Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Top Story

How your parents’ level of education affects your chances
A new report from the OECD shows that across 22 member countries for which information is available, hourly wages of workers whose parents had a tertiary degree are significantly higher, on average, than hourly wages of workers whose parents had lesser qualifications. In other words, people’s economic outcomes are to a considerable extent associated with the education of their parents. Australia is shown to be neither the best nor the worst performer in this respect.\

Energy and Climate Change

A low-carbon economy is ‘attractive in its own right’, says Lord Stern
Former Treasury adviser Lord Stern will today call for world leaders to accelerate efforts to deliver a low carbon economic transition, arguing “remarkable advances” in clean energy technologies makes the development of a green economy “attractive in its own right” even before the impact on climate risks is considered. Stern will today publish a paper that reconsiders the findings of his landmark 2006 climate change study, which was commissioned by the Labour government to investigate the economics of climate change and famously concluded the costs of inaction on climate change far outweighed the costs of action.

World mayors at Vatican urge ‘bold climate agreement’
The Vatican invited the 60 mayors to a two-day conference to keep up pressure on world leaders ahead of UN climate negotiations in Paris later this year.…One by one, the mayors lined up to sign a final declaration stating that “human-induced climate change is a scientific reality and its effective control is a moral imperative for humanity.” Francis told the gathering that he had “a lot of hope” that the Paris negotiations would succeed, but also warned the mayors: “You are the conscience of humanity.” Experts have long said that cities are key to reducing global warming since urban areas account for nearly three-quarters of human emissions. Mayor after mayor made an individual plea for the world to change its ways.

New York mayor aims for 40 per cent carbon cuts for Big Apple by 2030
The Mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, has this week announced a new emissions reduction target for the city at a Vatican-organised conference on climate change and modern slavery. Speaking to the conference, which was attended by over 60 world mayors, de Blasio announced a new goal for the city to cut emissions 40 per cent by 2030 based on 2005 levels. The ambitious target adds to the city’s existing goal of reducing emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, announced at the New York Climate Summit last September, and follows a similar state-wide target for 2030 announced this year by California.

Prediction of Rapid Sea Level Rise Won’t Change Global Climate Talks
A bombshell climate study due out this week warns that sea levels may rise a catastrophic 10 feet (3 meters) by the end of this century, rather than the currently predicted 3 feet (.9 meters). But mainstream climate scientists say the report appears speculative and is not in sync with the leading understanding of melting sea ice.  As a result, the study is unlikely to change leading scientific consensus or affect the current negotiations on a comprehensive global agreement on climate change.

Fracking impact on CO2 cuts in US emissions ‘a myth’
New research suggests that the impact of shale gas on curbing US carbon emissions has been overstated. Politicians have argued that the US was able to significantly reduce CO2 between 2007 and 2013 because of fracking. But scientists now believe an 11% cut in emissions in that period was chiefly due to economic recession.

FedEx to Purchase 3 Million Gallons of Jet Biofuel Annually
Red Rock Biofuels, maker of renewable biofuels, announced Monday that it will produce approximately three million gallons of low-carbon, renewable jet fuel per year for FedEx Express, a subsidiary of FedEx Corp. The agreement runs through 2024, with first delivery expected in 2017. FedEx joins Southwest Airlines in purchasing Red Rock’s total available volume of jet fuel. Red Rock’s first refinery, funded in part by a $70 million Title III DPA grant from the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Energy and Navy, is scheduled to break ground this fall in Lakeview, Oregon and will convert close 140,000 dry tons of woody biomass into 15 million gallons per year of renewable jet, diesel and naphtha fuels.

Environment and Biodiversity

Cockroaches: Japanese zoo seeks to improve image of hated insect in new exhibition
A Japanese zoo is trying to do the impossible: improve the image of cockroaches through an exhibition of one of the world’s most hated insects. With a whopping — and disgusting — 4,000 species around the planet, the hardy creature can survive almost anywhere, but is most commonly encountered by city-dwellers in grubby corners of the kitchen, or roaming around the floor at night. Staff at Shunanshi Tokuyama Zoo in western Japan say the cockroach gets bad press and actually performs a vital job.

