Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
If you like what you see, you are welcome to sign up (on the right) for free sustainable development news delivered direct to your inbox each weekday morning.

Top Story

Clean tech and green finance poised for $16.5 trillion take-off
The global energy transition has begun, with renewables, clean technology and green finance sectors set to receive at least $16.5tr of investment as countries embark on climate plans agreed as part of the Paris Agreement, according to a new report from influential ratings agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P). The report — released yesterday — predicts the market for renewables and green finance will “take-off” as investors respond to the dual incentives of a renewed focus on climate policies from national governments and the rapidly falling price of clean technologies.

Energy and Climate Change

Liebreich: 10 predictions for 2016: Sunny with a hint of Götterdämmerung
It’s January, and that means it’s time for my annual predictions for the clean energy sector, by Michael Liebreich, Chairman of the Advisory Board, Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Scaling Up Renewable Energy In The GCC Could Have Multiple Benefits
The GCC, or Gulf Cooperation Council, represents Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates — big hitters in the wider region. The new report, “Renewable Energy Market Analysis: The GCC Region”, published by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), finds that scaling up renewable energy in the GCC will not only have benefits for the renewable energy industry and energy generation in the GCC, but could also save 11 trillion liters of water withdrawal, a 16% decrease in the region, create more than 200,000 direct jobs, save 400 million barrels of oil in the power sector (a 25% decrease), and reduce the per capita carbon footprint by 8% in 2030.

Climate change expert Ross Garnaut says WA well placed to take advantage of renewables
AUSTRALIA – Economist and climate change adviser Ross Garnaut believes WA is well placed to capitalise on the shift towards a low carbon world by investing in renewable technologies, but he says traditional energy companies have been slow to react to the changing landscape…  He said WA’s rich endowment of renewable energy made it the perfect testing ground for widespread application of the technology.

Environment and Biodiversity

Carbon dioxide causing ‘intoxication’ of ocean fish sooner than expected
Ocean fish around the world risk becoming lost at sea if carbon dioxide concentrations in seawater continue to rise on current trajectories, a study from the University of NSW has found. The study, published in the journal Nature, is the first global analysis of the impact of rising carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels on natural variations in carbon dioxide concentrations in the world’s oceans.

This honeybee dismembers its enemies and leaves them for dead
Breaking: A rebel honeybee queen living in the hills of western Pennsylvania is breeding an army of ruthless mite-killers. The queen, nicknamed No. 18, is reportedly sick of waiting around for humans to come up with an effective defense against the colony-killing varroa destroyer and has decided to take matters into her own hands (er — legs?).

No, South Africa hasn’t turned the tide on its rhino poaching crisis
The announcement that South African rhino poaching deaths fell slightly in 2015 adds a misleading gloss to another devastating year in which criminal gangs expanded their operations into new, even more delicate rhinoceros populations. South Africa’s environment minister Edna Molewa said on Thursday that 1,175 dead rhinos were discovered during the country’s annual census of poaching activities – 40 less than the 2014 record of 1,215.

Sam Judd: How to bring back birdsong and blue cod
NEW ZEALAND – For over 30 years, my family has been lucky enough to escape to the Abel Tasman National Park for our summer holidays.  The area became a National Park in 1942 and since then, the natural processes of restoration have been underway. The Park’s dramatic popularity has been a boon to sustainable tourism and a case study of what can be achieved when we work together.

Minister says fishing park is not a stunt
NEW ZEALAND – Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye is rejecting criticism that government’s newly proposed recreational fishing reserve in the Hauraki Gulf is ‘a stunt’. The view comes from Maui and Hector’s Dolphin Defenders NZ chairwoman Christine Rose, who used to be transport spokeswoman for the now defunct Auckland Regional Council. The new Marine Protected Areas Act announced by conservation minister Maggie Barry on January 13 proposes a recreational fishing park in the inner Hauraki Gulf, covering all of Waiheke’s shoreline except for its northern tip.

