Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
If you like what you see, you are welcome to sign up (on the right) for free sustainable development news delivered direct to your inbox each weekday morning.

Top Story

Coal plants use as much water as 1 billion people and consumption set to double: report
Coal power plants use enough water to supply the needs of 1 billion people and that will almost double if all the world’s planned power plants come online. Almost half the new power plants will be built in areas that are already in high water stress, a report commissioned by Greenpeace says.

Energy and Climate Change

Rate of carbon emissions put in context
We are now putting carbon into the atmosphere at a rate unprecedented since at least the age of the dinosaurs, scientists say. The researchers have examined ocean sediments laid down during the so-called Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum – a dramatic warming event some 56 million years ago. They find the amount of CO2 going into the air at its onset was four billion tonnes a year at most. Today’s figure is 10 times as big.

Enphase sees battery storage costs falling by half by 2020
US energy technology company Enphase says it expects battery storage costs and prices to fall by one half by 2020, as it prepares to launch its first battery storage product into the Australian market in a few months. Enphase on Tuesday unveiled its new R&D facility in New Zealand, which will drive further improvements in its battery storage and micro inverter technology, and enable it to refine its home energy management systems that will be launched in Australia and New Zealand within a few months.

Statoil Launches Battery Storage For Offshore Wind Farm
Norwegian oil and gas company Statoil has announced this week it intends to pilot a battery storage solution for offshore wind farms. Statoil announced that it will develop Batwind, a pilot battery storage solution that will be constructed in tandem with the world’s largest floating offshore wind farm, also being developed by Statoil, offshore Peterhead in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

Lithium: Australia needs to recycle and lease to be part of the boom
Australia has an opportunity to capitalise on the increasing global demand for lithium batteries by developing recycling systems and creating models for leasing the resource. Lithium is the third element in the periodic table and the lightest classified as a metal. This makes it a good choice in battery applications needing lightweight energy storage.

My eco-home: going DC off-grid (nearly)
I am convinced that our energy world is radically changing thanks to technologies such as solar, horizontal drilling, demand response, LEDs, batteries as well as exciting new business models from companies such as SolarCity in the power market or Tesla in the electric car area. And we have already seen, particularly in Europe, a huge build out of renewables which has forever changed our power markets. And there’s me buying a house on the German-Polish border surrounded by trees, fields and water. A beautiful and tranquil place in the flood plains of the river Oder and I am surrounded by renewable energy, nature and eco-farmers.

Electric cars more sense than solar for NZ – new study
Electric vehicles are far more useful to New Zealand for reducing carbon emissions than rooftop solar power, says a new study by energy industry consultants Concept. The Wellington-based consultancy contains some of the electricity industry’s most experienced analysts, who have published their findings in the first of three reports backed by Consumer New Zealand, the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, three major electricity retailers, and three electricity network owners.

Environment and Biodiversity

Climate change warnings for coral reef may have come to pass, scientists say
After almost two years of coral bleaching, with some reefs bleaching twice and possibly three times since 2014, scientists have said that dire predictions of global coral decline made almost two decades ago may now be manifest. The rolling underwater heatwave has now arrived upon the Great Barrier Reef, with mass die-offs expected along the northern quarter of the world’s preeminent coral ecosystem.

Startling images reveal devastating coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef
Startling images have emerged of devastating coral bleaching unfolding across parts of the Great Barrier Reef, as the marine park authority overseeing the environmental icon has raised its response to the highest level possible. The severe bleaching event has again prompted concern about the damage climate change is doing to the world heritage protected reef, one of Australia’s most important tourist sites, with scientists and green groups calling for Australia to lift its game in tackling global warming.

Sumatran rhino sighted in Indonesian Borneo for first time in 40 years
Conservationists have made the first physical contact in over four decades with a Sumatran rhino in Indonesian Borneo. The smallest of the three Asian rhino species, hairy rhino numbers have plummeted to fewer than 100 on Earth due to hunting and habitat loss, with the last wild populations in Kalimantan, Borneo, and the island of Sumatra.

Waikato and Waipa rivers fail first health test
NEW ZEALAND – The Waikato and Waipa rivers have failed their first comprehensive assessment, collectively scoring a C+ for their poor condition. The report card, carried out by Niwa, Diffuse Resources and the Waikato Raupatu River Trust, found the overall standard of the river catchment, which spans the Waikato River from Huka Falls to Te Puaha o Waikato and the Waipa River from its source to connection, is unhealthy.

Proposal to ban livestock from waterways
NEW ZEALAND – Farmers in Marlborough could be made to shut off dairy cattle and eventually beef cattle from waterways. The Government’s Next Steps for Freshwater consultation document proposed to bring in a national regulation that means stock cannot enter streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands.

