Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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In our top story today, Global Forest Watch brings us the latest in deforestation through their monitoring of real time satellite data, including new clearance for palm oil and a shocking GIF showing how quickly clearance can happen, even in a national park. Meanwhile, Australia is not without blame as the NSW government reviews logging laws to the detriment of the forest ecosystem and further criticism of the Murray-Darling basin river agreement. A couple of citizen science contributions you can make: to the CSIRO study of how Australians use energy and to the New Zealand backyard bird count.

Top Story

Places to Watch: 3 Hotspots for Forest Clearing Right Now | World Resources Institute
This edition of Places to Watch examines forest clearing hotspots in Colombia, Brazil and Indonesian Papua. All three disturbances are primarily caused by human clearing as opposed to natural fires or disasters. The approximate areas affected are based on satellite detection between February 1, 2018 and April 30, 2018. However, due to occasional cloud cover that can obscure satellite recognition, some loss may have occurred earlier.

More than 600 hectares (1,500 acres) in an oil palm concession in Indonesia Papua were affected from February through April

More than 600 hectares (1,500 acres) in an oil palm concession in Indonesia Papua were affected from February through April

Climate Change and Energy

New app plugs in to people power | CSIRO
AUSTRALIA – The national science agency is calling on all Australians to be part of its energy research by providing valuable information that will improve understanding of the way households consume, generate and interact with energy. By using the new CSIRO Energise app, ‘citizen scientists’ will help to paint a clearer picture of contemporary energy use to guide research and decisions concerning Australia’s energy future.
Download the CSIRO Energise app.

Huge majority supports renewables over coal even at greater cost | SMH
Australians overwhelmingly believe that the government should focus on renewable energy over coal-fired power plants, even if such a measures were to cost more, the 2018 Lowy Institute’s annual poll on Australian attitudes has found. When asked if the government should focus on renewables “even if this means we may need to invest more” or traditional energy “even if this means the environment may suffer to some extent” 84 per cent of respondents opted for renewables. Last year the figure was 81 per cent.

Coal to be kaput in Australia by 2050, as renewables, batteries take over | RenewEconomy
Australia’s coal-fired generation capacity could be little more than a twinkle in Tony Abbott’s eye by as early as 2050, when it will have been all but snuffed out by cheap renewables and battery storage, and household energy investments. The latest National Energy Outlook from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, predicts Australia will generate all but 8 per cent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2050, as dramatic reductions in battery storage costs boost solar and wind uptake.

Environment and Biodiversity

Proposed NSW logging laws value timber over environmental protection | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – New South Wales is revamping its logging laws for the first time in two decades, drafting regulations that will govern more than two million hectares of public native forest. Among the changes are proposals to permit logging in exclusion zones – part of the reserve system – and dramatic increases to the scale and intensity of logging, putting several threatened species at direct risk. NSW can implement these changes unilaterally. But if it does, NSW will effectively be asking the federal government to agree to changes that directly contradict the federal Threatened Species Strategy and several species recovery plans, and reduce the extent of the reserve system.

Greater gliders (Petauroides volans) are vulnerable to loss of tree hollows and habitat fragmentation, which will both be exacerbated under NSW’s proposals. Dave Gallan

Greater gliders (Petauroides volans) are vulnerable to loss of tree hollows and habitat fragmentation, which will both be exacerbated under NSW’s proposals. Dave Gallan

Murray-Darling: Proposed water laws a ‘recipe for killing the river’, Labor and Greens say | ABC News
The New South Wales Government has watered down changes to laws governing the Murray-Darling river system that were proposed in the wake of the water theft and corruption investigations, according to Labor and the Greens.

Biosecurity experts warn brides-to-be over toxic weed wedding trend | ABC News
Australian brides have embraced the latest wedding trend of having native flower bouquets, yet their flannel flowers, waratahs and banksias are often ironically arranged with noxious weeds. Declared pests, including cotton bush and asparagus fern, are not just a nightmare for landholders, livestock, and native ecosystems, some can also be toxic to humans and animals. So why are brides carrying them straight toward their future husbands or wives?

Photo: A punter at a local wedding expo recently spotted this arrangement, which contains noxious cotton weed. (Supplied)

Photo: A punter at a local wedding expo recently spotted this arrangement, which contains noxious cotton weed. (Supplied)

Why garden birds are our ‘backyard barometers’ to the health of our environment | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – Our neighbourhood birds are acting as “backyard barometers” to the health of our environment – and we should be listening, researchers say. Their warning comes as a new report shows some species, like the greenfinch, appear to be doing well, while numbers of others, like the silvereye or waxeye, are dropping. The report drew on 31,000 bird counts that Kiwis made in their own backyards across a decade, in an annual nationwide survey that’s about to get under way again.
Full instructions on how to take part in the survey, including the tally sheet and bird identification guide, are available on the Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research website.

