Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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New York’s remodelled Governors Island has built-in climate change defense
On Tuesday, a remodelled Governors Island will be unveiled to the public. The 172-acre fragment of land, a seven-minute ferry ride from the southern tip of Manhattan, now has an undulating park covering the southern portion of the island that aims not only to be aesthetically pleasing but also to provide a blueprint for how New York can cope with the ravages of climate change.

Energy and Climate Change

First Half of 2016 Blows Away Temp Records
The first half of 2016 has blown away temperature records, capped off by a record hot June, once again bumping up the odds that 2016 will be the hottest year on record globally, according to data released Tuesday.

The running average of global temperatures during 2016.

The running average of global temperatures during 2016.

Catalyst: Stormageddon (Video 16:13)
AUSTRALIA – In the first week of June, four states were battered by a ferocious east coast low unusual in its size, damaging storm surge and intense rainfalls. Tasmania was under a deluge as an unprecedented seven rivers broke their banks in torrential downpours. Huge seas and an unusual wave direction carved out huge sections of waterfront properties and flooded low lying areas. Did warmer temperatures play a role? How are storm patterns changing across Australia and will we see more like this?

Energy Efficiency Council gives government a “to-do” list
The Energy Efficiency Council has released what it claims is a comprehensive and detailed set of recommendations on how Australia can tap into the $470 billion global energy efficiency market, reduce energy bills, improve building performance and reduce carbon emissions. The Australian Energy Efficiency Policy Handbook was launched at Tuesday’s Leaders Forum on Energy Efficiency in Sydney.

Five things to consider for solar homes coming off premium FiTs
With more than 275,000 Australian solar households across three states set to come off “premium” solar feed-in tariffs by the end of the year, a new report advises consumers on how the change will affect them financially, and how they can manage this impact, using a combination of current technologies and retail strategies.

World’s biggest solar + storage projects planned for Australia
Australian infrastructure investor Lyon Group says it plans to build the world’s biggest solar plus storage project in South Australia in the next two years, and sees a huge future for combined solar and battery storage plants.

Mighty River Power, powering up electric vehicle uptake
NEW ZEALAND – In 2014 Mighty River Power announced it would begin replacing 70% of its vehicles with pure electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids.

Environment and Biodiversity

Global Climate Spending Focusing on Forest Protection
Forests straddling the equator are critical to a stable climate because they store vast amounts of carbon, and a new study finds that the U.S. and four other developed countries are spending billions of dollars to keep those forests intact. An analysis of how the U.S., Japan, Germany, France and Norway have donated money to climate change mitigation efforts in the developing world since 1998 found that protecting carbon-rich forests is among those countries’ highest priorities, according to the study published this week in the Journal of Sustainable Finance and Investment.
See also: Why the U.S. and others are spending billions to protect forests

Arctic birds face disappearing breeding grounds as climate warms
Next month, the cruise ship Crystal Serenity will embark on a controversial voyage, becoming the first cruise liner ever to sail Canada’s Northwest Passage – a formerly icebound route that only became navigable in 2007. It’s a dramatic symbol of the change that is currently taking place in the Arctic, which is warming more rapidly than anywhere else on Earth. This warming is already affecting polar bears, greening the tundra, and physically shrinking red knots. Now, in a new study, we show that it could contract the breeding habitat of millions of migratory birds that travel to the High Arctic.

Cuckoos count cost of shortcut home, say scientists
The sound of the first cuckoo in spring is a familiar one in the British countryside. But the summer visitor is in decline and, according to a new study, its migratory habits may be to blame. Scientists have tagged birds leaving the UK and believe they take two different routes on their journey to spend the winter in Africa. Surprisingly, survival is lower on the shorter route via Spain, they report in the journal, Nature Communications.

The Marlborough District Council bans seabed trawling and dredging at ecologically significant marine sites
NEW ZEALAND – Bottom trawling and dredging is to be banned at ecologically significant marine sites in the Marlborough Sounds. The Marlborough District Council is the first council in New Zealand to use powers to protect these biologically significant habitats, home to fragile “living habitats”.

Heavy steel doors from trawling can damage and destroy extensive areas as they are dragged over the seabed. ROB DAVIDSON

Heavy steel doors from trawling can damage and destroy extensive areas as they are dragged over the seabed. ROB DAVIDSON

Economy and Business

Renewable energy’s new dance partners: Banks, pension funds
A funny thing happened on the way to the bank for the solar and wind industries. The erstwhile “alternative” energy that turned off traditional investors as too risky is now attracting traditional financing — piles of it. As commercial customers and utilities take up solar and wind projects in big numbers, banks and even pension funds and mutual funds are increasingly seeking to finance these projects.

