Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Economic losses from natural disasters counted
Natural disasters around the globe have resulted in economic losses of roughly $7 trillion since 1900, according to a new calculation from scientists. Their database, which contains some 35,000 events, reveals the catastrophes have also resulted in more than eight million deaths. The analysis should assist governments with crisis planning and response, the researchers say. Their results were presented at the European Geosciences Union meeting.

Energy and Climate Change

March temperature smashes 100-year global record
The global temperature in March has shattered a century-long record and by the greatest margin yet seen for any month. February was far above the long-term average globally, driven largely by climate change, and was described by scientists as a “shocker” and signalling “a kind of climate emergency”. But data released by the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) shows that March was even hotter.
See also: New Milestone: Earth Sees 11 Record Hot Months in a Row

Fossil Fuels Could Be Phased Out Globally Within A Decade
A new study has concluded that the planet’s reliance upon burning fossil fuels for energy could be phased out in a decade. According to a new study published by UK energy think tank Sussex Energy Group, part of the University of Sussex, the next great energy revolution which would see the transition away from fossil fuels towards cleaner energy generation could happen within a fraction of the time of past major changes. However, to do so will require a collaborative, interdisciplinary, multiscalar approach — one that learns from the trials from previous energy systems and technology transitions.

Read my lips: Indian energy minister repeats “no coal imports within 3 years”
India’s energy minister Piyush Goyal has repeated the message that thermal coal developers in Australia, and state and federal governments, do not want to here: India intends to halt all imports of thermal coal within two or three years. “Indian companies used to import a lot of thermal coal. We want to completely stop its import over the next two to three years,” Goyal told the Maritime India summit in Mumbai last Friday.

Was Tasmania’s summer of fires and floods a glimpse of its climate future?
AUSTRALIA – Drought, fires, floods, marine heatwaves – Tasmania has had a tough time this summer. These events damaged its natural environment, including world heritage forests and alpine areas, and affected homes, businesses and energy security… If climate change will produce conditions that we have never seen before, did Tasmania just get a glimpse of this future?

Delaying shutting power stations will bring big disruption later: Climate Institute research
Modelling done for the Climate Institute indicates that without big policy changes Australia’s path to zero emissions from the electricity sector by 2050 would mean huge disruption after 2030. The report, “A Switch in Time: Enabling the electricity sector’s transition to net zero emissions”, warns that a weak policy now means big adjustments later, and calls for a range of initiatives including a program to progressively shut down power stations.

Study: humans have caused all the global warming since 1950 | Dana Nuccitelli
A new study published in Climate Dynamics has found that humans are responsible for virtually all of the observed global warming since the mid-20th century. It’s not a novel result – in fact, most global warming attribution studies have arrived at the same general result – but this study uses a new approach.

Environment and Biodiversity

Controversial Railway Splits Kenya’s Parks, Threatens Wildlife
KENYA – The line under construction in the modernizing nation will run through two national parks and has already disrupted elephant movements.

Tracking the nighttime travels of the cryptic powerful owl
AUSTRALIA – How much space does a powerful owl need to live the good life in Melbourne’s suburbs? Researchers trapping and tagging up to 10 of Australia’s largest owl species are about to find out. The notoriously shy bird of prey with its startled “what are you looking at?” eyes is traditionally a forest species, though they are known to live around the green wedges and parks of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. However, little is known about their nighttime travel habits in urban areas, making conservation work a challenge.

Insects may have had basic ‘consciousness’ more than 500 million years ago
Insects are conscious, egocentric beings, argue Australian scientists in a new paper that suggests basic consciousness may have first evolved in insects in the Cambrian Period.

Economy and Business

New report shows 100% renewable by 2030 can save Australia money
AUSTRALIA – A new report from the Institute for Sustainable Futures in Sydney says a rapid transition to a 100 per cent renewable energy system can save Australia money – with avoided fuel costs to quickly offset the extra capital expenditure of building wind, solar and other renewable energy installations.

Ramana James: Shared value growing in popularity
Australian corporations, government bodies and not for profits are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their approach to shared value, which will in turn create huge opportunities, says Ramana James, Insurance Australia Group’s head of group shared value. Mr James is believed to have been the first executive in Australia to have “shared value” in his title when he took on the newly created role at IAG in 2014.

