Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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In case you missed it, yesterday was Earth Day.  The focus was on ending plastic pollution, a chance to reflect on what you are doing in your everyday life.  You can make a pledge to reduce your plastic use on the Earth Day website or learn more about what you can do.

I like stories like our feature article today showing how healthy ecosystems can benefit humans.  This one acknowledges there are costs as well as benefits and they can be quantified in monetary terms.  Good reading and thinking.  Elsewhere, forests are also highlighted as an underestimated service provider (with a Cinderella analogy); wasps in NZ are an economic nightmare; and several articles show the value in waste with upcycling initiatives.

Top Story

Helping farmers and reducing car crashes: the surprising benefits of predators | The Conversation
Humans may be Earth’s apex predator, but the fleeting shadow of a vulture or the glimpse of a big cat can cause instinctive fear and disdain. But new evidence suggests that predators and scavengers are much more beneficial to humans than commonly believed, and that their loss may have greater consequences than we have imagined.

Climate Change and Energy

Michael Bloomberg pledges $4.5m to cover US Paris climate commitment | The Guardian
The former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has said he will write a $4.5m cheque to cover this year’s US commitment to the Paris climate agreement. Donald Trump last year pulled the US out of the deal, which was signed by Barack Obama, making the US the only country opposed. Even Syria, torn by a seven-year civil war, has signed the pact. Bloomberg, whose net worth Forbes pegs at about $50bn, was speaking on Earth Day, to CBS’s Face the Nation. He did not commit to provide funds beyond 2018 and said he hoped that by next year Trump would have changed his mind.

Federal government sets sights on August approval for National Energy Guarantee | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – Federal energy minister Josh Frydenberg says he is confident of securing state governments’ support for the National Energy Guarantee, with a final decision now timetabled for August… Details of the policy were first unveiled in October 2017, after the federal government opted against Chief Scientist Alan Finkel’s recommended Clean Energy Target. It features two components: a “reliability guarantee” and an “emissions guarantee”.

Rod Oram: Shedding light on the gas sector’s claims | newsroom
NEW ZEALAND – Countries prosper when they play to their comparative advantages. In our case, natural gas is absolutely not one of them. Yet, our gas sector keeps doubling down on its claims it can help us and other countries drastically cut carbon emissions in the decades ahead, while deriving great GDP benefits along the way. None of those claims stack up on economic or environmental grounds.

Environment and Biodiversity

Forests: The Cinderella of Climate Solutions | World Resources Institute
Earth Day provides a timely opportunity to reflect on all the things that forests do for us – not least helping to stabilize the climate – and how little we seem to appreciate them.  Last November at “Forests Day” held on the sidelines of the UN climate negotiations in Bonn, Giacomo Grassi, a scientist at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre who studies forests and climate change, offered the perfect metaphor for this problem:  forests as Cinderella.

NZ’s most wanted pest – the wasp | Radio NZ News (Audio 15:02)
NEW ZEALAND – Invasive ‘social’ wasps put major pressure on New Zealand’s biodiversity and cost the economy an estimated $130 million every year. New Zealand has one of the highest concentrations of wasps on the planet, with the invasive common wasp (aka Vespula Vulgaris), the German wasp, and our three species of paper wasp among our most hated introduced pests.

More foreign workers needed to hit 1 billion trees target, forestry giants say | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – Large forestry companies say they will need more foreign workers if they are to hit the Government’s goal of planting one billion trees in 10 years. Regional Development Minister and NZ First MP Shane Jones planted the first of the trees today, starting the clock ticking on an ambitious scheme designed to create jobs, protect New Zealand’s land, and reduce climate emissions.


