Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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One of the ways we can all reduce our carbon footprint is to eat less meat and today’s top story outlines just how much of an impact that could have. In other news, another story on the viability of using nature to store carbon; our microbiome is an ecosystem and, just like an ecosystem, it can get out of balance; a similar theme in an article about different types of manuka in NZ; and consumers demand for ethical products is evidenced through the continued growth in sales of Fairtrade certified products.

Top Story

Without Changing Diets, Agriculture Alone Could Produce Enough Emissions to Surpass 1.5°C of Global Warming | World Resources Institute
The global food system’s environmental impact is large and growing. Nearly a quarter of all planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions come from food production and associated land-use change. And as incomes rise and more people move to cities, consumption of meat and dairy – foods with outsized climate impacts – is on the rise.

Climate Change

Climate fund, bolstered by energy heavyweights, should set sights on nature | GreenBiz
A global initiative to transition the world to a low-carbon future just gained three big new allies. Energy giants Chevron, ExxonMobil and Occidental Petroleum are the first companies in the U.S. oil sector to commit to a $1 billion fund that aims to accelerate the use of low-emissions technologies as a solution to climate change. Created by the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI), the Climate Investments Fund pledges the money and resources of the world’s largest energy companies — historically, some of the greatest contributors to climate change — to the development of innovative clean-energy technologies. As it happens, one of the most effective clean-energy technologies has been in development for millions of years and is ripe for investment: nature.

The Morrison government’s biggest economic problem? Climate change denial | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – The big question… is why the government does not have a coherent economic narrative. One possible answer is that it has been too preoccupied with social issues such as religious freedom and before that, same-sex marriage, to give the economy sufficient attention. There is something in that. But this does not get to the heart of the problem, which is the inability of the Coalition to face the reality of climate change and its stubborn determination to live in a parallel universe of business as usual. It is climate change denial that is preventing the government from developing a coherent economic narrative.

U.S. greenhouse emissions fell in 2017 as coal plants shut | Reuters
USA – Greenhouse gases emissions from the largest U.S. industrial plants fell 2.7 percent in 2017, the Trump administration said, as coal plants shut and as that industry competes with cheap natural gas and solar and wind power that emit less pollution.

See also: Emissions Reductions Touted by EPA Are at Odds with Its Policies | Scientific American

Environment and Biodiversity

From peaceful coexistence to potential peril: the bacteria that live in and on us | The Conversation
Bacteria are everywhere, including in and on our bodies. There are estimated to be as many bacteria in a human body as there are human cells. Much like Pig Pen in the comic strip Peanuts, we actually carry around a cloud of bacteria in the air surrounding us. Bacteria are found in soil, in food, and on surfaces we touch all the time – our mobile phones, for example, are teeming with them. Bacteria can be good. Our gut is full of bacteria, which help digest food. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut and yoghurt are made with, and contain, millions of bacteria. But bacteria can be bad, too. They may infiltrate our skin and other defences and get into the wrong places, causing infection.

Greens warn of ‘Franklin’ campaign against Warragamba dam wall raising | SMH
AUSTRALIA – The NSW Greens say a public campaign echoing the successful rescue of Tasmanian rivers from damming in the 1980s is needed to preserve important Indigenous heritage sites and wild rivers on Sydney’s doorstep. The NSW government late on Wednesday secured support for a bill in Parliament that will allow the flooding of as much as 4700 hectares of World Heritage-listed Blue Mountains land.

Reef company altered scientist’s report on crown-of-thorns program — even though he told them not to | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – A company given millions of taxpayer dollars to cull the devastating crown-of-thorns starfish on the Great Barrier Reef altered a scientific report about the “poor management” of its own program, an ABC investigation can reveal. The changes to the document were made despite the author demanding it be published “as is”, with a company employee suggesting it “wear the wrath” of the scientist.

Billion trees drive could threaten manuka industry | Newsroom
NEW ZEALAND – A government scheme giving away mānuka seedlings could threaten future earnings from the trees according to botanists who say enthusiasm for planting is getting ahead of scientific understanding. Unitec associate professor Peter de Lange has been researching New Zealand mānuka and suspects there are at least three different types of mānuka in New Zealand, each with possible different properties.

Economy and Business

Fairtrade product sales hit record €8.5bn worldwide | Business Green
Global sales of Fairtrade certified goods and products rose nine per cent to almost €8.5bn last year, generating €178m in premiums for farmer and worker organisations, according to the sustainability scheme’s latest annual report. Published today, Fairtrade International’s annual report reveals 30,000 different products carried the Fairtrade mark across 150 countries last year, with the UK continuing to lead the world as the biggest market by retail sales volume, followed by Germany and the US.

The Human Signature: Edward Burtynsky’s Anthropocene | The Guardian (In pictures)
urtynsky’s unsettling large-scale images of industrial-scale extraction, urbanisation and deforestation reveal humanity’s devastating impact on the planet.

Uralkali potash mine #4, Berezniki, Russia, 2017. Photograph: Edward Burtynsky/Courtesy of Flowers Gallery London

Uralkali potash mine #4, Berezniki, Russia, 2017. Photograph: Edward Burtynsky/Courtesy of Flowers Gallery London

The natural alignment between sustainable business and Maori business | Sustainable Business Network
NEW ZEALAND – According to recent estimates, Māori businesses now account for an economic asset base of more than NZ$42.6 billion. This is largely made up of small and medium-sized enterprises in New Zealand. Māori business refers to Māori owned and operated businesses, but it’s the approach to business steeped in ancient roots that sets it apart from the mainstream. It’s Māori ways of thinking and doing, and the ability to reconnect with our common heritage as descendants of Papatūānuku, mother earth.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Mayor of London announces £5 million funding for public water fountains | Climate Action
UK – The Mayor or London, Sadiq Khan, has announced a £5 million fund to implement more public water fountains. The initiative is in partnership with Thames Water and is aimed to majorly boost the number of public water fountains in London from spring 2019. The funding is open to councils, businesses and local groups. This is the latest announcement from the Mayor to reduce single-use plastic and encourage people to refill rather than buy bottled water.

