Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Another in the series on the greatest moral issues of our time, posits that we, as individuals have a moral obligation to act to solve the big problems, and rely on the powers-that-be.  Elsewhere, another article on the importance of forests for clean water; two great stories on species making a comeback (with human help) and one (sub-)species that is now effectively exctinct; more political shenanigans in Australia while the rest of the world questions whether litigation could be an influential game changer; and the NZ government considers set net bans after five endangered Hectors dolphins are killed in one catch.

Top Story

We need to rethink our moral obligations to create a better world | The Conversation
The list of global collective action problems is long: plastic pollution of our oceans and waterways; the heightened concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere leading to global warming; and the consumption of meat, the production of which is tied to environmental degradation. What problems such as these have in common is that they cannot be resolved by any political actor on their own. We need global, coordinated policy responses to address these issues with any measure of success. Political actors – states, international organisations, or alliances of states – need to cooperate. But should we leave it to policy makers and our political representatives to address these questions? I believe that in doing so we would violate important moral obligations as individuals.

Climate Change and Energy

The Arctic’s carbon bomb might be even more potent than we thought | The Washington Post
For some time, scientists fearing the mass release of greenhouse gases from the carbon-rich, frozen soils of the Arctic have had at least one morsel of good news in their forecasts: They predicted most of the gas released would be carbon dioxide, which, though a greenhouse gas, drives warming more slowly than some other gases. Scientists obviously weren’t excited about more carbon dioxide emissions, but it was better than the alternative: methane, a shorter-lived but far harder-hitting gas that could cause faster bursts of warming. Now even that silver lining is in doubt.

AEMO wants new rules to keep up with shift to renewables, rising temps | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – The Australian Energy Market Operator is calling for broad changes to Australia’s energy market rules, saying they are not keeping up with the shift to wind and solar, battery storage, and rising temperatures that are making ageing coal plants less reliable.

Environment and Biodiversity

3 Ways Forests Can Solve the World’s Water Crises | World Resources Institute
For some of the world’s most pressing water questions, the answer is in nature. Clean, plentiful water depends on healthy surrounding natural systems such as forests. Much of the world’s water is filtered through forested watersheds, which improve water quality and protect water supply. Large forests like the Amazon even help control the “rivers of the sky,” which dictate rainfall patterns hundreds of miles away. While both the world’s forests and water supply are under threat, their intertwined relationship also means that these systems can be improved simultaneously.

Adani groundwater plan could permanently drain desert oasis, scientists say | ABC News
One of the world’s last unspoiled desert oases could permanently dry up under Adani’s plan to drain billions of litres of groundwater a year for its Queensland mine, scientific experts say. The Doongmabulla Springs Complex, a one-square-kilometre expanse of nationally important wetlands near the proposed site of the Carmichael coal mine, faced serious risk under the latest Adani plan before the Queensland Government, hydrogeologists argued.

Photo: Adani plans to drain groundwater that could feed Doongmabulla Springs, expert Matthew Currell said. (By Tom Jefferson (Lock the Gate))

Photo: Adani plans to drain groundwater that could feed Doongmabulla Springs, expert Matthew Currell said. (By Tom Jefferson (Lock the Gate))

Bush stone-curlews popping up in suburbs as bird once extinct in ACT makes a comeback | ABC News

Photo: Two bush stone-curlews were spotted foraging for insects under a street light. (Facebook: Anthony Li Chiang)

Photo: Two bush stone-curlews were spotted foraging for insects under a street light. (Facebook: Anthony Li Chiang)

AUSTRALIA – Bush stone-curlews are turning up in Canberra’s suburbs, a sign that the bird once extinct in the ACT is making a comeback. The bush stone-curlew was lost to the ACT for more than 40 years before being reintroduced into Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary in 2014. Over the past few weeks residents in the neighbouring suburbs of Forde and Throsby have been regularly spotting the birds.

First population of takahe outside of Fiordland released into wild |
NEW ZEALAND – For the first time in 100 years, takahē are back in the wild in the Kahurangi National Park. Trampers and mountainbikers using the popular Heaphy Track now have a chance to see the flightless birds living amongst the tussock grasslands. A family of three takahē, Lily, Rerehu and Dalrachney, were some of the 18 birds that were released in Gouland Downs, near the Heaphy Track on Tuesday.

Northern white rhino: Last male Sudan dies in Kenya | BBC News
The world’s last surviving male northern white rhino has died after months of poor health, his carers say. Sudan, who was 45, lived at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. He was put to sleep on Monday after age-related complications worsened significantly. His death leaves only two females – his daughter and granddaughter – of the subspecies alive in the world.

Economy and Business

US, EU biggest importers of illegal Amazon ipe timber: report | Climate Home News
BRAZIL – From a legal point of view, it’s all clear. The paperwork assures companies that the Brazilian ipe wood, exported mostly to US and European markets, has followed all the correct steps, from tree logging to its shipping.  But a joint investigation by Greenpeace and Ibama, the country’s environmental agency, has found that the permits hide a trail of fakery fuelling the destruction of the Amazon.

