Sustainable Development News

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

Ma Jun: China has reached its environmental tipping point
It was almost 20 years ago that Ma Jun sat and watched the rainbow-coloured River Fen, in Shanxi province … In the last few years, officials have belatedly acknowledged the crisis with a series of reports. The findings confirmed Ma and other environmentalists’ worst fears. One-fifth of farmland is too polluted to grow crops, nearly 60% of groundwater is unfit for human use and air pollution is 20 times the recommended safe levels. The human cost of this damage has been devastating: huge swaths of productive arable land taken out of food production over fears of rice contaminated with heavy metals, more than 450 so-called “cancer villages” where untreated or mistreated chemicals have polluted local communities, choking levels of air pollution causing underweight babies, rising levels of lung cancer and a decline in male fertility…

Energy and Climate Change

Report: U.S. No. 1 in Clean Tech Innovation, But Lags in Reducing GHGs
The United States leads the world in clean tech investments, patents, renewable energy generation and electric vehicle (EV) adoption, but still is slow to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new ranking by Next 10. Over the last two decades, however, the U.S. has become more energy productive, using less energy per dollar of GDP generated. The Green Innovation Index, International Edition charts country GDP, emissions, energy productivity, renewable energy generation, clean tech investments and other key metrics. In advance of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) in Paris this year, the report for the first time analyzes and ranks the economic and energy performance of the world’s 50 largest greenhouse gas emitting nations.

Tasmania looks to EVs as next step to 100% renewable energy
Tasmania is looking closely at electric vehicles to take the next step towards 100 per cent renewable energy – both electricity and transport – and boost the state’s strategic advantage as a clean energy manufacturing hub. The state government recently released its energy vision for the next 20 years, titled Tasmania’s Energy Strategy, Restoring Tasmania’s energy advantage” Unlike the federal equivalent, the energy white paper, it did not focus on fossil fuels – Tasmania hasn’t much to speak of – but it did look to profit from its major natural resources, renewable energy in the form of hydro, wind and even solar.

Ten reasons why burning native forests for electricity should not be included in the RET
Here are ten reasons why so-called ‘biomass’ has no place in Australia’s Renewable Energy Target.

Karl Ove Knausgaard condemns Norway’s Arctic oil plans
Norway’s best-known author has lashed out at “the shortsightedness and stupidity” of plans to expand oil exploration into the Arctic, as campaigners prepare to sue the government for placing future generations at risk from climate change. Karl Ove Knausgaard, whose bestselling memoir has been a global literary sensation, is fronting a campaign to mount a legal challenge against moves by Norway to open up the Arctic to oil companies.

Shell adopts climate plan, defends Arctic oil drilling
Shell today committed to reveal how its oil and gas assets will fare in a safer climate future, in response to a shareholder campaign.Scientists estimate half of world gas reserves and a third of oil must stay in the ground to hold global warming to 2C. If burned, these fossil fuels would blow the carbon budget.Shell’s controversial – and high cost – Arctic and tar sands ventures are among the most exposed to the risk of being “stranded” by climate action, analysts have warned.

Investors worth $25tr reveal plan for tackling climate change
Investors managing $25tr in assets have set out the actions they are taking to reduce tackle climate change, in the latest move designed to increase business pressure on world leaders to sign a global deal to slash carbon emissions later this year. The new online platform has been produced by the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change in Europe, Ceres Investor Network on Climate Risk in the US, the Investors Group on Climate Change in Australia and New Zealand and the Asia Investor Group on Climate Change, which combined represent many of the world’s largest institutional investors. The launch comes as businesses prepare to meet in Paris this week for a major Business and Climate Summit, designed to show politicians that much of the corporate sector wants ambitious action on climate change.

Hollande and Merkel back long term carbon cutting goal
Germany and France have backed moves to target radical cuts in greenhouse gas emissions later this century, as part of a global climate deal.The leaders of the two countries made the call at a climate conference in Berlin, where ministers from 35 countries are meeting to lay the foundations for a proposed UN pact later this year.German chancellor Angela Merkel said a “complete shift to carbon free economic action” should be the goal for Paris, where the agreement is set to be finalised.

