Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Regenerative Capitalism: 7 Questions with a Finance Exec Turned Systems Thinker
Nearly 15 years ago, John Fullerton left a two-decade career at JP Morgan in pursuit of meaning. Fullerton was disillusioned with the direction of mainstream finance; he saw a once principled culture yielding to the ferocious competition in deregulated capital markets, where economic brawn increasingly trumped civility. In his search for a new path, Fullerton soon discovered the profundity of interrelated ecological, economic and social crises afflicting the world. His most startling realization, he writes, “was that the modern scheme of economics and finance — what Wall Street ‘geniuses’ (like me) practiced so well — formed the root cause of these systemic crises.”

Energy and Climate Change

Nuclear fusion, the clean power that will take decades to master
Nuclear fusion is what powers the Sun and the stars – unleashing huge amounts of energy through the binding together of light elements such as hydrogen and helium. If fusion power were harnessed directly on Earth, it could produce inexhaustible clean power, using seawater as the main fuel, with no greenhouse gas emissions, no proliferation risk, and no risk of catastrophic accidents. Radioactive waste is very low level and indirect, arising from neutron activation of the power plant core. With current technology, a fusion power plant could be completely recycled within 100 years of shutdown… Why aren’t we using safe, clean nuclear fusion power yet?

Indian Ocean storing up heat from global warming, says study
The world’s oceans are playing a game of hot potato with the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists have zeroed in on the tropical Pacific as a major player in taking up that heat. But while it might have held that heat for a bit, new research shows that the Pacific has passed the potato to the Indian Ocean, which has seen an unprecedented rise in heat content over the past decade. The new work builds on a series of papers that have tracked the causes for what’s been dubbed the global warming slowdown, a period over the past 15 years that has seen surface temperatures rise slower than they did the previous decade.

Cooks Beach on the flood watch list, says Niwa
HAMILTON, NEW ZEALAND – Cooks Beach in the Coromandel will see more frequent flooding over the next century as sea levels rise, says an expert on coastal hazards. Niwa scientist Dr Scott Stephens will present a talk on Tuesday to discuss the impacts of sea level rise, and Cooks Beach is one location where the flood risk is rising, he said. “The key message is sea level rise is going to cause coastal inundation much more frequently in the future.” While the findings are based on data collected further north at Auckland, Stephens said the principles would apply everywhere in New Zealand.

Abbott government and Labor reach renewable energy target deal
A deal has been reached to reduce Australia’s renewable energy target to 33,000 gigawatt hours after the government agreed to drop regular reviews of the scheme. The government and Labor reached an agreement during talks in Melbourne on Monday morning, ending more than 12 months of political deadlock. It is hoped the deal will unlock investment in Australia’s renewable energy sector which has been stalled since the government launched its review last year of the bipartisan target of 41,000 gigawatt hours of annual renewable energy production by 2020.

Shell accused of strategy risking catastrophic climate change
Royal Dutch Shell has been accused of pursuing a strategy that would lead to potentially catastrophic climate change after an internal document acknowledged a global temperature rise of 4C, twice the level considered safe for the planet. A paper used for guiding future business planning at the Anglo-Dutch multinational assumes that carbon dioxide emissions will fail to limit temperature increases to 2C, the internationally agreed threshold to prevent widespread flooding, famine and desertification.  Instead, the New Lens Scenarios document refers to a forecast by the independent International Energy Agency (IEA) that points to a temperature rise of up to 4C in the short term, rising later to 6C.

Official: EU industrial emissions fall 4.5 per cent in 2014
Greenhouse gas emissions from industrial facilities and power plants covered by the EU’s emissions trading scheme (ETS) fell around 4.5 per cent last year, providing further evidence the link between economic growth and emissions growth is being severed across the bloc. The European Commission today published the latest wave of ETS emissions data in its Union Registry, confirming verified emissions from more than 11,000 power plants and industrial sites amounted to 1,812 million tonnes of CO2-equivalent in 2014, a reduction of 4.5 per cent on 2013 levels.

Climate talks can’t fail as there is no alternative planet, says French minister
France’s foreign minister warned Monday that the international community had no option but to combat climate change as there is “no alternative planet”. “We don’t have the right to fail,” Laurent Fabius told the opening of a two-day gathering in Berlin of representatives from 35 countries to pave the way for a global push to cut emissions. “We must commit ourselves very resolutely because there isn’t an alternative solution, for the simple reason that there isn’t an alternative planet,” he added. The informal talks are taking place under the “Petersberg Climate Dialogue” initiative, launched by Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2010, to prepare for the UN climate change conference in Paris in December.

Fossil Fuel Divestment

Oxford University rules out investing in coal and tar sands
The University of Oxford has ruled out future investments in coal and tar sands from its multi-billion pound endowment, but said it would not divest from all fossil fuels as demanded by thousands of students, academics and alumni. Campaigners welcomed the move as a victory for the fast-growing fossil fuel divestment campaign, as it was the first time the university had made clear its position on the issue. “Many world leaders have studied under Oxford University’s spires,” said Andrew Taylor, at campaign group People & Planet. “They should be taking notes today. The lesson is: it’s time to phase out coal and axe tar sands.”

