Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Top Story

Overfishing causing global catches to fall three times faster than estimated
Global fish catches are falling three times faster than official UN figures suggest, according to a landmark new study, with overfishing to blame. Seafood is the critical source of protein for more than 2.5 billion people, but over-exploitation is cutting the catch by more than 1m tonnes a year.  The official catch data, provided by nations to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), rarely includes small-scale, sport or illegal fishing and does not count fish discarded at sea. To provide a better estimate, more than 400 researchers around the world spent a decade finding other data to fill in the gaps.

Energy and Climate Change

5 things to know about the $329 billion clean energy boom
In 2015 investment in clean energy soared, jumping 4 percent on 2014 figures to hit a record-breaking $329 billion, according to new data released by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). This headline-grabbing figure was by no means the only good news for the renewables sector this week, as a flurry of end-of-year reports have revealed rising deployment, record-breaking generation and surging market demand. BusinessGreen took a look at the key insights and trends from the clean energy data deluge

Denmark broke world record for wind power in 2015
Denmark produced 42% of its electricity from wind turbines last year according to official data, the highest figure yet recorded worldwide. The new year-end figures showed a 3% rise on 2014, which was itself a record year for Danish wind energy generation.

Hazelwood owner Engie launches push for 1,000GW of solar
French energy giant Engie, the owner of the Hazelwood brown coal power generator in Victoria, has launched a major public-private initiative that aims to ensure that 1,000GW of solar capacity is installed around the world by 2030. The plan has been dubbed the Terrawatt initiative – the equivalent of one trillion watts of solar electricity, or one million megawatts – and it is the first significant engagement from the private sector to deliver on the ambitious climate target agreed in Paris in December by 195 governments.

The off-grid solar company connecting 12,000 homes a month
Australia thinks it is doing pretty well adding some 12,000 homes and business with solar panels each month. In Tanzania, however, one recent start-up is doing even better – it is adding solar and in some cases storage to 12,000 homes a month with no connection to the grid. Many efforts to bring electricity to homes with no electricity are considered something of a niche market. But Off grid Electric, the brainchild of a group of US and UK 30-somethings with experience in sub-Sahara Africa, is proving it can be done on a significant scale.

Flash flooding follows fires as south-west WA experiences heaviest rainfall in decades
Wild weather has continued to wreak havoc in the south-west of Western Australia as flash floods follow bushfires. Many residents in the South West and Great Southern regions recorded rainfall of more than 170mm in the 24 hours to Tuesday morning.

Environment and Biodiversity

Five trends that will define the world’s forests in 2016
The past year has been a momentous time for the world’s forests, with both good and bad news. Fasten your seat belts, because 2016 promises to be another roller-coaster ride. Here I hightlight five factors that could have a big impact on forests this year. For further discussion, see this insightful analysis by environmental journalist Rhett Butler.

Scientists probe Antarctic ice sheet for fossil clues to future under global warming
Call it extreme geology: a team of Kiwi scientists is venturing to a remote part of Antarctica to dig up ancient evidence of a warmer world. The treasure trove of fossilised marine life buried in the rock near Mt Discovery – about 50km from Scott Base – could help us better understand what might happen to our planet under future climate change.

A Box of Birds in Wellington’s Bond St
NEW ZEALAND – Wellington City Council has plonked a box of birds in Bond St. A shipping container covered in images of lush bush and birds is sitting on the street for the next few weeks, with the intention of bringing wildlife into central Wellington. There is the chance for people to win prizes from Zealandia and Wellington Zoo by visiting the box over the summer holidays and taking part in the competitions. Senior urban designer Emily Alleway says the initiative is a great way for locals and visitors alike to learn more about local birds.

Farmers in Tasmania’s north west alarmed at cuts to their water allocations
AUSTRALIA – Farmers who irrigate from the Mersey River in Tasmania’s north west have formed a committee to fight cuts of 50 per cent to their allocations.  The Department of Primary Industries informed around 23 farmers of the decision last Friday as the long dry spell continues. Tasmanian Irrigation had asked Hydro Tasmania for additional water releases but due to low inflows, Hydro did not agree to the request.