Information and how to make a submission can be found here.  Submissions close 5pm 11 March 2016.


Ban Ki-moon gathers heads of state for political response to water scarcity
The UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon has convened an emergency panel of heads of state to prompt a political response to the world’s increasing scarcity of water.  The high level panel on water will find ways to coordinate the often piecemeal political decisions made by the plethora of regulators, governments, companies and individuals who draw from dwindling water reserves. It will also raise a widely-neglected problem to the highest level of political discourse. 

Tasmania turning gas fired power station back on to cope with dry hydro dams
AUSTRALIA – The Tasmanian Government is going to great lengths to keep the state’s lights on.  The state usually runs on hydroelectric power but record low rainfall has left storage dams at just 20 per cent.  Tasmania has been importing power from the mainland using a cable under Bass Strait.  But that cable has been broken since December, leaving the State Government with no choice but to restart a gas-fired power plant that it was planning to sell.

Economy and Business

How Davos power brokers can start tackling major environmental risks
The World Economic Forum (WEF) published its annual Global Risks Report in the run up to its annual meeting in Davos. Food and water crises, energy price shocks, biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse, extreme weather events and failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation, it said, are the biggest threats facing society. Three of the top five global risks in terms of likelihood and three of the top five global risks in terms of impact have links to the environment. Of even greater concern, however, are the linkages between these systems, and the trade-offs associated with decisions in one area affecting another.

Take It from an Adventurer: Brands Must Be ‘More Radical’ to Drive Change, Bosch Says
World-class adventurer, extreme sportsman, author and entrepreneur Albert Bosch has done it all … from climbing the world’s seven highest summits to a solo trek across Antarctica to competing in nine Dakar Rallies and multiple ultra-marathons, to this month releasing his latest book, The Future Explorer (only available in Spanish at the moment). Bosch stopped by SB ’15 London in November (in the middle of literally running “coast to coast” across England) to share some insights with attendees about how his adventuring led to a passion for sustainability (see his presentation here). I caught a few minutes with him afterward to learn more.

How investment legend KKR champions environmental innovation
Legendary investment firm KKR has prized “eco efficiency” among its portfolio companies for more than eight years. Now, it is encouraging them to look beyond programs to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, conserve water and manage waste to initiatives that champion environmental innovation.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Microbeads: How some of your favourite beauty products are wreaking havoc on the environment
Microbeads are tiny plastic particles, also called polyethylene microbeads, that can be as large as 5 millimetres or invisible to the naked eye.  These tiny particles are mostly used in personal care products such as face scrubs, body washes and even toothpastes, where they act as abrasives or exfoliants, replacing natural ingredients such as sand, walnut kernels and seeds…  Australia’s Environment Minister Greg Hunt has announced a “voluntary phase-out” of products containing microbeads by 2018, with the agreement of state and territory ministers… Mr Hunt also told 7.30 that supermarkets Woolworths and Coles were banning all products that contained the tiny pieces of plastic by the end of next year. But the truth is a little more complicated than that.

New watchdog group to combat packaging waste
NEW ZEALAND – Plans are afoot to lobby government on a lack of action in the packaging industry. The idea to establish a New Zealand National Product Stewardship Council emerged from a Plastic Bag Forum held at Massey University in Palmerston North last month. Warren Snow, director of environmental consultancy firm Envision, said New Zealand had fallen behind in reducing waste and resource recovery. “What everyone is realising around the world is if you keep working at the end of the pipe, you’re not going to bring about much change.” The way to address that was to make producers responsible for the end of their product’s life.

Politics and Society

What philosophy can tell Davos about educating for a better future
How do you create a generation that can think its way out of problems and face the challenges of a rapidly changing world? The Davos meeting this year is all about how we can cope with the immense challenges posed by the so-called “Fourth Industrial Revolution” – an era of rapid and complex technological change, where our role in the world is resting on shifting sands. The next generation of workers will have to be properly equipped to meet these enormous challenges. I believe that, if well-taught and using high-quality materials, philosophy classes can grant children, in Britain and across the world, extraordinary benefits as that era unfolds.

