Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Our microbiome helps us digest food and keep us healthy. Eliminating those bacteria from our environment, such as our homes, could be detrimental to our health as outlined in today’s top story. We are after all, a component of one big environment we call Earth. Lots in other news on world views; an interesting viewpoint that big businesses can’t change to a sustainable business model so we should let them fail so disruptors can do the job, an World Economic Forum panel talks about using big data to protect the environment, and a new UN President is interviewed about her goals for the term.

Top Story

Household cleaning products could be making children overweight | The Conversation
Keeping household surfaces clean is a daily chore for most families, but there may be unseen consequences for children’s health. Overusing cleaning products can increase the risk of childhood obesity, according to new research, as exposure causes changes in the bacteria which live in children’s guts.

Climate Change

Recent Scientific Advancements Show New Connections Between Climate Change and Hurricanes | World Resources Institute
With Hurricane Florence making landfall in the Carolinas, Super Typhoon Mangkhut headed for the Philippines, and Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria fresh in our minds, many are asking what role climate change is playing in these disasters. Scientists have known for years that global warming can exacerbate storms. But our understanding of the connection between hurricanes and climate change has evolved significantly in just the past year.

27 Major Cities Retreat from Peak Greenhouse Gas Emissions | Scientific American
Twenty-seven major cities around the world may already have seen their greenhouse gas emissions peak, according to a new study. San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, London and Washington, D.C., are among the cities whose emissions have fallen more than 10 percent from their historic peaks, according to an analysis released yesterday by the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, a city-focused climate advocacy organization founded by former London Mayor Ken Livingstone and championed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Environment and Biodiversity

Why are there so many fires burning the Top End black every year? | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – A blazing fire lines a highway as the air fills with the sweet and heady scent of the bush. Overhead, kites soar and swoop. Smoky clouds rise above the savannah, and at sunset the sky turns a deep neon orange. It’s an all-too-familiar sight in the Northern Territory and a sure sign that the dry season has arrived. But why are there so many fires burning and what are they doing to the environment?

Photo: An ecologist says excessive burning is causing extinctions in the NT. (Facebook: Bushfires NT)

Photo: An ecologist says excessive burning is causing extinctions in the NT. (Facebook: Bushfires NT)


Adani plans to draw 12.5b litres of water and there will be no environmental impact statement | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Adani’s plan to take 12.5 billion litres of water from a river in drought-stricken Queensland is a step closer to happening, according to environmental groups, after the Federal Government decided the project did not need a full environmental impact assessment. To build and run its proposed Carmichael coal mine, Adani wants to extract water from the Suttor River in central Queensland for up to 60 years, expand a dam there, and build a 60-kilometre pipeline to transport the water to its mine.

See also: ‘Absolute disgrace’: Adani pipeline plan won’t activate water trigger | SMH

Economy and Business

Incumbents fail – so are we wasting our time on sustainability? | RenewEconomy
The core assumption and focus of people who work to drive sustainability through markets – as corporate leaders, investors, NGOs or thought leaders – is that we need to convince existing companies and their shareholders that sustainability is first good for their business, and secondly, they can successfully transition to a sustainable business model. But what if both of these are wrong?

Moves to stop modern slavery – from investors, business and government | The Fifth Estate
Most Australian organisations have modern slavery embedded in their supply chains. Look hard enough and you’ll find it too! The 2018 Global Slavery Index estimates that there are 40.3 million people living in modern slavery-like conditions, with some 24.9 million of these (62 per cent) found in the Asia Pacific region. These figures are based on the Walk Free Foundation’s definition of modern slavery, which covers a set of specific legal concepts including forced labour, debt bondage, forced marriage, slavery and slavery-like practices, and human trafficking.

Why NZ’s emissions trading scheme should have an auction reserve price | The Conversation (Opinion)
NEW ZEALAND – While people’s eyes often glaze over when they hear the words “emissions trading”, we all respond to the price of carbon. Back in 2010, when the carbon price was around NZ$20 per tonne, forest nurseries in New Zealand boosted production. But when prices plunged thereafter, hundreds of thousands of tree seedlings were destroyed rather than planted, wiping out both upfront investment and new forest growth. Emission prices have since recovered but no one knows if this will last. With consultation underway on improving the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (NZ ETS), the government should seriously consider a “price floor” to rebuild confidence in low-emission investment.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Jack Ryan makes way for jackhammers in new library | SMH
AUSTRALIA – Brisbane residents will save thousands of dollars in tools, camping gear and sporting equipment by joining the first tool library in Queensland. The Brisbane Tool Library, partnered with the State Library of Queensland, will open the service on Thursday at The Edge, South Bank. Second-hand items donated to the library, including lawn mowers, camping tents, jackhammers and power saws can be borrowed for one to three weeks if renewed.

