Sustainable Development News

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

How do we uncouple global development from resource use?
Over the past few days, nations have been meeting in New York to discuss the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aim to “promote prosperity while protecting the planet”. Today the meeting sees the launch of an international report coordinated by CSIRO and the UN Environment Program. The report lists several ways in which the world can maintain economic growth while reducing its primary material use – ending the pattern that has driven world economic growth over the past four-and-a-half decades.

Energy and Climate Change

Antarctic peninsula temperatures have fallen, study shows
The tip of the Antarctic peninsula has cooled over the past 15 years, scientists have found, but the discovery does not mean global warming has stopped. Researchers analysed air temperature data from the area, which covers about 1% of the continent, and found it had warmed quickly from the 1920s until the late 1990s, as climate change drove up global temperatures. Since then, temperatures have fallen.

Hottest ever June marks 14th month of record-breaking temperatures
As the string of record-breaking global temperatures continues unabated, June 2016 marks the 14th consecutive month of record-breaking heat. According to two US agencies – Nasa and Noaa – June 2016 was 0.9C hotter than the average for the 20th century, and the hottest June in the record which goes back to 1880. It broke the previous record, set in 2015, by 0.02C. The 14-month streak of record-breaking temperatures was the longest in the 137-year record. And it has been 40 years since the world saw a June that was below the 20th century average.

Strongest climate action of the year to be decided at Montreal Protocol Meetings
Diplomats and leading government ministers are currently gathered in Vienna for negotiations under the Montreal Protocol to decide key climate actions. The meetings aim at continuing the previous treaty’s action in phasing out ozone-destroying chlorofluorcarbons (CFCs), by looking at their key substitute hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). The hopes are to add an amendment to the previous treaty to shift from HFCs, and this could constitute the biggest tangible piece of climate progress of the year.

Gombar: The 175GW renewables goal – An Indian rope trick?
The Indian rope trick was a popular magical illusion of the 19th Century and beyond, involving a lot of smoke and other visual distractions, a coil of rope that uncurled and rose up improbably towards the sky and sometimes a small boy who climbed it. With hindsight, perhaps it represented the towering ambition of its home country and the overcoming of obstacles. But the illusion cannot last forever: the rope would have to fall back down to Earth eventually. Is something similar unfolding in India’s energy policy?

Full of holes: why Australia’s mining boom will leave permanent scars
With the coal boom on the wane, mining companies want to escape the cost of rehabilitating their sites. But even if governments effectively restrain them, many of the huge voids in the landscape will never be filled in.

Environment and Biodiversity

South Africa’s great white sharks face extinction, says study
South Africa’s great white sharks face the threat of extinction after a steep decline in numbers caused by trophy hunting, shark nets and pollution, according to a study. The six-year research project along the country’s coastline revealed that only between 353 and 522 of the sharks are still alive, half the level previously thought.

There are bright spots among the world’s coral reefs – the challenge is to learn from them
Despite substantial conservation efforts, human impacts are harming coral reefs all over the world. That in turn affects the millions of people who depend on reefs for their livelihoods. It’s a gloomy picture, but there are some bright spots. In a study that appears on the cover of this week’s Nature, I and 38 international colleagues identify 15 places around the world where the outlook is not so bleak.

Brazil’s Police And Indigenous Groups Fight True Crime In The Amazon Together
A new operation against land grabbers and illegal loggers in Brazil’s state of Pará is showing how collaboration between indigenous and forest communities and law enforcement can take on the biggest ongoing threats to the Amazon forest: illegal logging and illegal deforestation for land grabbing.

Economy and Business

Google uses AI to cut data centre energy use by 15%
On Wednesday, Google said it had proved it could cut total energy use at its data centres by 15% by deploying machine learning from Deepmind, the British AI company it bought in 2014 for around £400m. Such centres require significant energy for cooling, as well as constant adjustments to air temperature, pressure and humidity, to run as efficiently as possible.

Some global brands are getting creative to lower their carbon footprints
According to a new report by the NGO Forest Trends , 314 companies — nearly 20 percent of the 1,896 companies that publicly disclosed their 2014 emissions data to CDP (formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project) last year — were engaged in the purchase or sale of carbon credits in order to draw down their emissions.

