Friday 22 April 2016
Sustainable Development News
Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Limits to growth: policies to steer the economy away from disaster
If the rich nations in the world keep growing their economies by 2% each year and by 2050 the poorest nations catch up, the global economy of more than 9 billion people will be around 15 times larger than it is now, in terms of gross domestic product (GDP). If the global economy then grows by 3% to the end of the century, it will be 60 times larger than now. The existing economy is already environmentally unsustainable. It is utterly implausible to think we can “decouple” economic growth from environmental impact so significantly, especially since recent decades of extraordinary technological advancement have only increased our impacts on the planet, not reduced them. Moreover, if you asked politicians whether they’d rather have 4% growth than 3%, they’d all say yes. This makes the growth trajectory outlined above all the more absurd.
Earth Day honors trees, calls for care for our common home
On Friday April 22, over 1 billion people are coming together to celebrate International Mother Earth Day. This year, Earth Day coincides with the signing of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, a legally binding document aiming to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius. The theme for this year’s Earth Day is “Trees for the Earth.” Trees are crucial to combating climate change because they absorb harmful levels of CO2 from the atmosphere. Leaders of the international holiday at the Earth Day Network set a goal to plant 7.8 billion trees within the next five years.
Earth Day: 7 Surprising Things About Your Planet
April 22 is Earth Day, the event that environmentalists created 46 years ago to raise awareness of issues such as pollution and deforestation, and the need for us all to come together to find solutions and protect the planet where we live. But it’s also a good time to learn more about the Earth, and some of its characteristics. Here are seven things that you may not know about the Earth.
Earth Day 2016: Five things you probably didn’t know about the annual celebration of our planet
Earth Day is being commemorated on the 22 April. Held around the world, it’s intended as a moment to reflect on and help preserve the health of the planet – but here are five things that you might not have known about the annual event.
Energy and Climate Change
Signing the Paris Climate Agreement is easy – what comes next for Australia will be hard
[Today], world leaders and diplomats will converge on the United Nations’ New York headquarters to sign the Paris Agreement on climate change. It will be the largest UN signing event in history, with representatives from at least 162 countries, including more than 60 heads of state, on hand to sign the historic deal that was struck last December. Signing is just the first step. Nations then have to follow through by ratifying the agreement. Only when 55 countries, representing at least 55% of world greenhouse emissions, have signed and ratified the agreement will it become binding under international law.
- Paris agreement set to be signed by nations including Australia – but what does that mean?
- Race to ratify the Paris climate deal starts at the UN
Study reveals greater climate impacts of 2C temperature rise
A difference of half a degree centigrade may be barely noticeable day to day, but the difference between 1.5C and 2C of global warming is a shift into a new, more dangerous climate regime, according to the first comprehensive analysis of the issue.
See also: Why Half a Degree Matters: Higher Seas, Longer Heat Waves, Dead Reefs
India’s ReNew Power Hits 1 GW Solar, Wind Energy Installed Capacity
Young renewable energy independent power generation company ReNew Power Ventures recently achieved a significant milestone of 1 GW installed wind and solar power capacity. Through a recent press release, ReNew Power Ventures announced that it became the first company in India to achieve 1 GW of operational renewable energy assets. The achievement is significant, as there are scores and scores of renewable energy developers in India and the company has achieved this milestone in a very short span of time.
Solar Impulse sets off for California after long lay-off
The zero-fuel aeroplane, Solar Impulse, has renewed its effort to try to circumnavigate the globe. The 72m-wingspan vehicle set off from Kalaeloa, Hawaii, at shortly after dawn local time, bound for San Francisco. Swiss adventurer Bertrand Piccard is at the controls and expects the flight to take two-and-a-half days. Solar Impulse gets all its energy from the sun – through the 17,000 photovoltaic cells that cover the top surfaces of the craft.
Environment and Biodiversity
Ask Nature: How can we build resilient food systems?
