Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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UN tells Bangladesh to halt mangrove-threatening coal plant
The UN’s world heritage body has made an urgent intervention to stop the construction of a coal power station in Bangladesh. Unesco said the plant could damage the world heritage-listed Sundarbans mangrove forest, which houses up to 450 Bengal tigers. A fact finding mission, published by Unesco and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on Tuesday, found that the proposed site of the Rampal coal power plant, which is 65km north of the Sundarbans world heritage area, would expose the downriver forests to pollution and acid rain.

Energy and Climate Change

Conventional thinking will not solve the climate crisis (Opinion)
The good news – according to the World Energy Council (WEC) – is that, per person, our energy demand is set to peak before 2030. Of course, there will be more of us around by then too, so that total demand will only slow, rather than level out… The bad news is that under the scenarios drawn up by the WEC, even keeping to the upper target agreed in Paris of global warming no greater than 2C will require an “exceptional and enduring effort” that goes beyond any current commitments and needs a price for coal, oil and gas that is dramatically higher.

Storm of controversy erupts over AEMO blackout report
Another storm of controversy about the role of wind energy is certain to erupt after the latest report about the state-wide blackout in South Australia by the Australian Energy Market Operator… The report dismisses suggestions – mostly from the Coalition and mainstream media – that it was the intermittent nature of wind energy that was the cause of the blackout. But it also underlines the failure of the market operator to make any preparations for the storm that it could obviously see spreading across the state.

Blackout sparks demand boost as consumers seek reliability in solar and battery storage
In some political and media circles, the power woes experienced by South Australia in September have been cause to question the reliability of distributed renewables. For many consumers, however, these events have had precisely the opposite effect. According to the solar and storage industry, the electrical outages caused by severe storms, both in South Australia last month and in Victoria last week, have resulted in a spike in Australian households inquiring about battery storage for security of supply.

NZ’s greenhouse gas bill could top $70 billion
New Zealand could face a $72 billion bill to meet its obligations under the Paris climate change agreement unless there’s an effective international carbon market, an official says.

Environment and Biodiversity

Reforesting marginal land could buy time – climate change report
At least a million hectares of marginal land in New Zealand could easily revert to forest and absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as it grows, a new report suggests. Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright was speaking during the release of her latest report on climate change and agriculture. Dr Wright said almost 4 percent of New Zealand’s total area could revert to carbon-soaking forest without anyone having to do anything too difficult, unlike preparing it for farming which took a lot of work clearing scrub.
See also: Emissions Trading Scheme ‘not the silver bullet’ for agriculture emissions, says commissioner

On-farm nursery a solution to low-cost environmental enhancement
NEW ZEALAND – Establishing an on-farm tree nursery has protected and enhanced Alan Cole’s 41-hectare farm – and he’s done it cheaply. The nursery has allowed him to plant 50,000 trees on his South Auckland farm over the past six years. The planting programme has improved the water quality of the Taihiki River bordering his farm, attracted native birds to the area and protected his livestock.

Small rise in numbers of Maui dolphins, but fears remain for their survival
NEW ZEALAND – Adult numbers of the critically endangered Maui dolphin have risen slightly, according to the preliminary results of a survey carried out over the past two summers. The survey… estimates the population at approximately 63 adults, with 95 per cent confidence there are between 57 and 75. This represents an increase from a 2010-11 survey that estimated the number at 55, with 95 per cent confidence there were between 48 and 69.

Study finds Brazil isn’t counting all deforestation in official estimates
Brazil drew widespread praise for drastically lowering Amazon deforestation over the past decade and half. But as forest destruction in the country is on the rise once again, new research finds that Brazil’s official estimates are missing large swaths of deforestation.

Vanishing Mekong? Shifting tropical storms threaten a great river delta
Recent changes in the patterns of tropical storms are threatening the future of the Mekong River delta in Vietnam. This is one of the world’s great deltas. It is home to more than 20m people and the rice that is grown on its fertile land underpins food security across South-East Asia.

Ape’s fig challenge wins photo award
Who dares wins. An orangutan pictured climbing high into a tree to reach some figs has taken the top honour in the 2016 Wildlife Photographer of the Year (WPY) competition.  American Tim Laman caught the scene using a remote camera placed in the rainforest canopy of Gunung Palung National Park in Indonesian Borneo. Of course, the field biologist and photo journalist first had to clamber up himself to position his equipment. That fearlessness has been rewarded.

"Entwined Lives", taken with a GoPro, is one picture from a sequence captured over a couple of days

“Entwined Lives”, taken with a GoPro, is one picture from a sequence captured over a couple of days

This year’s junior award goes to 16-year-old Gideon Knight from the UK… Gideon’s picture (below), called simply “The Moon and the Crow”, is another perspective on the wildlife that exists in our towns and cities. And capturing animal activity in the urban setting was now a very noticeable trend in WPY entries, said the WPY judge. “I guess it’s an indication that more and more of us live in cities. And what we’re seeing is increasingly rich and important coverage of what that means for the natural world, in the way we live side by side with species.”

