Sustainable Development News

Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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Top Story

Scientists warn of ‘1-in-10 chance’ world will be 6C hotter by 2100
There is a 1-in-10 chance of the world being 6C warmer than it is today by 2100 – a temperature rise that would lead to cataclysmic changes in the global climate with unimaginable consequences for human civilisation, leading climate researchers have warned. The risk of hitting the highest upper estimate for global warming based on current levels of carbon dioxide emissions is now so high that it is equivalent to tolerating the risk of 10,000 fatal aircraft crashes a day, according to 17 “Earth League” scientists and economists who have signed a joint “Earth Statement” published yesterday.

Energy and Climate Change

Climate Change Authority calls for 30% emissions cut by 2025
Australia should pledge far deeper cuts to greenhouse gas emissions than its current target if it is to do its fair share in tackling climate change, according to a report released today by the Climate Change Authority, which advises the federal government on climate policy. The report recommends that Australia pledge to reduce greenhouse emissions by 30% relative to 2000 levels by 2025, and should also set a more flexible target of 40-60% by 2030. The government is currently considering what Australia’s formal pledge should be, and is set to unveil its commitments later this year ahead of December’s United Nations climate talks in Paris.

Report calls for emissions cuts, but plays down the opportunities (Australian National University)
Australia should cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below 2000 levels by 2025, according to a draft recommendation released by the Climate Change Authority today. Australia will need to put a solid emissions target for 2025 on the table for international credibility on climate change. The Authority’s recommendation is justified on principle but will likely be unacceptable to the government. Meanwhile the Authority gives surprisingly little heed to the opportunities for Australia of a low-emissions economy, instead highlighting international emissions trading.

China’s electricity could go 85% renewable by 2050 – study
China could get 85% of its electricity and 60% of total energy from renewables by 2050, according to government agencies. A rapid rollout of wind, solar and bioenergy is technologically and economically feasible, a report led by the China National Renewable Energy Centre claims. In a “high renewable” scenario, the country’s coal use would peak in 2020 and its greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 – five years ahead of target.

Poll: Six in 10 Brits would consider fitting solar panels
Around six in every 10 Brits who do not have solar panels on their homes would consider fitting the clean energy technology on their properties in the next five years, new research has found. A study by Mintel outlines the huge popularity and strong growth for solar PV technologies, which it predicts will result in the market growing 30 per cent to hit 7.1GW this year before reaching almost 11GW of capacity in 2018. In the domestic market, free solar panels installed through “rent-a-roof” schemes are proving to be the most popular option with prospective customers, with as many as 39 per cent of people who do not currently have solar panels installed on their home considering this option in the next five years.

Marshall Islands move to shake up shipping on emissions
In UN climate circles, the Marshall Islands is mostly known as one of those states that will be swamped by rising sea levels. Its negligible contribution to greenhouse gas emissions makes its heartfelt pleas for ambitious action all too easy for bigger nations to ignore.At the International Maritime Organization (IMO), on the other hand, the Marshalls carry significant weight: 118 million tonnes, to be precise. That is the mass of 3,400 ships registered in Majuro, more than any other country except Panama and Liberia. It means the Pacific state could succeed in mustering support for its recent proposal to target emissions cuts in shipping.

The big job of counting the carbon in our soils
NEW ZEALAND – Increasing the quantity and stability of carbon stored in agricultural soils has real potential to offset greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere. However, realising this potential is not as straightforward as it might first appear. Firstly, soil carbon stocks are notoriously difficult to measure. Agricultural soil carbon stocks vary according to a number of factors including soil type, climate, geographical location and current and previous management practices, there is a lot of spatial variability and changes with time are slow

Environment and Biodiversity

Bees may become addicted to nicotine-like pesticides, study finds
Bees may become addicted to nicotine-like pesticides in the same way humans get hooked on cigarettes, according to a new study, which was released as a landmark field trial provided further evidence that such neonicotinoids harm bee populations. In a study published in the journal Nature, scientists from Newcastle Univeristy showed that bees have a preference for sugar solutions that are laced with the pesticides imidacloprid and thiamethoxam, possibly indicating they can become hooked on the chemicals. Also published in Nature on Wednesday was a study that has been endorsed as the most conclusive evidence yet that the group of pesticides, neonicotinoids, harm wild bee populations, which include bumblebees and solitary bees.

Experts urge an end to logging in Victoria highlands to save Leadbeater’s possum
AUSTRALIA – Logging should end in Victorian central highlands forests to save the state’s disappearing animal emblem, the Leadbeater’s possum, say the federal government’s key scientific advisers on threatened species.  The call came as the federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt on Wednesday signed off on recommendations that the Leadbeater’s threatened species status should be increased to “critically endangered”, considered one step before extinction. In making his decision Mr Hunt said the species would now have the highest level of protection under national environment law.

India plans more tiger reserves on the back of jump in numbers
India is planning to create three more tiger reserves in the country, environment minister Prakash Javadekar announced in the parliament on Tuesday. The development comes in the wake of a recent survey that showed that the tiger population is rising. The new reserves will be created in central and eastern India – in national parks in Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh and Orissa – taking the total number of tiger reserves in the country to 50.  Villagers will no longer be allowed to live or work while buffer zones will be established around them.

