Sustainable Development News

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

Paris 2015: Scientist Tim Flannery feels positive ahead of the UN’s climate talks
Tim Flannery wants you to imagine you’re living in 1915. “It’s a world of empires that have lasted for centuries, cavalry charges are still used in battle, the tank hasn’t been invented yet.” The Australian scientist and author goes on. “By 1950 we’re living in a world of nuclear weapons, jet aircraft and half of the global population is pretty much living under communism – in just 35 years.” It’s a thought experiment the chair of the Climate Council uses to point out how “genuinely unimaginable” the year 2050 is for us now. But with the right global approach, Professor Flannery says, it’s a date by which the world could be drawing down around one part per million of atmospheric carbon per year – “a huge outcome that will really start setting us on a trajectory for healing the planet”.

Energy and Climate Change

Climate leaders should work with oil companies to put a price on carbon
As Pope Francis visits the US, and the UN Summit on Sustainable Development and Climate Week kick off in New York City this week, government leaders, businesses, activists and global citizens will be discussing new ideas to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Here’s one: take up the European oil industry on their surprising, and so far largely ignored, offer to pay for the carbon their products create. In June, six large European oil companies – BP, Shell, Statoil, Total, BG and Eni – called for an international price on carbon. Citing a desire to reduce business uncertainty, the companies asked world governments, and December’s UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris, for country-by-country carbon prices and a framework to link them into a global system.

UK risks missing its carbon targets, climate advisers warn
The UK risks missing its carbon targets and harming investment because of a string of recent cuts to green measures, ministers have been warned by the government’s statutory climate advisers. Lord Deben, the chairman of the committee on climate change and a former Conservative environment, has written a strongly-worded letter to energy secretary Amber Rudd to tell her that the government was creating confusion among potential investors in the low carbon economy.

Al Gore puzzled by UK cuts to renewable energy support
The former vice president of the US, Al Gore, has called on the British government to resume its former leadership on climate change, in order to forge a global agreement on greenhouse gas emissions this December at a crunch conference in Paris. While saying he would not interfere in other countries’ politics, Gore said he was “puzzled” by the Conservative government’s measures to roll back support for renewable energy…  “Will our children ask, why didn’t you act? Or [will they] ask, how did you find the moral courage to rise up and change?” he demanded of a business audience at a climate change debate in London on Tuesday.

Climate Week: B Team Reminding Business, World Leaders of Undeniable #BusinessCase for Net Zero
Today The B Team, comprised of leaders of some of the world’s largest companies, is calling on governments and businesses alike to aim for net-zero greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050 or before, building upon their February 2015 call to world leaders. A ‘Net-Zero by 2050’ aspiration being adopted by leading companies demonstrates the importance of bold long-term targets, and reinforces what the Leaders of The B Team are asking for from world leaders in the political process at COP21 in Paris.

UN seeks carbon offset market boost with new “Climate Neutral Now” initiative
The UN is today calling on businesses and individuals to reduce and offset their carbon footprints through a new international initiative dubbed Climate Neutral Now. The programme, which is being launched as part of New York Climate Week, calls on individuals, governments and businesses to measure their carbon emissions, reduce their carbon footprint, and then offset their outstanding emissions by purchasing UN-certified carbon credits. Under the programme, the UN is to provide a new online portal designed to make it easier for organisations and individuals to measure their carbon footprint and source certified emission reduction (CER) credits, which are issued through the UN-approved Clean Development Mechanism offset scheme.

Compact of States and Regions: Save more emissions than the U.S. produces
Twenty regional, provincial and state governments from around the globe committed to reduce their carbon emissions within 15 years by 7.9 gigatons — an amount similar to the total yearly emissions from the United States. Calling themselves collectively the Compact of States and Regions, the group — which includes California, New York, Oregon and Washington states in the U.S; Catalonia, Spain; Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in Brazil; Wales; Scotland; Lombardy, Italy; and others in Canada, Mexico, Germany, France and Australia — has a combined population of 220 million and accounts for $8.3 trillion in gross domestic product, or roughly 10 percent of the global economy. Currently it emits about 1.8 gigatons of carbon a year.

Fossil Fuel Divestment

Global divestment push delivers pledges totalling $2.6tr
The scale of the recent success enjoyed by the global divestment movement was today underlined with the publication of new figures showing fossil fuel divestment pledges have now exceeded $2.6tr globally. The announcement, which was made at the launch of New York Climate Week, came as actor Leonardo DiCaprio became the latest high profile figure to announce he is to divest his multi-million dollar fortune from fossil fuels.

Environment and Biodiversity

14 Moving Pictures of Rhinos in Crisis
This Tuesday is World Rhino Day. Founded in 2010 by WWF-South Africa, the day has grown into an “international success,” with events worldwide bringing attention the plight of the rare animals, according to its website. All five species of rhinos are threatened by poaching, and three of them are critically endangered. A black market, especially in Vietnam, for rhino horn, valued for supposed healing properties and as a symbol of status, has fueled the killing of rhinos for years.