The moon and the crow

The moon and the crow


4 bold collaborations tackling California’s drought
The U.S.’s third-largest state is the world’s sixth-largest economy, meaning California’s business sector is critically involved in the health of its waterways. This month 20 organizations, including Fortune 500 companies, investors and NGOs, announced their support for four projects protecting California’s water resources as part of the California Water Action Collaborative.

Economy and Business

NZ Super fund to cut fossil fuels, makes “fundamental shift” to prepare for climate change
New Zealand’s sovereign wealth fund is promising to reduce its investments in fossil fuels and target clean energy in a bid to prepare for climate change. On Wednesday the New Zealand Superannuation Fund confirmed it was pledging cut the carbon footprint of its $30 billion portfolio, including selling down “high risk” investments. While the move comes with no set targets and will not prevent the fund from investing in any particular sector, chief executive Adrian Orr said it would lead to some parts of its portfolio being sold.

Growth in batteries and EVs ‘resoundingly credit negative’ for oil sector
The expected growth in battery technology and electric vehicles over the next two decades could be a major boon for renewables industries while posing a significant market risk to the global oil sector, a leading credit agency has warned. According to a new report released yesterday by Fitch, a leap forward in battery technology could transform the viability of electric vehicles as an alternative to the internal combustion engine. Such a transformation, the report states, would be “resoundingly credit negative” for the oil sector as transport currently accounts for as much as 55 per cent of global oil consumption.

Shipping ‘progressives’ call for industry carbon emission cuts
Many of the world’s biggest shipowners and charterers have called on heads of state to take swift action to force carbon emission cuts on their industry which is the only sector in the world not now bound by climate change targets. Maersk, Cargill, the Global Shippers’ Forum and 45 other shipping organisations including the Danish Shipowners’ Association said “ambitious” action is needed at a key UN meeting in London next week to bring shipping into line with the world’s 195 countries, all of which have signed up to the Paris climate agreement to curb emissions.

World Bank money is helping to finance Asia’s coal boom: report
A coal boom in Asia could destroy any chances of meeting global climate goals, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim pronounced earlier this month at the Group’s annual meeting. “If all the new coal plants on the books earlier this year were constructed – especially in Asia – it would be impossible to stay below two degrees,” he said, referring to the temperature change target set in the Paris Agreement… Meanwhile, according to a report led by US-based NGO Inclusive Development International, the Asian coal boom Kim describes as a “disaster” has been quietly enabled by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank Group.

Clinton says the ‘clean energy economy’ will create millions of jobs. Can it?
Job growth is a prime topic in the U.S. presidential race, but Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have very different takes on the role clean energy could play in creating employment… What does economic research say about the potential of government-led industrial policy to promote clean energy and create jobs? Looking at the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, or what came to be known as the “stimulus package,” provides us some insights. What clearly emerges is that the expansion of renewable energy is an opportunity to create jobs in manufacturing and construction, as well as in other industries.

Fishing is worth more than jobs and profits to Australia’s coastal towns
We recently carried out a two-year assessment of the ways professional fishing contributes to the social and economic lives of NSW coastal communities. We assessed how the industry contributes to seven key dimensions of community well-being.

Politics and Society

British doctors and health professionals call for rapid coal phase-out
Groups representing Britain’s 600,000 doctors and health professionals say it is “imperative” to phase out coal rapidly to improve health and reduce NHS costs. The doctors and nurses say tackling outdoor air pollution from traffic and power stations would cut climate emissions, reduce air pollution, and deliver a powerful boost to the nation’s health.

‘No-brainer’: Calls for CSIRO to make its CSG gas research more independent
AUSTRALIA – The CSIRO needs to ensure its research into coal seam gas remains independent of industry if it’s to win over opponents worried about environmental and social impacts, The Australia Institute (TAI) argues in a new paper. The report highlighted how the original research advisory committee of the CSIRO-led body – known as the Gas Industry Social & Environmental Research Alliance (GISERA) – had been dominated by industry representatives and the CSIRO.

Behind the beauty of Indonesia’s Raja Ampat islands lie poverty and neglect
For the month of October, people walking past Times Square in New York City will see a large billboard with a picture of Indonesia’s Raja Ampat islands, accompanied with the tagline “escape to a magical place”. But the appeal of the image hides the abject poverty of the people living on the islands.

Food Systems

Cooking for Sustainable Development
Joan, Josep and Jordi Roca of El Celler de Can Roca, twice named best restaurant in the world, and now UNDP Goodwill Ambassadors for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Fund (SDG-F)
What we eat has a direct impact not only on our health, but also on the wellbeing and prosperity of our communities, and the health of our planet. This is a lesson we learnt at a young age at our parents’ family restaurant, and one which we now try to spread from the kitchen at El Celler de Can Roca and in our new role as Goodwill Ambassadors for Sustainable Development Goals.

World’s mammals being eaten into extinction, report warns
Hundreds of mammal species – from chimpanzees to hippos to bats – are being eaten into extinction by people, according to the first global assessment of the impact of human hunting. Bushmeat has long been a traditional source of food for many rural people, but as roads have been driven into remote areas, large-scale commercial hunting is leaving forests and other habitats devoid of wildlife.  The scientists behind the new analysis warned that, without action, the wiping out of these species could lead to the collapse of the food security of hundreds of millions of people reliant on bushmeat for survival.


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