Sustainable Development News

Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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

Oceans are world’s seventh largest economy worth $24tn, says WWF report
The monetary value of the world’s oceans has been estimated at US$24tn in a new report that warns that overfishing, pollution and climate change are putting an unprecedented strain upon marine ecosystems. The report, commissioned by WWF, states the asset value of oceans is $24tn and values the annual “goods and services” it provides, such as food, at $2.5tn. This economic clout would make the oceans the seventh largest economy in the world although the report’s authors, which include the Boston Consulting Group, say this is an underestimate as it does not factor in things such as oil, wind power and intangibles, such as the ocean’s role in climate regulation. Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, lead author of the report and director of the Australia-based Global Change Institute, said it was important that the business community understood the value of the oceans so that a strategy could be devised to reverse its decline.

Energy and Climate Change

Why Obama Went to the Everglades for Earth Day
South Florida already is in trouble from rising seas. The third most populous state is one of the most vulnerable places on Earth to climate change. The combination of low, flat landscape and population density—three-fourths of its 19.9 million residents live in coastal counties—creates uniquely compelling climate challenges for the coming decades. Already, more than half of Florida’s 825 miles of sandy beaches is eroding. Tourist destinations such as Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale have endured sunny-day flooding during exceptionally high tides for years.

Don’t judge Paris on level of carbon cuts, say top emitters
Leading economies don’t think the success of a Paris climate change summit should simply be measured on the level of greenhouse gas cuts it manages to deliver.Instead it should be assessed on whether it sets up a durable international regime which allows for regular and clear assessments of how countries are cutting carbon emissions.That’s one of the more interesting outcomes from the Major Economies Forum, a meeting held on 19-20 April involving the US, EU, China, India among other major carbon polluters.

Youth Call for Climate Education to Be Taught in Schools
Resolution 0375-2014 calls for climate education to be included in the New York State school curriculum and it currently has 21 of the 26 needed sponsors to pass. According to a report released on Monday by the Yale Project on Climate Change, only about half of Americans (52 percent) think that global warming, if it’s happening, is caused by humans. And, only about one in 10 Americans understands that over 90 percent of climate scientists think human-caused global warming is happening. Campaigns that spread doubt about climate change are winning, but young people see a better path forward: better, early education about climate change.

Environment Minister says Direct Action carbon auctions a stunning success
AUSTRLAIA – The Federal Government has bought more than 47 million tonnes of carbon credits as the first step in its Direct Action climate change policy. The Clean Energy Regulator has released the results of the first round of auctions under the Emissions Reduction Fund.  About a quarter of the $2.5 fund has been spent on a range of projects designed to offset Australia’s carbon emissions.

Farmers use wind farm rent to pay on-farm costs
Farmers in south-east New South Wales are using wind farm rent to subsidise on-farm costs. Howard Charles is one of 17 farmers who have wind turbines from the Boco Rock Wind Farm on their properties west of Nimmitabel in south-east NSW. He said money from hosting wind farms on his property had helped him tackle noxious weeds on his property. “With the two towers on our farm the extra income from the rent certainly helps with controlling the weeds, which is a never ending problem, serrated tussock in particular,” he said. “I don’t see any downside, we are the closest house to the wind farm, some of the towers are less than a kilometre from here, even with prevailing winds we don’t hear it, I don’t see it. I do wonder what all the fuss is about sometimes.”

Environment and Biodiversity

Conservation and the rights of tribal people must go hand in hand
Evidence is growing that conservation – enforced by the creation of protected areas and policed by anti-poaching squads – leads to the eviction and abuse of vast numbers of people, especially tribal peoples, and is also failing to check the deepening environmental crisis. A new approach is urgently needed. Conservation should centre on protecting the land rights of the peoples to whom these vitally important areas are home. Tribal peoples are better at looking after their environments than anyone else – their survival depends on it.

[Ed: I think a lot of the time we forget that we are part of the ecosystem too]

What Do We Really Know About Roundup Weed Killer?
The world’s most widely-used herbicide has been getting a lot of attention lately. Last month, an international agency declared glyphosate, the primary ingredient in the popular product Roundup,  a “probable human carcinogen.” The weed killer also has made recent headlines for its widespread use on genetically modified seeds and research that links it to antibiotics resistance and hormone disruption. Several national governments are planning to restrict its use, and some school districts are talking about banning it. So what do we know about glyphosate? Five key questions and answers

Economy and Business

Successful Stakeholder Engagement 101 (or How Prince Ea Is Rallying Millions to #StandForTrees)
For those of us in the sustainability field, stakeholder engagement that leads to action is the Holy Grail for creating the change needed for a healthy world and future. So what’s one secret to engaging a worldwide audience in a global ecological imperative in a matter of hours? Recruit someone like Prince Ea to deliver the message. As environmental NGO Code REDD discovered this week, the celebrity activist, spoken word artist and YouTube sensation was the key to turning its Stand for Trees campaign, launched in February, into a global phenomenon in a matter of hours: “Dear Future Generations” — his new piece inspired by the campaign, debuted Monday — and had 34,539,865 Facebook views and over 231,398 YouTube views as of press time today.

