Sustainable Development News

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Top Story

Richest 1% on track to own more than all the rest by 2016
Global inequality has been labelled as “simply staggering” after it was revealed that the wealthiest 1% is set to own more than the rest of the population combined by 2016. A report published by charity Oxfam, entitled Wealth: Having it all and wanting more, found that the wealth gap is continuing to widen, despite the issue rising up the global agenda.

Energy and Climate Change

Should tackling climate change trump protecting nature?
Does the need to mitigate the effects of man-made climate change override the need to protect nature? Climate change is with us, and is one of nine reasons why scientists are now concerned that the rate of environmental degradation is a threat to the future of human life on Earth [Ed: See top story yesterday].  The loss of biodiversity, dubbed the Sixth Green Extinction by some, is another threat to humanity, with nearly half of the world’s amphibians and a fifth of its plants at risk of extinction. We do not have the luxury of choosing which of these nine challenges to tackle; they are all critical to our survival.

Oil and gas companies converge on the Great Australian Bight to explore reserves
The race is on to uncover the potential oil and gas reserves in the Great Australian Bight. It’s a future the sector promises could create thousands of local jobs and a massive boost for the South Australian economy. The Department for State Development confirmed there are new surveys in the pipeline by some big explorers to assess that potential. One such company is oil giant BP, which, subject to approval and in conjunction with Statoil, plans to drill four deep water exploration wells from early 2016.

Opportunities for carbon abatement vanishing
Policy uncertainty and the removal of the carbon tax have shrunk available emissions reduction opportunities immensely, including those in the building sector, according to a new report by RepuTex. The report, The Lost Years – An Updated Marginal Abatement Curve for Australia to 2030, is the first to look at Australia’s marginal cost of abatement in 2030 since the well-known McKinsey and Company report in 2008. It found that emissions reduction opportunities are rapidly decreasing across six key sectors – power, forestry, industry, buildings, agriculture and transport – and becoming more expensive, thanks largely to policy uncertainty and delays in investment

Clean Power to Shrug Off Oil Slump, Goldman, Deutsche Bank Say
Spending on renewable energy, which surged 16 percent in 2014, will remain strong this year, largely unaffected by the slumping oil prices that have artificially depressed their shares.  That’s the message from Stuart Bernstein, Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s global head of clean technology and renewables, and Vishal Shah, Deutsche Bank AG’s renewable-energy analyst. Because oil produces only 1 percent of U.S. electricity, the crude plunge that’s roiling markets should have only a “modest” effect on clean-energy developers or the companies that equip them, Bernstein said in a telephone interview.

Study: Renewables as cheap as fossil fuels, despite plummeting oil price
Maturing clean energy technologies, such as onshore wind, solar power and biomass, are reaching grid parity in many parts of the world regardless of whether or not they receive subsidies, a major new report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has revealed. Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2014, published on Saturday, revealed how new onshore wind power projects in Europe and many other regions are consistently delivering power at a lower cost than fossil fuel plants, in some cases generating electricity at $0.05 per kilowatt hour without financial support.

Green energy makes business sense, say IKEA and Nestlé
IKEA, Nestlé, and BT are among 15 companies to this week outline the benefits for businesses of switching to 100 per cent green energy. The corporate giants are members of the RE100 group, which today used the opening of the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi to launch a report that seeks to persuade more companies to commit to becoming fully renewable powered. The report finds that solar PV is the most popular renewable power technology for corporates, outlines how heavy industry, construction and manufacturing sectors are the biggest investors in renewable energy, and concludes that consumer products, manufacturing and heavy industry sectors are getting the best financial returns from clean energy investments.

Environment and Biodiversity

Six things Queensland’s next government must do to save the Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is a national and global icon, inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1981. Since then, it’s become apparent that this vast array of marine ecosystems – stretching along 2,300 kilometres of Queensland’s coast – is in trouble. The reasons? Inadequate management of human activities in and around the reef, only made worse by climate change. Unfortunately, federal and state governments have not done enough to help, while doing a lot to make matters worse. With only a fortnight of campaigning left before Queenslanders go to the polls, both the Liberal National Party (LNP) and Labor have targeted dumping of dredge spoil as a high-profile problem. Labor has also raised the stakes with ambitious targets for improving water quality. But the current promises from the major parties simply don’t go far enough.

Paradise gained – how tourism could help Tasmania’s wilderness
The recent leaking of a new draft management plan for the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) has prompted vigorous debate over the merits of tourism development in protected areas. Specifically, the plan proposes to reclassify many “wilderness zones”, which were defined in the 1999 TWWHA Management Plan, into four “recreation zones” – effectively giving a potential green light to new tourism accommodation development to occur anywhere in the Tasmanian wilderness. This is sacrilege to many conservationists, who believe that wilderness such as Tasmania’s forests should be left untouched and locked away from the masses, in order to preserve its qualities.

