Wednesday 19 November 2014

Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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Top Story

Denmark Sets 100% Renewable Energy Goal for 2050
Denmark has announced an ambitious goal to wean itself off of fossil fuels and power the entire country with renewables by 2050. What sets the Scandinavian country apart from other countries is that it is applying this goal to electrical production as well as transportation. Although some might argue the Danes are being overly optimistic, they are already above 40 percent renewable power on their electric grid and are headed toward 50 percent by 2020.

However, Denmark has already run into several problems scaling up renewable energy capacity. Renewables such as wind and solar cost little to nothing to run after installation, but they cause power prices to crash at what were once the most profitable times of day. This can cause conventional power plants to shut down—which are needed to supply backup power for times of low wind and sunlight. To counter this, the Danish government has offered short-term subsidies in hopes of keeping the conventional power plants afloat. In Denmark and throughout Europe, governments are realizing that electricity markets will need to be redesigned.

Energy and Climate Change

India plans to increase solar power five-fold without subsidies
India said its renewable-energy industry must eventually learn to live without government support and that it’s seeking to generate five times more power from solar by 2022 than is currently installed. Renewables need to be a “self-sustained industry and not dependent on government subsidies,” Coal and Power Minister Piyush Goyal said in an address at an event in New Delhi today. The government is targeting 100 gigawatts of solar capacity in the next eight years, putting India’s ambition for photovoltaics on par with China’s, he said. India may find it difficult to achieve its solar target without subsidies as the country has added only 3 gigawatts so far and the previous government was talking about adding only 20 gigawatts.

Environment and Biodiversity

Wildlife crime wanted list released
The public is being asked to provide information on the locations of nine fugitives suspected of serious environmental crimes. The appeal, from Interpol, is part of an effort to track down individuals involved in illegal fishing, logging and wildlife trafficking. The trade in wildlife crime is said to be worth around $213bn per annum, according to the UN. This is the first time that individuals have been targeted.  Investigators from 21 countries gathered at Interpol’s headquarters in France in October to share information on suspects involved in a range of crimes involving the environment.

Economy and Business

Businesses want higher emission cuts
Businesses want Australia to increase its 2020 emissions-reduction goal and don’t expect the government’s signature climate policy to work without strict baselines and additional funds, according to a survey conducted in part by the Australian National University. Of the 245 respondents to the Australian Emissions Reduction Survey, just over half wanted Australia to seek a deeper cut than the current 5 per cent of 2000-level emissions by the end of the decade, with another quarter backing an increase in the target if key trading partners also cut more. The respondents, which included 72 companies previously liable to carbon pricing and 96 required to disclose emissions to the National Greenhouse Energy Reporting scheme, were split in their views about the $2.55 billion Emissions Reduction Fund to pay for “direct action”.

How Leadership on Sustainability Shapes Smart Regulatory Policy
This past year, we’ve seen some bold action by companies in what we’ve dubbed the business-policy nexus, and it’s taking several different forms. Some have been calling for state or federal action on environmental impacts, while others are taking far-reaching voluntary efforts that could help support policy advocacy in the future.

Report: Sustainability Leaders Gaining Ground in Global Boardrooms
Sustainability leaders have increasing influence over decision-making, strategy and budgets in boardrooms worldwide, according to a new report by analyst firm Verdantix. The report, Global Survey 2014: Sustainability Budgets And Priorities, is based on interviews with senior sustainability decision-makers and budget-holders from 260 firms with revenues between $250 million and over $20 billion…CEOs increasingly recognize sustainability impacts financial performance, the report shows. Some 28 percent of CEOs consider sustainability as factors that already impact quarterly and annual financial performance. As many as 92 percent of sustainability leaders report directly to the CEO or another member of the executive committee.

One man’s fight to join the board of Australia’s largest mining company
Over the last 30 years nothing has been done to address human-caused climate change. Even after progress at the G20 Brisbane meeting, it is evident that conventional politics will never provide the strong leadership required to avoid severe climatic impacts. In its absence, business in its own self-interest, must act. In 2013, as a shareholder, I nominated to join the board of BHP Billiton (BHPB), Australia’s largest mining company, on the grounds that it needed to take more urgent action to address climate change and its destructive impact on shareholder value.  BHPB to its credit, has been relatively advanced in acknowledging these issues, albeit this does not say a great deal in an industry still largely in denial. The board recommended against my appointment on the grounds that matters were well in hand. I received 4% of the shareholder vote, compared to the 50% required.