Mozambique prays for rain as water shortages hit country’s poor | The Guardian
MOZAMBIQUE – In the township of Chamanculo, in Maputo, Mozambique, a network of household taps made the community water pump obsolete years ago, freeing residents from the daily burden of lugging massive jerrycans of water long distances. But a water crisis, partly caused by an ongoing drought affecting much of southern Africa, is already reversing progress in this coastal city. An emergency “orange alert”, declared last February by the country’s disaster management council after failed rains, has triggered such strict water rationing across the capital city that the taps are turned off every other day and irrigation is banned.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Repair Cafe brings Alice Springs community together to preserve a ‘dying art’ | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – It feels like Christmas in April in the little brick house belonging to the Arid Lands Centre in Alice Springs, as hundreds of people from all over Central Australia line up to get household items repaired…  As event organiser Rachel O’Leary put it, the room had a festive vibe. “We’ve asked people to bring in all their broken things so we can repair them,” she said, looking up from a mound of fabric in the sewing room.  “The idea is to keep waste out of landfill and to reduce greenhouse emissions from buying new things constantly.”

‘Upcycling’ push from Hobart tip shop workers leading the charge against landfill | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – With the future of recycling around Australia under a cloud, a team of tip shop workers in Hobart call themselves “the last line of defence”… Nestled at the base of the city’s Mount Wellington, you’d be hard-pressed to find a group of people more passionate about reusing and “upcycling”.  The shop’s coordinator, Molly Kendall, said last year the tip shop stopped 520,000 kilos of waste going into landfill.

Victorian councils expected to raise rates as China recycling crisis takes hold | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Victorian homeowners will ultimately bear the brunt of China’s decision to ban foreign waste, with the state’s peak local government body estimating ratepayers will be stung an extra $60 a year to cover recycling costs. The Municipal Association of Victoria is expecting ratepayers across the state to fork out an extra $1 a week to keep up their kerbside recycling services. “I think it’s a reasonable cost,” chief executive Rob Spence said. In Queensland on Friday Ipswich City Council reversed an earlier decision to send recyclables to the tip.

See also:

Politics and Society

National Trust should be radical, says Hilary McGrady | BBC News
UK – The National Trust needs to be more radical, the charity’s new director-general has told the BBC. Hilary McGrady said the organisation needed to reach out to people living in towns and cities.  In her first interview since getting the job, she said: “The people that need beauty the most, are the ones that have least access to it.”

Climate change a slow burn issue | newsroom (Opinion)
NEW ZEALAND – The Government has promised to make climate change a priority area, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern arguing climate change will be this generation’s “nuclear-free moment”. This is a bad analogy, for several reasons. One is that leadership implies followers, and in the case of the nuclear-free policy no country explicitly followed our lead. Much more significantly, it confuses a short-term political momentum issue (the nuclear-free declaration) with a long-term political structural issue (decarbonisation).

What NZ should learn about renewable energy |newsroom
NEW ZEALAND – Political and social science research on climate change shows some countries have been far more successful than others in orchestrating state-led transition to renewable energy over the past 40 years. Without exception, it is countries that have fully embraced climate change objectives into industrial policy that have succeeded. They have seen clean technology as the ticket to new domestic technology and service markets, employment, and new export markets, as well as a means of addressing specific domestic issues such as regional development and resilience of electricity supply.  Conversely, very little tends to happen where climate change policy is not crafted around social and economic benefits directly relevant to domestic stakeholder groups.

Jeffrey Sachs – Leading Sustainable Development | Radio NZ News (Audio 47:15)
Jeffrey Sachs is a world-renowned professor of economics, leader in sustainable development, senior UN advisor, bestselling author, and syndicated columnist whose monthly newspaper columns appear in more than 100 countries.

Jim Salinger: The Middle East is a climate and conflict hotspot | NZ Herald
As I watch from my beautiful Middle Eastern perch at the top of Mt Carmel in Israel, I must ponder the interaction of the two greatest’s threats to humanity in the region: anthropogenic climate change (ACC) and conflict.

Food Systems

Kiwi burger chain Better Burger introduces edible wrapper | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – Better Burger want you to eat your rubbish. Clearing your plate has taken on a new meaning at the Kiwi-owned fast-food chain, which will serve burgers at one of their restaurants in edible wrappers [yesterday]. The wrappers, made of potato starch, will be used on all burgers sold at the chain’s Mt Eden restaurant between 11am and 1pm. Better Burger co-owner and general manager Rod Ballenden said 500 edible wrappers had been made to mark International Earth Day, and also to raise awareness of other environmentally friendly initiatives at the chain.


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