Rewilding isn’t about nostalgia – exciting new worlds are possible
The restoration of natural ecosystems – “rewilding” – ought to be a chance to create inspiring new habitats. However the movement around it risks becoming trapped by its own reverence of the past; an overly nostalgic position that makes rewilding less realistic and harder to achieve. The recent launch of Rewilding Britain is certainly exciting and timely. However George Monbiot’s vision of bringing back 15 iconic species falls short of the rewilding visions being discussed in universities.

A tale of three mosquitoes: how a warming world could spread disease
As the world warms, animals and plants will shift their ranges to keep pace with their favoured climate. While the changing distributions of species can tell us how climate change is affecting the natural world, it may also have a direct impact on us. One good example is the disease carried by insects. Those small, familiar flies called mosquitoes are responsible for much human suffering around the globe because of their ability to transmit diseases. Mosquitoes transmit a number of viruses, such as Dengue, Ross River Virus, Murray Valley Encephalitis Virus and the local variant of the West Nile Virus known as Kunjin. Could climate change cause these diseases to spread? While this an extremely important health question, the answer is far from simple.

Inside the Grim Lives of Africa’s Captive Lions
The new documentary Blood Lions lays bare the dark underbelly of South Africa’s captive breeding and canned hunting industries. The film will be screened in Durban, South Africa on Wednesday at Africa’s leading film festival. Owners of private breeding farms say that more hunting of captive-bred lions takes pressure off declining wild lion populations. Not so, says Dr. Luke Hunter, president of Panthera, an organization dedicated to conserving endangered big cats. “This industry pumps out cats to be shot in cages or shipped to Asia to supply the demand for big cat parts. Blood Lions blows away the hollow ‘conservation’ arguments made by South Africa’s predator breeders to justify their grim trade.”

Scientists ready to test Tasmanian devil facial tumour vaccine in the wild
A test group of Tasmanian devils vaccinated against the deadly facial tumour disease which is threatening to wipe them out is ready to be released in the wild. Researchers at the Menzies institute at the University of Tasmania increased the number of devils being tested from six to 19, giving them a greater number of responses to the vaccine.

Economy and Business

Model Behavior II | SustainAbility
Model Behavior II: Strategies to Rewire Business offers guidance to large companies and innovators within those organizations to harness the power of business model innovation that creates a more sustainable future. 

Many of the companies that are flourishing financially today are inherently unsustainable. Despite laudable efforts to make their processes or products more sustainable, no amount of renewable energy sourcing or green product engineering, for example, can change that.  When an inherently unsustainable company experiences continued commercial success, thinking about a different, more sustainable model may seem unlikely or unrealistic. However, dwindling security of supply, rising commodity prices, changing consumer demographics and increasing competitive pressure make it prescient to consider business models that will be less volatile, less resource-intensive and more responsive to the user of the future.

Natural Capital Coalition Releases Stakeholder Feedback Report, Draft Protocol
The Natural Capital Coalition has released an extensive report on business expectations around the Natural Capital Protocol, its standardized framework for measuring impact and dependence on natural ecosystems. Due to be published next year, the Protocol will provide decision-making support to businesses in their risk-management processes, exploration of new revenue streams, and in product and value chain innovation.

Xinjiang Goldwind launches first Chinese ‘green bond’
The future of the emerging green bonds market in China looks promising, after $300m was raised through the country’s first offical green bond issue. News agency Reuters reported that the bond, made available by wind energy firm Xinjiang Goldwind Science & Technology, received orders of $1.4bn, leaving the issue nearly five times oversubscribed. The renewable energy developer said it will use the first green bond issue to fund general working capital and refinancing for its group of companies.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Eco-friendly? Don’t believe the wipe
To the makers of the wipes (and their laundry-averse customers) “flushable” means that you can drop them in the dunny, press the flush button and they’re gone – out of sight and out of mind. But not out of trouble. Plumbers are saying that the wipes are snagging and bunching together in the pipes further down, particularly in older suburbs where drains are made of rougher materials than PVC. In some areas, these wipes are implicated in half of blocked drains. In short, the flushable wipes aren’t really flushable at all.

To Infinity and Beyond: How We’re Embracing the Circular Economy At Levi Strauss & Co., our sustainability thinking has traditionally begun at the cotton stage of the product life cycle. The cotton is picked, ginned, spun, and woven into fabric. The fabric is cut, sewn, and finished into a pair of jeans before being sent to a distribution center, then on to your favorite store where the jeans are sold to you. You’ll wear them. Live in them. Love them. Make them your own. And after a few years with that perfect fit, you’ll probably toss them. That’s it. The life of a pair of Levi’s. On average, that life lasts a little over three years (although they’ll last for decades if you take care of them in the proper way).

