Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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Energy and Climate Change

UN supports Australian efforts to map a path to low carbon prosperity
The United Nations is lending a hand to the Australian sustainability effort, with ClimateWorks and the Australian National University having been appointed to lead the Deep Decarbonisation Pathways project for the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

Rio Tinto to deploy 6.7MW solar PV + storage at off-grid mine
Mining giant Rio Tinto is to host a $23.4 million solar PV plus storage facility at its Weipa bauxite mine, that is the first of its type and scale in the world and could unleash billions of dollars of similar investment.  Rio Tinto Alcan – with the help of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency – is to install a 1.7MW solar PV array at its Weipa bauxite mine later this year, and then add a further 5MW of solar PV and battery storage.  The Weipa mine (pictured) is located on the Cape York Peninsula at the very northern tip of eastern Australia, and relies on expensive diesel that has to be shipped in.


Record rains made Australia a giant green global carbon sink
Record-breaking rains triggered so much new growth across Australia that the continent turned into a giant green carbon sink to rival tropical rainforests including the Amazon, our new research shows.  Published in the international journal Nature, our study found that vegetation worldwide soaked up 4.1 billion tons of carbon in 2011 – the equivalent of more than 40% of emissions from burning fossil fuels that year.  Unexpectedly, the largest carbon uptake occurred in the semi-arid landscapes of Australia, Southern Africa and South America.

Warm May makes plants think it’s spring
Record late-autumn warmth is sending plant growth into spring-like behaviour, affecting fruit growers and city gardeners alike.  Rather than shutting down as winter approaches, many plants are flowering out of season or extending growth much later than usual, said Brett Summerell, deputy executive director of Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens.

The $40 million Reef Trust is a good start, but it could be better
In the midst of harsh cuts to Great Barrier Reef management and research, including cuts to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Australian Institute of Marine Science, the Department of Environment has proposed a new A$40 million Reef Trust.  While the Reef Trust will not compensate the loss of programs, it is a step in the right direction. But it still needs work on its structure and focus. The government released a discussion paper on the trust, which is open for comment until today.

Top 10 New Animal Species of 2014
Forty years ago, Ringerl the olinguito had a problem: Her human matchmakers kept setting her up on bad dates. How bad? They weren’t even males of her own species.  That indignity was belatedly righted last year when her species—a raccoon relative unique to the cloud forests of Colombia and Ecuador—was properly identified at last as Bassaricyon neblina: the first new carnivorous mammal species described in the Western Hemisphere in 35 years.  The realization also earned olinguitos a spot on the 2014 Top 10 New Species list, published today by the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry’s International Institute for Species Exploration.

Economy and Business

Business needs to focus on the long-term to restore faith in capitalism
The business sector needs to look past the bottom line and consider the long term in order to solve society’s problems and restore faith in capitalism, according to Lynn Forester de Rothschild, chief executive of EL Rothschild and founder of the Conference on Inclusive Capitalism 2014.  She argues that capitalism has guided the world economy to “unprecedented prosperity” but that faith in the economic system has rarely been lower. In order to tackle the issue, business needs to look further than the next quarter and their profits.

Campher Offers Unique Insights, Approaches to ‘Creating a Sustainable Brand’
Edelman’s brandshare study found that 90 percent of consumers around the world want to buy, use, recommend and support brands that share their values. However, only 10 percent of consumers think that brands actually share their values. That means 80 percent of consumers do not believe that brands meet their demand for responsible products and services.

Electric car firm Tesla becomes California’s leading auto-employer
Tesla has become California’s leading employer in the automotive industry. The firm now employs 6,000 people in the state, overtaking the world’s largest automaker Toyota which is preparing to move some of its workforce to Texas.

Chevron Plant to Turn Fat, Oils and Grease into Energy, Save $27M
Chevron Energy Solutions has announced it will design and build a waste-to-energy plant at Broward County, Fla.’s wastewater treatment facility.  The project will generate electricity from fats, oils and grease and is expected to generate almost 2 megawatts (MW) of power, reduce electricity usage by over 30 percent and save the county nearly $27 million in its first 17 years of operation.

Politics and Society

Three Magic Words to Defeat ‘Sustainababble’
As more people use the term “sustainability” without a precise understanding of its underlying meaning, the significance of the word may, if unchecked, be diluted until it means nothing.  Recently, the webcomic XKCD depicted a graph of the use of the word “sustainable” between 1980 and the present, then projected its use through 2109 — at which point “all sentences are just the word ‘sustainable’ repeated over and over.” The caption reads, “The word ‘sustainable’ is unsustainable.”

Obama’s EPA prepares climate rule for existing power plants to curb emissions
With less than two weeks to go, the Environmental Protection Agency is readying a climate rule for existing power plants that requires steep carbon reductions while allowing states and companies broad flexibility in how they limit their overall greenhouse gas emissions.  While key aspects of the proposal are still under discussion, according to several individuals briefed on the matter, the measure will spur regional carbon trading regimes on the East and West coasts and is likely to spur a legal challenge from some utilities. As currently drafted, the rule would cut greenhouse gas emissions from the utility sector by 25 per cent, individuals said, but the baseline for that reduction has not been finalised.

Cooperation, traditional and new, critical to sustainable development, UN officials stress (Featuring Aunty Helen)
United Nations officials today highlighted the importance of both traditional and new forms of cooperation, as well as building broad partnerships, to shaping a future development agenda that is both sustainable and leads to prosperity for millions around the world.  “The absolute size of the emerging economies and their populations and the interconnectedness of global challenges, such as climate change, suggest that the full engagement of both the North and the South is needed to pursue new development pathways which are sustainable and inclusive,” said Helen Clark, Administrator of the UN Development Programme

Waste Reduction

Recycling fund from Walmart, P&G and others passes the buck on responsibility
Walmart and eight of its largest suppliers won big kudos when they announced the creation of their Closed Loop Recycling Fund two weeks ago.   AG Lafley, CEO at P&G, said the initiative was “good for consumers, and good for the environment” while PepsiCo’s CEO, Indra Nooyi called the fund a “novel approach” to the problem of low recycling rates.   One headline even described the fund announcement as “groundbreaking”.


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