Sumatran rhinos likely to become extinct, conservationists warn
Earth’s last remaining Sumatran rhinos are edging perilously close to extinction, according to one of the world’s top conservation bodies.  There are fewer than 100 of the animals left in the rainforests of the Indonesian island of Sumatra and the Kalimantan province of Borneo. The last Sumatran rhino (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) in Malaysia was spotted two years ago in the Sabah region of Borneo but experts last month declared the species extinct in that country.

After 60 million years of extreme living, seabirds are crashing
Every day for sixty million years, seabirds have performed mind-boggling acts of derring-do: circumnavigating the globe without rest, diving more than 200 meters in treacherous seas for a bite of lunch, braving the most unpredictable weather on the planet as if it were just another Tuesday and finding their way home in waters with few, if any, landmarks.  But now seabirds, like so many other species, may have met their match.  Conservationists have long known that many seabird populations are in decline, but a recent paper in PLOS ONE finds the situation worse than anticipated. According to the researchers, seabird abundance has dropped 69.7% in just 60 years – representing the deaths of some 230 million animals.

Economy and Business

Aiming Higher: 5 Deeper Issues Missing from the Climate Week Conversation
While I fully support Climate Week NYC’s intentions and would love to see it thrive as the largest and most impactful gathering on this topic to date, I also think it’s important for all of us to put its highlights in context and understand how best to link this week’s momentum to the future world we collectively would like to bring about. In the midst of all kinds of new commitments and partnerships discussed this week, respective leaders would do well to remember to not lose sight of the necessary end game: moving the whole system across an ultimate finish line, so to speak, and arriving at a truly sustainable economy.

5 Types of Sustainability Marketing Tactics Corporate Execs Need to Understand, and Utilize, Better
Sustainability marketing is a strange and special animal. To be effective, it needs to popularize the work of sustainability teams, which tends to be based on rigorous systems thinking, carefully and scientifically considering the whole picture before suggesting ways to improve it. And of course, sustainability marketing also needs to be as sexy and appealing as successful mainstream marketing. Striking that kind of balance is not easy, and there certainly has been significant progress over the last few years. At the same time, there still are some important sustainability marketing tactics that are not understood and adopted well enough.

Volkswagen emissions scandal hits share price, puts ‘clean diesel’ in doubt
Shares in German auto giant Volkswagen have suffered their biggest one-day fall, after plunging 20 per cent on the news that the car maker had been caught out fudging its emissions data in the US market. News emerged in the US over the weekend that hundreds of thousands of VW diesel cars had been found to have software installed that was specially programmed to skirt American air-pollution controls. That is, VW installed software in 482,000 cars exported to the US that turns off emissions controls when driving normally, but automatically turns them on again when it detects the car is undergoing an emissions test.


P&G Promises 15 Billion Liters of Clean Water, 30% Fewer Emissions by 2020
Last week, Procter & Gamble (P&G) announced two new 2020 goals: delivering 15 billion liters of clean drinking water through its Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program (CSDW) and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from its facilities by 30 percent. P&G says the CSDW program has already delivered over nine billion liters of clean water to reduce illness caused by contaminated water and help save lives in developing countries since it was established in 2004. To deliver 6 billion liters more by 2020, P&G will launch more than 25 new projects.

NSW Riverina shire installs 416kW solar across 14 council sites
AUSTRALIA – The Shire of Corowa in New South Wales’ Riverina region is now powering a majority of its local government buildings and facilities with more than 700,000kWh a year of solar power, after successfully installing 416kW of solar PV across 14 council sites.

Victoria secures solar manufacturing deal with China
AUSTRALIA – The jobs potential of the clean economy has been put on full display with the announcement that Victorian technology company RayGen Resources has struck a manufacturing deal with Chinese company JuYe solar, in a move predicted to create 200 jobs for Victoria and see Australian technology penetrate the Chinese market.

Hubbards: Community investment a pillar of good business
Since being established in 1988 community investment has been key to Hubbards’ business strategy. Founder Dick Hubbard started the company to create a better, more positive community through nutritious foods and investing in his employees and their families.  Rebecca Bergs, Marketing Manager at Hubbards, says that establishing the business in South Auckland 27 years ago was part of Dick Hubbard recognising and understanding the benefit he could bring to the low socio-economic area.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Foodstuffs trials recyclable plastic meat trays
NEW ZEALAND – Shoppers hate foam meat trays, so a supermarket chain is waiting to see whether its “ground-breaking” recyclable plastic option hits a sustainability sweet-spot. Foodstuffs co-operative group recently started trialling an alternative to polystyrene meat trays in 19 of its stores. Some of the trays in its New World and Pak ‘n’ Save stores can now be put into kerbside recycling.

