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Sustainable Development News, Monday 19 May 2014

Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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Energy and Climate Change

More jobs to go in Hunter as coal mines suspend work
As many as 500 people could lose their jobs as work at two coal mines is suspended in NSW’s upper Hunter Valley, a union says.  Workers at Glennies Creek underground and Camberwell open cut mines, near Singleton, were warned about the looming cuts on Friday, with a final decision set to be announced this coming week.

China to triple solar PV capacity by 2017 to cut coal consumption
China, the world’s biggest carbon emitter, plans to speed up solar power development, targeting a more than tripling of installed capacity to 70 gigawatts by 2017 to cut its reliance on coal.  The goal would be double a previous target set for 2015, according to a statement posted today on the National Development and Reform Commission’s website. China also plans to have 150 gigawatts of installed wind power capacity by 2017, 11 gigawatts of biomass power and 330 gigawatts of hydro power.

$50m for brown coal projects
Two new brown coal projects, backed with $50 million from the state and federal governments, are set to be unveiled in the Latrobe Valley.  On Friday, the Abbott and Napthine governments will announce the first winners of grants for projects using new technologies that process brown coal to a better quality or transform it into other products such as oil and fertilisers.

Environment

Tasmanian forests: Coalition rebuffed over proposal to cut world heritage area
The International Union for Conservation of Nature has recommended against removing vast swathes of Tasmanian forest from world heritage protection, in an embarrassing setback for the Australian government.  The IUCN, the world’s largest conservation organisation, said overnight in Paris there was no ecological justification for the removal of 74,000 hectares of Tasmanian forest from the world heritage zone.

Elephant poaching reported at Kruger national park in South Africa
South Africa’s Kruger national park, which is battling a high number of rhino killings, has recorded its first case of elephant poaching in more than a decade, a spokesman has said.  A dead bull elephant whose tusk had been hacked off was discovered by rangers on Thursday. “It is the first case of ivory poaching in the Kruger in over 10 years,” said spokesman Ike Phaahla.

Shifting sands uncover hidden Gold Coast treasure (Video 4min 51sec)
After it was buried by a nearby sand pumping project, Kirra Reef on the Southern Gold Coast is re-emerging as a popular dive site.

Economy and Business

Dunedin becomes the first New Zealand city to dump its fossil fuel investments
What does it mean for one of the southernmost cities in the world to ditch its investments in fossil fuel companies?  An international movement is calling on institutions to pull investments in fossil fuel companies as a means of tackling CO2 emissions. Kick-started by climate change organisation 350.org and others, the divestment movement seems to be rapidly gaining a momentum all its own.  On Wednesday, the city council of Dunedin, New Zealand showed just how far the idea has spread, as it voted to exclude investments in the fossil fuel extraction industry as part of a new socially responsible investment policy.

Let’s Make It More Relevant and Systemic: SAP’s Thomas Odenwald on Natural Capital Accounting (Recommended)
The prospects of Natural Capital Accounting are capturing the attention of the sustainability community at large, and with good reason. Keen to drill down into the topic with key players in the SB community, we sat down with Thomas Odenwald, SAP’s Senior Vice President of Sustainability, to get his perspective on the implications and applications of this crucial movement.

How CEOs Can Save the World from Global Warming
The business world is waking up to the challenge of climate change.  It’s a good thing that business is on this, because for 20 years now, annual global climate negotiations have yielded very little. And in the US, all attempts at a comprehensive climate bill have basically failed. A group of 30 US Senators got together recently to revive the issue, but any legislation of impact is very unlikely to come anytime soon.

More big companies say they’re concerned about climate risks
For anyone who maintains that climate change is not going to affect our lives, it may be worth listening to the concerns of America’s publicly traded corporations.  These companies, which tend to be of a more conservative persuasion and not given to hyperbole, are increasingly concerned about how climate change is likely to damage their operations.  A study into disclosures on behalf of 767 institutional investors with $92tn in assets S&P 500 companies – released today by sustainable-economy non-profit CDP – shows not only that the physical risks from climate change are increasing in urgency, in their assessment, but also that the impacts are already hitting the bottom line.

Money to be made from sustainable investment, says Impax chief
Investment that focuses on solutions to environmental problems “does better” than the mainstream over the long-term, according to Ian Simm, chief executive of Impax Asset Management.  Speaking to Blue & Green Tomorrow after the release of Impax’s half-year results on Thursday, which saw it report a 16% growth in assets under management to £2.55 billion, he said that the firm had proven a sustainability strategy is a profitable one.

Tasmanian forestry plans a revival beyond World Heritage
Forestry Tasmania is currently managing some 742,000 hectares of forest, for which it is seeking Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. These forests are outside the World Heritage wilderness area.  In a draft plan for production forests managed by Forestry Tasmania deemed “High Conservation Value”, it proposes to use different harvesting methods, rather than clear-felling trees. The plan is currently open to comment.