Economy and Business

Davos 2016: eight key themes for the World Economic Forum
The world’s political and business leaders, plus the usual smattering of celebrities – including Leonardo DiCaprio – are heading to Davos, the Swiss Alpine resort where the World Economic Forum’s annual conference begins on Tuesday evening. The ensuing four days of debate will focus on the following themes.

The disruptive technologies that will shape business in the years ahead
Regardless of your industry, the marketplace is continually evolving. The reason, increasingly, is the evolution of disruptive technology. Disruptive technologies are enhanced or new technological innovations that essentially displace conventional and established technology, rendering it obsolete. They can create opportunities for new products, new markets, and new ways of conducting business… Adapting quickly will be essential, so here’s the top six we think you should be prepared for.

Malcolm Rands’ top five tips for a revolutionary business
Malcolm Rands, CEO of ecostore, was recently awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to business, conservation and philanthropy as part of the New Year Honours list.  After 22 years in business, ecostore is expanding internationally with big plans for Asian and North American markets, along with Mexico. The Kiwi company is a leader in eco products for personal care and home cleaning and sells its products in major supermarkets in New Zealand and Australia. Here are Malcolm’s top five tips for running a revolutionary business.

Q&A with Morphum Environmental
NEW ZEALAND – In this Q&A find out how Morphum Environmental Ltd, an engineering and environmental consultancy, is achieving international success and why it’s funding a First Foundation scholarship in environmental engineering.

Videos: David Trubridge and James Crow from Project NZ: Telling Good Stories
NEW ZEALAND – Watch two of the most popular talks from our 2015 conference, Project NZ: Telling Good Stories – designer David Trubridge and James Crow, Director of Nice Blocks, on communicating sustainability through thinking differently.

Waste and the Circular Economy

New Plastics Economy report: a blueprint for a circular future for plastics
Today sees the release of The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics, a report on the application of the circular economy framework to global flows of plastic packaging. The study offers a blueprint to design a circular future for plastics, with research conducted by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, World Economic Forum and McKinsey and Company, and insight from numerous governments, business, industry associations and experts.

Politics and Society

Tech companies accused of failing to ensure their supply chains don’t involve child labour
Some of the world’s largest technology companies, including Apple, Sony and Samsung, have been accused of failing to do enough to ensure their supply chains don’t involve child labour.  Amnesty International has released a report into the use of cobalt from certain mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo used in rechargeable batteries for mobile phones, tablets and other portable electronics. Around half of the world’s cobalt is mined in the DRC, and much of that mining is done by hand in unsafe conditions by children as young as seven.

Rupert Murdoch is marrying a climate hawk
So I don’t normally cover engagement notices. But on Tuesday, climate activist Jerry Hall and climate super-denier Rupert Murdoch announced their impending nuptials in one of his many newspapers. This is one of the most unusual couplings since James Carville and Mary Matalin or Lyle Lovett and Julia Roberts or James Inhofe and Barbara Boxer. OK, I made up that last one, but still. I mean, we have the actress and model who had four children with the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger (and who has argued “climate change is the biggest threat the world has ever seen”) getting engaged to the man Rolling Stone magazine labeled “The Disinformer” in a 2010 story naming the “The Climate Killers: 17 polluters and deniers who are derailing efforts to curb the climate catastrophe.”

Peru sacks top anti-logging official
Peru has sacked its top anti-logging official, leading to claims he was dismissed after pressure from the timber trade and drawing criticism from a leading US congressman and environmentalists.

Built Environment

Mahindra and Oakland make a bet on urban mobility with the GenZe
The chairman of one of India’s largest companies, Mahindra Group, known worldwide for manufacturing tractors, utility vehicles and electric cars, came to Oakland, California, this week. Mahindra launched an electric powered scooter, the GenZe 2.0, and joined the city of Oakland in starting a solar powered electric bike share program in which a solar charging station houses bikes and scooters for public use.


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