Sustainable Development News

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

Here’s how impact investing can change the world | World Economic Forum
More and more businesses are taking an enlightened view of their role in society. A simple idea — that you can do well by doing good — has created exciting new business opportunities and inspired investors to rethink where they put their money. Impact investing – which consists of private equity and some specialty bonds such as green bonds — has traditionally been the domain of the development institutions and specialist funds. But it is growing rapidly as investors look for ways to generate benefits for society alongside financial returns. The impact market expanded fivefold between 2013 and 2017, reaching $228 billion globally last year. That’s impressive growth. Yet impact investing can potentially grow much larger, with dramatic implications for the world’s development agenda.

Climate Change

Only 6 G20 Countries Have Official Long-term Plans for Reducing Emissions. Here are 4 Reasons They Need Them | World Resources Institute
While G20 countries are responsible for about 75 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, only six of them have communicated official plans for how they’re going to reduce their emissions between now and 2050. The Paris Agreement invites countries to release their “long-term, low-greenhouse-gas-emissions development strategies” by 2020. These “long-term strategies” will be a topic of discussion at next month’s G20 Summit in Buenos Aires.

Trump thinks scientists are split on climate change. So do most Americans | Dana Nuccitelli | The Guardian
When queried about the most recent IPCC report, Republican lawmakers delivered a consistent, false message – that climate scientists are still debating whether humans are responsible. The previous IPCC report was quite clear on this, attributing 100% of the global warming since 1950 to human activities. As Nasa atmospheric scientist Kate Marvel recently put it, “We are more sure that greenhouse gas is causing climate change than we are that smoking causes cancer.”

[Ed: Includes an excellent video explainer on the 97% scientific consensus by John Cook (Video 4:19)]

Environment and Biodiversity

Coral bleaching changed ‘rules of engagement’ for feisty butterflyfish | SMH
Mass coral bleaching not only battered reefs but also altered the behaviour of species such as butterflyfish, a finding that identifies an early signal that fish populations are in trouble, researchers say. A study across 17 reefs spanning the Indo-Pacific region examined 5259 encounters involving 38 butterflyfish species before and after a severe global bleaching event in 2015-2016.

Butterflyfish lost their favourite source of food during mass coral bleachings in 2015-16, with subsequent important changes of behaviour. Credit:ARC CoE Coral Reef Studies

Butterflyfish lost their favourite source of food during mass coral bleachings in 2015-16, with subsequent important changes of behaviour. Credit:ARC CoE Coral Reef Studies


Government ditches $10m promotion blitz amid Great Barrier Reef furore | SMH
AUSTRALIA – The Morrison government has abandoned plans for a $10 million campaign promoting the Great Barrier Reef’s promising future, after a public backlash over its failure to address climate change and protect the natural wonder. An eminent reef scientist has also slammed as “not scientifically credible” claims by a charity gifted $444 million for reef conservation efforts that it will “climate-proof” the tourism icon.

Benny the beluga whale forces River Thames fireworks event to be postponed | ABC News
UK – A major fireworks display on the banks of the River Thames has been postponed so as to avoid disturbing a whale who has taken up residence in the river. Around 15,000 people were expected to attend the annual bonfire night celebrations in Kent on November 2, however Benny the beluga’s presence in the Thames has forced the event to be rescheduled. Council officials announced the decision after being advised that disturbing the whale would breach wildlife law.

Flashback to first funded Waikato River clean-up projects |
NEW ZEALAND – Eight years ago, 50 years’ worth of shopping trollies and cars rusted on the Waikato River bed. And streams leading into the mouth of the river were too choked up by willow and dead plants to have a current. But 288 clean-up projects and $44 million later, the future of New Zealand’s longest river doesn’t look quite so bleak.

Police National Dive Squad work to reteive car bodies from the Waikato River near Aratiatia in one of the first projects funded by the Waikato River Authority.

Police National Dive Squad work to reteive car bodies from the Waikato River near Aratiatia in one of the first projects funded by the Waikato River Authority.

Economy and Business

OECD: Global resource use set to double by 2060 | Business Green
The scale of the global decarbonisation challenge was hammered home once again today, as a major new report from the OECD warned resource use is set to double by 2060 leading to a significant increase in environmental impacts. The new report from the influential think tank – entitled Global Material Resources Outlook to 2060: Economic Drivers and Environmental Consequences – assesses the environmental impacts of the extraction and processing of biomass, fossil fuels, metals and non-metallic minerals in developing and industrialised countries through to 2060.

Climate fund approves $1B for projects in poor countries | AP News
A U.N.-backed fund has approved more than $1 billion for 19 new projects to help developing countries tackle climate change, officials said Sunday. During a four-day meeting in Bahrain that ended late Saturday, officials overseeing the Green Climate Fund also agreed to start seeking fresh money next year as its initial capital of about $6.6 billion will soon be used up.

