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

Creative self-destruction: the climate crisis and the myth of ‘green’ capitalism
The upcoming Paris climate talks in December this year have been characterised as humanity’s last chance to respond to climate change. Many hope that this time some form of international agreement will be reached, committing the world to significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. And yet there are clear signs that the much-touted “solutions” of emissions reduction targets and market mechanisms are insufficient for what is required. In our new book, Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-Destruction, we look at reasons why this has come about. We argue that businesses are locked in a cycle of exploiting the world’s resources in ever more creative ways.

Energy and Climate Change

Indonesia promises to cut carbon emissions by 29% by 2030
Indonesia, one of the world’s biggest carbon polluters, is expected to imminently announce it will cut greenhouse gas emissions 29% by 2030 compared to what it is currently on course for. It will be one of the last big climate plans from a rapidly-developing economy to be unveiled ahead of a summit in Paris in December aimed at limiting warming to 2C. Indonesia said it was prepared to cut emissions by 41% from a ‘business as usual trajectory’ if it received financial and technological support from industrialised countries. Jakarta put the price tag on that support at $6bn (£4bn).

Greenpeace on renewables: phase out coal, oil, gas and nuclear energy by 2050
There are no major economic or technical barriers to achieving 100 per cent renewable energy around the world by 2050, a Greenpeace report says. The Energy [R]evolution 2015 outlook report outlines a plan for achieving the transition to 100 per cent renewable energy by phasing out coal, oil, gas and nuclear energy and how such a transition could be funded. “It is the first comprehensive scientific report which has analysed the technical and economical pathways of a total global fossil and nuclear phase-out within one generation,” said report author Dr Sven Teske, senior advisor to the Greenpeace International Climate and Energy Unit.

US may be drastically underestimating landfill emissions – study
Landfills may be emitting more methane than previously reported because the Environmental Protection Agency may be drastically underestimating how much garbage is being deposited in landfills across the US, according to a new Yale University study. Banana peels, coffee grounds, plastic bottles and other detritus tossed in the garbage usually ends up in a landfill and emits methane as it decomposes. Methane is a greenhouse gas up to 35 times as potent as carbon dioxide as a driver of climate change over the span of a century, and landfills are the United States’ third largest source of methane emissions, according to the EPA.

BP tops the list of firms obstructing climate action in Europe
BP is Europe’s fiercest corporate opponent of action on climate change, according to a ranking of companies by their efforts to obstruct carbon-cutting initiatives. Nearly half of the world’s top 100 global companies are trying to subvert climate policies by lobbying, advertising, and influence-peddling, said the UK-based non-profit, Influence Map. But while all the major fossil fuel firms rank close to the bottom of the group’s table, BP emerges as Europe’s strongest advocate of dirty energy, opposing even mild measures to raise carbon trading prices.

OECD: leading countries spend $200bn a year subsidising fossil fuels
Rich western countries and the world’s leading developing nations are spending up to $200bn (£130bn) a year subsidising fossil fuels, according to a report from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. The Paris-based thinktank said its 34 members plus six of the biggest emerging economies – China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Russia and South Africa – were spending money supporting the consumption and production of coal, oil and gas that should be used to tackle climate change.

Fossil Fuel Divestment

Divestment bill proposed as climate solution
NEW ZEALAND – Green Party MP Russel Norman’s Climate Change (Divestment from Fossil Fuels) Bill was pulled from the Members’ Bill ballot last week, giving Parliament an opportunity to impact climate change by voting to divest from fossil fuels. “My Bill will give us the opportunity to join the rapidly growing global movement pulling the funding out from underneath the fossil fuel industry, who make their profits by causing climate change,” Norman said. “Voting for this Bill is a simple but effective action the Government can take to put its money where its mouth is on climate change.”

Economy and Business

Two visions of the ‘new economy’ collide where people and technology intersect
In Sydney in September, Naomi Klein spoke passionately about how climate change opens up opportunities to change our economic system in a fundamental way, focusing it more on “people and planet” than on economic growth… This is one emerging vision of a “new economy”. Another vision is technology-led, increasingly centred on digital disruptors, such as peer-to-peer services like AirBnB and Uber… Both visions have long histories, but there are fascinating possibilities emerging at their intersection, drawing on elements of both visions, designing social and ecological values into the heart of technological platforms.

