Monday 21 September 2015
Sustainable Development News
Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Bannister Downs Dairy shares results of successful dung beetle trial
A prominent West Australian dairy farmer says he will work to grow the population of dung beetles on his property after a successful trial. Northcliffe dairy farmer, Mat Daubney from Bannister Downs, released 2,000 dung beetles over 10 hectares and begun feeding biochar to his herd six months ago. Scientists encourage the use of dung beetles on farms for their ability to turn cattle dung, into organic fertiliser. Mr Daubney said he was originally sceptical of the beetle’s benefits, but he said he is now “pretty convinced” of their effectiveness.
Energy and Climate Change
In a blind test, economists reject the notion of a global warming pause
Oh how resilient myths can be, even in the face of facts. This past week saw the publication of the third strong refutation of the myth that global warming had somehow stopped a decade or two ago. You would think that with 2014 the hottest year on record and 2015 almost certain to exceed that, and 2016 to potentially set yet another heat record, people would use common sense to conclude that global warming continues. You’d also think with ocean heating breaking records (as discussed here) and loss of ice around the world, any lingering doubts would be put to rest. But alas, for some reason, even more proof is needed.
Solar shines as coal economics wane in India
The Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) published its India Electricity Sector Transformation report in August 2015. A month later, a number of new data points have emerged to suggest that the sector continues to gain momentum towards a more diversified, domestic oriented electricity grid better oriented towards supporting sustainable growth. The deflationary nature of renewables continues to be firmed up by an influx of new, global capital.
Wellington building owners urged to take up 10 per cent energy saving challenge
NEW ZEALAND – A challenge has gone out to Wellington commercial building owners to cut down on their energy bills by 10 per cent. A partnership between Microsoft, the Wellington City Council and Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) aims to sign up as many of the city’s building owners as possible, using both financial and logistical incentives. Central to the plan is a new data management tool by Microsoft’s technology partner Switch Automation. Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown said the Wellington Smart Buildings Challenge aims to eliminate barriers and improve energy use and management for the Wellington commercial property sector.
Solar hot water giving you cold showers? Eight tips to warm you up
In Australian homes, reliable hot water supplies for taking showers or bathing the kids are taken for granted. But this has a significant cost – conventional hot water heaters can account for up to 30% of household energy use and can be significant carbon emitters. One alternative is solar hot water, which can supply more than 90% of household hot water and reduce energy bills by 50-85%, as well as lowering carbon emissions. Unfortunately, it is likely that households are not getting the most from their solar hot water systems. In Australia and overseas, there is evidence that the potential of solar hot water is not being realised. So how can you can get the most out of your solar hot water system?
From Oregon to Johannesburg, micro-hydropower offers a solution for drought hit cities
To see how closely water and energy are linked, you only have to look at the west coast of the US, where four years of severe drought have led to historically low levels in water reservoirs, forcing some hydroelectric plants to shut down or cut production. It’s little wonder, then, that new micro-hydropower technology that allows cities to generate electricity from the water running through their pipes is gaining worldwide attention.
Environment and Biodiversity
Red Panda Pictures That Make You Say “Awww”
In honor of Red Panda Day, we put together our favorite photos of the bushy-tailed, tree-dwelling mammal. With its bushy tail, little-old-man eyebrows, and rust-colored coat, the red panda is difficult to resist. While in some corners of the Internet every day seems like Red Panda Day, September 19 is the official date to celebrate this charismatic creature. Native to China, Myanmar (Burma), and other parts of Asia, red pandas are tree-dwelling, housecat-size mammals whose numbers have declined in recent years due to habitat loss.
Confessions of a notorious elephant poacher
Element writer Jamie Joseph is currently in Africa on a 14 week mission ‘solving poverty saves wildlife’. She is presently based in Zambia’s Luangwa Valley, researching a pioneering poacher to farmer transformation blueprint, which she believes has the potential to scale right across Africa. She fills her days with the men that have, in their past, spent years killing the elephants she strives to protect.
Kereru bird count takes flight
NEW ZEALAND – Each year the World Wildlife Fund launches the nine-day citizen-science Great Kereru Count survey. The native pigeon – known as “gardeners of the skies” – is the only surviving bird large enough to eat, and disperse, the seeds of tawa, taraire and matai. This makes the kereru essential to regenration of these native plants around the country, Victoria University ecologist Stephen Hartley said. From Saturday, people are asked to head out into their gardens, schools and parks and look to the skies for a timed period of between five and 30 minutes. If they see any of the large birds with their distinct white, green and purple plumage, they are asked to share this on the website.
