Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Energy and Climate Change

Apple, Bank of America spark Climate Week headlines
LED lights atop the Empire State Building are glowing green again to mark Climate Week in New York City. Scores of events and announcements are unfolding at the eighth annual collection of sustainability-focused events. This year, bigwigs in business, government and nonprofit circles are setting a special focus on advancing the goals set forth by the Paris Agreement nine months ago. The United States and China ratified the pact earlier this month, joining 24 other nations. The agreement will come into effect once countries adding up to 55 percent of global emissions ratify it; the level today is at 38 percent. Here’s an early look at the biggest news releases issued so far.

US and China release fossil fuel subsidy peer reviews
The world’s biggest polluters have released their fossil fuel subsidy peer reviews and the obstacles to reform are clear: the US will wait on Congress, while China will wait on China. The documents, released on Monday by China’s G20 presidency, reveal the long road ahead. The G20 has commited to eliminate “inefficient” subsidies for coal, oil and gas in the medium term and the G7, of which the US is a member, has tightened the timeline to 2025.

As ‘environment powerhouse,’ Brazil to join Paris climate accord, President tells UN Assembly
Following the tradition of being the first Head of State to address the annual United Nations General Assembly’s annual general debate, the President of Brazil today pledged that his country will formally join the Paris Agreement on climate change by depositing its instrument of ratification at a special event tomorrow with the UN Secretary-General.

Australia’s emissions won’t fall by 2030 without greater climate action, modelling shows
Australia’s emissions will remain at the same level through to 2030, despite the federal government paying polluters billions to lower greenhouse gas emissions and some states having ambitious renewable energy targets, according to new analysis by the energy advisory firm RepuTex. Combining the effect of current policy settings with expected growth in liquefied natural gas exports and land clearing, Australia’s emissions were modelled to end up at just 2% below 2005 levels by 2030.

Large area off Canterbury coast proposed for oil exploration
NEW ZEALAND – A large chunk of Canterbury’s coast will again be offered up for oil and gas exploration, under a Government proposal described as “lunacy” by Christchurch’s deputy mayor. The Government wants to set aside nearly 300,000 square kilometres of New Zealand’s east coast for oil and gas companies as part of its 2017 block offer.
Related: Southland land could be offered for oil exploration

Environment and Biodiversity

Explainer: what is CITES and why should we care?
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international regulatory treaty between 182 member states. It was formed in 1973 and regulates the international trade in over 35,000 wild species of plants and animals. The 17th Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP17) will be hosted by South Africa running from 24 September to 5 October. The focus of the convention is not solely on the protection of species. It also promotes controlled trade that is not detrimental to the sustainability of wild species. It has become the best-known conservation convention in the world.

Philippine Bleeding-heart doves flutter at the brink, but NGOs respond
The Republic of the Philippines ranks among the 17 most mega-biodiverse nations on earth, with huge numbers of endemic species. Among birds, for example, 40 percent of all species found there are endemic — 226 out of 569 species. Five Bleeding-heart dove species are endemic to the Philippines, with three classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN. Massive deforestation, which has been going on for decades, is the primary threat to these birds.

The Mindanao Bleeding-heart, classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN. All five Bleeding-heart species are of conservation concern. Conservation groups are now scrambling to protect the species. Photo by Paulo Jardim85 on flickr reproduced under a Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license

The Mindanao Bleeding-heart, classified as Vulnerable by the IUCN. All five Bleeding-heart species are of conservation concern. Conservation groups are now scrambling to protect the species. Photo by Paulo Jardim85 on flickr reproduced under a Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license

Kiwi innovation a lethal weapon against rats
A clever piece of Kiwi ingenuity has again proven itself a lethal weapon in New Zealand’s fight to rid itself of pest predators by 2050. In a new study, led by Bay of Plenty Polytechnic researcher Chantal Lillas, 25 self-resetting A24 traps placed around Taneatua Forest attracted and killed 120 rats over 10 days last month. By comparison, 25 of the Department of Conservation (DoC)’s standard single-action snap traps killed six rats, and one third of them were inoperative after the first night, either having caught rats or having been set off but not achieving a kill.

DOC urges people to keep their dogs, cars and feet away from breeding birds
NEW ZEALAND – Members of the public are being urged to keep their dogs, cars and feet away from birds as they begin their breeding season. Shorebirds such as banded dotterel and pied stilts will be seeking nesting spots as spring begins. To help the birds get a jump on their breeding, the Department of Conservation is urging people to give them some privacy.

Poaka or pied stilts are quite common in New Zealand but their numbers are declining.

Poaka or pied stilts are quite common in New Zealand but their numbers are declining.

Invasive Asian Hornet spotted in Britain for first time, experts confirm
An invasive hornet that kills honey bees has been spotted in Britain for the first time, experts have confirmed. The Asian hornet was found near Tetbury, Gloucestershire. Work is under way to find and destroy its nests. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has set up a three-mile (5km) surveillance zone. Defra said it had been anticipating the hornets’ arrival “for some years” and had a “well-established protocol in place to eradicate them”.

