Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Today’s top story is a well written appeal to us all about why we should care about making an individual effort to reduce our waste through our daily choices, via three stages of grief. I agree with her clever deductions and admit to falling back into stage two for a while before settling firmly in stage three. In other news, a man collects one tonne of foils from six hairdressers in eight months; Barnacle Geese are having to fly quicker to the Arctic because of rising temperatures but are too tired to lay eggs when they get there; and it’s still hot in northern Europe with farmers facing crop failure.

Top Story

The three stages of grief over the rubbish state of the environment | (Opinion)
A friend told me recently that – queue horrified gasp – she doesn’t bother to recycle. It’s not that she doesn’t care about the environment but, as she said with a defiant shrug, the change really needs to come from big business. Her impact is absolutely nothing compared to theirs. “But,” I quavered at her, “but…” And so began the sort of polite standoff that happens between, say, those who vaccinate and those who do not, where both parties attempt to politely respect each other’s choices, while remaining silently determined that they are in the right and that the other opinion is frustratingly ill-informed. I understand my friend’s sense of overwhelm, because I’m familiar with that murky milieu myself. I too have experienced the three stages of environmental information overload.

Climate Change and Energy

Has AEMO downplayed speed of clean energy transition? | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – We’ve come a long way in just one year. Last June, modelling for the Finkel Review was telling Australians that allowing coal generators to continue well beyond their 50-year life offered the cheapest path to a transition to a low-carbon economy… Now we are told, by modelling conducted by the Australian Energy Market Operator, that the cheapest way will be to call a halt to coal generators when they get to the end of their technical life – 50 years, and only if they make it that far. This was a significant point to be made by the institution that runs the grid and whose responsibility is to keep the lights on, now and into the future.
Related: Rooftop solar to generate more than coal by 2040, saving billions | One Step Off The Grid

Is UK barbecue charcoal fuelling global deforestation? | BBC News
UK – A growing taste for al fresco dining is driving record charcoal sales in the UK but is it also fuelling global deforestation and climate change? Last year Britain imported nearly 90,000 tonnes of charcoal. It’s much cheaper than sourcing it from within the UK but where is it coming from and at what cost to the environment? The BBC took a random selection of charcoal bags from supermarkets and shops to be tested.

German 2030 climate target ‘very, very challenging’ to reach, says Merkel | Climate Home News
GERMANY – The German government will introduce a climate protection law to ensure the country reaches its 2030 climate targets, but achieving these goals will be “very, very challenging”, said chancellor Angela Merkel during her annual summer press conference. The government recently officially confirmed that Germany’s 2020 emissions reduction target has already slipped out of reach.

Environment and Biodiversity

Arctic wild goose chase threatens chicks as temperatures rise -| BBC News
Rising temperatures in the Arctic are encouraging Barnacle geese to speed up their migration journeys north every spring, says a new study. But their efforts to go faster are leaving them too drained to lay their eggs early when they arrive. This is bad news for the species as their chicks are hatched too late to take advantage of the best food, so fewer are surviving. The scientists involved say the birds will have to adapt and migrate earlier.

Back from extinction: The Mallee emu wren makes a comeback in South Australia | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – After a series of catastrophic wildfires in 2014, the Mallee emu wren became extinct in South Australia, but the birds are making a comeback in the state with the help of environmentalists. In one of the three national parks where they remained, Victoria’s Wyperfeld National Park, their numbers were only in the hundreds. Researchers were concerned a severe bushfire season would threaten the remaining population. Numerous organisations in South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria, together with the support of the South Australian Government, devised a breeding program over four years to boost the birds’ numbers.

Photo: The Mallee emu wren weighs only as much as a 10 cent piece. (Supplied: Natural Resources SA Murray Darling Basin)

Photo: The Mallee emu wren weighs only as much as a 10 cent piece. (Supplied: Natural Resources SA Murray Darling Basin)

‘Abysmal’ Kiwis could learn from Australia’s ‘whole suite’ of marine protections |
NEW ZEALAND – A marine biologist desperate to change New Zealand’s attitude towards the environment has hit Kiwis where it hurts, claiming Aussies are way better at looking after their seas. Rob Davidson said New Zealand’s marine protection efforts looked “pretty lame” compared to Australia. Davidson conceded he was trying to “embarrass” people into action as previous attempts had fallen on deaf ears.

Anchor damage to sea beds in the Marlborough Sounds Photo: Supplied

Anchor damage to sea beds in the Marlborough Sounds Photo: Supplied

Support for the Endangered Species Act remains high as Trump administration and Congress try to gut it | The Conversation
USA – The Endangered Species Act, or “the Act,” is arguably the most important law in the United States for conserving biodiversity and arresting the extinction of species. Congress passed the ESA in 1973 with strong bipartisan support (the House voted 355-4 in favor of the law) at the behest of a Republican president, Richard Nixon. Nixon had come to believe existing protections for threatened and endangered species were insufficient. Since its passage, the Act has helped reverse and stop declines in numerous species – from bald eagles to Lake Erie watersnakes – and served as a model for similar laws around the world.

