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2015 smashes record for hottest year, final figures confirm
2015 smashed the record for the hottest year since reporting began in 1850, according to the first full-year figures from the world’s three principal temperature estimates. Data released on Wednesday by the UK Met Office shows the average global temperature in 2015 was 0.75C higher than the long-term average between 1961 and 1990, much higher than the 0.57C in 2014, which itself was a record. The Met Office also expects 2016 to set a new record, meaning the global temperature records will have been broken for three years running.

A dead Bodó fish, that can remain alive for a couple of days out of water, in front of stranded floating houses on the bed of Negro River, a major tributary of the Amazon River that dropped 4.6 meters in October 2015, Iranduba, Brazil. Photograph: Raphael Alves/AFP/Getty Images

A dead Bodó fish, that can remain alive for a couple of days out of water, in front of stranded floating houses on the bed of Negro River, a major tributary of the Amazon River that dropped 4.6 meters in October 2015, Iranduba, Brazil. Photograph: Raphael Alves/AFP/Getty Images


Energy and Climate Change

The last time Earth was this hot hippos lived in Britain (that’s 130,000 years ago)
It’s official: 2015 was the warmest year on record. But those global temperature records only date back to 1850 and become increasingly uncertain the further back you go. Beyond then, we’re reliant on signs left behind in tree rings, ice cores or rocks. So when was the Earth last warmer than the present?

When will private sector learn that age of fossil fuels is over?
The German minister responsible for that country’s “Energiewende” says it is time that the private sector around the world realized that the age of fossil fuels is over, and his own country’s energy transition is irreversible. Last week, new data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance suggested that in 2015 – like 2014 – more money was invested in renewable energy generation than in fossil fuels. Some $US329 billion went into clean energy investment in the last year. But still, enormous amounts not captured by this data appear to be spent searching for new reserves to replenish and expand fossil fuel resources.

AGL says new renewable plants hinge on closure of coal generators
AGL Energy has again insisted that the development of new large scale wind farms and solar farms in Australia will depend on the government’s ability to manage the closure of old, high emitting coal-fired generators. At the opening of the country’s two largest – and heavily subsidised – solar farms in Nyngan (102MW) and Broken Hill (53MW), AGL chief executive Andrew Vesey hailed the “birth” of large scale solar in Australia. But Vesey said that future development of such plants will depend on two things – a “sustainable” energy market, and the closure of high-emitting coal fired generators.

Tesla Powerwall batteries draw WA homeowners as Mandurah leads solar charge
Western Australia is continuing to see a surge towards home solar energy, with the Tesla Powerwall attracting a cult-like following and new data showing Mandurah residents installed more solar panels and capacity than any other postcode in the nation last year.

Environment and Biodiversity

Eating healthily during the week but bingeing on weekends is not OK for your gut
A relatively healthy but complex community is living together peacefully, until an unruly mob of hooligans begins unsettling the community’s residents and disturbing the peace every weekend. This scenario could be playing out in the human gut every time you go on a junk food binge. Yo-yoing between eating well during the week and bingeing on junk food over the weekend is likely to be just as bad for your gut health as a consistent diet of junk.

Trade Sanctions for Three Countries Over Illegal Ivory
The international community has taken new steps to stem the illegal ivory trade, responsible for the killing of some 30,000 African elephants every year. Last week in Geneva the busiest ever meeting of the Standing Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the body that regulates the international trade in endangered species, concluded with concrete outcomes for combating the ivory trade.

Myanmar Feeds China’s Pangolin Appetite
Myanmar and pangolins. Not words I normally think of together. That’s why the recent report by TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring NGO, on pangolin trafficking in Myanmar took me by surprise. While I’ve followed the patterns of pangolin smuggling over the years, Myanmar is rarely highlighted. Until now.

The science behind that ‘Jaws’ sighting – and why it’s cause for celebration
It was, by any measure, a giant. On January 17, patrol helicopters off the coast of southern Australia reported seeing a great white shark “nearly as big as Jaws”. In fact, it was estimated to be up to 23ft long, only marginally smaller than the infamous movie killer – and it came to within just 100 metres of the shore. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the connotations with Peter Benchley’s 1974 novel sent the internet into its usual frenzied panic when such a “monster” is spotted… These large sharks will always make headlines, but instead of igniting fear, they should be cause for celebration.

Living fossils discovered during deep sea expedition off Queensland coast
When a collaborative team of researchers set about exploring the depths of Osprey Reef, off the Queensland coast, they had no idea they would discover living fossils, ecosystems that have remained unchanged for millions of years and marine life thought alien to Australian waters.

Economy and Business

Slump in oil prices drives green energy takeup in top exporting nations
The oil price slump below $30 barrel is spurring some of the world’s biggest oil exporters to curb domestic consumption of fossil fuels and invest in wind and solar power, according to government officials meeting in Abu Dhabi.

$435 Million To Be Invested To Triple Solar Production By LG Electronics
LG Electronics will invest $435 million to triple its production of N-type solar modules. An expanded production facility in Gumi, South Korea will be employed to reach this goal. Currently, LG’s production is approximately 1 GW, but it wants to grow that figure to 3 GW by 2020, with a stop at 1.8 GW by 2018.

Climate change fails to top list of threats for business leaders at Davos
Despite concerns about its impact on extreme weather events, such as recent flooding in the UK, climate change failed to register near the top of the list of business threats, according to a survey of 1,400 CEOs from around the world compiled by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and published at Davos this week.  Instead, over-regulation was listed as the biggest threat to business (by 79% of CEOs), followed by geopolitical uncertainty (74%) and other key threats including cyber attacks (61%).

