Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
If you like what you see, you are welcome to sign up (on the right) for free sustainable development news delivered direct to your inbox each weekday morning.

Top Story

Big oil writes off $US38 billion in assets in September quarter, Energy Information Administration says
The world’s big listed oil companies have taken another nasty hit, writing down the value of their assets by $US38 billion in the September quarter. The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) said the oil price driven write-downs were the largest since 2008 at the depth of the global financial crisis.

Energy and Climate Change

Climate Change: Real, Serious, Fixable
National Geographic is partnering with the United Nations Foundation and the Earth To Paris coalition to give a powerful voice to a critical message: Reimagining our world’s energy future will take a shared sense of urgency—from countries, companies, cities, and all of us. Learn more at

2015 will be the hottest year ever recorded, weather agencies say
As global temperatures in this super El Nino year march ever higher, there’s one certainty in the chancy world of weather prediction: 2015 will be the hottest year ever recorded. As tens of thousands of leaders and delegates prepare to descend on terror-struck Paris for a global summit to fight climate change, the world’s leading meteorological agencies are reporting an unwavering tale of towering temperatures.

Explainer: how the OECD agreement deals another blow to coal worldwide
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries have agreed to limit subsidies for the export of inefficient coal-fired power plant technologies. Export credit funding will be limited to coal-fired power generators using only the most efficient, and least polluting, “ultra-supercritical” technologies. The deal will come into force in January 2017 and be reviewed in 2019. This will limit the public financing of coal-fired power generation worldwide.

Victoria looks beyond brown coal to renewable energy future
Victoria – home to the biggest and most polluting brown coal power stations in Australia, if not the world – is indicating that it is finally looking beyond coal to a future dominated by renewable energy. On the same day that the UK announced it would close all “unabated” coal assets within 10 years, and as South Australia prepares for the exit of its last coal generator in just four months, Victoria’s Labor government has announced a wholesale review of the brown coal industry.

Farewell to brown coal without tears: how to shut high-emitting power stations
Australia’s large brown-coal-fired power stations are among the highest carbon-emitting power plants in the world. Yet even with increasing amounts of renewable sources added to the electricity network, and more power capacity than we need in the network, these stations are still running. We have a suggestion for how the problem could be solved, in a way that is cost-effective and should be politically acceptable.

Live Q&A: how do we improve nutrition while tackling climate change?
Climate change presents a serious threat to nutrition and food security. Earlier this year, the World Food Programme made bleak predictions underlining the connection between the two issues. With climate change increasing the risk and intensity of climate disasters such as floods and drought, unless huge efforts are made to increase climate resilience, the risk of hunger and malnutrition could increase by 20% by 2050.  It is also a two-way relationship. An estimated 25% of the world’s greenhouse gases are produced from global food systems, of which half comes from food production and the other from transportation, packaging, processing and land use for agriculture.

Renewables are changing the climate narrative from sacrifice to opportunity
Indications are clear that after more than 20 years of negotiations among more than 190 countries, the UN climate conference in Paris in December – COP21 – will be a turning point in the fight against climate change. For the first time at any climate conference, renewable energy solutions will take centre stage in a series of high-profile events coupled with new commitments and announcements. In doing so, it will also transform the climate change narrative from one of managing constraints to one of opportunity.

Paris 2015: UN Conference on Climate Change

Organisers of cancelled Paris climate march urge global show of support
A march expected to attract 200,000 people onto the streets of Paris ahead of crunch UN climate change talks was forbidden by the French government on Wednesday in light of last Friday’s terror attacks. But organisers have said it is now even more important for people around the world to come out onto the streets for “the biggest global climate march in history” to protest “on behalf of those who can’t”. There are 2,173 events organised in more than 150 countries around the world on 28 and 29 November. Find a march in your area here.

Paris 2015: Australia’s quiet climate commitment to decarbonise the economy
The Turnbull government has quietly committed Australia to support decarbonising the world economy as one of the goals for this month’s global climate summit in Paris, a move that has drawn applause. With little fanfare, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull agreed on the sidelines of the G20 gathering with European leaders in Turkey this week that the language of the Paris agreement should agree on a long-term goal to ensure temperatures keep within an increase of 2 degrees on pre-industrial levels.

Australia’s lead public servant for global climate talks reveals hopes and fears for Paris
You don’t get to hear from Peter Woolcott all that much in public, even though he is a pivotal character in Australia’s international climate change negotiations. Woolcott is Australia’s ambassador for the environment and for the past 14 months has led the country’s negotiating teams at UN climate talks… Just two weeks before he heads to the major international talks in Paris, he delivered a rare and so-far-unreported speech where he set out in exhaustive detail what Australia wants from the meeting.

Environment and Biodiversity

Fat coral have better survival chance, researchers find
A team of international researchers have found coral with higher levels of fat are better at surviving adverse events. Australia’s coral reefs are expected to experience the worst coral bleaching event in decades this summer, due in rising water temperatures. To test how different corals may respond to the damaging heatwaves, researchers including Verena Schoepf simulated annual bleaching on Caribbean corals in an experiment in Mexico.

Dairy and oyster farmers work together to improve environment
AUSTRALIA – The relationship between dairy farmers and oysters farmers can be a heated one at times. Fertiliser and effluent runoff from dairy farms into estuaries forces oyster farmers to cease their harvest. However, the two industries have been at work over the last few years to better manage their environmental footprint.

France bans imports of lion hunt trophies
France has banned the import of lion heads, paws and skins as hunters’ trophies, nearly four months after the killing of Zimbabwe’s most famous lion by an American trophy hunter sparked international outrage. In a letter to the actor and animals rights activist Brigitte Bardot, France’s environment minister, Ségolène Royal, said that she had instructed officials to stop issuing permits for lion trophies and was considering stricter controls on trophies from other species.