Green bonds issued to finance Victorian environmental projects
AUSTRALIA – Green bonds worth $300 million that will fund environmentally-friendly projects in Victoria have been issued by the State Government, in what the Treasurer says is an Australian-first. The bonds, which were snapped up by investors within a day of their release, are expected to finance and refinance government investment in energy efficiency, renewables, public transport and water treatment projects across the state.

Amazon, eBay involved in illegal wildlife trade: Indian government
On Monday, India’s environment minister Anil Madhav Dave accused 106 e-commerce sites of selling rare animals and wildlife products online. The list, collated by India’s Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB), includes popular websites such as Amazon, eBay, OLX, Snapdeal, Quikr, Alibaba, Petsmart and Rediff.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Toothpaste containing microbeads. Small plastic particles such as these are used in many cosmetic products. Photograph: Georg Mayer/Greenpeace[Ed: Eeew, people put that in their mouths?!]

Toothpaste containing microbeads. Small plastic particles such as these are used in many cosmetic products. Photograph: Georg Mayer/Greenpeace[Ed: Eeew, people put that in their mouths?!]

Microbeads report reveals loopholes in pledges by biggest firms
Loopholes in the voluntary pledges by the biggest personal care companies to phase out polluting microbeads have been revealed in a report from Greenpeace, which says a legal ban is needed.

Worm your way into helping the environment
NEW ZEALAND – Waikato woman Nicola Turner let an organic way of living worm her way into her life, and she has no regrets. She’s been doing the environment a favour for the past year by having a worm farm in her backyard in Cambridge. “The average household has 79 kilograms, or $563 of food waste each year. That’s food that could have been eaten, or that’s gone off because too much was made,” she said.

Politics and Society

A quarter of Australians don’t understand benefits of sustainability
A quarter of people don’t understand there’s financial benefits to being sustainable, a survey conducted by IKEA has revealed. The survey, released as part of IKEA’s People and Planet Positive Report, also found that almost half of people don’t know where to begin to make their homes more sustainable, with 39 per cent finding the concept “completely overwhelming”. “The findings … suggest there is still work to be done to demonstrate how easy it is for people to make small, simple changes to help create a more sustainable life,” the report said.
Read the People and Planet Positive Report 2016.

The environment-energy superportfolio can deliver real action – here’s how
AUSTRALIA – Linking policy development and decision-making for the energy and climate change portfolios makes sense…  Decisions about energy sources have direct implications for our ability to deal with climate change. Conversely, decisions taken to reduce emissions will invariably impact on the energy portfolio. The two sectors have been crying out for better integration.

Climate policy needs a new lens: health and well-being
As the new Australian parliament takes the reins, health groups are moving to ensure that health minister Sussan Ley addresses a major health threat in this term of government: climate change. Largely ignored by successive federal governments, the health risks from climate change are increasingly urgent. One or two degrees of warming at a global level may not sound like much, but if you take many organisms (including humans) too far outside their comfort zone, the consequences are deadly.

These Brexiters will grind our environment into the dust | George Monbiot (Opinion)
The more urgent the environmental crisis becomes, the less we hear about it. It exposes the economic policies of all major parties – whether neoliberal or Keynesian – as incompatible with the times in which we live. To remark on what we are doing to the living planet is to fall into cognitive dissonance. It is easier to ignore it. This is the spirit in which our new prime minister has engaged with our greatest predicament.

Built Environment

From Tesla Town to Tesla microgrid: Melbourne housing development to feature shared energy system
AUSTRALIA – Like Glenvill’s YarraBend, the 49 residence “merri green” development… will include rooftop solar, a total of around 160kW, and Tesla battery storage throughout: 7kWh Powerwalls in each of the 20 townhouses and a larger “Powerpack” of as-yet undetermined size in the 29-residence apartment building. But while the merri green project is a much smaller concern than Glenvill’s “mini-suburb”, it will take energy independence to the next level, using energy management software to distribute and manage the stored solar electricity, and thus creating its own inner-city power network. A Tesla micro-grid, if you will.


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