Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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In the Netherlands, Empty Prisons Become Homes for Refugees
In an interesting take on reusing and recycling, a government agency in the Netherlands has opened empty prisons to accommodate the influx of migrants seeking asylum. As the country’s crime rate and prison population have steadily declined for years, dozens of correctional facilities have closed altogether. So when the number of migrants started to rise—more than 50,000 entered the Netherlands last year alone—the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) saw a solution.

Energy and Climate Change

When should we worry about climate change?
With CO2 concentrations marching past 400 ppm, when should we start worrying about global warming? “About 30 years ago,” is the blunt answer from David Karoly, a climate scientist with Melbourne University. That’s when CSIRO and other scientists declared we had a problem. “But we shouldn’t give up, either,” he told me this week. “The worry – and the [climate] action – should now be increased.”

Portugal runs for four days straight on renewable energy alone
Portugal kept its lights on with renewable energy alone for four consecutive days last week in a clean energy milestone revealed by data analysis of national energy network figures. Electricity consumption in the country was fully covered by solar, wind and hydro power in an extraordinary 107-hour run that lasted from 6.45am on Saturday 7 May until 5.45pm the following Wednesday, the analysis says. Graph-AUemissions-Dec15

Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions since 2000 have jumped 3 per cent
The latest inventory of national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, released by the government, indicates that Australian emissions increased 1 per cent over the 2015 calendar year, growing to 3 per cent above 2000 levels – and forecast to be above of Australia’s target to cut emissions to minus 5 per cent on 2000 levels by 2020.

South Australia launches biggest solar + storage trial to defray network costs
SA Power Networks has announced the biggest trial of rooftop solar and energy storage of its type in Australia, in a bid to prove that the new “distributed generation” technologies can avoid the need to build additional network infrastructure, and so save customers money.

NSW community solar group launches biggest solar funding round to date
AUSTRALIA – Repower Shoalhaven – the community energy group behind two successful crowd-funding projects – is set to launch its third round of solar fundraising, to put another 100kW of solar on local New South Wales businesses.

Environment and Biodiversity

Are toxic algal blooms the new normal for Australia’s major rivers?
For much of this year, up to 1,700 kilometres of the Murray River has been hit by a serious outbreak of potentially toxic blue-green algae, which has flourished in the hotter-than-average conditions. After three months, the river is now recovering with the arrival of wet weather. But we are unlikely to have seen the last of these poisonous microbes. Large blue-green algal blooms are a relatively new phenomenon in inland waterways. In 1991 an algal bloom affected more than 1,000 km of the Darling River, the first time such an event had been reported in an Australian river, and one of the few times internationally.

Environmental groups demand end to logging of Australia’s native forests
More than 30 environmental groups have signed a statement demanding that agreements allowing the logging of Australian native forests not be renewed. Australia’s 10 regional forestry agreements (RFAs) were signed between 1997 and 2001, each running for 20 years, with the first two expiring in 2017. The agreements between state and federal governments mean proposals to log in designated native forests aren’t required to be approved through the usual federal process, under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC).

Great Barrier Reef: who’s profiting from the destruction and devastation?
The coal industry is the single worst culprit. Climate change is the single greatest threat to the Great Barrier Reef and the burning of coal is the biggest driver of climate change. The recent catastrophic mass bleaching of the reef was made 175 times likelier by human-caused climate change, according to a study from the University of Melbourne.

Marine Parks Help Global Fish Stocks Withstand Warming
New and expanded marine parks and fishing rules could be powerful antidotes for threats of famine as fisheries dwindle from climate change and overfishing, new research has shown. An ambitious new analysis of big marine data produced from thousands of dives by citizen scientists worldwide has detected a powerful link between the biodiversity of a coral or rocky reef and the size of the fisheries it supports.

One of Thailand’s most beautiful islands is closing because tourists are destroying it
The swelling tide of tourists to a Thai island has brought it to the brink of irreversible damage, say Thai officials. The tourists, in other words, are destroying what they came to see. This week, the director general of Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation said that Koh Tachai – an increasingly popular destination, especially for scuba divers – would not reopen after the incoming monsoon season.

Last stand for Europe’s remaining ancient forest as loggers prepare to move in
Europe’s last primeval forest is facing what campaigners call its last stand as loggers prepare to start clear-cutting trees, following the dismissal of dozens of scientists and conservation experts opposed to the plan. Poland’s new far right government says logging is needed because more than 10% of spruce trees in the Unesco world heritage site of Białowieża are suffering from a bark beetle outbreak. But nearly half the logging will be of other species, according to its only published inventory.

Pizzly or grolar bear: grizzly-polar hybrid is a cute result of climate change
Climate change is known for swelling the oceans and fueling extreme weather, but it may be also causing the curious emergence of a new type of bear in the Arctic. A bear shot in the frigid expanse of northern Canada is believed to be a grizzly-polar bear hybrid, a consequence of the increasing interactions between the two imposing bear species.