Web cartoonist The Oatmeal shares his (hilarious) experience owning a Tesla Model S (Really quite amusing)
As someone who has been covering Tesla Motors since 2006, I’m so happy to see how things have turned out. It went from this vaporware car that people thought looked cool but would never be made, to this expensive toy for rich people, to that company that was going to go bankrupt during the 2008-2009 financial crisis, etc… To the best reviewed car ever by Consumer Reports with record breaking safety ratings that can’t be made fast enough (there have always been waiting list), with all kinds of ground-breaking innovations (the fast-growing, sun-powered, free-to-use Supercharger network, for example), and a new more affordable model coming within a few years. Talk about a journey!

Politics and Society

Budget axe of small grant fund will hurt conservation groups across Australia
Not touched were subsidies to fossil fuel companies and miners, such as the tax credit that saves multi-billion dollar firms about $2.4 billion a year on their fuel costs.  But arguably the most revealing of all the cuts was the axing of a small $1.3 million program that has been a key resource of local and state-based conservation groups across Australia for 40 years.  Established in 1973, the Grants to Voluntary Environment, Sustainability and Heritage Organisations had been supporting more than a 150 groups across the country.

Hockey’s budget ignores the cultural economy, to its shame
The reality of the 2014 budget is now pretty clear, not just its specific provisions but the kind of nation it wants Australia to become.  How it affects culture relates not just to this or that cut to arts funding or to the public broadcasters but to that wider vision of society.  The staggering political cynicism on display in Hockey and Abbott’s broken promises is a new low and will further contribute to the diminishing of political life in Australia. The Coalition has invented a “budget emergency” to set up a “cut-spending-or-die” scenario. With this budget, it’s performing emergency amputations with a blunt saw.

The budget, the arts and the limits of marketplace thinking
There is a well-known internet meme that quotes Britain’s war-time leader Winston Churchill’s response to a proposition that arts funding should be cut in favour of the war effort. His retort was: “Then what are we fighting for?”  Not surprisingly this quote has again been circulating over the internet in the wake of the Federal Government’s decision to slash A$87m from the arts budget, only a few weeks after its controversial decision to spend A$12 billion on 58 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft.

Universities and sustainable development
We’ve entered a new age on the planet. Some call it the Anthropocene, meaning a geologic epoch – cene in Greek – in which humanity – anthropos – is the main driver of planetary change.    Others call it the era of planetary boundaries, meaning that we’ve reached safety limits on greenhouse gas concentrations, freshwater use, land use, biodiversity loss and other human demands on the planet.

Waste reduction

Sydney wants to start distilling its rubbish into renewable fuels
The year 2015 might have been an unrealistic deadline for commercial release of hover boards and flying cars, but the City of Sydney has taken inspiration from the popular 1989 science fiction hit Back to the Future Part II as it tries to light up a new clean energy scheme extracted from rubbish.  The City is actively exploring the use of new advanced waste treatment systems that, potentially, could divert more than 95 per cent of Sydney’s household waste from expensive landfill and convert non-recyclable waste into a renewable gas to power city buildings and provide heating and cooling.

Food systems

UN Global Compact unveils principles for sustainable food
The UN’s sustainable development arm has unveiled six principles for sustainable food production, aimed at ensuring that food produced worldwide is healthy, good for the environment and economically viable.  The principles were announced in Rome by the UN Global Compact and have been described as an important step for sustainable development, in the light of figures on population growing to nine billion by 2050.

Meet the breakfast cereals that want to destroy you
There’s a breakfast cereal out there that’s 88 percent sugar: Lieber’s Cocoa Frosted Flakes. Basically, it’s a bowl of sugar, with some cocoa for flavor and grain for crunch. Plus a little sugar on top. It’s gluten-free — probably because the makers wanted to make more room for sugar.  That’s an extreme example, but not as extreme as you might hope. An analysis by the Environmental Working Group shows there are 12 common breakfast cereals that are mostly, that is, more than 50 percent, sugar. On average, children’s cereals are 34 percent sugar by weight. Compare that to ice cream, which is usually around 15 percent sugars.

Health Check: five must-have foods for your shopping trolley
If you eat to improve your health, here are five foods to put in your supermarket trolley every week. All pack a proven punch in terms of health gains if you have them regularly: oats, salmon, tea, soy foods and a variety of vegetables and fruit.

Clean Technology

These Solar Roads Could Power The Entire Country
There are nearly 18,000 square miles of roads in the U.S., an area that’s bigger than the entire states of New Hampshire and Massachusetts combined. By some estimates, there are also as many as 2 billion parking spaces. Since most of that pavement is soaking up sun all day long, a couple of entrepreneurs had an idea: Why not put it to use generating solar power?  The Solar Roadways project, now crowdfunding on Indiegogo, hopes to re-pave the country in custom, glass-covered solar panels that are strong enough to drive on while generating enough power to light the road, melt ice and snow, and send extra energy to cities.

 

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