Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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UN, US Say Climate Treaty Will Bind Nations By Nov/Dec
Both United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and US Secretary of State John Kerry (quoting President Obama), affirmed the viability of the Paris Agreement on climate change this morning. Sensing the urgency of acting on upcoming world disaster, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had convened a special “High-Level Event” today at the UN Headquarters in New York. The date coincided with the regularly scheduled United Nations General Assembly gathering.

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Energy and Climate Change

How the jaw-dropping fall in solar prices will change energy markets
More information is emerging about the jaw-dropping solar prices bid into a major tender being held by the Abu Dhabi electricity authority, and it underlines just how the stunning fall in prices will change the conversation, and a lot of business and policy planning, about energy markets.

No, cutting your car’s carbon emissions won’t cost you more
The Australian government has started looking into carbon dioxide emissions standards for light vehicles, as part of new measures to meet the nation’s 2030 climate targets. However, some are already questioning the use of standards, with media reports pointing to higher costs for new car buyers and the possibility of the government bungling the introduction of standards.

Environment and Biodiversity

Sea ice record retreat has Antarctic experts worried for wildlife, climate
Scientists fear a sharp reduction in Antarctic sea ice in recent weeks will impact marine life and climate systems. New daily records have been set for measuring the retreat of sea ice around Antarctica in the past week. This year the sea ice peaked at 18.5 million square kilometres on August 28 — close to the lowest winter level on record.

Greenland’s huge annual ice loss is even worse than thought
The huge annual losses of ice from the Greenland cap are even worse than thought, according to new research which also shows that the melt is not a short-term blip but a long-term trend… The new study reveals a more accurate estimate of the ice loss by taking better account of the gradual rise of the entire Greenland landmass. When the ice cap was at its peak 20,000 years ago, its great weight depressed the hot, viscous rocks in the underlying mantle. As ice has been shed since, the island has slowly rebounded upwards.

‘It’s a depressing sight’: climate change unleashes ghostly death on Great Barrier Reef
John Rumney says that just a year ago, this particular spot was once the most stunning coral garden on the entire Great Barrier Reef. If a film crew said it wanted to get a cliche shot of the reef with its mind-boggling richness of coral and fish species, this was where he took them. Now he’s taking us there to see the destruction wrought by climate change. He says the fact this reef was used in so many films and magazines means it’s a perfect location to see the effects of the recent bleaching event.

More oil exploration area could be opened in home of the world’s rarest dolphin
NEW ZEALAND – An area twice the size of Auckland city could soon be open for oil exploration in a sanctuary set up to protect the world’s rarest dolphin.  The latest proposed 67,695 square kilometre block offer for oil and gas exploration off the Taranaki coast includes 1,400 sqkm in the Maui’s dolphin Marine Mammal Sanctuary.

One Snow Leopard Needs a Protected Range Bigger Than Aruba
The snow leopard is known as the “ghost of the mountain” for good reason. The big cats are secretive, few in number, and native to craggy, high-altitude habitats of Central Asia that can be treacherous for humans. Now, technology advances have finally given scientists a solid glimpse into the world of these endangered felines, and led to one of the most robust studies ever conducted.

A remote camera captures a snow leopard in the falling snow in Hemis National Park, India. Photograph by Steve Winter, National Geographic Creative

A remote camera captures a snow leopard in the falling snow in Hemis National Park, India. Photograph by Steve Winter, National Geographic Creative

Cape Fur Seal Trade Remains Shrouded in Secrecy
Namibian Sunshine isn’t what you might think. It’s oil derived from the blubber of the Cape fur seal, advertised online as rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and allegedly more readily absorbed by the human body—given its mammalian source—than fish oil. Since 2005 Namibia has exported almost 33,000 gallons of sunshine, nearly a third to China. But export of seal pelts dwarfs Namibia’s seal oil business—400,000 of them during the past decade—representing one of the largest trades of any mammal out of Africa.

Economy and Business

EU residents set to get cheaper home loans for energy efficient houses
Homebuyers across Europe could soon access better borrowing rates for purchasing energy efficient homes or committing to retrofitting, thanks to a new partnership between banks, property valuers, energy efficiency companies and utility providers.