Environment and Biodiversity

World in crisis: Sobering photos of mankind’s destruction of the planet
Global warming isn’t the only thing to worry about. Overpopulation, pollution, poaching and mining are just a few of mankind’s other harms that are leaving the Earth scorched and ruined. However, the devastating effects of the digital age, demanding food production and melting glaciers are something most people don’t see every day. In order to raise awareness of the issues threatening life as we know it on this planet, the Foundation for Deep Ecology and Population Media Centre have released a collection of sobering pictures, showing the widespread destruction of land, skies and seas.

Better management of NZ oceans needed – think-tank
A think-tank has proposed a major new institute should be set up to better manage oceans surrounding New Zealand. The Wellington-based McGuinness Institute tonight formally launched its comprehensive report One Ocean – Principles for the stewardship of a healthy and productive ocean, which analysed policy challenges around oceans management. New Zealand is responsible for a vast Exclusive Economic Zone covering 4,083,744 km2, approximately 15 times the land area of the country and the fourth largest in the world.

Economy and Business

Fossil fuels subsidised by $10m a minute, says IMF
Fossil fuel companies are benefitting from global subsidies of $5.3tn (£3.4tn) a year, equivalent to $10m a minute every day, according to a startling new estimate by the International Monetary Fund.  The IMF calls the revelation “shocking” and says the figure is an “extremely robust” estimate of the true cost of fossil fuels. The $5.3tn subsidy estimated for 2015 is greater than the total health spending of all the world’s governments. The vast sum is largely due to polluters not paying the costs imposed on governments by the burning of coal, oil and gas. These include the harm caused to local populations by air pollution as well as to people across the globe affected by the floods, droughts and storms being driven by climate change.

A tale of two futures: Australia’s economy under climate change
Economic modelling and its associated forecasts are always open to criticism, particularly when the results align with the predisposition of the modellers or their paymasters. Such criticism has been a feature of economic modelling on energy and climate change for several years. When it comes to climate change and Australia’s economic future, different crystal balls can produce vastly different results. That’s usually because different economic models can be operating under quite different assumptions about the extent to which world leaders will act in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence showing significant climate change is on the way.

Marmite energy helps Unilever cruise pass one million tonnes carbon-saving milestone
Harnessing waste materials from the production of Marmite and Flora to generate low carbon energy is just one of the ways Unilever has managed to slash carbon emissions by one million tonnes, the consumer goods giant revealed today. Unilever today confirmed it has cut carbon emissions from its factory operations by one million tonnes since 2008, saving itself €244m in energy costs in the process. The announcement – which comes just months after it confirmed all its factories had secured zero waste status, saving €200m – is timed to coincide with the launch of Climate Week Paris where business leaders from around the world will gather to call for more ambitious action to cut global emissions.

Unilever boss urges world leaders to reduce carbon output
The head of Unilever has called on world leaders to raise their game in the battle against climate change.  Chief executive Paul Polman said governments must set clear CO2 targets to force low-carbon innovation. Speaking ahead of a business climate summit in Paris this week, he urged fellow chief executives to help create a “political licence” for politicians to promote clean energy. But firms dependent on cheap fossil fuel energy are unlikely to agree. “It’s clear that, increasingly, the business community is aware of the costs of climate change. Momentum is swinging towards people realising that we need to take urgent action to stay below two degrees [increase in global average temperature],” Mr Polman told BBC News.

How a new boss can breathe fresh life into sustainability
Chief executives, like prime ministers, are said to have 100 days to get themselves established. It’s their chance to lay out their vision, establish their priorities and show everyone who’s boss. But what about the old boss, and his or her vision?

iForest: Apple gets into forest conservation in China and the US
Apple is carving out a status for itself as a forest defender. That’s the role the electronics giant has assumed in an effort to increase the sustainable forestry pulp and paper supply that it needs for packaging. On Monday, Apple announced a plan to work with the World Wildlife Fund to improve the management of 1m acres of forests in China. This follows the iPhone maker’s announcement last month to donate money to Conservation Fund to buy and protect 36,000 acres of forests from commercial development other than forestry product production in Maine and North Carolina.

Politics and Society

Bjorn Lomborg’s consensus approach is blind to inequality
Bjorn Lomborg is, undoubtedly, seriously concerned with poverty and inequality. Both in the work of the Copenhagen Consensus Center (CCC) and in his popular writings, this is a common theme. He has championed some very progressive ideas, including eradicating barriers to international migration. Unfortunately, he has also used rather distorted arguments and evidence about inequality to attack some of his favourite bugbears, such as subsidies for renewable energy.

Food Systems

New form of herbicide resistance discovered in common crop weed
South Australian researchers have discovered what is believed to be the first case of “gene amplification” herbicide resistance in an Australian weed species.  The mechanism has been found in glyphosate resistant strains of brome grass, a significant crop weed in southern and western Australian cereal growing zones.  Dr Jenna Malone, from the University of Adelaide, said the finding could ultimately help farmers, who can’t afford to lose glyphosate from their weed control toolkit. b”From a management side, there aren’t many herbicide options for the control of brome,” she said. “So in the case of resistance, the loss of glyphosate would cause serious management issues for farmers.”


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