Waste and the Circular Economy

How open source can accelerate the circular economy shift
The shift to a circular economy presents a wicked, multidimensional problem: how can we redesign our operating system so that it works in the long term, and reflects the current context in terms of resources, energy and economic pressures? It’s hard to know where to start. After all, with our once-successful linear economy reaching its limits, you could say that designing economies that last has, never really worked that well for us in the past. The challenge is really about enabling an ecosystem to emerge which effectively (re)uses materials and resources, and rebuilds economic, social and natural capital.

Bags of praise for plastic ban
NEW ZEALAND – Waiheke Island’s Countdown is banning plastic bags, and locals are hoping other supermarkets around New Zealand will follow. Residents have been lobbying for years to get retailers to stop using single-use bags because of the threat they pose to the local marine life. It means people will have to bring their own bag, buy a re-usable one or carry their shopping unbagged.

Politics and Society

New Data Set Poised to Revolutionize Climate Adaptation
People in developed countries rarely think of weather in life-or-death terms. But millions in the developing world have no choice but to do so. The global rich have stable governments, savings accounts, insurance and more to fall back on when disaster strikes. People in poorer countries don’t, so they’re often faced with tough decisions in times of drought: Sell the only ox for food and plow by hand next year? Take the kids out of school and put them to work chopping firewood for extra cash? Abandon the farm and family to look for work in the city?

Nature is neglected in this election campaign – at its and our own peril
AUSTRALIA – The electioneering has begun. In a campaign set to be dominated by economic issues, the Coalition and Labor are locking horns over who can best manage our finances, protect jobs and make housing more affordable. The Greens predictably decry the major parties, including their cavalier climate-change policies. These are important issues, but are they highest priority on the political agenda? An arguably even greater issue exists that nobody is seriously championing, but which impacts all of us, socially, environmentally and economically.

Coalition wants to build 1.2GW coal plant, using climate funds
AUSTRALIA – The Turnbull Coalition government has kicked off its informal re-election campaign by repeating its desire to build a massive coal fired power station in north Queensland, only this time it proposes to use climate funds to help pay for the project.

Basic vehicle emissions standard could meet 10% of Australian target, says report
The federal government could achieve almost 10 per cent of Australia’s 2030 emissions reduction target simply by introducing best practice carbon emission standards for light vehicles, a new report has found. But the ClimateWorks Australia report, released on Monday, also warns that a failure to introduce these basic standards – which already apply to 80 per cent of the global automotive market – risked locking in emissions, while turning Australia into a dumping ground for heavy polluting car models.

Why experts agree the EU is good for the UK’s natural environment
UK – The environmental benefits of EU membership should be front and centre of any remain campaign: there’s widespread acceptance among experts that the union makes a huge difference. The UK was known as the dirty man of Europe in the 1970s and 80s and the EU is widely credited with helping clean up the national environment.


Plans to get rid of rats, stoats and possums in Picton within a year
NEW ZEALAND – Rats, stoats and possums may be eradicated from Picton within the space of a year using a network of traps in the town and surrounding bush.  More than 100 people attended a meeting at the Port Marlborough Pavilion on Monday to hear about plans to install approximately 400 lethal traps in people’s backyards, and up to 300 traps in the bush around Picton. The measures are being taken by environmental group Picton Dawn Chorus in order to boost native bird numbers in the area.

Built Environment

Citizen utility: Housing estate to offer solar, storage and EVs to residents
AUSTRALIA – A major strata apartment development in the heart of the city of Fremantle is expected to be the world’s largest test project of shared rooftop solar, battery storage and electric vehicles. The White Gum Valley housing project – flagged nearly a year ago – was formally launched on Wednesday after receiving $1 million in funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

Food Systems

Europe bans two endocrine-disrupting weedkillers
The European commission has ordered a ground-breaking moratorium on two endocrine-disrupting weedkillers that have been linked to thyroid cancer, infertility, reproductive problems and foetal malformations. Use of Amitrole and Isoproturon will now be banned from 30 September across Europe, after an EU committee voted unanimously for the first ever ban on endocrine-disrupting herbicides.

Five tasty good food trends
NEW ZEALAND – Seventy experts from business, health and nutrition gathered to chew over the future of food business in a healthy NZ on 14 April. Conversation at the Good Food Forum was lively and dynamic! Check out the top trends that emerged.

Herdfunding: how the internet is raising money for farms
When Micha and Andrew Ide started Bright Ide Acres, a farm producing ethical eggs and meat in Snohomish, Washington, in 2012, the couple bootstrapped their startup costs… Instead of approaching the bank for a loan, however, they turned to the internet, raising nearly $4,980 (and counting) through a crowdfunding campaign on Barnraiser, a platform designed to connect farmers and food entrepreneurs to backers.


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