See also: US-China trade war spills into Green Climate Fund | Climate Home News

Report: North of England poised for green jobs boom | Business Green
UK – The North of England is set to enjoy a boom in the number of green jobs over the next 12 years, thanks to the growth of low-carbon industries such as offshore wind energy. According to a new report from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), some 46,000 new green jobs could be created in the region by 2030. Traditionally the centre of energy production for England, the North is suffering from the closure of coal mines and coal-fired power stations as the UK’s energy system switches to greener fuels. IPPR predicts 28,000 workers in the North’s fossil fuel sector will lose their jobs by 2030 as a result.

Related: Migrants building £2.6bn windfarm paid fraction of minimum wage | The Guardian

Waste and the Circular Economy

FareShare’s surplus food redistribution saves UK £51m a year | The Guardian
UK – The collection and redistribution of edible food by the UK’s largest charity tackling hunger – and that would otherwise go to waste – saves the UK economy some £51m every year, according to an independent report published on Monday. If FareShare and other charities in the sector were able to scale up their capacity in order to handle half of the surplus food available in the UK supply chain, the value back to the state could be as much as £500m per year, it claims.

UK Government announces plan to ban plastic straws | Climate Action
UK – The UK Government has announced plans to ban plastic straws, cotton-buds and stirrers. The ban would be put in place between October 2019 and October 2020 and intends to introduce a ban on the distribution of sales. The plan is subject to a consultation launched by Environmental Secretary Michael Gove.

How Western Australia’s new waste to energy plant will work | The Fifth Estate
AUSTRALIA – Waste to energy plants have been greeted with great scepticism and knocked back in some areas, but what if they can produce “green cement” and what if the fumes can be drastically reduced? Sure they still need to be a last resort for waste as part of a transition to a circular economy but for one academic, Macquarie Capital, Phoenix Energy, the CEFC and ARENA a new plant in Perth looks like a good option.

Politics and Society

Commission president hopeful calls for EU net-zero carbon by 2045 | Climate Home News
Should he be picked for the European Commission’s top job, Alex Stubb vows to “work towards a carbon neutral Europe by 2045”. “The EU must put decarbonisation at the heart of its programme,” according to a set of proposals Stubb released on Tuesday as part of his campaign to become European Commission president. “The Paris Agreement was a good start, but we need to be more ambitious.”

NZ refugee offer reconsidered as 11 children taken off Nauru | RNZ News
AUSTRALIA – Australian Border Force officials have revealed 11 children were transferred off Nauru today for medical attention, with another 52 minors remaining on the Pacific island. Officials have amended the figure to 11 after initially saying it was 16. The update comes as the federal Greens float a compromise agreement that could allow families to resettle in New Zealand with their families. The Federal Government has indicated it may accept New Zealand’s offer to take up to 150 refugees, but only if legislation passes Parliament ensuring people sent to offshore detention can never travel to Australia.

Constant anxiety of benefit sanctions is toxic for mental health of disabled people | The Conversation
UK – As the UK government continues to roll out its flagship new benefit system, Universal Credit, it has been beset with difficulties and delays. Now, documents leaked to the BBC show that its full rollout is not expected to be complete until 2023. But one of the central elements of the way Universal Credit and its predecessors work – conditionality – has been shown by our new research to have a detrimental effect on the health of recipients, and to even push them further away from work.


Australia invests in hydrogen project for clean energy | Climate Action
AUSTRALIA – The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced funding to produce renewable hydrogen from wind and solar power. On behalf of the Government, ARENA has invested $7.5 million in funding for Jemena to build a demonstration electrolyser at its facility in Sydney. Project H2GO will connect to Jemena’s existing gas network which delivers gas to 1.3 million people in New South Wales. The trial will ensure that homes and businesses in Australia will run on clean green energy. Hydrogen can be safely added to the natural gas mains at concentrations of up to 10 per cent without affecting pipelines, applications or regulations.

Built Environment

Norwegian Air optimisted flight technology aims to cut CO2 by 16,000 tonnes | Business Green
Norwegian Air is looking to roll out new fuel consumption-cutting technology across its fleet that helps pilots optimise routes for changing weather conditions in real time. The new technology, Aventus Air weather service, is designed to provide Norwegian Air pilots with highly accurate wind and temperature information in accordance with their flight plan, the airline explained.

Food Systems

Helping farmers in distress doesn’t help them be the best: the drought relief dilemma | The Conversation
Two years ago we were celebrating just about the best year for farmers ever. Now many farmers – particularly in New South Wales and southern Queensland – are in the grip of drought. It underlines just how variable the Australian climate can be. While attention is focused on responding to the current situation, it is important to also think long-term. In our rush to help, we need to make sure well-meaning responses don’t do more harm than good.

Blood type, Pioppi, gluten-free and Mediterranean – which popular diets are fads? | The Conversation
Each year, new weight loss diets appear that promise to reveal the ultimate secret of success – if only you buy the book, pills or potions. Fad diets might achieve short-term results but they are difficult to sustain in the long term. They often eliminate entire food groups, which means they’re unlikely to provide adequate amounts of key nutrients that are essential for our health and well-being. Fad diets and rapid weight loss can also increase the risk of serious health problems such as gall bladder disease and gallstones.