Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Top Story

Why gardening is good for your mind as well as your body
More than half the planet’s population now live in cities, with limited access to the natural world. For Europe and Latin America, the figure is more than 70%. Yet contact with nature has numerous benefits for both our physical and mental health. Gardening is an opportunity for everyone to experience this kind of regular contact with nature, even if they live in built-up areas. For those without a garden of their own, allotments or community gardens are a highly valuable resource. Demand for allotments is increasing and in some locations waiting times have reached as much as 40 years.

Energy and Climate Change

2015 shatters the temperature record as global warming speeds back up
With just a month and a half left in 2015, it’s clear this year will be by far the hottest on record, easily beating the previous record set just last year. The temporary slowdown in the warming of global surface temperatures (also misnamed the “pause”) has ended, as each of the past four years has been hotter than the one before.

NOAA global surface temperature data (1966–2015) broken into El Niño (red), La Niña (blue), neutral (black), and volcanic eruption (orange) years with linear trends for each category. Created by Dana Nuccitelli.

NOAA global surface temperature data (1966–2015) broken into El Niño (red), La Niña (blue), neutral (black), and volcanic eruption (orange) years with linear trends for each category. Created by Dana Nuccitelli.

Wind and solar beating conventional fuels on costs – Lazard
The latest study by US investment bank Lazard has highlighted the extent to which wind and solar technologies are beating conventional fuels – coal, gas and nuclear – on costs of production, and also on abatement. The study, the “Levellised Cost of Energy Analysis 9.0 notes that utility scale solar PV has fallen 25 per cent in the last year alone, since its most recent study. Since 2009, when it began the analysis, solar and wind energy have fallen by 80 per cent and 60 per cent respectively.

ARENA and CEFC funding could double solar capacity
Project developers have shown “strong interest” in the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and Clean Energy Finance Corporation’s fund for large-scale solar projects. ARENA today (Tuesday) announced it had received 77 eligible expressions of interest for its $100 million large-scale solar photovoltaic competitive round, while the CEFC said it received interest from more than 40 domestic and international project developers for its complementary $250 million financing program.

Radical plan proposes power generators pay to close dirty coal competitors
Power generators would be forced to pay for the closure of a competitor’s dirty brown-coal fired plant under a radical plan that could help Australia slow the continued increase in electricity sector greenhouse emissions without a carbon price or expensive government subsidies.

UK to close all coal power plants in switch to gas and nuclear
The UK will close all coal-fired power plants by 2025, the first major country to do so, but will fill the capacity gap largely with new gas and nuclear plants rather than cleaner alternatives. The announcement came in a speech by the energy secretary, Amber Rudd, which she described as a “reset” of Britain’s energy policy on Wednesday.
More: Rudd’s ‘reset’ speech: 12 things you need to know…

Offshore wind could supply one third of UK electricity by 2030
Launched today (17 November) as part of Offshore Wind Week, the document outlines a trajectory for offshore wind that will provide the UK with the “best opportunity for cost-effective decarbonisation”. Benj Sykes, co-chair of the Offshore Wind Industry Council said: “It is only 15 years since the first UK offshore wind farm – just two 2 megawatt turbines – began operating. Since then the technology has matured rapidly to the point where the UK leads the world in deployment and could readily build 30 gigawatts of capacity by 2030.”

The Good, the Bad, the Bewildering: 10 Countries’ Climate Pledges
When China and the United States agreed a year ago to scale back greenhouse gas emissions, they set the stage for this month’s international climate talks in Paris. But Paris is not just about these two powerhouses, even though they account for one-third of fossil fuel emissions. Curbing the threat posed by climate change truly takes global action… So who are the climate heroes? Which countries are doing the most (or least) to tackle greenhouse gases?

Paris 2015: UN Conference on Climate Change

Barack Obama optimistic of reaching climate change deal at Paris summit
US president Barack Obama said on Wednesday he was optimistic an elusive deal to contain global warming could be forged at an upcoming crunch summit in Paris, and insisted an ambitious deal would boost a flagging world economy. In a speech to an Asia-Pacific business conference in the Philippines, Obama said there was still a “lot of work to do” to ensure success at the United Nations summit. “Nevertheless, I’m optimistic that we can get an outcome that we’re all proud of, because we understand what’s at stake,” Obama said.

UK upbeat about Paris climate talks, confident deal can be struck to reduce post-2020 emissions
Britain is confident the upcoming United Nations convention on climate change in Paris will be a success, and expects nations will agree to a global plan to reduce carbon emissions beyond 2020. “We’re in a good position,” The UK foreign secretary’s special representative for climate change, Sir David King, said about the talks later this month. “There is clear political momentum behind an agreement. I think it is very unlikely we’ll see a breakdown in negotiations.”

Fossil Fuel Divestment

The 7 fossil fuel divestment myths, and why they don’t stack up
Recent arguments from a range of business experts and the financial media suggest that divesting is a bad idea. Below, we’ve taken on their arguments to show that it makes great sense – not only for the global climate but, with fossil fuel prices dropping drastically and global commitments to reduce or phase out fossil fuel use altogether being made, for the bottom line as well. So, let the fossil fuel divestment myth-busting begin.

Environment and Biodiversity

Shrinking Antarctic glaciers could make Adélie penguins unlikely winners of climate change
Penguin numbers exploded in East Antarctica at the end of the last ice age, according to research published today in BMC Evolutionary Biology. Despite their image as cold-loving creatures, the increase in Adélie penguin numbers seems to be closely linked to shrinking glaciers, raising the possibility the these penguins could be winners from current climate change.