Do Green Claims Work?
Certified green claims are the most effective with consumers, according to a UL Environment research study that finds qualifying language adds to a claim’s effectiveness but there is still some confusion in the marketplace. Under the Lens: Claiming Green outlines the role that certified claims play in adding to perceived brand value and reputation as well as the importance of clearly, credibly and simply communicating sustainability activities. It finds consumers react negatively to claims with overly technical or generic language, and to claims that are logo only and lack qualifying language to provide context.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Thinking outside the box: unwrapping a massive packaging problem
As the holiday season approaches, more and more purchases are happening online. Online purchases are projected to grow 20.1% to hit $1.5tn this year, according to eMarketer. As a result, mail packing is a burgeoning sustainability concern. Aside from the plastic and cardboard wrapping the products come in, there are the boxes, the labeling and the paper wrapping or foam packing meant to protect what is nestled inside. It’s not unusual to end up with far more packaging than stuff, and the sheer amount of waste that results is staggering. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (pdf), containers and packaging accounted for 30% – or 75.2m tons – of total solid waste generated in the US in 2012. To put that into perspective, we discard our own weight in packaging every 30-40 days, on average, according to Stanford University.

Politics and Society

Report: state policies affecting renewables investment
South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT are leading the field in renewable energy, while NSW and Victoria are lagging behind, according to a new report from the Climate Council.  The Australian Renewable Energy Race: which states are winning and losing report also shows the degree to which sub-national policies in the different states are driving or retarding investment in renewable energy projects, with Victoria declared the state with the worst policy settings for encouraging renewable energy.

Brussels targets super-sized TVs in drive for energy efficiency
The amount of energy that big screen TVs can use will be capped under an EU energy efficiency drive which the European commission expects will cut consumers’ energy bills by around €8bn a year. After similar energy-saving rules for vacuum cleaners provoked a storm of criticism from UK newspapers last autumn, the planned TV rules may be a test case for new ‘ecodesign’ formulas for kettles, toasters and hairdryers, due to be announced next year.

Recycling rates in England have stalled
Households appear to have given up trying to recycle more of their rubbish, official statistics suggest, which show that recycling rates in England have stalled. Recycling rates flatlined in England last year, rising just 0.1 percentage point on the year before, to 44.2%. Officials admitted last year that a European target of recycling 50% of waste by 2020 will be missed, after rates increased by just 0.2 percentage points on the year before. The new ‘waste from households’ figures published on Tuesday suggest that the slowdown is part of a trend rather than a one-off blip. The 44.2% recycling rate compares to 54.3% in Wales, and follows warnings from MPs last month that the government needs to take action to nudge the stalled recycling rate up.

Americans Recycling Less, [Self-Report] Surveys Show
Americans are recycling less, according to two surveys conducted around America Recycles Day on Nov. 15. A survey conducted by global insights firm Kelton Global on behalf of the American Chemistry Council finds that half of Americans say they recycle 75 percent or more of their recyclable items compared with the national recycling rate of 34.5 percent in 2012, as measured by the EPA. And a Harris Poll survey conducted on behalf of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries finds younger American adults ages 18-34 are significantly less likely to say they always recycle (33 percent vs. 48 percent of those ages 35+).

Built Environment

How to make old homes energy efficient
Thirty five years ago I bought a row of 350-year-old Welsh half-timbered industrial workers’ cottages. Good move, except for the several kinds of damp, the beetles, woodworm, rotting windows, multicoloured moulds, doors that did not fit and a resident cat. Over the years, nearly everything has been repaired and re-repaired, new bits have been added, and other bits have dropped off. The cat has long gone and today it’s like so many of Britain’s other 400,000 listed buildings – hungry, expensive to maintain, and a mix of styles, materials and ages. I love it. But until the ‘Green Police’ – the head of environmental practices at the National Trust, a leading historic buildings adviser and a researcher at the Centre for sustainable energy in Bristol – descended on it recently I did not realise how much energy I was wasting and what could be done.

Sustainability reporting: Mirvac, Stockland, Investa and Westfield
Mirvac recently released its 2014 sustainability report, with some big environmental gains announced. We thought it was a good chance to have a look at these achievements, and see what progress other real estate companies have made over the year, too. If your company has some impressive achievements over the past financial year, get in touch and we’ll add them.

Food Systems

World-leading chef Alice Waters brings slow food philosophy and flavour wisdom to Melbourne
Activated almonds, citrus foams and deconstructed desserts have become common complexities on Melbourne’s menus, but when one of the world’s leading chefs visited Melbourne, her interest lay elsewhere. Instead, US chef and pioneer of the slow food movement, Alice Waters, spent her visit digging her fingers into the soil of a veggie patch at Collingwood College to pull out garlic bulbs grown by Year 6 students. Ms Waters was hosted by Australian chef and founder of the Kitchen Garden schools program, Stephanie Alexander, who said she drew inspiration from her US colleague.




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