If the future is biomimicry, Brookfield’s James Murray-Parkes has already arrived | The Fifth Estate
It’s people like Brookfield Scientific Solutions’ James Murray-Parkes who change the world. Brilliant mind, tough past, enough chutzpah to do what no one’s done before. He has the tools he needs at his disposal: a global platform, the most influential economic sector of all – property – and a really supportive boss.

Brewer CUB contracts 112MW solar farm, on way to 100% renewables | RenewEconomy
Australia’s biggest brewing company, Carlton & United Breweries (CUB), has begun its shift to 100 per cent renewable energy by signing a contract with the new 112MW Karadoc solar farm in Victoria. The deal with German renewable energy developer BayWa will be closely followed by rooftop solar at all the brewing company’s sites in Australia, part of a plan to reach the 100 per cent target by the end of this year and to lock in lower electricity costs.

Waste and the Circular Economy

NSW launches $47 million rescue package after China recycling ban | SMH
AUSTRALIA – The NSW government has set aside $47 million to help consumers, local councils and the waste industry cope with the crisis caused by China’s clampdown on imported recyclables. NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton on Tuesday announced a rescue package to allow councils to offset the cost of kerbside recycling, improve tendering processes and fund community education to reduce contamination of recycled materials put in “yellow-lid” bins.

Dumped waste levy recycled by Queensland in a bid to stop rubbish at the border | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – The Queensland Government will reintroduce a levy on “unscrupulous operators” who have been using the state as a dumping ground for commercial waste, after nearly a million tonnes of rubbish was trucked in from over the border last financial year. But the Opposition has condemned the move, saying it will be a tax on Queenslanders.

Politics and Society

Tougher climate policies could save a stunning 150 million lives, researchers find | The Washington Post
There is an overlooked benefit to greatly lowering carbon emissions worldwide, a new study says. In addition to preserving Arctic sea ice, reducing sea-level rise and alleviating other effects of global warming, it would probably save more than 150 million human lives. According to the study, premature deaths would fall on nearly every continent if the world’s governments agree to cut emissions of carbon and other harmful gases enough to limit global temperature rise to less than 3 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century. That is about a degree lower than the target set by the Paris climate agreement.

Burning questions for the Greens | The Monthly
AUSTRALIA – If we’re all going to have a go at Greens Leader Richard Di Natale, could we please raise some worthwhile issues? They do not include Di Natale stating the bleeding obvious about climate change upping bushfire risk – attracting the predictable faux-outrage from the do-nothings in the Coalition – or his call to expel those who sabotaged the party’s campaign in Batman.
Related: “I’m furious”: Tathra councillor says now is the time to talk climate | SMH 

Exclusive: legal concerns over plan to roll over forestry agreements without reviews | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – Federal and state ministers have discussed legal concerns that imminent extensions to logging agreements might be invalid as they are based on old scientific assessments. Commonwealth and state concerns about the “legal and political risks” to the RFA extensions that are about to be agreed are highlighted in a collection of 10 documents – including briefing notes and “contentious issues briefs” – prepared for the New South Wales primary industries minister, Niall Blair, and the state’s lands and forestry minister, Paul Toole, and obtained by Guardian Australia.

Labor vows to block ‘largest removal of marine area from conservation, ever’ | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – Labor says it will move to disallow new marine park management plans proposed by the Turnbull government, branding the change the “largest removal of marine area from conservation, ever, from any government in the world”. The new management plans were uploaded by officials on the federal register of legislation on Tuesday, cutting across a public announcement the Turnbull government had planned to make on Wednesday.

Can climate litigation save the world? | The Guardian
Global moves to tackle climate change through lawsuits are poised to break new ground this week, as groups and individuals seek to hold governments and companies accountable for the damage they are causing. On Tuesday, action by 12 UK citizens reaches the high court for the first time, while on Wednesday in San Francisco, the science of climate change will effectively be on trial at a key moment in a lawsuit.

Five Hector’s dolphins killed in fisher’s net | Radio New Zealand News
NEW ZEALAND – The government may consider a total ban on set net fishing after five nationally endangered Hector’s dolphins were killed in a single net. The deaths were discovered a month ago off Banks Peninsula on the east coast of the South Island, where it is estimated there are only 9000 of the dolphins left. Fisheries minister Stuart Nash was informed about the deaths 11 days ago. Keenly aware of the negative public reaction that would flow from news that five endangered dolphins had been killed in a single incident, he had spent the past week getting his ducks in a row before going public.

Whose fault is it when the young and vulnerable offend? | Radio New Zealand News (Opinion)
NEW ZEALAND – Principal Youth Court Judge John Walker argues that taking collective responsibility for tackling the complex underlying causes of youth offending has a better chance of success than holding to firm lines for apportioning blame… whose fault is it when children and young people offend? And how can we apportion blame when we are struggling to understand the complex weave of underlying issues that set children on a collision course with the law?

Food Systems

Avocado trade threatened by shipping climate measure, say Chile, Peru | Climate Home News
The trade in avocados, cherries and blueberries could suffer from a proposed short-term measure to cut carbon emissions from shipping, according to Chile and Peru. Both Latin American exporters have signed a declaration saying international shipping must “take urgent action” to limit its climate impact, in line with the Paris Agreement. But ahead of a critical UN shipping meet in April, they warned against speed limits at sea, one of the few regulations being considered for implementation before 2023.


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