What’s wrong with this picture? It’s entirely linear. It’s birth to death. And it’s wasteful. At Levi Strauss & Co. we want to change that by taking another step forward on our journey towards a circular economy. And that step involves you, the consumer. That’s why you can now bring all your old clothes and shoes to any Levi’s store in the U.S. We’ll collect them and reuse, repurpose or recycle them with our partner I:CO.

City of Karratha signs deal to supply Pilbara rubbish to alternative power plant
Rubbish will fuel a new power plant to be built in Western Australia’s Pilbara region. Perth company, New Energy, has officially signed a deal with the City Of Karratha to manage the local government area’s waste for the next 20 years. The deal will see 90 per cent of the city’s rubbish converted into electricity at a plant to be built near Port Hedland.

Politics and Society

How to Get Silicon Valley to Care About Energy Poverty
Hugh Whalan became interested in Ghana two startups ago, in 2009, when he co-founded a site that helped people crowdfund solar systems for poor households in Africa. While searching for partners, he found a cluster of interest from microfinance institutions in the small West African country.  Six months later, he visited for the first time.

Indian companies target children to push green messages … and sell products
As the UN finalises the new sustainable development goals to replace the millennium development goals, India is a living example of the importance of ensuring that growth is sustainable. India ranked 155th out of 178 countries in a recent survey on environmental quality and came almost last in air pollution exposure. Thirteen of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in India, according to a WHO survey. The country’s annual GDP growth of 8% over the last decade has allowed millions to emerge from poverty, but has been clouded by environmental damage and poor social infrastructure.

Labour’s Environment Bill a bad joke: Nick Smith
NEW ZEALAND – A Labour Party bill which reinforces the role of Government’s environmental protection agency has passed its first stage after a surprise move by United Future to support it. Labour MP Meka Whaitiri’s private member’s bill passed its first reading by one vote this afternoon, with backing from Labour, Greens, New Zealand First, the Maori Party and United Future. The bill made sure that protecting, maintaining and enhancing the environment was explicitly stated as one of the Environmental Protection Authority’s goals.

Renewable energy: Labor puts forward 50 per cent target by 2030; pledges to introduce emissions trading scheme
Labor is drawing the battlelines on climate policy ahead of the next election, with plans for a 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030. The Coalition aims for about 23 per cent of Australia’s energy to come from renewables by 2020, but is yet to settle on its own post-2020 target. Ahead of the ALP national conference this weekend, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten declared voters would have a “clear cut choice” as they head towards the next election.

How much would Labor’s 50% renewable energy policy cost Australian households?
AUSTRALIA – Labor’s plan to deliver 50% renewable energy by 2050 could add between $160 and $264 to annual household power bills. But this could be completely offset by better policies to encourage energy efficiency.

Built Environment

Free bikes for residents of Melbourne urban renewal project
Riverside Group is taking a proactive approach to encouraging low carbon travel, offering a free bike to new residents in stages two and three of its Jaques Richmond urban renewal project in Melbourne. Riverside sales and marketing director Kristine Lee said 270 bikes would be given away across the project’s 263 new apartments. It was it part of a broader sustainability focus on the part of the developer, she said, and one that extended into the commercial property activities of parent company Riverlee Group.

Wetherill Park’s green transformation to save retailers millions
AUSTRALIA – Stockland has been awarded a 5 Star Green Star – Retail Centre Design rating for its Wetherill Park shopping centre redevelopment in Sydney’s western suburbs. The sustainability initiatives employed in the $222 million redevelopment of the 32-year-old centre are estimated to lead to more than $4 million a year in savings for the developer and its retail tenants.

Food Systems

University caterers cook up new sustainability rating programme
UK – Universities will soon be serving up more sustainable food and drink, after the University Caters Organisation (TUCO) this week announced a new initiative in partnership with the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA). TUCO is aiming to build on the success of the first year of its partnership with the SRA, which saw the two organisations jointly develop a sustainable catering programme. Now, the partnership will see the SRA rate university caterers based on the sustainability of the food sources they use and their energy, waste, and water efficiency performance.


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