Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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As today’s top story declares the world is finally waking up to climate change, the Turnbull government announces that they won’t legislate the 26-28% emissions reduction target pledged in Paris, NSW declares a total fire ban on the earliest date ever, the same day it declares itself 100% in drought, and the cost of the drought bites with $1.8bn announced to help affected communities. In other parts of the world, six nations are about to start trading in carbon under the Paris Agreement, Paul Nicklen, a world renowned photographer, pleads for climate action, and Iraq’s Edenic marshlands are drying out again.

Top Story

World is finally waking up to climate change, says ‘hothouse Earth’ author | The Guardian
The scorching temperatures and forest fires of this summer’s heatwave have finally stirred the world to face the onrushing threat of global warming, claims the climate scientist behind the recent “hothouse Earth” report. Following an unprecedented 270,000 downloads of his study, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, said he had not seen such a surge of interest since 2007, the year the Nobel prize was awarded to Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. “I think that in future people will look back on 2018 as the year when climate reality hit,” said the veteran scientist.

See also: It’s the end of the Earth as we know it. Read all about it! | The Guardian (Opinion)

Climate Change

Drought, wind and heat: when fire seasons start earlier and last longer | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – The New South Wales Rural Fire Service declared the earliest total fire bans in its history this week. The entire state was declared to be in drought on the same day. The combination of winter drought and hot, dry weather has made dangerous fires increasingly likely… The most damaging fire season for NSW in the past 30 years was in October 2013 when the Linksview fire destroyed 200 houses in the Blue Mountains. The build-up to that season was eerily similar to this year, with a winter drought and bushfires in September, but the moisture maps show that the forests are drier now than at the same time in 2013, and we have already seen serious bushfires in August.

Malcolm Turnbull dumps plan to legislate Paris emissions targets | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Malcolm Turnbull has capitulated to rebels in the Coalition party room, dumping a plan to embed emissions reduction targets in Commonwealth legislation. To appease critics and lessen the prospect of a backbench revolt, the Prime Minister will instead propose setting emissions targets by regulation, which does not need the assent of Parliament.

Related: View from The Hill – It’s time for Turnbull to put his authority on the line | Michelle Grattan | The Conversation

Environment and Biodiversity

Nature’s perfect match is breaking down and the Great Barrier Reef is in peril | ABC News
Peel back the veneer and nature is a teeming war zone of many flashpoints. Species compete with their own kind and others for limited resources. In a dog-eat-dog world built upon Darwinian principles and food chain hierarchies, only the fittest survive — and the winners take all. But oases of harmony do exist, where evolution has played matchmaker and engineered pockets of peaceful coexistence. Take, for instance, a relationship formed more than 210 million years ago around the time dinosaurs first appeared on earth.

This is a close-up of a healthy coral polyp – a relative of both jellyfish and anemones.

This is a close-up of a healthy coral polyp – a relative of both jellyfish and anemones.

My beloved Great Barrier Reef: Four tales of love, loss and hope | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – As this year’s Science Week invites those who care about the Great Barrier Reef to help scientists save it, four Australians share stories about their long-standing and special relationships with the reef.

Time to step up to save NZ whitebait | Newsroom
NEW ZEALAND – Whether you make your own or grab one down at the local market, the whitebait fritter has a special place in Kiwi culture and with the whitebait season upon us, the nation’s fishers will be out in all weathers for a haul of New Zealand’s ‘white gold’. But according to a report by the Department of Conservation, three out of five native whitebait species are under threat or, more officially ‘At Risk – Declining’. A fourth is classified ‘Threatened – Nationally Vulnerable’. To put that into context, this threat status puts them in the same category as Brown kiwi or the Great Spotted Kiwi.

Paul Nicklen: ‘If we lose the ice, we lose the entire ecosystem’ | The Guardian
When he was four years old, Paul Nicklen’s family moved to Kimmirut on Baffin Island, northern Canada; a village so remote that supplies are delivered once a year, by boat. The Nicklens were one of only two non-Inuit families in the tiny community, and with no telephone, radio or TV, Paul’s childhood was spent on the ice, in the company of native fishermen and in awe of the visual majesty of the region. “I learned how to freeze,” he says. It is a skill that has helped him to become one of the world’s foremost photographers of polar wildlife.

Paul Nicklen releases a wild Canadian lynx that has been fitted with a radio collar, Northwest Territories, Canada. Photograph: Mark Sabourin

Paul Nicklen releases a wild Canadian lynx that has been fitted with a radio collar, Northwest Territories, Canada. Photograph: Mark Sabourin

Iraq’s Edenic marshlands are drying out again | ABC News
IRAQ – The Central Marsh, pictured below, used to be full of water and life. Now, many locals have been forced to migrate from the cracked, bare earth that surrounds their villages. This time, climate change, poor water management, and dams further upstream are among the culprits. “Forget the Palestinian issue. That’s a joke compared to what’s coming. Water is life!” — Azzam Alwash, Iraqi engineer and environmentalist. Mr Alwash has led reflooding efforts in the marshlands, and he warns that without proper management, the situation will present “the next crisis” for Iraq after the fall of the Islamic State.