Healthy ecosystems are highly productive because of the resources available to them. They produce food for an abundance of species, provide pollination services, filter and distribute water, cycle nutrients, provide seeds for future harvests, package and transport goods and adapt to changing conditions. These are all things that we want and need our own food systems to do. And ecosystems accomplish these outcomes in a cooperative, energy-efficient manner. This collection highlights biological strategies that could provide inspiration for how to improve our food systems. Look closely and you’ll see how applying these strategies, whether directly or metaphorically, could lead to improved soil quality, better packaging, reduced spoilage, more effective feedback loops and more efficient food production and distribution techniques.
Coral bleaching leaves reefs off WA coast badly damaged
Evidence has emerged for the first time that coral bleaching, which has devastated the Great Barrier Reef, extends along the northern Australian coast. Marine scientists are midway through a two-week voyage to inspect the major reef networks off Western Australia’s Kimberley coastline.
Mourning Loomis Reef – the heart of the Great Barrier Reef’s coral bleaching disaster
Stretching for half a kilometre or so, Loomis Reef is the place where the alarm bells started going off. Prof Justin Marshall has been diving this reef, about 270km north of Cairns, for 30 years. Right now he is, to say the least, angry. “My veil is down,” he says, no longer bothering with the kind of polite niceties common among academics. “I have cried. I have broken down in front of cameras. This is the most devastating, gut-wrenching fuck up,” says Marshall, of the University of Queensland.
UN and Google launch sustainable development partnership
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and Google have announced a new partnership to advance sustainable development. The FAO and the US technology giant will work together to make high-resolution satellite data a common tool in managing the world’s natural resources.
South Africa Backs Away Legal Rhino Horn Trade
South Africa will not propose ending the ban on the international rhino horn trade at the next major meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the body that regulates the worldwide wildlife trade. Jeff Radebe, the minister of planning, monitoring and evaluation, said the government has accepted a recommendation from the Committee of Inquiry, which was appointed to study and advise on the issue, to keep things as they are.
This Is How Surfers Are Helping Fund Climate Science
Oceans are surfers’ playing fields, homes and offices. That’s why the World Surf League (WSL), the governing body of professional surfers akin to Major League Baseball, is putting its money where its sport is. It’s entered into a unique partnership with Columbia University’s Center for Climate and Life to dive into new oceans-focused research projects. But the plan doesn’t stop there, and the goal is to eventually put new knowledge in the hands of surfers and ocean advocates around the globe.
Your Office Has Its Own Microbiome, And It Comes From Your Coworkers’ Skin
With the rise of cheap gene sequencing, scientists have spent the last decade exploring the previously unknown microbial communities that live in and on the human body. One study last year actually found that people have unique microbial “fingerprints” that can identify us as individuals. It turns out the same might be true for the microbiomes of different cities. A group of researchers, publishing in the journal mSystems, reached this conclusion by taking a detailed look at the microbiome of an average office.
Economy and Business
We Mean Business: The Paris Accord is a $13 trillion opportunity
Implementing the Paris Agreement will unlock at least $13.5 trillion of economic activity globally, according to an analysis by We Mean Business. As the commitments made by 196 countries at COP21 in Paris are carried out, the investments in renewable electricity, energy efficiency and other low carbon power that countries have promised add up to that amount.
Heads of states and top organizations challenge world to quadruple carbon markets by 2030
Leading heads of states along with prominent global organizations, have called [yesterday] to expand carbon pricing to cover double the current level of global emissions by 2020 – and quadruple it by 2030. The Carbon Pricing Panel, convened by the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund, has just released its Vision Statement for carbon pricing to cover 25% of global emissions in the next four years, and 50% by the e
UK could save billions by embracing low-carbon transport
A transition to low-carbon transport could reduce global spending on oil and save £232bn a year between 2020 and 2030, according to a new report from economic analysts. Experts from Cambridge Econometrics suggest that a switch to technologies such as hybrid and electric vehicles (EVs) would significantly reduce global oil prices, allowing oil importing countries to invest additional savings into other parts of the economy.