Economy and Business

Report: Clear Economic and Environmental Benefits to Phasing Out Fossil Fuel Subsidies
After a slow start 6 years ago when the G20 and APEC made commitments to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies, about 30 countries have launched or accelerated fossil fuel subsidy reforms, according to a new paper by the New Climate Economy. The paper, Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform: From Rhetoric to Reality, identifies the lessons learned from past attempts to reform fossil fuel subsidies, explores why progress has been slow and outlines the principles for successful reform.

NZ’s clean, green image reality makes for sober reading: tourism professor
New Zealand needs to better manage the environment as the $30 billion tourism industry expands rapidly, a professor says. The tourism sector is close to overtaking dairy as the economy’s powerhouse and represents a 4.9 per cent slice of overall GDP. Total tourism spend in the last financial year hit $29.8 billion, including an international spend of $11.8 billion and a domestic spend of 18.1bn. The industry employs 168,000 people. Speaking at a tourism industry national summit in Wellington, Lincoln University Professor of Tourism Dr David Simmons said the industry and New Zealanders generally need to do more to better manage the environment, such as water resources.

Bullying tactics: brands can’t squeeze suppliers if they’re serious about sustainability
Majestic Wine this week announced the removal of its chief buyer after its pre-tax profits dropped by almost half. Supply chain relations at the ailing retailer have been tense ever since it asked suppliers to stump up cash towards its new warehouse… These kind of tactics of big business towards their suppliers have become a standard feature of today’s cutthroat marketplace, where price is king and any means of reducing costs is valid. Supermarkets are past masters of the supplier squeeze as the sight of striking milk producers earlier this year showed.

Waste and the Circular Economy

The Social Power of the Circular Economy
A circular economy isn’t just about materials; it’s about people too. In a circular economy, instead of resources extracted from the earth, people will become the most important driver for growth. Craftsmanship and ingenuity are abundantly deployed, and natural resources are saved. As taxes play a fundamental role in the economy, the first step is to shift taxes from labour to natural resource use and pollution.

Politics and Society

We quibble over ‘lawfare’, but the law is not protecting species properly anyway
AUSTRALIA – The federal government is set to go ahead with its crackdown on environmental “lawfare”, which would restrict green groups’ legal standing to challenge mining approvals and other developments… But by seeking to limit who has the right to appeal its decisions, the government misunderstands the purpose of environmental legislation. The amendments not only go against the progressive development of environmental law worldwide, which has helped to make approvals more open to public scrutiny, but they are also a grave injustice to nature itself.

Conservationists take court action over government failure to protect UK rivers
Conservationists and angling organisations have joined together to challenge “a government failure” to protect some of England’s “most precious rivers and wetlands” from agricultural pollution. The high court on Thursday is hearing a judicial review from the WWF-UK, the Angling Trust and Fish Legal in what they say is a bid to protect rivers, lakes and coastal areas from further damage.

UK reversing and undoing climate change policies, say doctors and nurses
The UK is reversing its policies on climate change “without offering credible alternatives”, according to an alliance of Britain’s doctors, nurses and other health professionals. Writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), they say that natural disasters, food and water insecurity, the spread of infectious diseases and forced migration “are already affecting human health and provide a glimpse of the near future”. But they say that while globally there is progress on tackling climate change – with countries committing to curbing their emissions, religious leaders, such as the Pope, urging action and organisations committing to divesting from fossil fuels – the UK is bucking the positive trend.

Govt dismisses warning of rising sea level
NEW ZEALAND – The Government has dismissed one of the key recommendations in a report on rising sea levels despite a warning that 9000 homes around New Zealand are sitting precariously close to the high water mark. Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright took the rare step of making a specific warning to the Finance Minister in her latest report on the threat of rising oceans driven by climate change.

Hamilton student develops cardboard surfboard in technology class
NEW ZEALAND – If you see Darrian Dempsey out on the waves, there’s a fair chance his board is made of cardboard. The Hamilton 17-year-old has spent all year making what may seem like a counter-intuitive concept work. He put uncounted hours into his creation – it was made out of laminated cardboard, fabric, basalt and bio-resin.

US to stop using chimpanzees for medical research
The United States National Institutes of Health quietly ended the federal government’s long and controversial history of using chimpanzees for biomedical research. Director Francis Collins announced on Wednesday that 50 chimpanzees held by the government for medical research will be sent to sanctuaries. “It is time to acknowledge that there is no further justification for the 50 chimpanzees to continue to be kept available for invasive biomedical research,” Collins wrote to NIH administrators, according to a spokeswoman.

Smart phone users urged to download new UN app Share the Meal to help eliminate global hunger
The United Nations World Food Program has responded to a funding shortfall by developing a new mobile phone app that lets people around the world donate money. The Share the Meal app is being touted as the first of its kind. Analysts say it’s an innovation that could eventually help eliminate global hunger.

Built Environment

Nest Reveals Third Generation Learning Thermostat
The ever-popular Nest Learning Thermostat has now reached its third generation, with the new model being revealed this week. Nest, the company which has almost single-handedly reimagined the common thermostat (at least, according to public awareness and taste) this week revealed the 3rd generation Nest Learning Thermostat, replete with a bundle of new features that the company hopes will only increase the thermostat’s popularity and benefit. Already having saved over 4 billion kWh of energy in millions of homes around the world since 2011, the Nest Thermostat has also won numerous awards for its design and functionality.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.