Economy and Business

Can a business ever source responsibly from a war zone?
When Harpreet Kaur, senior south Asia researcher at the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, arrived in Sri Lanka four years ago, the country was just emerging from decades of brutal civil conflict. Her brief was to discover how businesses were responsibly managing their supply chains in such a fragile and insecure environment. Instead, she found chaos.

Nuclear waste storage plan based on optimistic assumptions, Australia Institute warns
A South Australian proposal to build a storage facility for nuclear waste is being based on very optimistic assumptions, an economic think-tank has warned. The Australia Institute, backed by funding from Conservation SA, analysed the waste storage proposal raised in the early findings of SA’s Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission.

How SBN members are making energy visible
NEW ZEALAND – Energy management has long been recognised as a first step on the sustainability journey, achieving cost savings as well as a positive impact on the environment. However, progress past ‘low hanging fruit’ is often limited. In particular a key challenge is lack of visibility, specifically where energy is being used and at what efficiency, and what the impact of intervention is. Three SBN members – Energy Solution Providers, Energy and Technical Services Ltd, and ZEN Energy Systems – are redefining how businesses, large and small, look at energy and overcoming the visibility challenge.

Manawatu sports clubrooms get environmental makeover
NEW ZEALAND – Some environmentally friendly changes to Manawatu sports clubrooms will save 390,000 litres of water each year and 35 tonnes of carbon emissions. LiteClub is an initiative to help community sport save money and be environmentally friendly. Teams travel the country, visit sports clubs and upgrade their clubrooms to improve electricity, water and waste efficiency.

Waste and the Circular Economy

What Apple’s reuse robot says about sustainability and tech
Somewhere in between the technicolor iWatches, cheaper iPhones and the revamped iPads, a relatively run-of-the-mill Apple i-device showcase Monday briefly veered into the company’s vision for high-tech sustainability. The showstopper was “Liam,” a robot capable of deconstructing used iPhones and removing component parts for reuse or recycling. Precious metals such as the silver present in the phone’s motherboard, for example, could be stripped and re-purposed for solar panels, said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives.

Rise Again – give your business’ waste a second life
NEW ZEALAND – New designs for the reuse of commercial waste will be created by five different teams as part of Rekindle’s new project Resource: Rise Again. So if you want to find reuse solutions for your business’ solid waste, Rekindle wants to hear from you! The project includes demonstrating the Harvest Map tool, an online mapping system aimed at reusing waste. Created by Superuse Studio, a long established architectural practice in Rotterdam that focuses on reuse, the Harvest Map plots producers’ wasted resources geographically so users can identify and upcycle items, ranging from wood to stone and textiles.

Politics and Society

Ed Miliband and George Monbiot in conversation – Guardian Live event  (Audio 1:32:13)
Are we failing to achieve a clear global consensus on how to tackle climate change? Former leader of the Labour party Ed Miliband, Guardian journalist George Monbiot and scientist Helen Czerski debate the implications of the historic Paris agreement

Green days: why outsider musicians are putting eco-consciousness on record
Last month, Anohni (formerly Antony and the Johnsons) became the first transgendered artist to be nominated for an Oscar – a benchmark moment organisers felt was important enough to warrant a mention on their trivia page, but not a live appearance: “I want to be clear — I know that I wasn’t excluded from the performance directly because I am transgendered,” said Anonhi in an open letter, entitled ‘Why I am not attending the Academy Awards’. “I was not invited to perform because I am relatively unknown in the US, singing a song about ecocide, and that might not sell advertising space.”

It’s not big data that discriminates – it’s the people that use it
Data can’t be racist or sexist, but the way it is used can help reinforce discrimination… If that data reflects unfair social biases against sensitive attributes, such as our race or gender, the conclusions drawn from that data might also be based on those biases. But this era of “big data” doesn’t need to to entrench inequality in this way. If we build smarter algorithms to analyse our information and ensure we’re aware of how discrimination and injustice may be at work, we can actually use big data to counter our human prejudices.

Drivers fatter than cyclists, walkers, public transport users
A study in The Lancet has provided evidence that people who cycle or walk to work have lower body fat percentage and body mass index in mid-life than those who drive. People who travelled by public transport also showed reductions in BMI and body fat compared with those who commuted only by car. The study looked at data from 150,000 people in the UK between 40 and 69, and is the largest to date to analyse the health benefits of active transport.