New global EP100 initiative to increase energy productivity welcomes Mahindra as first Indian company
The Climate Group has announced a new energy campaign – EP100 – that will work with the world’s most influential businesses in setting commitments to double their energy productivity and maximize the economic output from each unit of energy used. The campaign also welcomed its first partner company today, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., the world’s largest manufacturer of tractors. By signing up to EP100, the Indian-based company has committed to doubling their energy productivity by 2030, a core requirement for any business signing on to the campaign.
Sasol, AkzoNobel and how transparency can drive integrated thinking
… Ultimately, we recognize that reporting is just one tactic in a much broader, more strategic transparency evolution. With this in mind we explore how an emergent aspect of transparency – integrated reporting – can both drive and reflect larger efforts to integrate sustainability into business. Integrated reporting is still mostly the exception rather than the rule. Most companies’ investor-facing reports still limit themselves to describing the value they create in financial terms. But the idea of providing a more comprehensive look at value creation, in environmental and social as well as financial terms, is gaining traction.
India’s changing climate – in pictures
From deadly protests to billion dollar insurance schemes, we look at the impact of extreme weather and what the world’s fastest growing major economy is doing about it
Avery Dennison, Evrythng Unleash the ‘Internet of Clothing’ with 10B Smart Apparel Products
A minimum of 10 billion apparel and footwear products are expected to be produced with unique digital identities and data profiles in the cloud over the next three years through a partnership between packaging materials leader Avery Dennison and Internet of Things (IoT) company Evrythng. The companies believe this to be the largest number of IoT-connected products in a single deal, to date. Avery Dennison Retail Branding and Information Solutions (RBIS) already adds basic individual identities to millions of products for supply chain purposes, including efficiency improvements and waste reduction. The apparel and footwear connected to the “Janela™ Smart Products Platform” powered by Evrythng will take this one step further, allowing customers to interact with the products through their smartphones.
Waste and the Circular Economy
Diesel cars’ emissions far higher on road than in lab, tests show
Diesel cars are producing many times more health-damaging pollutants than claimed by laboratory tests, with some emitting up to 12 times the EU maximum when tested on the road, according to a government investigation undertaken following the Volkswagen scandal.
See also: Mitsubishi expresses ‘deep apologies’ after falsifying fuel economy tests
Politics and Society
Peruvian farmer wins David-and-Goliath battle against US mining giant
As owner of some of the largest and most lucrative gold mines in the world, Newmont Mining Corporation is used to getting its own way. Not in Peru though. In a David-and-Goliath battle, community activists have, so far, succeeded in seeing off the creation of a $5bn (£3.8bn) open-caste mine next to a pristine lake.
Ideas for Australia: Welfare reform needs to be about improving well-being, not punishing the poor
The main policy agenda in Australia – and many other OECD countries – for working-age people receiving social security payments is usually described as “activation”. The objective of an effective activation policy is to increase the efforts of the unemployed to find work and bring more people into the labour force by requiring them to actively look for work. The theory is that the greater a person’s efforts in actually looking for work, the greater their chances of finding it. This is based on the idea that unemployment is primarily an issue of deficient labour supply, rather than insufficient demand.
ACT environment commissioner Kate Auty hits out at federal climate response
AUSTRALIA – Both sides of federal politics are ignoring public interest in the environment and climate change at their own peril in the lead up to the election, the ACT’s new environment commission Kate Auty says… “We’re in a state of flux … [in the lead up to the election] but there are many environmentalists who are deeply distressed about what we’re not doing at federal level,” she said.
Queensland failing to regulate air pollution: Environment lawyers
AUSTRALIA – State governments are failing to regulate dangerous air pollution and Queensland is the worst of a bad bunch, an environmental law firm says. Environmental Justice Australia researcher Dr James Whelan said the latest national pollutant figures showed it was time for the Commonwealth to wrest pollution control responsibilities away from the states.