Industry insider warns taxpayers may foot bill for mine rehabilitation unless government, industry step up
An environmental scientist who works with the mining industry has broken ranks to warn that Australian taxpayers will be left with a bill running into tens of billions of dollars unless government and industry start taking mine rehabilitation seriously. Dr Peter Erskine from the University of Queensland’s Sustainable Minerals Institute said although state governments hold financial securities for mine rehabilitation, they are nowhere near enough.
Economy and Business
What’s holding sustainable innovation back?
The defining challenge of sustainable innovation may just be achieving economic growth despite declining resources… The term “resources” covers a lot of territory but, in the end, means the many different inputs on which your company depends to provide the goods and services it does. On the supply side, it’s everything from the raw materials needed to make products to the legal, social, financial and technical infrastructure that makes those resources available. On the demand side, it’s the market preferences and regulatory environment that dictate which products and behaviors are acceptable and valuable. Most companies have a good idea of what physical resources they depend on. Some are acutely aware.
Evidence that corporate burnout is a problem for many Australian managers
Australian workers have never had much love for the management classes – phrases like ‘shiny-bums’ and ‘carpet-strollers’ attest to that. But there’s new evidence that corporate workers are doing it tough when it comes to mental health. There’s evidence to suggest that close to half of them score highly on questions related to tiredness and fatigue. As many as a quarter exhibit symptoms of stress. It’s known as corporate burnout.
Trending: More Fossil-Free Finance Tools from S&P Dow Jones, As You Sow
Investors are becoming warier of the valuation risk in their portfolios as a result of climate change. This week, there are three new indices and a new free web tool to help them navigate their way to fossil fuel-free investments. Three new climate change index series derived from the constituents of the S&P Global 1200 were announced this week by financial market indices giant S&P Dow Jones Indices (S&P DJI). Each index series is designed to measure the performance of S&P Global 1200 companies, and weight investments or exclude companies, based on emissions levels and fossil fuel reserves.
Drilling for Arctic oil is not viable yet, says IEA chief
Drilling for oil in the Arctic is not yet commercially viable and may not be for a long time to come, the chief of the world’s energy watchdog has warned, casting doubt on the controversial practice even as it is being enthusiastically adopted governments and businesses.
ESOS: 99% of businesses still not compliant as deadline looms
The Environment Agency insists it is doing all it can to raise awareness of the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS), despite just 1% of affected companies submitting audits ahead of the impending deadline. A Freedom of Information request carried out by resource management firm Veolia has revealed that only 150 companies out more than 10,000 have carried out energy efficiency audits, which are required under ESOS by 5 December. Companies that fail to complete their audits – which must be carried out by qualified assessors – face a basic fine of £50,000, plus £800 a day capped at a maximum of 80 days. Veolia estimates that UK companies could be heading for total fines north of £900m if they fail to comply.
Britain’s supermarkets step up deforestation efforts with WWF campaign
The ‘Big Four’ supermarkets, which together account for more than 70% of the UK’s grocery market, have pledged to ensure that all timber and wood-based products will be sustainably-sourced by 2020. Asda has become the latest supermarket to sign up to WWF’s Save Forests campaign, which is calling for the closure of loopholes in current legislation that allow illegally sourced or unsustainable wood to be legally imported and sold in the UK.
Waste and the Circular Economy
#BusinessCase: Furniture Take-Back Programs from IKEA, John Lewis Save Money, Emissions
Furniture waste is the focus of two reports released this month. UK think tank RSA and recycling and waste company SUEZ published Rearranging the Furniture, which takes a design-focused approach to bulky waste reduction, increased reuse of furniture, and development of a circular economy. And the Furniture Re-use Network’s (FRN) new report, Commercial Retailers: Their Impact on the UK Reuse Sector, discusses the impacts of FRN partnerships with major furniture and electrical equipment retailers.
Politics and Society
Dinnertime storytelling makes kids voracious readers
Here are some of the connections I researched while working on my book, Home for Dinner. And remember, none of these requires a gourmet meal or a trip to the bookstore. Library books and a takeout pizza are just as good. For starters, there is the linguistic pairing of reading and eating, shown in such common expressions as “devouring a good book” or being a “voracious” reader. Those sayings reflect the reality that children who have regular family dinners have a real leg up on being good and early readers. Years of research from the Home-School Study of Language and Literacy Development have shown that dinner conversation is a terrific vocabulary booster for young children – even better than reading aloud to them.
