in the form of devastating haze. Clearing the Air: Palm Oil, Peat Destruction, and Air Pollution outlines how palm oil production practices, including deforestation, landscape fires and draining peatlands, contribute to toxic air pollution and haze, which in turn cause severe health and economic ramifications.

Mercury pollution threat to Arctic bird
Mercury pollution has risen nearly 50-fold in the feathers of a breed of Arctic bird over the past 130 years, say scientists. Analysis of museum specimens shows high mercury levels in the endangered ivory gull. It could have implications for the bird’s ability to reproduce and raise chicks, says a Canadian team. Mercury levels are going up in other Arctic birds, fish and mammals, due to atmospheric pollution, they report.

Economy and Business

Can Products Be Convenient Without Being Wasteful?
Selling a product in today’s world is not just about quality and price point anymore. Packaging has become a key factor in the way companies sell products, and specifically, how (if at all) they are making packaging more sustainable. What companies want to know now is if consumers take their carbon footprint into account when buying products and how they respond when companies make an effort to create more sustainable packaging for their products. In a recent conversation with sustainability consultant Candace Hodder and professor of Supply Chain Management at Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business, Kevin Dooley, AirTalk’s Larry Mantle addressed how companies can provide convenience to consumers without inundating landfills.

Slimming down food waste could save European businesses £7bn a year
Retailers and farmers across Europe could save up to €10bn (£7bn) a year if they work together to roll out innovative new technologies that could dramatically reduce food waste, according to a new report by Rabobank. As consumers come under increasing pressure to reduce food waste, the report by the Dutch banking group reveals how for every €30bn (£21.5bn) worth of food thrown away at home, €60bn (£43.1bn) is lost in the supply chain.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Unilever Achieves Zero Waste Across Distribution Centers in North America
Unilever North America announced on Tuesday it has achieved 100 percent zero waste to landfill (ZLF) at all dedicated distribution centers in North America. To achieve ZLF, the company has adopted the four ‘R’ approach — firstly reducing waste at source then reusing, recovering or recycling any non-hazardous waste that remains. It has meant reconsidering every single material that is consumed in a factory and distribution center — from reusing packing materials from supplier deliveries to food waste from staff cafeterias.

Yarra River at risk of being ‘strangled’ by housing development, pollution, environmentalists say
Melbourne’s iconic Yarra River is at risk of being ‘strangled’ by development from housing, despite efforts to clean it up, its riverkeeper says. Andrew Kelly from the Yarra Riverkeepers Association has joined forces with Environment Justice Australia in an effort to pressure the Victorian Government to act quickly to protect the river and improve its quality. The groups have co-authored a report showing surface run-off from roads and riverside developments are a leading cause of pollution entering the river, overtaking the historic problem of industrial pollution. Mr Kelly said the conversion of riverside industrial sites to housing developments is pushing the river’s health to the brink.

Politics and Society

Countries agree plan in Sendai to save lives from disasters
Twelve hours behind schedule, 187 countries agreed a deal in Sendai on Wednesday to reduce death and economic damage from natural disasters.The Sendai Framework set seven targets and four priorities for the next fifteen years. These include plans to “substantially reduce” loss of life from 2005-15 levels in 2020-30 and to reduce economic losses as a proportion of global GDP by 2030.

Cyclone Pam: the Pacific needs a climate insurance scheme
Severe tropical Cyclone Pam, which devastated Vanuatu on Saturday, was one of the most intense tropical storms on record and is reported to have caused widespread damage to public infrastructure and housing, with sustained winds of around 250 kilometres an hour near the centre. The destruction caused by Cyclone Pam is clearly a humanitarian tragedy that will set back development in this small island nation and strain the capacities of government agencies seeking to respond. We argue that the Pacific needs a “climate insurance scheme” to help fund recovery after these tragic events.

Built Environment

Singapore gets smart about water
Water shortages, polluted rivers and widespread flooding used to be par for the course in Singapore, one of the most water-stressed cities in the world. In recent years, the densely populated city-state has witnessed a gradual change for the better. But with water demand among Singapore’s 5 million residents set to double by 2060, the island-state’s challenge remains far from over. So what’s being done to meet that challenge?

Food Systems

How to combat the ‘if in doubt, bin it’ food culture
Britons throw away 7.2m tonnes of food and drink every year, worth £12bn. The majority is perfectly safe to eat. So why do we chuck it? A recent report from government-backed waste body Wrap argues that often it’s because we’re confused over labelling. Faced with a panoply of product life terms – “use by”, “display until”, “sell by”, “best before” and so on – shoppers are unsure when a product is or isn’t OK to eat. The result: if in doubt, bin it.


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