The Strategic Importance of Recognized Leadership
The need for reputable corporate leadership has never been more acute. We are grappling with large-scale global challenges – climate change, social dislocation, economic inequality, financial uncertainty – that require a new type of leadership from global entities. Governments appear unwilling or unable to lead. Civil society, while highly engaged, does not have the scale or infrastructure to deliver the required change. Despite low levels of societal trust in companies (see graphic below), all roads lead to more committed and effective leadership by global business as the engine to drive a sustainable, stable and prosperous world. This is in the self-interest of multinational companies as well, as a global company cannot succeed in a failed world.

Playing with fire: the economics and network of fire and haze
Once again fires are raging in Indonesia, engulfing the country and its neighbours in a thick haze that threatens the climate and the health, education and economy of people in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore… Indonesia does not lack technological means to prevent forest fires. In 2014, Indonesian President Joko Widodo supported a canal-blocking program in Riau, Sumatra. Canal-blocking retains water in peat forests, preventing these from drying up and being easily burnt in the dry season. The burning of land and forests are driven by a global demand in palm oil. Indonesia’s ambition to be a top exporter of the commodity and influential patronage networks hinder the political capacity to prevent fires used to clear land.

What Colgate-Palmolive, Campbell and GM share: carbon pricing
Most countries aren’t convinced about the need for carbon pricing as a lever for addressing emissions. Yet, the number of multinational business leaders taking matters into their own hands tripled over the past year to a record 437 companies, according to an analysis by non-profit CDP. An even larger number of companies, 583 in total, plan to embrace carbon pricing schemes within two years. CDP based its report, which it compiles annually, on environmental disclosures it gathers on behalf of investors. Carbon prices generally are expressed as a cost per each tonne of carbon dioxide emissions.

VW chief apologises for ‘breaking public trust’ over emissions data scandal
Volkswagen’s chief executive Martin Winterkorn issued a public apology yesterday after the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed the car maker used software which gave false emissions data for nearly 500,000 diesel cars. The EPA ordered a recall of close to half a million vehicles on Friday, after it had emerged Volkswagen software allowed new cars to emit lower pollutants during test conditions than when driving normally. The regulator found the so-called “defeat device” in four-cylinder diesel versions of the Audi A3 and VW’s Jetta, Beetle, Golf and Passat models.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Sainsbury’s seeking town for £1 million investment to trial food waste reduction techniques
A £10 million project has been launched by supermarket Sainsbury’s to reduce household food waste. The retailer also plans to invest £1 million in a town in 2016 that will become a test bed for innovation to discover which initiatives are most effective in reducing household food waste. Findings and recommendations from this trial phase in year one will be developed into a blueprint and made public in subsequent years so that communities across the country can benefit from the results.

Greenredeem extends recycling incentive scheme to cover food waste
Residents of Windsor and Maidenhead are set to receive vouchers and discounts in local shops in return for recycling their food waste, in the latest initiative unveiled by Greenredeem. The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead (RBWM) announced last week it has expanded its partnership with Greenredeem to include food waste, which currently makes up 30 per cent of rubbish going to landfill in the borough. RBWM is the first borough to offer the food recycling reward scheme to all its residents. It operates on a points system that rewards local residents for their recycling, but has until now mainly focused on dry recyclables.

Politics and Society

Your comprehensive guide to the Sustainable Development Goals summit
After nearly three years of open global consultations, fraught negotiations and some high jinks, the proposed sustainable development goals (SDGs) are expected to be adopted by UN member states at a special summit convened at the UN headquarters in New York from 25 to 27 September. The event sits within the programme of the annual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), which opens on 15 September.  The SDGs will replace the millennium development goals as the new global goals to be accomplished by 2030.

Sustainable Development Goals: A new course for people and planet
The unveiling of the Sustainable Development Goals this week will be a milestone moment for our collective future. On Sept. 25, the largest gathering of world leaders will join together at a U.N. Summit meeting in New York to formally adopt Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with a set of 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the center… Taken together, these landmark agreements create breakthrough opportunities to transform economies and chart a new course for people and the planet — a future that’s more inclusive, more equitable and more sustainable.