World court should rule on climate science to quash sceptics, says Philippe Sands
False claims from climate sceptics that humans are not responsible for global warming and that sea level is not rising should be scotched by an international court ruling, a leading lawyer has said. Scientific bodies such as the UN’s climate science panel have concluded that climate change is underway and caused by humans, Prof Philippe Sands QC told an audience at the UK’s Supreme Court. But a ruling by a body such as the International Court of Justice (ICJ) would carry much more weight with public opinion and help pave the way for future legal cases on climate change, he said.
EU united for ambitious, binding agreement at Paris talks, says climate chief
Europe will not settle for anything less than a robust, ambitious and binding agreement on climate change at UN talks in Paris later this year, the EU’s climate chief has said. “Today’s a very good day. The EU is equipped with a very solid position for Paris,” said Miguel Cañete after environment ministers agreed the bloc’s joint position on the climate summit, overcoming objections from coal-reliant Poland. “We stand united, that is of the upmost importance, and ready to conclude an ambitious robust, binding global climate deal, and we will settle for nothing less.”
Will the UK phase out coal in a decade?
The government is wrong to assume its existing policies will be enough to phase out coal power in the UK, analysts have told the Guardian. Minister for energy and climate change Andrea Leadsom said this week that her department expected unabated (meaning without carbon capture) coal would make up just 1% of the country’s electricity generation by 2025… But this prediction is not reinforced by a mandatory end date for electricity generation from coal. Despite rhetoric from the prime minister and his ministers that coal needs to go, the government has been reluctant to set a timeline for the phase-out of the most carbon intensive fossil fuel.
If he wants to win an election, Turnbull should go back to his old self on climate
…almost immediately following his ascension, Turnbull plunged ahead with clumsy pledges to keep Australia’s current emissions target, to preserve Direct Action, and not to introduce a price on carbon. It is widely believed that Turnbull’s latest climate policy comments reflect backroom deals done to secure leadership support from the Liberal Party’s right wing and the government’s coalition partners, the Nationals. As a result, Turnbull now faces tension about how he balances competing demands from inside and outside government. Is he the party’s leader or its factional hostage? Should he satisfy his colleagues’ demands ahead of those of the public?
The woman from Snowy River: Jill Redwood, 2015 Environmentalist of the Year
As the Bob Brown Foundation declares Jill Redwood their 2015 Environmentalist of the Year, we revisit Rachel Buchanan’s 1994 meeting with the the solitary and passionate activist.
A lone kookaburra laughs as the last logging truck of the day speeds hell-for-leather past the gate of Jill Redwood’s house in the East Gippsland forest. She raises her shoulders and puts her hands in the pockets of her jeans. Fair go, she’s thinking, it is after 6pm and that is the 25th truck today. Redwood, aged 39, environmental activist and bush woman, does not look out or up. “Often there is only one log to a truck and I think, my God, there’s not many of them left.” She talks of the hollows in one of these old trees from the Errinundra Forest, hollows that would have been home to rare, shy little animals such as the powerful owl, the greater glider or the bobuck possum. Her speech, normally a mixture of outback idioms and expletives, is tender.
Nature Never Forgives: 7 of Pope Francis’s Greenest Quotes
Pope Francis is not the first pontiff to insist that caring for the environment is a responsibility of every Christian. But he has been the most forceful, mincing no words in his often harsh and anguished calls for urgent action. Earlier this year, he issued the first-ever papal encyclical on the environment. The document made clear he intends to use the power of the papacy, magnified by his immense popular appeal, to press the world’s political leaders to take forceful steps to reduce greenhouse gases. Here are seven of the pope’s strongest statements on the environment.
C40 energy efficiency forum: How cities are tackling climate change
Ever heard of Shenzhen? Once a small market town, it is now known as China’s Silicon Valley, and despite a population of 15 million people, the city runs on 60 per cent renewable energy. Shenzhen was just one of 13 global cities represented this week at the C40 energy efficiency network forum, discussing ways to improve energy efficiency, reduce emissions and tackle climate change globally. Shenzhen’s commitment to renewable energy was on show at the conference, designed to allow some of the world’s biggest emissions-producing cities to swap ideas on sustainability.
Pop-up parks prove popular in Perth as councils cater for pedestrians over cars
AUSTRALIA – A unique concept to encourage more green spaces and fewer cars in city centres is catching on with of a number of Perth councils embracing pop-up parks. They are known as parklets – car parking bays transformed into small parks and public seating spaces. The initiative is part of a worldwide trend, with parklets being set up in more than 120 cities on Friday for International Park(ing) Day, to advocate for the better use of car bays. Originating in San Francisco, the annual event hopes to create more social inclusiveness and help shift the balance away from cars to pedestrians.