Turkey’s plastic waste imports from the UK are booming – but at what cost? | The Guardian
TURKEY – Itinerant garbage pickers run down the hilly streets of Istanbul, their trolleys packed with plastic and other waste. Their haul is a boon for the recycling industry in Turkey. “We collect 80% of the waste from the streets,” said Recep Karaman, head of the street waste collectors association. But imports of plastic waste from the UK are increasing, and Karaman says it could damage the income he and his colleagues earn from garbage picking. “3.5m of the 6m tonnes of waste produced annually is collected by us,” he said. “But our earnings drop due to imports; they decrease the value of the waste we collect.”

Men search through pieces suitable for recycling at the municipal garbage dump in Diyarbakir, Turkey. Photograph: Sertac Kayar/Reuters

Men search through pieces suitable for recycling at the municipal garbage dump in Diyarbakir, Turkey. Photograph: Sertac Kayar/Reuters

UK recycling industry under investigation for fraud and corruption | The Guardian
UK – The plastics recycling industry is facing an investigation into suspected widespread abuse and fraud within the export system amid warnings the world is about to close the door on UK packaging waste, the Guardian has learned. The Environment Agency (EA) has set up a team of investigators, including three retired police officers, in an attempt to deal with complaints that organised criminals and firms are abusing the system.

Politics and Society

What’s at Stake in Brazil’s Election? The Future of the Amazon | The New York Times
BRAZIL – The presidential election in Brazil will not only shape the destiny of Latin America’s largest country. It is also a referendum on the fate of the Amazon: the world’s largest tropical forest, sometimes known as the lungs of the Earth. The stakes for the planet are huge. The front-runner for the presidency, Jair Bolsonaro — a far-right congressman who has said Brazil’s environmental policy is “suffocating the country” — has promised to champion his country’s powerful agribusiness sector, which seeks to open up more forest to produce the beef and soy that the world demands.

‘This is just the beginning’: freed activists return to fracking site | Environment | The Guardian
UK – On Thursday morning, the day after being released from prison, three environmental activists who became the first people to be jailed for an anti-fracking protest in the UK returned to the Preston New Road fracking site near Blackpool.


The Australian company pushing to open Papua New Guinea’s first coal-fired power plant | ABC News
PAPUA NEW GUINEA – An Australian company is pushing ahead with plans to open a coal-fired power plant and coal mine in Papua New Guinea, despite the recent call from the world’s most authoritative climate science body to completely cut greenhouse emissions by 2050. Australian-based and PNG-focused Mayur Resources is proposing the establishment of an “Enviro Energy Park” in the industrial hub of Lae in PNG’s Morobe province.

WA trials Tesla battery on suburban grid in top solar postcode, Mandurah | One Step Off The Grid
AUSTRALIA – In a week that saw Western Australia marked well behind the rest of the nation on renewables – apart from its rooftop solar uptake – the state set the ball rolling on a “shared storage” trial that will install a Tesla battery on the grid, south of Perth. The trial – led by government-owned network operator Western Power and retailer Synergy – will connect a 105kW/420kWh Tesla battery to the grid in Meadow Springs, a suburb of Mandurah.

Built Environment

Central Park shares recycled water with UTS across the road | The Fifth Estate
AUSTRALIA – Central Park at Broadway in Sydney in the Central Station precinct has long held the crown for high “optics” sustainability, especially in its early days as a high achieving green project, and later for its lush green walls that seem to spread Singapore-like week by week. Now Central Park has apparently reached another first for sustainability. This one far less visually obvious. It’s an underground piece of kit that transfers recycled water from Central Park to the University of Technology Central building, directly across the road… It’s significant because it’s believed to be the first time that such a purchase agreement has been reached to share recycled water with another nearby property owner.

Central Park, Sydney

Central Park, Sydney

Flow Systems slashing energy bills for Norwest resi development | The Fifth Estate
AUSTRALIA – Sekisui House and Flow Systems have teamed up to provide an embedded energy and gas network for residents at “The Orchards” community estate development in Norwest about 40 kilometres north west of Sydney. The power and gas embedded power network servicing the new $1 billion, the 1300-apartment precinct will generate 1GWh of free solar power each year via 24 tennis courts worth of rooftop solar panels. Overall savings for residents will be about 35 per cent in energy and gas.

Lessons from Walmart and UPS on electrifying their fleets | GreenBiz
Managers of two large corporate fleet owners, Walmart and UPS, took the stage Tuesday at the VERGE conference in Oakland to offer some sobering views about the struggles and lessons they have learned from making a switch to electric vehicles.

Food Systems

‘Horrific’ footage reveals fish suffocating to death on industrial farms in Italy | The Guardian
ITALY – Shocking footage of intensively farmed fish has emerged in Italy which raises questions about working practices on aquaculture farms for supermarket produce, and which has sparked fresh calls for regulation. Unlike mammals, fish have almost no legal protections in the EU and the images, secretly filmed in 2017 and 2018, represent the first investigation into Europe’s “factory farms” for fish.