Water standards ‘need tightening’ after antibiotic-resistant E coli found in Christchurch’s Avon River |
NEW ZEALAND – Antibiotic-resistant bacteria has been found in Christchurch’s Avon River, leading scientists to urge city authorities to tighten water quality standards. The river has harboured E coli for years, but the bacteria’s increasing resistance could mean people fight off illness more slowly when treated with common medication, or infections may be prolonged.

Economy and Business

European banks launch energy-efficient home loan scheme | The Fifth Estate
Thirty-seven European banks have launched a new energy efficiency mortgages pilot scheme to help boost the market for homes with lower energy bills. The two-year scheme has been developed by the World Green Building Council’s Europe network under the EU-funded Energy Efficient Mortgages Initiative to trial new European criteria for mortgages that incentivise energy reduction.

Love them or loathe them, private label products are taking over supermarket shelves | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – More supermarket-owned brands will mean lower prices for consumers and greater margins for the retailer. But the move could significantly impact Australian suppliers as their branded products are delisted and supermarkets seek out cheaper manufacturers overseas.

How much does big pharma make from animal antibiotics? | The Guardian
Pharmaceutical companies are earning about $5bn (£3.77bn) a year from producing antibiotics for farm animals, according to calculations by Animal Pharm, the agricultural business analysts. The European animal antibiotics market is worth about $1.25bn a year, and the US animal antibiotics industry about $2bn a year.

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Waste and the Circular Economy

Recycled rubbish ban sees local councils struggling to stave off national waste crisis | ABC News

Photo: Recyclable materials are being sent to landfill as local supply dwarfs demand. (ABC Gippsland: Nicole Asher)

Photo: Recyclable materials are being sent to landfill as local supply dwarfs demand. (ABC Gippsland: Nicole Asher)

Australia’s growing waste problem has been dumped in the national spotlight at a forum of local government heavyweights in Canberra this week… Local councils have been unable to offload recycled rubbish, with companies refusing to accept the waste. And the president of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA), David O’Loughlin, said councils were running out of options. “Waste is a dreadfully complex issue. It used to be easier when we dug a hole and pushed it all in,” he said. Attitudes towards recycling are increasingly proactive, with the ALGA estimating more than 90 per cent of people are in support of a national action plan.

Queensland’s plastic bag ban starts today — here’s what you need to know | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Supermarket giant Woolworths will ban single-use plastic bags at all stores across the country from today, as Queensland prepares for a state-wide ban to take effect next month. From July 1, 2018, retailers will no longer be able to supply single-use lightweight plastic shopping bags less than 35 microns in thickness.

Politics and Society

Ex-Nasa scientist: 30 years on, world is failing ‘miserably’ to address climate change | The Guardian
Thirty years after a former Nasa scientist sounded the alarm for the general public about climate change and human activity, the expert issued a fresh warning that the world is failing “miserably” to deal with the worsening dangers. While Donald Trump and many conservatives like to argue that climate change is a hoax, James Hansen, the 77-year-old former Nasa climate scientist, said in an interview at his home in New York that the relevant hoax today is perpetrated by those leaders claiming to be addressing the problem.

Climate change, waste and housing all but forgotten in NSW budget | The Fifth Estate
Arguably three of NSW’s biggest issues – climate change, waste and housing affordability – have been left behind in a big-spending budget focused on shoring up support for next year’s state election.
See also: Climate change action given low priority in NSW Budget | SMH

‘Sweeteners’ offered in conservation land deal | newsroom
NEW ZEALAND – Westpower has offered to gift $250,000 to a struggling polytechnic if it receives approval to access the conservation land it wants to build a hydro-electric plant on. A year after the Department of Conservation (DOC) indicated it would make a final decision on Westpower’s application to access conservation land, it has contacted people who made public submissions to the proposal with Westpower’s additional offers.

It’s not clear where Trump’s ‘Space Force’ fits within international agreement on peaceful use of space | The Conversation
USA – Overnight US President Donald Trump announced the establishment of a “Space Force” as a separate force of the US military. Trump has indicated the reasoning behind the Space Force stems from national security concerns arising from the potential for renewed activities in space by China and Russia. Trump had previously referred to space as the “new warfighting domain.”

Built Environment

Carbon-positive hemp house could turbo charge industry | The Fifth Estate
A new Perth-based company has committed to building a sustainable 10-star microhome to demonstrate the feasibility of its new hemp-based building panels, and boost the country’s emerging hemp industry. Mirreco, which incorporated in April this year and is in capital raise mode, has been in planning phase for several years. It has now designed a specialised machine for the manufacture of hemp building panels that cuts processing and curing times from 4-5 weeks to under an hour.
See also: ClearVue solar windows tapped by Australian eco home builder | RenewEconomy

Food Systems

War on waste: Strawberry waste solution saves fruit from being dumped | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – A Sunshine Coast strawberry grower is waging her own war on waste to stop tonnes of delicious fruit being dumped because they fail to meet the look the supermarkets want. Mandy Schultz started by tackling waste on the family farm, freezing and freeze drying second grade fruit that would otherwise be thrown out and selling it to a fast-growing group of Facebook followers.