Startups woo Accelerate audience with climate, waste, ag solutions
Six startups whose endeavors span the sustainability landscape — from carbon removal to advancing the circular economy to saving bees — took 2 minutes each on the VERGE stage Tuesday to pitch to a roomful of tech innovators, investors and sustainability leaders.

Enterprise car rental company leaves Alec after public outcry
Car rental giant Enterprise says it has resigned its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), an anti-regulation lobby group that has pushed against climate change legislation, effective immediately. The announcement follows last month’s revelation by the Guardian of the publicly environmentally friendly company’s contributions to the group.

Philippines to suspend 12 more mines in environmental crackdown
A dozen more Philippine mines, mostly nickel projects, are in danger of being suspended in an ongoing environmental crackdown on the sector, an environment undersecretary said on Wednesday. The Southeast Asian nation, the world’s top supplier of nickel ore, has already halted the operations of 10 mines, eight of them nickel producers, for environmental lapses since it launched an audit in July, stoking increases in global prices.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Saving silver: portable micro-factories could turn e-waste trash into treasure
“We are all micro mine owners.” This is the mantra preached by Veena Sahajwalla, a materials scientist at the University of New South Wales who wants to fundamentally change how we perceive our electronic waste: not as trash, but as treasure.  Electronic waste, or “e-waste”, is full of valuable resources: a tonne of mobile phones, which is roughly equivalent to 6,000 handsets, contains about 130kg of copper, more than 3kg of silver, 340 grams of gold and 140 grams of another precious material known as palladium.

Politics and Society

For the first time, Obama requires U.S. government to factor climate into national security policy
President Obama signed a presidential memorandum Wednesday establishing that climate-change impacts must be factored into the development of all national security-related doctrine, policies and plans. The move signals Obama’s determination to exercise his executive authority during his final months in office to elevate the issue of climate in federal decision-making, even though it remains unclear whether his successor will embrace this approach.

Indonesia dismisses study showing forest fire haze killed more than 100,000 people
Indonesian, Malaysian and Singaporean authorities have dismissed research that suggested smoky haze from catastrophic forest fires in Indonesia last year caused 100,000 deaths. Some even contend the haze caused no serious health problems, but experts say those assertions contradict well-established science.

How the Asia-Pacific can lead the way on migrants and refugees
On consecutive days this week, the United Nations in New York hosted a summit on refugees and migrants, followed by US President Barack Obama’s special leaders’ summit on refugees. Representatives from government, business and civil society gathered to decide how best to move the dial on unprecedented mass displacement. It’s easy to be sceptical of talkfests, but the New York summits carried special significance. They show that forced migration has become a matter of high politics. And unless managed more effectively, forced migration will have permanent and intensifying negative impacts on countries across the globe.

Political Roundup: The Killing of the Kermadec sanctuary
NEW ZEALAND – The current battle over the Kermadec marine reserve sanctuary can be characterised as a struggle between the values of environmentalism and Treaty rights. With the National Government announcing that the sanctuary project is now on hold, it seems that the values of Treaty rights are winning the battle.

MPI officials back-tracked on fish dumping case
NEW ZEALAND – Top MPI officials were intent on prosecuting fishermen for dumping but ditched the case over concerns they would be embarrassed in court, an email trail has revealed. The emails were contained in the Heron report, which was released on Friday and criticised the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) over its decision not to prosecute for fish dumping. An email exchange in October 2014 reveals that the ministry had been prepared to prosecute on Monday, but pulled out on the Friday.

Built Environment

5 ways Fishermans Bend can become a sustainability champion
AUSTRALIA – Mandating high building standards, precinct-wide organic waste management and sustainable transport are just a few of the ways sustainability ambitions for the Fishermans Bend urban renewal project can be delivered, according to a new report from design firm HIP V. HYPE prepared for the City of Port Phillip in collaboration with the City of Melbourne.

Food Systems

Farmers know there’s more to bees than honey
NEW ZEALAND – Farmers need honey bees for pollinating pasture, horticulture and arable crops. Most importantly for pastoral farmers, bees are needed to pollinate clover. Either sown alone or in mixture with ryegrass or more recently plantain, clover grows freely, produces an abundant crop, is palatable to and nutritious for livestock and fixes nitrogen, reducing the need for synthetic fertilisers. This month is Bee Aware Month and Kate Taylor found one great relationship at work in Central Hawke’s Bay.


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