Explainer: the wild storms that lash Australia’s east coast
Over the past 24 hours, the Sydney, Central Coast, and Hunter regions of New South Wales have experienced very heavy rain, gale-force winds with gusts over 100 km per hour, and waves of more than 10 m in height. For Sydney it was the wettest single day since February 2002, with 119.4 mm of rain recorded in the 24 hours to 9 am on April 21. Meanwhile, Tocal in the Hunter Valley recorded more than 100 mm in a single hour. Sadly, three deaths have been reported from flash flooding at Dungog. So, what’s causing all this rain?

Economy and Business

Beyond capitalism and socialism: could a new economic approach save the planet?
To avoid social, environmental and economic collapse, the world needs to move beyond the standard choices of capitalism or socialism. That’s the conclusion of a new report released Wednesday by US think tank Capital Institute. The non-partisan think tank argues that both systems are unsustainable, even if flawlessly executed, and that economists need to look to the “hard science of holism” to debunk outdated views held by both the left and the right. Jan Smuts, who coined the term “holism” in his 1926 book, Holism and Evolution, defined it as the “tendency in nature to form wholes that are greater than the sum of the parts”.

New café in Melbourne’s west embraces sustainable living
The latest café to open in Melbourne’s culturally diverse suburb of Footscray is inspired by more than just good food and coffee. Made of shipping containers with a large outdoor area, sprawling herb garden and 20,000-litre water tank, Rudimentary is just as much about creating a sustainable community space. Three Australians in their late 20s and early 30s, Desmond Huynh, Lieu Trieu and Michael Ngo, are behind the new business, which opened about a month ago.

Spike in Uber passengers after company capitalises on taxi driver strike in Perth
A protest against ride sharing company Uber by taxi drivers in Perth has backfired, according to the company’s West Australian head.  More than 200 taxi drivers staged a protest outside Parliament House yesterday to call for action against Uber, which the taxi industry claims is breaching the law. In WA, any vehicle carrying passengers for a fee must be licensed as a taxi or an omnibus. However, Uber capitalised on the taxi driver strike by offering new customers a free ride.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Nestlé USA Announces Factories Now Landfill-Free
Nestlé USA, best known for its water, coffee and chocolate products, has announced a milestone: Effective today, all of its U.S.-based factories are now landfill-free. In 2014, Nestle Global announced that 15 percent of its factories worldwide (72 in total) had attained zero-landfill status, exceeding its target for 2015. The addition of U.S. manufacturing centers to this list is part of the company’s global effort to retool the way it handles waste and product manufacturing.

Eliminating the Food-to-Landfill Pipeline
While solving food waste at the root of production is a concern many agriculturalists, engineers and scientists are looking to solve, behavioral change at the consumer and commercial levels can be the key to significantly decreasing the amount of compostable food waste sent to the landfill by both households and businesses globally. is a leading expert in recycling and waste disposal for businesses of all kinds. Its independent company, based in Britain, is heavily calling for legislation in the U.K.’s upcoming May elections to urge officials to make commercial recycling a requirement.

Politics and Society

Earth Day quiz: tried the Google Doodle version? Now try the Guardian’s
Today’s Earth Day is marked with a Google Doodle quiz that asks ‘which animal are you?’. Nevermind which animal you are though – can you successfully answer all the questions in our climate change-themed quiz?

Bjorn Lomborg centre: leaked documents cast doubt on Abbott government claims
It was the Abbott government’s original idea for the University of Western Australia to host a think tank created by the “sceptical environmentalist” Bjorn Lomborg, according to leaked talking points. The government will provide $4 million over four years to bring Dr Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus Centre methodology to Australia at a new centre within the University of Western Australia (UWA) business school. In the talking points, obtained by Fairfax Media, UWA says it does not plan to spend any money on the centre and that it believes government funding will largely cover its cost. The government has previously stated that UWA would also contribute to the centre and that the government is contributing only a third of its estimated cost.

Built Environment

Sustainable Construction Technologies to Save the Earth
With green building becoming a critical part of today’s world, more and more new construction technologies are being developed to keep up with this escalating shift to sustainability. From maximizing the use of renewable resources to minimizing carbon footprint, whether in constructing a new sustainable building or greening existing infrastructure, these seven construction technologies aim to save the planet.

TripAdvisor now lists green Aussie accommodation
TripAdvisor has extended its GreenLeaders program to Australia and New Zealand, allowing users to search for hotels and B&Bs with environmentally friendly practices. The program, developed in consultation with the United Nations Environment Program, Ecotourism Australia and EarthCheck, now lists over 8000 properties worldwide – 170 in Australia and NZ. The GreenLeaders badge will be displayed on a property’s listing page, with users able to check green practices from linen and towel re-use, recycling and composting to solar panels, electric car charging stations and green roofs.

Food Systems

McDonald’s to axe deforestation from its global supply chain
On Tuesday, global fast food giant McDonald’s pledged to end deforestation across its entire supply chain. The announcement follows recent similar pledges by Dunkin’ Donuts, Krispy Kreme, Yum Brands and many others. But the World Wildlife Fund, which advised McDonald’s on its new commitment, said it could have big influence on other fast food chains.  But tackling deforestation has proven vastly complex, and with tens of thousands of franchises, the company faces super-sized challenges to meeting its goals.


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