Economy and Business

Where there is oil and gas there is Schlumberger
…The two bespectacled executives, looking much like soberly-suited bank managers, soon disappear into a private room to meet with Dr Abdullahi Haider, a senior adviser to the Somalian government, and a Canadian middleman, emerging an hour or so later. Somalia could be one of the great untapped sources of offshore oil, if someone can secure a deal to find and extract it, and if anyone can, it’s the company these men work for. The African nation is one of the most politically unstable, unsafe, and corrupt countries in the world, one of the toughest places for any business to think of operating. But that is what Schlumberger – the biggest company you’ve never heard of – do, if the rewards are great enough.

Renewable Energy Now Employs 7.7 Million People Worldwide
Renewable energy investment and deployment is paying off, and in spades, when it comes to addressing a basic issue plaguing developed and developing countries alike: an inability to generate jobs that pay a good living wage. Around the world, renewable energy job creation continues to far outpace that for economies overall. Some 7.7 million people are now employed across the global renewable energy value chain, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA). That’s up 18 percent from 6.5 million in 2014, the agency noted in its 2015 Renewable Energy and Jobs Annual Review.

Caring about carers who work for you is part of being a sustainable business
In the UK there are 6.5 million people caring for a loved one who is older, seriously ill or disabled. As the population ages, this number is set to rise to 9 million by 2037. Of the UK’s 6.5 million carers, 4.3 million are of working age and 3 million of those juggle work and care.  We now understand that companies aspiring to be sustainable businesses must address all three pillars of sustainability: the social, the economic and the environmental.  A key element of this is to be a good and fair employer. Over recent years, it has been recognised that employers need to be proactive to create a more inclusive workforce and to respond to changing demographics, particularly the ageing population.

Waste and the Circular Economy

MillerCoors’ Trenton Brewery Upcycling Wastewater Into Fish, Animal Feed
MillerCoors’ Trenton Brewery in Ohio will now also produce fish and animal feed. Thanks to a partnership with biotech company Nutrinsic, wastewater from MillerCoors’ beer-making process will now enter Nutrinsic’s sustainable protein production facility co-located at the brewery’s Water Reclamation Facility. The biotech company says the wastewater will become a feedstock for ProFloc™, a high-quality protein ingredient for use in fish and animal nutrition. ProFloc is produced using patented technology that upcycles nutrients that would otherwise be undervalued or discarded, making it a sustainable protein source for all types of aquatic and terrestrial animal feeds.

Politics and Society

The buck stops elsewhere: how corporate power trumps politics
It is instructive that of the top 100 economic entities in the world – countries included – more than 50 are multinational corporations. The money the government relies upon to put its policies into practices come from taxes – taxes that multinational corporations can easily avoid by relocation, while onerous regulation is just as easily sidestepped. The banks are a great example. Only recently, HSBC used the threat of leaving the UK in an attempt to influence UK government policy. Globalisation has brought us to a situation where we have a regulatory vacuum – global regulation is practically non-existent and insufficient to match the growing power and influence of profit-maximising multinational corporations.

Why one of the wealthiest countries in the world is failing to feed its people
On May 8 2015 I awoke to discover that not only were we not looking forward to a new coalition government in the UK, but that the overall collapse of the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party had given the Conservative government a mandate. At an individual level I’m likely to see some benefits from the strong neo-liberalism that underpins this government’s ideology, but I’m concerned about a further deepening of the division between those who have and those who have not.

Is this the most blatant invitation to greenwash ever?
Global demand for palm oil, an ingredient in a whole range of foods and cosmetics, is a major driver of tropical deforestation. That is what scientific studies and green groups on the ground find. To their credit, some consumer goods companies are cracking down on forest clearance in their supply chains. But the Malaysian Palm Oil Council would prefer to convince you it is no problem at all. It is offering prizes worth US$15,000 for essays on the topic: “Oil palm is not the driver of deforestation.”

Built Environment

Melbourne councils officially launch sustainable design tool
Australia’s newest sustainability rating tool is now in use across a group of councils in Melbourne.  The Built Environment Sustainability Scorecard, or BESS, assesses energy and water efficiency, thermal comfort and overall sustainable performance of a variety of buildings and renovations… Moreland City Council manager of strategy and design Sue Vujcevic said the event was a result of more than 10 years working in partnerships with councils and industry partners. “We are confident that BESS will be accepted as the new standard for sustainability assessment at the planning permit stage, and that it will continue to improve the buildings that we all live and work in,” Ms Vujcevic said.


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