Iraq's Edenic marshlands are drying out, again

Iraq’s Edenic marshlands are drying out, again

Economy and Business

Canada, U.K. Plan the First Paris Climate Deal Carbon Trades | Bloomberg
Canada and the U.K. are among six countries preparing the first carbon trades under the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change, part of an effort to unlock as much as $4 billion for the fight against global warming. The nations are assessing projects to cut greenhouse-gases in exchange for emission credits that can be used to comply with goals they set under the United Nations pact sealed in 2015, according to the World Bank Group, which is overseeing the program.

Solar boom ‘bringing hundreds of jobs’ to Queensland’s Darling Downs | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – A renewable energy boom across Queensland’s Darling Downs is reinvigorating the region’s economy, which suffered a sharp downturn when coal seam gas development slowed earlier than expected. One council alone has approved one wind and 11 solar projects worth $6 billion.

Drought funding gets $1.8bn government boost | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – Communities reeling from Australia’s worst drought in more than 50 years will be given extra funding to help deal with the dry conditions in their own way. Sixty drought-affected councils across western Queensland and New South Wales will be handed $1m each by the federal government to spend on anything from trucking in drinking water to building new community facilities. The grants are part of $1.8bn in extra funding the prime minister announced on Sunday to help farmers and communities.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Public ‘back’ taxes to tackle single-use plastic waste | BBC News
UK – There is high public support for using the tax system to reduce waste from single-use plastics, the Treasury says. A consultation on how taxes could tackle the rising problem and promote recycling attracted 162,000 responses. Treasury Minister Robert Jenrick said the government was looking at “smart, intelligent incentives” to get plastic producers to take responsibility.

‘Zero-waste’ household hoping to dispose of kerbside bin collection fee | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Two familiar sounds of suburban life are wheelie bins being dragged to the kerb and the dull roar of a garbage truck in the wee hours. There’s also the arguments that ensue from someone forgetting to put the bins out and being stuck with a stinky chicken carcass for another week. It’s a service most people don’t question and is paid for through yearly council rates. But what if you’re one of a growing number of households that don’t create any waste?

Plastic pollution: ‘Stop flushing contact lenses down the loo’ | BBC News
USA – Researchers in the US have been investigating the final journeys taken by disposable contact lenses. They found 15-20% of US users simply flick these fiddly lenses down the drain via the bathroom sink or toilet.

Nelson community composting scheme seeks council support |
NEW ZEALAND – Nelson’s community composting scheme is asking for Nelson City Council funding to expand the service. Community Compost founder Ben Bushell said in Friday’s public forum that he was seeking the council’s support as it was difficult to secure funding from investors for a start-up. Bushell started the initiative last December and it was now at full capacity. The number of collections has grown from 10 residential houses to five businesses and 24 homes; a total of 400kg of food waste collected per week.

Politics and Society

Remembering Kofi Annan | World Economic Forum
Kofi Annan, the former United Nations Secretary-General and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has died at the age of 80. The Kofi Annan Foundation, based in Geneva, Switzerland, announced his peaceful death with “immense sadness” after a short illness. “Kofi Annan was a global statesman and a deeply committed internationalist who fought throughout his life for a fairer and more peaceful world. During his distinguished career and leadership of the United Nations he was an ardent champion of peace, sustainable development, human rights and the rule of law,” his foundation said in a statement.

‘No justice’: Huge Reef Foundation grant stuns charity sector | SMH
AUSTRALIA – The Turnbull government’s $444 million grant to a small non-profit group that wasn’t even seeking money has been slammed as “ludicrous” and “unfair” by the country’s $135 billion charity sector facing ever more onerous red tape, the head of the industry’s peak body says.

See also: ‘Clearly wrong’: Labor says new documents show Coalition’s reef grant failure | The Guardian

Blow for EPA as court blocks bid to slacken safety rules for chemical plants | The Guardian
USA – A federal court has blocked an attempt by the Trump administration to delay safety regulations for chemical plants – the latest in a string of recent legal setbacks for the administration in its attempts to reverse environmental standards.

EPA replacement for Obama climate plan due late next week: source | Reuters
USA – The Trump administration’s proposed replacement for the Obama-era’s central regulation on climate change, the Clean Power Plan, is expected to be released by the Environmental Protection Agency late next week, an agency source said on Thursday. The replacement for former President Barack Obama’s plan to slash carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants will grant states the ability to write their own weaker regulations for the plants, a Politico report, citing a portion of an unpublished draft of the plan, said this week.

The majority of people who see poaching in marine parks say nothing | The Conversation
What would you do if you saw someone breaking the law? Would you report the offender to the police? Confront them? Or would you do nothing? We recently asked more than 2,000 fishers in seven countries what they would do if they saw a poacher in a protected marine area. Poaching – the illegal harvest of animals – plagues many of the world’s marine protected areas. Illegal fishing undermines marine parks, and can threaten chronically over-fished species.


Victoria Labor pledges $1.2 billion in rebates, loans for rooftop solar | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – The Victoria Labor government has unveiled a plan to dramatically expand the installation of rooftop solar in the state, pledging $1.2 billion in rebates and no-interest loans for more than 650,000 homes. The announcement by Daniel Andrews – coming three months ahead of a state election and amid energy policy turmoil in the federal arena – will aim to install an extra 2.6 gigawatts of rooftop solar, accelerating what most people in the industry as the inevitable switch to distributed generation