Sustainable Development News

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

Pesticide manufacturers’ own tests reveal serious harm to honeybees
Unpublished field trials by pesticide manufacturers show their products cause serious harm to honeybees at high levels, leading to calls from senior scientists for the companies to end the secrecy which cloaks much of their research. The research, conducted by Syngenta and Bayer on their neonicotinoid insecticides, were submitted to the US Environmental Protection Agency and obtained by Greenpeace after a freedom of information request.

Energy and Climate Change

Paris climate goal will be ‘difficult if not impossible to hit’
The global target to prevent climate catastrophe, crafted at a landmark summit last year in Paris, will be very difficult if not impossible to hit, said some of world’s top scientists meeting this week in Oxford. The first-ever climate pact to enjoin all nations vows to cap global warming at “well below” 2C compared to pre-Industrial Revolution levels – and under 1.5 C if possible.  “Currently we only have a few scenarios that get us there, and they are outliers,” said Valerie Masson-Delmotte, a climate scientist at Institut Pierre-Simon Laplace in Paris, said of the more ambitious goal.

Galilee basin coal must be left in ground as a ‘priority’ – new report
Miners seeking the green light to dig up Queensland’s Galilee basin should be stopped as a priority, according to a new report showing existing fossil fuels projects worldwide are enough to push global warming beyond 2C.

100 countries push to phase out potentially disastrous greenhouse gas
A loose coalition of more than 100 countries, including the US and European nations, is pushing for an early phase-out of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a powerful greenhouse gas that if left unchecked is set to add a potentially disastrous 0.5C to global temperatures by the end of the century. At a meeting in New York on Thursday, world leaders called for an “ambitious phase-down schedule” for HFCs, which are commonly used in refrigerators and air conditioning systems, and pledged adaptation money for developing nations where HFC use is rapidly increasing.

AEMC says no on rewarding local energy sharing, and industry is dismayed
AUSTRALIA – The case for generating energy locally and sharing it with neighbours has been dealt a huge blow after the Australian Energy Market Commission today ruled against a proposal to incentivise the practice put forward by the Property Council, City of Sydney and Total Environment Centre…. Consultation is now open on the draft determination until 3 November.

Environment ministry to allow hydropower projects in Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone
INDIA – The environment ministry has agreed to “consider” the requests of Uttarakhand government and permit 10 hydroelectric power projects (HEPs) of a total capacity of 82.3 MW in the area notified as the Bhagirathi eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) in the Hill State’s Uttarkashi region.

Environment and Biodiversity

Breathtaking photos from the International Space Station remind us of our common home
During the 50 years we have been able take photos of Earth from space, we have become somewhat blase about the little blue planet on which we live. However, a new series of photos released by the International Space Station and the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration remind us just how beautiful our home really is.

Soil carbon storage not the climate change fix it was thought, research finds
Hopes that large amounts of planet-warming carbon dioxide could be buried in soils appear to be grossly misplaced, with new research finding that the ground will soak up far less carbon over the coming century than previously thought.
See also: The Earth is soaking up less carbon than we thought — which could make it warm up even faster

The Great Barrier Reef’s ‘new normal’ is a forlorn sight
Images of this year’s coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef shocked the world. Some tour operators expressed concern that the extensive and sometimes simplistic media coverage would hurt their businesses… Evidence of bleaching was found on 93% of the more than 900 individual reefs surveyed that month, with the most severe impacts on the most pristine and isolated reefs of the far north. A preliminary estimate is that 22% of coral has now died, with 85% of these deaths occurring between Cape York and just north of Lizard Island.

Prince William: African elephants could be gone from the wild by the time Charlotte turns 25
Prince William says he fears the African elephant will have disappeared from the wild due to poaching by the time Princess Charlotte turns 25. The prince told the audience of campaigners and policymakers at Time For Change – an event organised by the conservation charity Tusk, of which he is a patron – that he was “not prepared to be part of a generation that lets these iconic species disappear from the wild”. In a sometimes passionate speech ahead of a global meeting on wildlife protection, he said personal greed was at the root of a crisis that threatened to impoverish everyone.
Related: Conservationists and MPs call for a total UK ban on ivory sales

China considers a huge national park for Amur tigers and leopards
Endangered Amur tigers and Amur leopards are staging a modest recovery in China’s remote northeastern provinces. Thirty tigers and some 42 leopards now roam the region’s forests. The big cats’ habitat remains threatened by human encroachment and experts say the amount of forest currently protected is insufficient to support their growing populations. The government of Jilin Province, where most of the big cats live, has proposed a massive new national park focused on the two species that would connect three existing protected areas.