Is it time to ban polystyrene?
AUSTRALIA – [As] of 1 July 2015, a ban on single-use polystyrene foam food and beverage containers (take away containers, food trays, cups, bowls, plates and loose fill packaging nuts) came into effect in New York City. The City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio even declared that the material cannot be fully recycled with current infrastructure. Over 100 municipalities in 12 states including New York and California have now banned polystyrene foam with another seven municipalities considering it. So what does this mean for us? Should we continue to use polystyrene foam and focus on improved recycling, or make a clean break by banning it?

Overwhelming response to mattress drop off in Cessnock
AUSTRALIA – Cessnock Council says the response to a free mattress drop off has been overwhelming, with more than 1,100 set to be recycled. It is designed to reduce the illegal dumping of mattresses, which has been an ongoing problem in the region. Council’s manager of environment and waste Michael Alexander said it was the first event of its kind in the Cessnock local government area.

Politics and Society

Forget your dreams and follow the money if you want to help the world
Young people trying to decide what to do with their lives are often told to follow their passion. Wrong, says William MacAskill, the co-founder of career-advice website 80,000 Hours and author of Doing Good Better: How Effective Altruism Can Help You Make a Difference. In the book, MacAskill writes: “Taken literally, the idea of following your passion is terrible advice.”… Young people “should really be thinking about learning skills, building networks, building up credentials, learning about what the most important problems in the world are and how to fix them,” says MacAskill. Those opportunities are more likely to present themselves in the business world, which has more resources to devote to training.

Pope works to reconcile Catholic teaching, population pressures and sustainable development
On his first visit to the United States, as well as addressing a joint session of Congress, Pope Francis will speak at the United Nations General Assembly on September 25. There he will highlight concerns in his encyclical, Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, especially the issues of poverty, equity, sustainability, social inclusion and peace… Francis is very strategic in his thinking and has written his encyclical with two major events in mind. The first is the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which 193 countries will endorse at the UN General Assembly. The second event is the second session of the Synod of Bishops discussing family matters in Rome from October 4-25.

Fossil fuel companies face world-first human rights complaint
Chevron, BP and Shell are among 50 oil companies who face an investigation from the Phillipine courts, after accusations that they have fuelled ‘catastrophic climate change resulting in human rights violations’.  A complaint has been submitted to the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR), by Greenpeace Southeast Asia, demanding an investigation into the top 50 investor-owned companies which release the most CO2 emissions annually.

LA Police Department could soon use Tesla pursuit vehicles
The Los Angeles Police Department could be carrying out its high-speed chases in electric vehicles, including the high performance Tesla. As part of a broader climate initiative, the LAPD was given a $160,000 Tesla Model S P85D last week to poke and prod — and possibly turn into one of the force’s police pursuit vehicles.

Built Environment

Q&A with director of Ever The Land: film doco about NZ’s first Living Building
Ever The Land is a documentary of Tūhoe undertaking the Living Building Challenge, a challenge to create a first-of-its-kind building in New Zealand that lives and breathes in its environment.  Directed by Sarah Grohnert, formally of Monsoon Pictures International and Zeitgeist Ltd, the film captures Tūhoe’s move towards sustainable architecture, the challenges they faced and what they were able to give back to the land. The observational documentary has been filmed right in the heart of Te Urewera and captures the bond between a people and their land and the journey to reclaim that land and build a community centre using radically sustainable methods.

Food Systems

Ikea shows off its new ethical stance … on seafood
First it was veggie meatballs, then it was energy-saving lights bulbs and now it is seafood. Ikea has been keen this year to prove its willingness to nudge its customers’ buying habits in a different direction. From this week all 23 varieties of seafood, including Atlantic cod, salmon and shrimp, on sale in the Swedish furniture chain’s restaurants, bistros and food markets across 47 countries will be from certified sources. In some markets, such as Turkey, Thailand and the Middle East, this will be the first time certified seafood has been put on sale.

Fonterra wants farmers to cut back on palm kernels
NEW ZEALAND – Fonterra is trying to persuade farmers to use fewer palm kernel supplements because it says milk from grass-fed cows fetches a premium on world markets. The dairy giant is recommending farmers feed a maximum of 3 kilograms of palm kernels per cow per day. The advice has been greeted warily by former Federated Farmers Waikato dairy spokesman Craig Littin. “Farmers would like to see evidence for a premium. If that’s what markets are demanding, then fine. If not, they should leave farmers to farm and them [processors] to process,” Littin said. At $200-$230 a tonne, palm kernel was the cheapest imported feed, he said.
[Ed: Noting purely economic reasons cited, no consideration of sourcing nor mention of rainforests.]


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