Bread-fed ducks malnourished and dying
A classic Kiwi pastime is causing more harm than many realise and councils are taking steps to put a stop to it. The Waimakariri District Council posted signs at the Kaiapoi Lakes last week, warning against feeding bread to ducks and other local birdlife. The call for the signs came from the South Island Wildlife Hospital earlier this year, and after several months a sign was posted at the Kaiapoi Lakes.

Economy and Business

Sales increase by up to 56% when shoppers know a product will last
From fashion to food and electronics, many industries are facing a backlash against cheaply made products that do not last. Sick of printers that break within two years, or suitcases that fall apart the second time you use them, there is a growing appetite for long-life guarantees – from the promise of the 30-year jumper to the rise of shopping sites dedicated to products that last a lifetime.

“Clarity and commitment drive action”: businesses will deliver on the Paris Agreement
In the past month the conversations between business and government leaders on the actions needed to implement the Paris Agreement have been revolving around two key points: clarity and commitment. With the strong policy direction delivered by the climate deal that was reached last December, and the reiterated commitment by world governments shown at the signing ceremony in April, there can be no doubt about where the world is heading. Two weeks ago we co-hosted Climate Action 2016, a two-day event that showcased the commitment of non-state actors – cities, businesses and sub-national governments – to deliver on the Paris Agreement.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Report: $3.5B+ Business Opportunity in Scaling Up Circular System for Plastics
Plastic has many benefits ranging from reducing food waste by providing packaging to cutting transport pollution due to its light weight. However, waste plastic is undervalued by the economy due to externalization of environmental costs. In a new discussion paper, Trucost estimates that scaling up companies’ use of sustainable plastic could deliver environmental savings of $3.5 billion.

Politics and Society

Trump won’t be able to derail Paris climate deal, says senior US official
The US would still meet its obligations under the Paris accord on climate change if Donald Trump were elected president, a senior US administration official has told the Guardian. He said the path of the US towards a lower-carbon economy was already set, and was dependent on market forces that would not easily succumb to political tinkering.

Election 2016: What are our leaders really thinking about climate change?
Climate change, and the policies to slow its impact, have dominated the last few election cycles in Australia. But it has barely rated a mention at the start of this campaign. So what do our leaders really think about climate change? That question was on the mind of one curious Australian, who asked ABC News to investigate.

The Greens grow up
AUSTRALIA – Richard Di Natale’s address to the Lowy Institute was something of a landmark in the evolution of the Australian Greens’ policy agenda. For too long the Greens have been preoccupied with the touchy-feely end of the policy spectrum, and unwilling to dirty their hands in the polluted waters of traditional security issues.

Greens electric vehicle policy aims for 31,000 more EVs on roads by 2021
AUSTRALIA – As the major parties’ climate and environment ministers duked it out at the National Press Club, the Greens released a policy plan that aims to get 31,000 more electric vehicles on Australian roads by 2021 – up from little more than 1,000 now – and 330 more charging stations. The plan involves subsidising EV buyers to the tune of free registration for the first five years after purchase of a fully electric vehicle, as well as providing local governments and NGOs with $50 million in grants to meet the cost gap between EVs conventional cars.
See also: Greens urge sharp increase in luxury car tax to drive transition to electric

Built Environment

MetroLab: A new era for higher learning in smart cities
The MetroLab Network, which launched last September as part of the White House’s $160 million-backed Smart Cities Initiative, is comprised of 34 cities, four counties, and 44 universities. Its goal: support collaboration between cities and universities around projects that address everything from infrastructure and public services to environmental sustainability and social justice.

4 surprising ways energy-efficient buildings benefit cities
New WRI research examines the vital role building efficiency can play in shaping sustainable cities of the future, as well as ways policymakers can accelerate it in their own communities. Here’s a look at four economic, social and environmental opportunities building efficiency creates

As flooding intensifies, coastal megacities turn to social media to stay afloat
Coastal cities around the world are facing multiple environmental challenges, including rising seas, increasing storm surges and more frequent flooding. As the video above from the University of Wollongong shows, megacities in Southeast Asia — such as Jakarta, Indonesia — are particularly at risk. Over the past 20 years, Jakarta has experienced one of the highest rates of urbanization in the world — with a current population of over 30 million in the greater metropolitan area. Compounding the city’s problems is the fact that most of the land lies within a watershed that is prone to flooding during the monsoon season.

Why air pollution in schools is such a big deal – and what to do about it
Former London mayor Boris Johnson has been accused of holding back negative findings from a 2013 report on the city’s air pollution. The report stated that 433 of London’s 1,777 primary schools were in areas where nitrogen dioxide concentrations breached EU limits. Nitrogen dioxide, or NO2, is an air pollutant that when inhaled can aggravate respiratory diseases such as asthma, emphysema and bronchitis. It has been estimated that in 2010 there were 5,900 deaths in London associated with long term exposure to NO2. There’s a social element too. Of those 433 polluted schools, 82% were officially considered “deprived” (where more than 40% of pupils eligible for free school meals).


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