Superbugs evolve in waste water, and could end up in our food
We are heading into a post-antibiotic era, where common infections could once again be deadly. A phenomenon known as antimicrobial resistance threatens the heart of modern medicine… This is why global leaders gathered at the United Nations General Assembly this week to discuss the problem, and accepted an action plan to address it. To date, the only other health topics discussed at this level are HIV, non-communicable diseases and Ebola.
See also: How do antibiotic-resistant bacteria get into the environment?

Economy and Business

Carney backs green finance to cut emissions and boost growth
The Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, has thrown his weight behind the fledgling market in green investments to help cut carbon emissions and boost global economic growth. Carney used a speech in Berlin on Thursday to highlight green finance as an opportunity to boost financial stability while also tackling climate change.

Apps and maps: 6 ways companies can cut their water footprints
Food, clothing, electrical goods, energy – everything we consume has a hidden water footprint. So how can businesses cut water consumption and reduce the footprints of their products? We brought together six experts to debate the question. Here’s what we learned.

Electricity industry sparks with disruptive change
Electric power today is not your grandmother’s electricity.  Although many electric utilities have been around 50 to 100 years and few utilities’ business models have changed much in that time, disruptive change is here — and accelerating. “We are sitting on the cusp of major transformation,” said Maryrose Sylvester, president and CEO of Current, by GE, speaking at VERGE 16. As a spinoff of a 124-year-old energy equipment company, Current’s very existence speaks to the change underway: It is involved in distributed energy and Internet of Things enabled energy efficiency.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Waste crime is ‘the new narcotics’, says Environment Agency chief
Waste crime is the “new narcotics” according to the head of the Environment Agency (EA), offering huge profits as the authorities race to catch up with the damage caused to society. Illegal waste activity costs England £1bn a year and more than 1,000 illegal waste sites were discovered last year, more than in the previous two years combined, with 662 still active as of the end of March.

Students find Wellington Harbour flooded with rubbish
NEW ZEALAND – At the rate we are going it will not be long before Wellington Harbour is choked with cigarette butts and other rubbish. That is the conclusion reached by a group of Year 7 and 8 students at Wilford School who have been studying our storm water drains. With help from Auckland based firm Stormwater 360, they installed two filters on drains in Petone. Not surprisingly they collected a large range of rubbish, everything from cigarette butts to recycling bins and plastic bottles. The most unusual item was a bikini top but teacher Alisa Webb said that what really alarmed the students was the sheer volume.

Politics and Society

Land grabbing and environmental destruction could now be prosecuted under international law
The International Criminal Court (ICC)… has now signaled that it will begin investigating crimes such as land grabbing, environmental destruction, and forced evictions that are often committed during peacetime in the pursuit of profit. In a detailed policy paper on case selection and prioritization released last week, ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda wrote that “crimes that are committed by means of, or that result in, inter alia, the destruction of the environment, the illegal exploitation of natural resources or the illegal dispossession of land” will be given “particular consideration” for prosecution.

A green and happy holiday? You can have it all
Our research on tourist behaviour shows that people are happy to curb their material consumption on holiday, as long their holiday is rich in other experiences. This is the challenge that the services sector faces in the drive to decouple happiness, consumption and resource depletion or pollution.

Editorial: Prosecuting the dumping of fish might not help conserve them
The beauty about New Zealand’s quota management system for commercial fisheries was that it would be self-policing, in theory. Once fishing companies were allocated a quota that could be traded, they would have a financial interest in the future of the fishery.

Built Environment

These researchers think we’re nearing ‘peak car’ — and the consequences could be dramatic
On Thursday the Rocky Mountain Institute — an energy-focused think tank known for its boldness in predicting technological change — released a truly sweeping report on the future of vehicles. And if it’s right — something that, to be sure, can be questioned — then we would be on the verge of an energy and technology transformation to rival the sudden decline of the coal industry.

World’s first zero-emission hydrogen passenger train
French company Alstom unveiled a zero-emission train powered by hydrogen at the InnoTrans trade fair in Berlin last Tuesday. The hydrogen train – called the “Coradia iLint”  – will be running from December 2017 on the Buxtehude-Bremervörde-Bremerhaven-Cuxhaven line in Lower Saxony, Germany.

Lendlease’s timber office at Barangaroo tops out, amid a storm of public interest
AUSTRALIA – Lendlease’s six-storey engineered timber office at Barangaroo has topped out this week, with an internal team celebration held on Wednesday, and after a raft of publicity in print, television and online media that reveals  timber’s time has come. International House Sydney will have 6850 square metres of office space across its six storeys when complete. It has been constructed with cross-laminated timber and glue laminated timber.

Food Systems

Four threats to global food security and what we can do about them
Can we really feed nine billion people? That’s the estimated global population in the year 2050. It should be possible, but things are looking tricky – especially when we also factor in the climatic instability caused by global warming. These are some of the current threats to food security and what we could do about them.


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