Abu Dhabi announces $10bn support for climate projects
The National Bank of Abu Dhabi has announced new investment of $10 billion for environmental projects during the World Future Energy Summit in the United Arab Emirates. The financing pledge, a first for a Gulf Council Country bank, was announced on Monday and is intended to support recent research presented in the NBAD’s recent report, Financing the Future of Energy Report. The study identified a funding gap of $48 trillion that is required over the next 20 years to meet global energy demand.

UNEP and Islamic Development Bank sign climate deal
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) signed a new agreement on Wednesday to support sustainable development and combat climate change. UNEP Deputy Executive Director, Mr. Ibrahim Thiaw and the IDB President, Dr. Ahmad Mohammad Ali Al Madani signed the agreement in Jeddah, Suadi Arabia where the bank is based. The Memorandum of Understanding, set to run until June 2018 initially, covers objectives common to the two organizations in the areas of climate change, agriculture and food security, eco-innovation and green economy, and Islamic finance.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Airbnb for cars and Canada’s food waste fight: 10 circular businesses in the Davos spotlight
From Taiwan to the Atacama desert, and eco-homes to recycling software, we highlight some of the finalists at 2016’s circular economy awards.

Ikea: A Vision For A Circular Retailer
Ikea’s head of sustainability, Steve Howard made the headlines earlier this week when he suggested that consumers, at least in the ‘western world’, had reached “peak home furnishings”. It is perhaps an interesting comment considering Ikea’s ambitious target of almost doubling its sales by 2020. However, Howard’s core point is that patterns of consumption are changing. He told a Guardian conference that, “we will be increasingly building a circular Ikea where you can repair and recycle products.”

Hamilton mural to inspire smart water use
NEW ZEALAND – A drab old city water tower has been splashed with a lick of paint but there is a serious conservation message behind this massive mural. Hamilton artist Alex McLeod designed and painted Hamilton’s Maeroa water reservoir on the crest of Forest Lake Rd. He said its message was simple. “Love your water,” said McLeod.


Alex McLeod's smart water mural on a Hamilton city water tower.

Alex McLeod’s smart water mural on a Hamilton city water tower.

Report: The Future of Plastics Can (and Should) Be Circular
“The New Plastics Economy: Rethinking the future of plastics” outlines how applying circular economy principles to global plastic packaging flows could unlock more economic value from these materials and reduce negative externalities. Through the report, which was produced as part of Project MainStream, the contributing organizations hope to “overcome the limitations of today’s incremental improvements and fragmented initiatives, to create a shared sense of direction, to spark a wave of innovation and to move the plastics value chain into a positive spiral of value capture, stronger economics, and better environmental outcomes.

From oil use to ocean pollution: five facts about the plastics industry
The world of plastics is in drastic need of reform. This is the conclusion of a new report released at Davos by the World Economics Forum, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and consultancy firm McKinsey. Here are five of its most startling facts.

McDonough Unveils ICEhouse™, Designed to Illustrate Innovation for the Circular Economy, at Davos
Designer and sustainability visionary William McDonough will unveil ICEhouse™ (Innovation for the Circular Economy house) in Davos this week, as a place for those attending the World Economic Forum annual meeting to gather and discuss the future of innovation for the circular economy. The structure has been designed to demonstrate the positive design framework described in the seminal book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, and the reuse of resources implicit in the circular economy.

Politics and Society

Wanted: unprecedented collaboration to solve poverty and climate change
The UN climate talks in Paris created important political momentum to get something meaningful done on climate change – momentum that is vital to spur aggressive emissions reduction and to cement a “clean” development dimension to the new sustainable development goals (SDGs) agreed in September. The agenda for delivering this development now rightly intertwines inclusive economic growth, ambitious improvements in our social infrastructure for education, gender parity and improved health, as well as lower emissions. The question now arises: how do we actually deliver this?

Leonardo DiCaprio rips into Big Oil at Davos summit: ‘Enough is enough’
Fresh off his Golden Globe win, Leonardo DiCaprio drew ooohs, ahhs and smiles from a crowd as he was honoured for his work against the climate crisis at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Then he ripped into Big Oil. The Hollywood star of The Revenant on Tuesday announced his foundation was donating another $US15 million ($21.7 million) to environmental projects, and pleaded with business leaders and other notables on hand to help battle climate change.

Turkey burnt, lessons learnt
Christmas. It’s not a month gone. The turkey is toast, the ham has been gnawed to the bone. Happy New Year has morphed into an unhappy “to do” list. It’s time to get doing again for another year. But wait, first thing’s first. A little time to reflect. Between the feasts and sleeps, surely there was a lesson or two to unwrap and take away, which will help me be a better sustainability person this year. Ah yes, I remember now. Three lessons to take away from my holiday, all starting way back last year, when I saw a sign…

Built Environment

The Feds want to plant 20 million trees but NSW (joins Qld) and declares war on them
AUSTRALIA – Environment minister Greg Hunt surprised the nation when he announced that urban heat islands are a major issue to tackle – mainly through tree canopies. He wants to plant 20 million trees, he said after a speech at the Sydney Business Chamber on Tuesday. But in a twist that defies expectations, NSW premier Mike Baird has at the same time been accused of launching a wholesale war on trees, and is about launch similar strikes through land clearing.

Concrete jungle? We’ll have to do more than plant trees to bring wildlife back to our cities
The federal environment and acting cities minister, Greg Hunt, on Tuesday pledged to increase the number of trees in Australian cities. In a bid to fight higher urban temperatures, the plan will set targets for tree cover… But what about wildlife? Trees alone aren’t enough to bring back nature. In the rush to create greenspace, we have to make sure we build it in a way to help wildlife thrive. That will take careful thought and planning.


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