Banks casting inefficient ships adrift, says Carbon War Room
Banks are increasingly using energy and fuel efficiency data when making shipping investment and financing decisions, Richard Branson’s Carbon War Room (CWR) has said. Several leading banks in the industry, including HSH Nordbank and KfW IPEX-Bank, were surveyed by the organisation and revealed that vessel efficiency rankings, such as the A-G rating developed by CWR and RightShip, form an important part of assessing the risk and returns a ship may offer. As a result, the report argues a “two-tier” market of high efficiency and low efficiency vessels is starting to emerge, with eco-efficient vessels more likely to be chartered, as well as boasting higher asset values and longer lifespans.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Trending: Brad Pitt and Sheryl Crow Want to Insulate Homes for the Needy with Your Old Jeans
In honor of Earth Day this week, both Brad Pitt and Sheryl Crow are using their star power to back initiatives aimed at helping responsibly build affordable housing for those in need, while bringing awareness to the importance of textile recycling. First, Pitt’s non-profit, Make It Right — which builds sustainable, affordable homes, buildings and communities for people in need — kicked off a partnership with American Eagle Outfitters to recycle used and unwanted denim into building materials for affordable homes…

The Many Challenges of Plastic Recycling
In the United States, our recovery rate for all plastic rests at 9 percent, according to the most recent Municipal Solid Waste report from the EPA. Most of what is recovered consists of PET and HDPE, as they clearly dominate the plastic recyclables market. Still, the recovery rates for PET and HDPE are only 31 percent and 28 percent, respectively. Even for our most valuable plastics, what are the challenges that prevent us from reaching higher overall recovery rates?

Report: Construction & Demolition Recycling a $7.4 Billion Industry
Construction and demolition materials (C&D) recycling is a $7.4 billion industry, according to a new report by the Construction & Demolition Recycling Association (CDRA). And when considering indirect and induced economic output, the industry could be worth over $17 billion. C&D materials are recognized as one of the largest components of the solid waste stream in the US. While much of this is recycled for purely economic reasons, avoidance of landfill disposal of materials such as concrete, wood, gypsum drywall and asphalt shingles has benefits well beyond financial ones, CDRA says.

Politics and Society

Selling the sustainability message
The word sustainability has failed to win the hearts and minds of people. Why? Because it conveys scarcity and survival, when most people want prosperity and pleasure.  “If I asked you how your relationship was and you replied ‘sustainable’, I’d say I was sorry to hear that,” architect Michael Pawlyn told the audience at the annual Green Cities conference in March. Why? Because the word “sustainable” doesn’t imply something overflowing with vitality and vigour. It doesn’t suggest evolution and growth. And it doesn’t evoke a better future – only one that isn’t worse.

#SolutionADay Campaign Aims to Celebrate Sustainability Progress
Effectively communicating sustainability must go beyond a dire series of predictions — it’s about sharing real-world evidence of the economic, social and environmental challenges faced daily on our planet and the solutions for those challenges. In honor of Earth Day and the remarkable progress being made toward a myriad sustainability solutions, the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives at Arizona State University has launched a “Solution A Day” social media campaign, in the spirit of the Initiatives’ mission to engage a broad audience to celebrate those solutions.

Should we drill for oil?
NEW ZEALAND – Last year I had a scientist take a big pay cut to join my team as an educator. He told me that he was sick of proving over and again how badly we are treating the environment and wanted to make some tangible change. Scientists continue to tell the world that unless we can reduce carbon emissions, then global warming is going to cause more storms, draughts and food shortages that will result in chaos. Huge improvements in renewable energy technology are starting to pave the way and in a country like New Zealand – where we have geothermal land and the right weather for the implementation of renewables – there really is an opportunity to get our electricity consumption to come from 100 per cent renewables.

Seven days (almost) living off-grid in London
Can a confirmed city-dweller shake the shackles of modern convenience culture and live off-grid in London for a week? I was going to find out. I initially proposed to spend a week off-grid. Go hard or go home, I thought. So I took the model to the rest of the house. No electricity, no gas. I kept the water on.  The idea was exploring how much we can divest ourselves of convenience culture and adopt a greater sense of community while still doing everything we normally do. Low-impact living, not no-impact. My biggest cheat was keeping one plug in the house on for the wireless router. I was off-grid, but I also needed to work.

Local and national interests clash in Indonesia’s palm oil industry
The industry of palm oil, the product found in everything from chocolate to lipstick that is habitually reviled by environmentalists, is facing new challenges due to unrest in key producing regions. It was reported by the Cameroonian Association of Oil Refineries this month that the export of refined products including palm oil from several African nations, including Nigeria and Cameroon, has been “virtually at a standstill” for several months due to a spate of murders and kidnappings committed by Islamic militant group Boko Haram.

Built Environment

Can the Bullitt Center prove that it pays for buildings to go ‘deep green’?
A Seattle office building that generates its own electricity, collects its own water and composts all human waste from its restrooms earlier this month won the designation as an ultra-sustainable ‘living building’. To get certified by what is widely viewed as the world’s most demanding green building certification program, the $32.5m six-story Bullitt Center had to pass a year-long examination of its environmental merits to prove it performs as advertised.  Now comes the hard part: convincing skeptics of the financial benefits of constructing more ‘deep green’ buildings like it.


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.