Economy and Business

Sanjeev Gupta: Coal power is no longer cheaper – and we’ll prove it | The Guardian
The British billionaire who rescued the Whyalla steelworks from administration and is spending more than $2bn on clean energy and green steel developments in regional South Australia says most Australians are yet to grasp that solar power is now a cheaper option than new coal-fired electricity.

Are we getting climate finance all wrong? | Climate Home News
It’s widely accepted that by the year 2050, the world needs to be approaching net-zero carbon if the goals of the Paris climate deal are to survive. This long term rallying point, laid down by experts, has been followed by political commitments from countries, cities, and businesses. But much of the thinking on financing this ambition remains stuck in the short term.

World Bank sets $20 billion record for climate financing | Climate Action Programme
The World Bank is spending more money than ever on combatting climate change. The institution released figures this week which shows that it invested $20.5 billion during the 2018 fiscal year on projects which address the impacts of climate change. This represent 32.1 percent of all funding and exceeds its target of spending at least 28 percent of its finances on tackling the problem by 2020.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Man collects one tonne of hairdressing foil scraps in personal war on waste | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Gerrard McClafferty visits the hairdresser at least once a week, but he is in no need of a haircut. He has been doing the rounds collecting bags of “foils”, the thin scraps of aluminium foil used in the hair dyeing process, from six local hairdressers. The project started as a way of quantifying how much foil ends up in landfill, and after just eight months he is now sitting on one tonne of metal.

Photo: In just eight months, Gerrard McClafferty has collected one tonne of foil from six hairdressers. (ABC Newcastle: Ben Millington)

Photo: In just eight months, Gerrard McClafferty has collected one tonne of foil from six hairdressers. (ABC Newcastle: Ben Millington)

Lifeline pops up at Splendour in the Grass with retro, vintage clothing and a fashion message | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Fashion sense at music festivals, for many, is almost as important as the headlining bands. For punters attending this weekend’s Splendour in the Grass music festival, a new way of dressing to impress will be on offer courtesy of the charity Lifeline. Lifeline has set up a pop-up store filled with hand-picked retro and vintage apparel aimed at festival-goers.

‘Double wrap it for convenience’: excessive plastic packaging – in pictures | The Guardian
We asked, you answered – and there was no shortage of examples of excessive plastic packaging across Australia shared via Guardian Witness.

The five food groups: I found these in the fridge at IGA. Photograph: Declan O'Gallagher/Guardian Witness

The five food groups: I found these in the fridge at IGA. Photograph: Declan O’Gallagher/Guardian Witness

Politics and Society

Climate campaigners lose high court battle over carbon target | The Guardian
UK – Environmental campaigners have lost their high court challenge against the government over its policy for tackling climate change. The charity Plan B Earth brought legal action against the government’s stance on the 2050 carbon target, set out under the Climate Change Act 2008.

Is the ‘Zero Hour’ youth climate march a turning point, or more of the same? | The Conversation
This weekend, young climate activists will march through Washington DC’s National Mall. The rally, part of the Zero Hour movement, is another sign of the concern and dismay felt by young people after 30-plus years of prevarication and hesitation by their elders. Just as young Americans are realising that their schools won’t be made safe by the “thoughts and prayers” of the usual politicians, nor will their climate be safe if they leave matters to people who have spent decades failing to slow the acceleration of the climate problem. But what new methods are they bringing to the table to boost climate action? And are children really a source of hope for an issue on which adults have hitherto failed?

‘Impressed’ PM Jacinda Ardern thanks students for ‘fantastic’ work |
NEW ZEALAND – A group of Marlborough students on a mission to save New Zealand’s marine life has impressed the Prime Minister with their passion. The year 12 and 13 Marlborough Girls’ College students wrote to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern hoping to update marine legislation, and do away with some of the red tape that had held up similar projects… But despite the positive response from the PM, the students have decided to change tack, realising their initial plans to cut though the red tape would still take years to see progress.

Built Environment

Gatwick Airport to introduce electric car sharing service | Climate Action Programme
UK – London’s Gatwick Airport has partnered with car sharing service Bluecity to provide greater zero-emission transport. A new car sharing hub at the airport contains 10 electric vehicles and charging stations, with plans underway to add more.

Food Systems

Crop failure and bankruptcy threaten farmers as drought grips Europe | The Guardian
Farmers across northern and central Europe are facing crop failure and bankruptcy as one of the most intense regional droughts in recent memory strengthens its grip. States of emergency have been declared in Latvia and Lithuania, while the sun continues to bake Swedish fields that have received only 12% of their normal rainfall. The abnormally hot temperatures – which have topped 30C in the Arctic Circle – are in line with climate change trends, according to the World Meteorological Organization.