Over 9000 New Zealanders have their say on binning plastic bags |
NEW ZEALAND – The Ministry for the Environment is counting up submissions for New Zealand’s plastic bag ban, and there’s likely more than 9000. Submissions closed on Friday, and the responses doubled in the final 10 days.

Reusable coffee cups saving the planet one flat white at a time |
NEW ZEALAND – Thousands of coffee cups could be saved from the tip every month by an initiative that promotes reusable takeaway vessels. Cafes across Upper Hutt will roll out the cups on Wednesday as part of the CupCycling programme which seeks to reduce the amount of waste produced by hospitality providers. The initiative works by customers paying a one-off bond to get their first cup and coffee. Once used the cup can be taken into any participating business to be cleaned and exchanged for a fresh one when they buy their next drink.

Politics and Society

INTERVIEW: ‘Dare to deliver’ more for the world, underscores General Assembly President | UN News
In June, the 193-member United Nations General Assembly, elected Ecuadorean Foreign Minister María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, the President of its 73rd session. Speaking at the UN Headquarters, in New York, after her election in June, she promised to lead the Assembly in a way that strengthens multilateralism and better delivers on its commitments. UN News spoke with Ms. Espinosa before taking office, and asked her what her priorities were for the 73rd session.

How understanding animal behaviour can liberate us from gender inequality | The Conversation
Gender inequality is very real in 2018. But how we behave with each other isn’t just about individual personalities and the current social and political climate. We as Homo sapiens come with a long evolutionary history – and understanding the animal roots of our behaviour can help us create positive change to achieve gender equality.

Annual Meeting of the New Champions | World Economic Forum
Earth Data: A Remedy for Environmental Risk? (Live panel video 46:31). Plus highlights from the Annual Meeting of the New Champions.

Business as usual? The Sustainable Development Goals apply to Australian cities too | The Conversation|
AUSTRALIA – We are still settling Australian cities on unceded Aboriginal lands. With the global agreement on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, development has finally come home to the developed world. Yet in Australia we still often proceed as if development goals are about foreign aid, somehow separate from our own development activities and civic responsibilities.

Forced labour in Paraguay: the darkness at the bottom of the global supply chain | The Guardian
PARAGUAY – Formed by dry forests resistant to drought and scalding temperatures, the Chaco occupies more than half the land in Paraguay. Over the past decade, cattle farming in this region has grown rapidly and it now has 43% of the country’s livestock population… But as Paraguay’s export market develops and the country becomes a bigger player in the international market, the darker side of the Chaco region is coming into focus, with reports of illegal deforestation and slave labour among the indigenous population.

35 indigenous people were found in conditions described as ‘slavery’. Photograph: Handout from Paraguay Public Ministry

35 indigenous people were found in conditions described as ‘slavery’. Photograph: Handout from Paraguay Public Ministry


Great Barrier Reef Foundation admits $800k in federal funding spent on ‘operational’ costs since June | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – The Great Barrier Reef Foundation has revealed it has spent $800,000 on “project management” since receiving a $440 million grant in June, and expects to spend more than $7 million on administration this financial year. The foundation only had six full-time staff when it was given the funding by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

See also: Reef foundation chair tells senators he had no idea Turnbull was going to offer $444m | The Guardian


Clean Energy Regulator counts 9GW in big solar and wind pipeline | RenewEconomy
Australia looks certain to sail past its 2020 large-scale renewable energy target of 33,000GWh, with the latest data showing the combined capacity of large-scale wind and solar energy projects in the development pipeline is now nudging a massive 9GW.

Energy minister’s electorate backs higher emissions reduction target, poll shows | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – More voters in the electorate of the new energy minister, Angus Taylor, support an emissions reduction target for electricity and a higher national target than the Paris commitment than oppose those positions.

See also: Coalition won’t replace renewables target after it winds down in 2020 | The Guardian

‘Barely a scallop’: fears oil and gas exploration will destroy fisheries | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – There are calls for a moratorium on seismic surveys by the oil and gas industry from members of the fishing industry after new Australian research shows it has serious impacts on invertebrates such as lobster, scallop, abalone and crab. The calls come as three different oil and gas companies have told industry bodies they want to carry out seismic explorations in the Otway basin this summer.

Built Environment

The Guardian view on clean air zones: cities must be bold | The Guardian (Editorial)
Evidence about the health impact of the gases and particles produced by road traffic, industry and open fires has developed rapidly since the 1990s. In cities, many of which have experienced rapid growth in traffic, air quality has become a pressing issue… This week saw reports about new research into the amount of particulate matter breathed by children at London schools, and pollutants found in mothers’ placentas. Last month it was revealed that Chinese researchers have linked high levels of air pollution to reduced intelligence.