Commercial bees threaten wild bees, say researchers
The trade in bees used for honey or to pollinate crops could have a devastating impact on wild bees and other insects, say scientists. New measures are needed to stop diseases carried by commercial bees spilling over into the wild, says a University of Exeter team. Evidence suggests bees bred in captivity can carry diseases that could be a risk to native species. Bees are used commercially to pollinate crops such as peppers and oilseed rape. Species of bees used for this purpose, or in commercial hives, are known to suffer from parasite infections and more than 20 viruses. Many of these can also infect wild bumble bees, wasps, ants and hoverflies.

Economy and Business

All Capitals Are Unequal, But Some Are More Unequal Than Others (Blog)
“All capitals are unequal, but some are more unequal than others.” This was a thought that popped into my mind after a number of real-life and online conversations about the concept of multiple capitals. This notion proposes that there is a range of sources of value (capitals) that give rise to economic and social benefits, but that current accounting and economic approaches recognise only one — financial capital. The number of “additional” capitals vary according to the model… Given such diversity, the exact name and nature of the capitals proposed also vary, though most approaches feature the following capitals: natural, social, manufactured, human and financial. However, all such approaches seek to achieve the same thing — to broaden our conception and consideration of what is valuable for delivering economic, social and ecological utility. In addition, they call for these wider aspects to be placed at the heart of economics, accounting, corporate planning and decision-making.

Next-Gen ERP: Managing … and Saving the Panda Bears?
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is an impressive concept. It covers everything from business operations to corporate governance. It includes streamlining and automating corporations; making all business processes highly efficient, cost-effective and fully automated; all resource use fully planned, controlled and understood. But there is a flaw in today’s ERP systems when it comes to addressing big challenges such as resource scarcity and volatility, climate change, emissions, water shortage, loss of biodiversity and social aspects. As Brian Sommer bluntly pointed out: “ERP vendors don’t get sustainability. They think it’s about collecting all of a user’s electric and gas bills to determine their carbon footprint. They think it’s a reporting exercise.” I don’t necessarily agree that ERP vendors don’t get it, but he has a point. ERP systems today do not account for externalities the same way they manage and optimize ‘traditional’ enterprise resources.

Report Finds Asia Pulp & Paper Lagging on Social Responsibility Commitments; APP Says It Will Take Time
A field-based survey by Rainforest Action Network (RAN) investigating Asia Pulp and Paper’s (APP) performance, providing input into an evaluation of APP’s progress on fulfilling its social responsibility commitments, and making recommendations to the company finds little on-the-ground evidence to date that APP is taking sufficient action to resolve land conflict issues. With the exception of progress in two communities where it is piloting conflict-resolution approaches, the report finds there has been little change for communities embroiled in land disputes with the company. Hundreds of land conflicts remain and APP has failed to involve affected communities and other key stakeholders in the identification, analysis and resolution of these conflicts.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Dutch Tech Reclaims Organic Fertilizer at Drinking Water Plants
Royal HaskoningDHV has partnered with Dutch water supply company Vitens to help other drinking water companies around the world recover humic acid, an organic fertilizer. Humic acid is often discharged as a waste product during the drinking water blanching process. However, it can now be reclaimed sustainably in its pure form, providing an organic soil improver.

Politics and Society

AGL unable to monitor CSG fracking chemical in Gloucester project
AGL began hydraulic fracturing of four CSG wells at its pilot Waukivory project near Gloucester in late October. According its licence, the company must sample and analyse the concentration of certain pollutants. One of those pollutants is a biocide used to kill bacteria in the well, hydroxymethylnasulfate, also known as THPS or by its brand name Tolcide. In its December report, AGL said samples had been collected “in anticipation of the approved method” to analyse for Tolcide and concentration levels were not available. “This exposes as a lie claims by AGL and the NSW Government that the coal seam gas industry is highly and competently regulated,” said John Watts from Groundswell Gloucester. “It seems that no testing for Tolcide was done during and after the fracking to measure whether this toxic chemical might have been escaping into the groundwater, creeks and rivers.”

Food Systems

Food security hinges on better links between South America and Asia
By now it’s common knowledge that China’s demand for food is growing as its population becomes increasingly urbanised and more affluent. What’s more, the composition of diets is changing too. Consumers are moving away from a grain-based diet to a more diversified one that includes a higher proportion of meat, dairy and vegetables. This trend is set to continue in the coming decade, not only in China but also in other Asian countries.  Going forward, the biggest potential for growth in production and exports is in South America. Despite concerns about deforestation and environmental impacts, there is plenty of room to continue expanding production in the region without encroaching into rainforests or high conservation value regions. Degraded pastures in Brazil are being converted to increase their productivity for cattle raising, thus freeing land that is currently under-utilised for cultivation.


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