California regulators approve plan to log 100-year-old redwoods
Regulators with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) approved a timber harvest plan earlier this month that includes the logging of redwood trees that are a century old. Environmentalists have said they are already raising the funds necessary to file a lawsuit to stop the plan from going through, however, though they have not said definitely whether or not they will file suit.

Politics and Society

Sustaining the world we want (without screwing it up)
When preparing to speak at a conference about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) earlier this year, I asked my 14-year-old son what he thought about the SDGs. He replied “all the goals are fine and right — but we only need them because we screwed up.”  This resonated with me, as I wondered how my son’s generation would meet its needs without compromising the ability of generations beyond 2030 to meet their own need.

Philippines won’t honour UN climate deal, says president
The Philippines will not honour commitments it made under the Paris climate change deal, president Rodrigo Duterte has said in a speech. “You are trying to stifle us,” Duterte said on Monday in widely reported comments. “That’s stupid, I will not honour that. You signed … That was not my signature.”
Related: Philippines hopes new president can fashion peace from a war of many sides

Under a single minister, will energy and the environment be friends or foes?
AUSTRALIA – One of the most notable moves in yesterday’s cabinet reshuffle was Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s decision to merge the environment and energy portfolios, and hand them both to current energy minister Josh Frydenberg. The immediate reaction was mixed. The Australian Petroleum and Exploration Association described it as “the holy grail”, whereas others branded the move a nightmare scenario. Often when two agencies are combined, the culture of one dominates. In this case, it will hinge on the agenda chosen by Frydenberg, Turnbull, and the government as a whole.

UK government ‘must deliver’ on 25-year environmental pledge
Ministers must deliver on a manifesto pledge for a 25-year plan to boost nature and cut the costs of environmental damage, it has been urged. Harm caused by floods, air pollution, water pollution and chemicals in the atmosphere are adding billions of pounds a year to bills, insurance premiums and costs for businesses, farms and households, environmentalists warn. But after the Brexit vote, there is uncertainty whether environmental protections provided by the European Union will be maintained. And the promised 25-year plan for the environment has been delayed, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) said.

Local schools awarded science grants
NEW ZEALAND – John Paul College and Waikite Valley School have been awarded Bayer Science Fund Grants to help with environmental science projects… Students will be exposed to the problems, pose questions, and plan activities to provide answers and solutions. The activities may involve monitoring water quality, planting trees, removing noxious weeds, using keys to identify living things, removal of rubbish and producing observational drawings and learning to use a wide range of scientific equipment.

Built Environment

Shipping air pollution causes 24,000 deaths a year in east Asia – study
A boom in shipping is aggravating air pollution in China and other nations in east Asia, causing thousands of deaths a year in a region with eight of the world’s 10 biggest container ports, scientists have said. Ship traffic, often overlooked compared to cars and factories that are far bigger causes of smog, has more than doubled off east Asia since 2005 and some pollution from the fuel oil of ships wafts inland, scientists said on Monday.  The Chinese-led study estimated that sulphur dioxide, which generates acid rain, and other pollution from ships caused an estimated 24,000 premature deaths a year in east Asia, mainly from heart and lung diseases and cancer.

Josh’s House tackles household operation in Living Labs experiment
Designing efficient homes is one part of the sustainability puzzle, but just how occupants use these homes could be even more important. Recent research found that more than 50 per cent of potential energy savings from energy-efficient homes could be lost if users didn’t know how to operate them effectively.

Are seawalls the best answer to rising sea levels – or is retreat a better option?
AUSTRALIA – The extraordinary pictures of subsumed gardens and a swimming pool wrenched from the ground by the giant waves that battered Sydney’s northern beaches last month have revived debate about seawalls and the impact of human attempts to keep the rising ocean from our doors. Given their spectacular locations, the homes in the frontline of raging waves are usually valuable property. Attempts to fortify them are met with resistance from ecologists and other beach users, who say the houses should not have been built there in the first place.

Food Systems

Cattle driving big forest loss in Peru’s ‘under-appreciated’ Amazon
When one thinks of cattle ranchers destroying the Amazon rainforest, one usually thinks of Brazil. And for good reason: cattle ranching continues to be the leading cause of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. Currently, about two-thirds of cleared forest in the region becomes pasture for scores of cattle herds that today collectively number around 60 million head – or two cows for every seven Brazilians. But a new report by the Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP) has caught another vast swathe of forest loss linked to cattle ranching in a neighboring country not known for its cowboy culture: Peru.


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