Survival secret of ‘earth’s hardiest animal’ revealed
Researchers have discovered a genetic survival secret of Earth’s “hardiest animal”.  A gene that scientists identified in these strange, aquatic creatures – called tardigrades – helps them survive boiling, freezing and radiation.  In future, it could be used to protect human cells, the researchers say. It was already known that tardigrades, also known as water bears, were able to survive by shrivelling up into desiccated balls. But the University of Tokyo-led team found a protein that protects its DNA – wrapping around it like a blanket.

Economy and Business

Four reasons why electric vehicles may take off in Australia
A new report into the electric vehicle market in Australia suggests that the main barriers to adoption in the mass market will be quickly overcome, and by 2035 all new light vehicles sales in Australia will be electric, or at least not petrol or diesel. The paper from Advisian, a subsidiary of Worley Parsons, to be released in full on Wednesday, says there are four key barriers to EV adoption in Australia – the cost of the vehicle, the infrastructure, the cost of charging, and the fate of fuel refineries. But all are likely to be overcome.

Waste and the Circular Economy

NRG Made This ‘Shoe Without a Footprint’ from Power Plant Emissions
It’s no mystery why an energy company might explore applications for gaseous waste emitted from its power plants, but making shoes isn’t usually on the agenda. For NRG, shoes made from carbon dioxide emissions are just the beginning. NRG began making its “Shoe Without A Footprint” sneakers by capturing effluent from power plants, cooling it, and separating out the carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide then becomes the base of a chemical that is used to create the polymer that forms the shoe’s supportive foam.

Politics and Society

Death By A Thousand Cuts: documentary charts the dangers of deforestation (Film Talk)
In January 2012, park ranger Eligio Eloy Varga was hacked to death by a machete near the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. This incident, still unsolved, kicks off the new documentary thriller, Death by A Thousand Cuts. Airing in the Raindance film festival in London on 1 October, the film explores how the fate of forests in two neighbouring countries has exacerbated social conflict, xenophobia, poverty, and even resulted in multiple murders.

We should remember HG Wells for his social predictions, not just his scientific ones
No writer is more renowned for his ability to foresee the future than HG Wells. His writing can be seen to have predicted the aeroplane, the tank, space travel, the atomic bomb, satellite television and the worldwide web. His fantastic fiction imagined time travel, alien invasion, flights to the moon and human beings with the powers of gods. This is what he is generally remembered for today, 150 years after his birth. Yet for all these successes, the futuristic prophecy on which Wells’s heart was most set – the establishment of a world state – remains unfulfilled.

Marieke Vervoort – and how the right to euthanasia can help some people to live better
Belgian Paralympic athlete Marieke Vervoort, who won a silver medal in the T52 400 metre event at the 2016 Rio games, recently disclosed that she likely would already have attempted suicide if she had not been able to legally plan to undergo euthanasia. Instead, she has gone on to become a medal-winning athlete.

Built Environment

Mirvac turns to One Planet Living for Marrickville development
Mirvac’s redevelopment of the former Marrickville Hospital site in inner Sydney is set to be one of the first projects of its size to register for One Planet Living status. One Planet Living communities incorporate 10 principles that cover Energy and Carbon, Waste Management, Sustainable Transport, Sustainable Materials, Local and Sustainable Food, Sustainable Water, Land Use and Wildlife, Culture and Heritage, Equity and Local Economy, and Health and Happiness. The end goal is for developments to work within the bounds of the capacity of the planet, producing just 0.8 tonnes of carbon a year per person by 2050, and having an ecological footprint of 1.25 global hectares a person by 2050.

Food Systems

Agri-businesses launch global alliance to boost green farming
A group of 36 leading agricultural businesses have joined together to launch the Global Agri-business Alliance (GAA) to tackle environmental challenges in farming supply chains and communities around the world. Launched this week in Singapore, the CEO-led private sector initiative is seeking to “contribute significantly” to the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly with regards to the second SDG on tackling hunger, nutrition, food security and sustainable agriculture.

Urgent debate on illegal fish dumping as opposition MPs say they feel misled by senior MPI officials
NEW ZEALAND – There are calls for further investigation into the Government’s response to illegal fish dumping – with opposition MPs saying they feel misled by the Ministry for Primary Industries. Both Labour and the Greens said they believed MPI had been “captured” by the fishing industry. Parliament has gone into urgent debate this afternoon on the matter of fisheries management, following a report into officials’ decision not to prosecute those caught on camera dumping tonnes of healthy fish.

Yellowbelly flounder breeding could replenish wild stock in Marlborough Sounds
NEW ZEALAND – A Havelock commercial fisherman’s dream of thick shoals of flounder spawning in the Marlborough Sounds could be close to reality. ​Buoyed by an initial $180,000 grant from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Vision Matauranga fund, fisherman Michael Bradley and Plant and Food Research in Nelson have started to investigate breeding yellowbelly​ flounder in captivity for release as juvenile fish into the Pelorus Sound.


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