Bees and pesticides ‘missing link’ found
Scientists say they have found the “missing link” in the debate over the risk of pesticides to bees. French researchers say neonicotinoid pesticides harm individual honeybees, but whole colonies are able to recover in the wild. This accounts for discrepancies between lab and field studies, they report in Royal Society journal Proceedings B. A Europe-wide ban on neonicotinoid use on flowering crops is due to be reviewed at the end of the year.

US and Cuba to sign agreement on marine conservation and research
The United States and Cuba are set to reach their first accord on environmental protection since announcing plans to re-establish diplomatic relations, linking up marine sanctuaries in both countries to cooperate on preservation and research.

Karen Schumacher focuses on expanding North Island brown kiwi to 1000 pairs
NEW ZEALAND – …The breed’s numbers are growing at Purangi even as the kiwi population declines nationally at a rate of two per cent a year. “Kiwi are part of our community, so we’re providing a place  for them to thrive, alongside our farmland and forestry, a safe environment for them to breed and grow, ” Schumacher said.  She and husband Bob, who own a dairy farm near Inglewood, established ETET in 2005 after discovering kiwi on their 197-hectare run-off at Purangi.

Can farms be good for nature without being organic?
Non-organic farmers can do much more to foster wild plants, butterflies and bugs without giving up on pesticides, according to new research, but organic farms still bring the largest benefits for wildlife. In the UK, 80 non-organic farms have signed up to the conservation grade (CG) scheme. This requires them to turn 10% of their land over to habitat specifically targeted at supporting their local ecology. In return, farmers brand their products with a “Fair to Nature” accreditation and can charge a premium for them.

Economy and Business

OECD countries agree to restrict financing for overseas coal power plants
A compromise struck by the United States, Japan and several other major nations will restrict export financing to build coal power plants overseas, but not eliminate it completely. The agreement reached on Tuesday is an important step forward that sends a strong political message ahead of upcoming international climate change negotiations in Paris, an American official and environmentalists said. Japan and the United States were long at odds on this issue.
From Australia: Australia backs down on coal stand-off

Net Positive: How to Move From Ambition to Implementation
Arriving a few minutes late after taking ‘the sustainable option’ and walking to the Beaumont Estate from Egham station, Forum for the Future’s Zoe Le Grand kicked off Monday morning’s Net Positive workshop.   “Nature cannot continue to provide as the population grows and grows,” she asserted. “We are not going to get there by doing what we have always done or just being 10 percent more efficient. Business needs to step up the level of ambition and drive things faster and further.” So what is Net Positive?

Walmart is slapping itself on the back for sustainability but it still has a way to go
It’s been 10 years since Lee Scott, the then-CEO of Walmart, publicly set the giant retailer on a path towards sustainability. In an influential speech, “Twenty-First Century Leadership”, Scott pledged that the company someday would be supplied entirely by renewable energy, that it would eliminate waste and that it would sell products that sustain people and the environment. Walmart’s not there yet. But on Tuesday, the company held a global milestone meeting to mark its progress after a decade, and no fair-minded person who attended could fail to be impressed with the company’s accomplishments.

How to Create a Purpose-Led Organization: 12 Fundamental Principles of Purposeful Branding
In his SB ’15 London workshop on Monday afternoon, Pulse Brands founder Simon Milton and Adele Blakethorough, Chief Executive at Social Business Trust, highlighted 12 practical tools to create a purpose-led organisation. “Sit back on your chair. Place your feet on the ground. Breathe deeply and ask yourself ‘Why am I here?’” Milton used two minutes of mindfulness as a way to delve into the personal side of purpose, to tap into each individual’s creativity from a level deeper than the intellect. His own journey, he said, led him to move beyond mission spin in advertising.

Waste and the Circular Economy

MetaWear Becomes U.S. Cradle to Cradle Fashion Positive Factory
Fashion manufacturer MetaWear, in collaboration with Cradle to Cradle initiative Fashion Positive, is set to offer the first U.S.-based Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Silver organic cotton men’s and women’s T-shirts. The products have met the highest standards in terms of chemical safety, water effluent standards, compostability and renewable energy production.

Politics and Society

Outraged by CEO salaries? It was your shares that approved them
People often talk of capitalism, and of plans to reform or replace it. But we seldom ask who are the capitalists, on whose behalf the system is supposedly run. If we did, the answer might surprise us. I would bet that most of the people reading this article who are over 30 also ultimately own shares in the giant transnational companies that sit at the heart of the capitalist system… the overwhelming majority of shares are held by institutional investors, such as BlackRock, L&G, Aviva and Vanguard. The funds these institutions invest do not belong to them. It is money that you and I have set aside to pay for our pension, or some other future contingency, and which we have given to the institution to manage on our behalf.

Australia’s bush fire preparedness under threat as climate change kicks in
Australia risks being under-prepared for longer, drier and more severe bushfire seasons, a report from the Climate Council says. The national report found that record-breaking temperatures and hot winds will place unprecedented strain on firefighting resources, estimating that the number of professional firefighters across Australia will need to double by 2030.

Built Environment

Melbourne sees a boost in retrofit activity, but private owners still not engaging
AUSTRALIA – Thirty-seven per cent of buildings surveyed by the City of Melbourne have completed a retrofit in the past five years, according to the latest 1200 Buildings Melbourne Retrofit Survey. However, the report points to a continued lack of engagement from private owners… “Retrofitting is on the increase because improving a building’s performance makes economic sense,” City of Melbourne environment portfolio chair Arron Wood said. “More efficient buildings cost less to run and are more likely to attract and retain tenants, which improves asset value and rental return.”


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