Climate justice and its role in the Paris Agreement
Climate change is one of the principal threats to quality – and equality – of life on our planet. Beyond environmental problems, climate change threatens food security, water availability, health, housing and self-determination. In essence, it confronts our basic liberties and pursuit of happiness. But the burden of climate change impacts is not distributed equally. The poor, women, children and indigenous people face disproportionate risks. For people with no safety net, one drought can mean a tumble into further hardship.
‘It’s a disaster’: children bear brunt of southern Africa’s devastating drought
Southern Africa is suffering the consequences of perhaps the worst drought in 35 years, and pupils at Chidyamakondo [in Zimbabwe] are bearing the brunt of it. Four of the football team’s best players have stopped coming to school because they need to help their families find food. The dropout rate fluctuates but is currently averaging 10%.
Wellington’s trolley buses ‘saved’ by $43m deal to fit them with electric motors
NEW ZEALAND – Wellington’s trolley buses are set to jump their wires and could soon head anywhere in the country. The iconic buses have been thrown a lifeline with their owner, NZ Bus, signing a $43 million deal that will see “a significant number” of its 1100 buses in Auckland and Wellington converted to electric.
Sale’s regenerative project puts Thrive research into practice
Seacombe West, a new development proposed for agricultural land near Sale in eastern Victoria, is taking a multi-faceted approach to sustainability believed to be the first of its kind in Australia. Dr Dominique Hes, the director of the new Thrive research hub based at the University of Melbourne, and one of the key members of the design and development team, describes the project as a “regenerative development”… The overall design of the masterplan includes regenerating land that has been affected by salinity while still leaving one-third of the site for regenerative agriculture and around one-third for ongoing ecological restoration, research, tourism and nature reserve.
This salt-based product does away with toxic cleaning chemicals
AUSTRALIA – Celebrity chef Neil Perry has it in all his restaurants. The Melbourne Cricket Ground has it installed, and now the new Sydney Convention Centre has signed up. The invention they are all using is a salt-based product that looks like water and does away with harsh environmentally toxic sanitisers and cleaners. According to the health authorities the system is safe enough and effective enough to use in highly sensitive applications such as hospitals and nursing homes.
Organic boom means US cows feast on Romanian corn instead
America may export more grain to feed cattle, pigs and poultry than any other country, but it’s losing share in its own backyard. Because most of the corn and soybeans harvested across the Midwest come from genetically modified seed and use crop chemicals shunned by the organic industry, an increasing amount of specialty grain used to produce organic milk, eggs and meat is being imported from places like Romania and India. Purchases more than doubled last year and are rising again this year, government data show.
Doubling up: Office buildings as urban farms
A conference table with tomato plants growing on it and broccoli sprouts in the reception area are apparently just part of everyday life for workers in the office buildings at Pasona, based in Tokyo, Japan. Kono Designs, a New York based firm, has taken urban farming to a new level by creating a space that allows, and encourages, employees to use their workspace to grow their own food. 3,995 square metres of the total 19,974 in the office are dedicated to space where over 200 species of fruits, vegetables and plants are grown. Reportedly, all of the food is harvested, prepared and served in the buildings on-site cafeterias. The employees are encouraged to maintain the crops, supported by a team of agricultural specialists.
Pig farrowing crates to remain in spite of animal welfare concerns
NEW ZEALAND – Pig farrowing crates that have created welfare concerns are here to stay. The farrowing crates keep sows in confined pens and they are unable to turn around, but allow their piglets to move. The review of farrowing systems by the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) has found that the use of farrowing crates was the best system available.
Marlborough fishers angry dead fish discarded in Wairau River
NEW ZEALAND – Enough fish to feed about 30 people has been netted and discarded in a Marlborough river. George Peart and his partner Angela Wood were fishing the Wairau River, in Blenheim, when they came across three set nets and about eight dead Kahawai which had been discarded nearby. Set nets in rivers were legal if fishers followed certain rules, but Peart said it was a moral issue, as killing fish without eating them was a waste.