Consumers ‘Actively Seek’ Natural Ingredients, Clean Label Packaging
Products that can be positioned as ‘natural,’ ‘organic,’ and/or ‘free from additives/preservatives,’ are part of a movement that is here to stay, according to global ingredients solutions company Ingredion. Research commissioned by the company reveals that European customers are paying more attention to food packaging and ingredients, with a preference for clean label positioning – a short, simple ingredient list that features minimally processed ingredients.

Liebreich: Europe at a clean energy crossroads (Long Read)
When Winston Churchill said of the Balkans that they “produce more history than they can consume”, he could have been speaking of the whole of Europe. The world in 2016 is facing perilous times, and no region other than the Middle East looks more threatened than Europe – as the events unfolding in Brussels as I write this so tragically demonstrate.

Behind the lines: Governments feel the heat of community anger
As the world passed a momentous milestone in March – the average temperature in the northern hemisphere rising two degrees Celsius above “normal” for the first time in recorded history – people in Sydney took to the streets to fight against legislation that will hamper their right to protect their land, water, food supply and community. Two seemingly unrelated events, but in fact they are intrinsically linked. One is a sign of the rising wave of community dissent regarding the impact of government decisions and the other is the new context in which governments make these decisions.

Green power projects to falter under Turnbull government plan, critics say
The Turnbull government would be taking a “risky gamble” with the renewable energy sector by merging two key climate action bodies and forcing vulnerable new ventures to borrow funds rather than receive grants, green power advocates say. Guardian Australia has reported that the government intends to combine the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency – two bodies that provide financial support to emerging renewable technologies.
See also: More clean energy attacks from the Abbott/Turnbull government

New CSIRO document reveals scale of planned cuts to climate programs
AUSTRALIA – One of CSIRO’s main climate science units planned to slash four out of five researchers, all but eliminating its monitoring and climate modelling research, a new document reveals. The cuts are contained in an analysis for the Oceans & Atmosphere division, dated January 25, 2016. CSIRO handed over the document to the Senate committee investigating plans to slash 350 staff overall, and it has been made public on the Senate’s website.

‘Quite disgraceful’: NHMRC doles out $3.3m to study windfarm effects on health
Australia’s top medical research body has given two researchers $3.3 million to study the effects of wind farms on human health despite its own year-long study finding no “consistent evidence” that a problem exists.

Built Environment

C40: poor government collaboration hampering climate change action
The relationship between Sydney and other tiers of government is hampering the city’s ability to respond to the climate change challenge, a Sydney briefing from the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group has heard. Speaking to an audience at Sydney Town Hall on Monday, C40 executive director Mark Watts said collaboration was needed between all levels of government to effectively tackle climate change. Mr Watts joined Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore and Greater Sydney Commission environmental commissioner Rod Simpson to talk about how cities were placed to tackle climate change post-COP 21.

Food Systems

Going veggie would cut global food emissions by two thirds and save millions of lives – new study
Eating more fruit and vegetables and cutting back on red and processed meat will make you healthier. That’s obvious enough. But as chickens and cows themselves eat food and burn off their own energy, meat is a also major driver of climate change. Going veggie can drastically reduce your carbon footprint. This is all at a personal level. What about when you multiply such changes by 7 billion people, and factor in a growing population?

Healthy Diet May Reduce Gas; Greenhouse Gas, That Is
The less meat people consume and the healthier their diet becomes, the more the climate benefits, Oxford University scientists said in a study published Monday. If people in developed countries such as the U.S. were to eat less red meat and move steadily toward a vegetarian or vegan diet, they could live longer while helping to slash greenhouse gas emissions from food production by between 29 and 70 percent by 2050, according to the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

To reduce greenhouse gases from cows and sheep, we need to look at the big picture
Our study, published in Nature Climate Change, reveals that the global livestock sector can maintain the economic and social benefits it delivers while significantly reducing emissions. In doing so it will help meet the global mitigation challenge.

Veggie is the most low-carbon diet, right? Well, it depends where you live
It is often claimed that a vegetarian diet is better for the environment, because grazing animals such as cattle and sheep produce a lot of methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. The areas needed for livestock grazing can also be much larger than those used for crops to produce an equivalent amount of food, so more land is cleared for meat than crops, which causes more carbon to be lost from the landscape. But wait. As is often the case with complex environmental cycles, particularly those altered by human activities, this is only part of the story.

Video cameras on trawlers to provide greater monitoring of snapper catch
All fishing trawlers in New Zealand will be fitted with monitoring technology to improve the integrity of the industry, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says. Guy announced on Tuesday that all 15 trawlers fishing for snapper every day off the east coast of the upper North Island have been fitted with cameras that monitor the vessels movements and catch.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.