This growing migration crisis is the canary in the mine on climate change (Opinion)
The humanitarian emergency caused by the migration crisis has shocked the world. Desperate scenes of refugees risking their lives at sea or sleeping rough in European train stations are inescapable. But we should also be aware of what has brought us to this point. One of the drivers of this crisis was a five-year drought – the worst ever recorded in Syria – that began in the 2007-8 cropping season. Farmers lost livestock, crops withered, and children went hungry. Many decided to move to nearby cities, hoping for work but finding instead unhealthy living conditions, a lack of community support and few jobs. During the drought, the UN estimated that levels of youth unemployment in Syria reached as high as 48%. These factors undoubtedly contributed to the unrest that sparked the civil war four years ago and today’s migration emergency.

One bike and 1,001 stories on climate change
On 21 September 2014, 400,000 climate activists gathered in New York City for the People’s Climate March, an 85-block-long tide of humanity walking from Central Park to the UN. The purpose? To demand that world leaders take meaningful measures to address climate change. I was a drop in that ocean. Since then I have been slowly traveling the world for a year, mostly by bicycle, to collect 1,001 stories from people I meet about water and climate change. Sometimes I make an audio recording of their story.

Eco-geeks hold open source alternative to UN climate talks
This December world leaders convene in Paris for COP21, their 21st attempt at curbing global climate change. Divided by borders, assembled in hierarchies and motivated by the kind of competitive ideology shared by the neoliberal business class, this meeting embodies the self-interested conventions of the old world. Unsurprisingly, the context has resulted in a failure of shameful proportions. “For the 21st time, we don’t expect much,” says Dominic Wind, core organiser of POC21, a grassroots alternative to COP21 taking place near Paris. “Over the last 20 years, carbon dioxide emissions have doubled. Our trust in this institution is gone.” In reaction to the failure of COP21, POC21 has brought together a network of 100 plus designers, makers and eco-geeks to innovate a new breed of sustainable lifestyle products.

Turnbull government signals new approach to climate policy
The Turnbull government is signalling a new approach to climate policy despite its pledge to stick with the “Direct Action” climate plan, abandoning Tony Abbott’s attempt to abolish two key renewable energy agencies and considering tougher “safeguards” to ensure the policy actually reduces emissions.

What they said: Australia’s first minister for cities and the built environment
AUSTRALIA – News that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had appointed Australia’s first minister for cities and the built environment was greeted with open arms by the sustainability and property industries. Whether Jamie Briggs will deliver on expectations is still an open book, but for now, the mood is positive. From Mr Turnbull himself came these comments that showed he had a firm grasp of the agenda…

Built Environment

9 benefits of blending biomimicry and the built environment
Designers in the building industry are continually looking for new and innovative ways to create beautiful, livable spaces that are environmentally responsible and resilient. Increasingly, those on the leading edge are looking to nature as a source of inspiration — a design discipline known as biomimicry. Here are nine examples of how applying biomimicry in the context of the built environment can help designers, projects developers and communities as they work to create naturally sustainable, inherently resilient spaces.

National awards showcase timber’s strength and flexibility
NEW ZEALAND – The Waiheke Island Community Library exemplifies the intersection of construction, architecture, fine art and natural elements in timber construction. The library won overall winner and Commercial Architectural Excellence category in the New Zealand Wood-Resene Timber Design Awards announced last week. The awards included eight categories from residential and commercial architectural excellence, innovation and novel applications of wood.

Food Systems

When ‘hand crafted’ is really just crafty marketing
In their attempts to cash in on peak hipster, fast-food giants are passing off assembly-line products as small scale, bespoke creations that carry an aura of moral authority…  mass-producers simply can’t make “craft” or “artisanal” products. These words refer to autonomous human-scale production that’s too mindfully- and bodily-involved for the assembly-line. To a craftperson, conception and physical production are inseparable, and their relationship with their craft — be it breadmaking, songwriting or neurosurgery — is somatic. Division of labour completely wipes “crafting” from the fabrication process. Craft involves risk and unpredictability; manufacturing, on the other hand, involves predictable and uniform outcomes.

New Zealand organics see unprecedented growth
The demand for organics is growing astronomically as more consumers get on board with eco-friendly and health-conscious foods. New Zealand’s largest organic food brand Ceres, based in Auckland, has reported an expansion of 100 per cent over the last five years. This growth is staggering compared to the annual growth of one to two per cent in the general food sector. Even Ceres has never seen this kind of expansion before. Its average growth has been 20 per cent in the 30 years since it was established.


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.