Trending: Bio-Based Materials Breakthroughs Thanks to Seashells, Fructose
New research on natural materials has the potential to unlock innovations in packaging, clean energy, and other industries. Fructose, a sugar found in many plants, and calcium carbonate, the material that crystallizes into chalk, shells, and rocks, have each led to chemical discoveries.

15 trends conservationists should pay attention to — but aren’t
Artificial intelligence, testosterone and ship tracking technology probably aren’t on many conservation organizations’ “top things to think about” lists right now. But they should be, suggests a new report in the scientific journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution. “A Horizon Scan of Global Conservation Issues for 2016,” authored by University of Cambridge conservation biologist William Sutherland and 23 other researchers, practitioners, professional horizon scanners and journalists, offers a list of 15 emerging trends and developments that are not well known but could have big implications — positive, negative or both — for biodiversity on a global scale.

Future bushfires will be worse: we need to adapt now
The devastating fires that struck Wye River in Victoria on Christmas Day are, from an emergency response perspective, a success story. Despite the loss of 116 houses in the coastal town and nearby Separation Creek, nobody was killed. The fire may have destroyed homes and in some cases livelihoods but the community presented a united front in terms of supporting one another and heading the evacuation warning, which was issued in plenty of time… Other communities have not been so lucky… As we look back over this summer’s fires and reflect on how communities and emergency services responded, we need to consider how the risk of fire is changing in a warming world.

Illegal Loggers Wage War on Indigenous People in Brazil
Brazil has long struggled to contain an epidemic of illegal logging, which accounts for the majority of the country’s timber production. Now the contagion appears to have reached new heights, with loggers accused of deliberately torching huge swathes of forest to conceal their theft of timber from protected indigenous reserves.

Why you are not selfish if you disconnect from the grid
AUSTRALIA – Last year, some friends moved into the new three-bedroom home they had built on semi-rural block of land in northern NSW. Despite being within three kilometres of a large town, and with the power network running along the local road, they chose not to connect to the grid. The local government-owned network operator wanted $30,000 to run a wire about 50 metres to the house. My friends decided they were better off spending that money on solar panels and a battery array.

Extending The Reach Of Solar Nanogrids In India With Energy Storage
Most of the discussion about the role of storage and customer-sited generation revolves around consumers who have ready access to the grid. For them, the move to renewable generation and intelligent storage is all about reducing their reliance on the grid, their energy cost, and their carbon footprint. It’s easy to forget how much impact storage and renewable generation can have on the daily lives of people who have no grid access at all. As this story in Wired points out, in India there are 300 million people who aren’t connected to the grid, representing about a quarter of such people in the world.

Jarnail Singh: Lighting the way toward greener horizons in India
Jarnail Singh, India Program Manager, The Climate Group blogs about the achievements as well as the crucial future direction of our Bijli – Clean Energy for All project, which is helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions and simultaneously enhance the lives of rural villagers in India.

Built Environment

Sustainability and quality top wish list for Victorian apartments
AUSTRALIA – Daylight, space, natural ventilation, noise reduction, and energy and resource efficiency are the top five things Victorians want from their apartments, according to feedback on the state government’s Better Apartments discussion paper, showing there is an appetite for sustainable apartment developments.

Food Systems

Tesco CEO heads up global food waste campaign launched at Davos
A high-profile global campaign to halve the amount of food wasted on the journey between farm and plate has launched today at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Tesco CEO Dave Lewis is chair of a coalition of 30 leaders from business, governments, UN agencies, foundations and NGOs who want to prompt action to reduce the third of all food produced which is never consumed. Such volumes result from a combination of overproduction and wastage in the west and spoilage in developing countries.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.