Sustainable Development News

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

Time for degrowth: to save the planet, we must shrink the economy
What is so refreshing about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals is that they recognise the inherent tension between economic development and the ecology of our planet. Or so it seems. The preamble affirms that “planet Earth and its ecosystems are our home” and underscores the necessity of achieving “harmony with nature”. It commits to holding global warming below 2℃, and calls for “sustainable patterns of production and consumption”. This language signals awareness that something about our economic system has gone terribly awry – that we cannot continue chewing through the living planet without gravely endangering our security and prosperity, and indeed the future viability of our species.

Energy and Climate Change

Climate change: Warning of extreme events and a move into uncharted territory
As the world endures a third straight year of record-breaking heat, a new study has given fresh insight into what global warming is likely to mean for Australians if it is not curbed. Using new methodology, Germany-based researchers Climate Analytics found the difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees of warming – the two goals included in the Paris climate deal – would be much greater in terms of extreme events and disasters than previously believed.

Keeping global warming to 1.5C, not 2C, will make a crucial difference to Australia, report says
Australia could avoid punishingly long heatwaves and boost the Great Barrier Reef’s chances of survival by helping to limit global warming to 1.5℃ rather than 2℃, according to a report released by the Climate Institute today… The new research, compiled by the international agency Climate Analytics, suggests that limiting global warming to 1.5℃ rather than letting it reach 2℃ could make a significant difference to the severity of extreme weather events in Australia. Heatwaves in southern Australia would be an average of five days shorter, and the hottest days a degree cooler. In the north, hot spells would be 20-30 days shorter than the 60-day heatwaves potentially in store if warming hits 2℃.

Without a longer-term view, the Paris Agreement will lock in warming for centuries
If we accept that 1.5-2℃ of warming marks the danger threshold, then this is true whether it applies tomorrow, in 2100, or some time thereafter. What we need is to stay below these limits for all time. Put it this way: we wouldn’t be satisfied if the brakes on a new car only worked on the day of purchase, or for two weeks after that – we expect them to keep us safe throughout the car’s lifetime. The trouble is, limiting warming to well below 2℃ forever is a much harder job. Whatever warming we manage to prevent this century, the world will continue to respond to climate change after 2100.

Neither Coalition nor Labor emissions reduction targets are good enough, says climate body
Australia will blow its carbon budget with either the Coalition’s emissions reduction targets, or those suggested by the Labor opposition, highlighting the urgent need for negative-emissions technology, analysis commissioned by the Climate Institute shows. “Everyone is just now beginning to work out the implications of the 1.5C goal, and how hard it is to get to it,” said John Connor, chief executive of the Climate Institute.

Some climate paths may harm sustainable development
In December 2015 in Paris, the world’s leaders agreed to keep global average temperature rise well below 2°C above pre-industrial values. Just a few months earlier, at a meeting in September, they’d also agreed 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. Now, for the first time, researchers have assessed how compatible these two sets of aims are.

World-leading solar and battery storage project lures BHP
A world leading large-scale solar and battery storage project in north Queensland has drawn interest from the world’s biggest miner, BHP Billiton, which says it is looking at the technology for its remote and off-grid mine sites. The project, near Lakeland south of Cooktown, will combine 10.4MW of solar PV with 1.4MW/5.3MWh of lithium-ion battery storage, and is being pitched as a world-first for remote, edge of grid technology, and one likely to trigger a host of similar projects across Australia.

Sydney community solar investment round raises $17,500 in 9 minutes
The launch of a community solar investor fund in Sydney’s inner-west raised a total of $17,500 in just nine minutes over the weekend, to go towards the installation of solar at a local craft brewery in Newtown… In a statement on Tuesday, Pingala said that more than 120 people had submitted applications to invest in the project before the event, while a further 50 people registered on the day. The share offer was over-subscribed by 400 per cent, requiring the 70 winning applications to be drawn from a total of 300 on the day.

Environment and Biodiversity

Climate change will create new ecosystems, so let’s help plants move
Australia’s ecosystems are already showing the signs of climate change, from the recent death of mangrove forests in northern Australia, to the decline in birds in eastern Australia, to the inability of mountain ash forests to recover from frequent fires. The frequency and size of these changes will only continue to increase in the next few years. This poses a major challenge for our national parks and reserves. For the past 200 years the emphasis in reserves has been on protection. But protection is impossible when the environment is massively changing. Adaptation then becomes more important. If we are to help wildlife and ecosystems survive in the future, we’ll have to rethink our parks and reserves.

Most nations lack ability to deal with invasive species
Most countries in the world have little capacity to deal effectively with invasive species, a study suggests. The spread of non-native species threatens livelihoods and biodiversity, but the issue is worsened by global trade, travel and climate change. Writing in Nature Communications journal, and international team forecast how the spread of species could change over the 21st Century.

Sunrise to sunset: stunning timelapse video of America’s national parks
In honor of the National Park Service’s centennial this week, the Guardian has compiled scenes from around the country. President Woodrow Wilson signed the act creating the National Park Service 100 years ago. From coast to coast, Hawaii to Maine, the beauty, nature and scope of US national parks are breathtaking

Maps Show Humans’ Growing Impact on the Planet
The study, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, is based on analysis of satellite imagery and other data from 1993 and 2009. Researchers sought to rigorously map our impact on the global environment—called the human footprint—and how it has changed.

A new study has found that humans' impact on the environment has grown, but slightly slower than expected. In this map, the orange places are those that face the highest pressure from humans. The blue areas face the least pressure. Courtesy Oscar Venter

A new study has found that humans’ impact on the environment has grown, but slightly slower than expected. In this map, the orange places are those that face the highest pressure from humans. The blue areas face the least pressure. Courtesy Oscar Venter

Seals help show how melting ice shelves in East Antarctica affect deep ocean
A group of elephant seals in Antarctica has helped show how freshwater from melting ice shelves affects a key part of the engine that drives the circulation of the world’s oceans. An international team of researchers led by Dr Guy Williams of the University of Tasmania analysed temperature and salinity data captured by sensors attached to the elephant seals. The data, published in the journal Nature Communications, shows how melting ice shelves in Prydz Bay in East Antarctica are interfering with the production of Antarctic bottom water.

Clear Water Revival
The state of New Zealand’s fresh water has bubbled up into a national issue. Politicians, environmental groups and heads of industry have waded into the debate. But behind the headlines a host of Kiwis are putting on their gumboots and getting on with cleaning up the mess.

Economy and Business

Hong Kong’s green supermarket superstar
A new supermarket in Hong Kong could be setting the pace for powerful sustainability messaging. The Green Atrium on a small plot of land in Yuen Long next to a nine-tower 1600-plus Park Signature development features everything from an organic and health foods supermarket to farmers’ market, lifestyle and learning hub, restaurant, organic community farm and event space. It even has its own bee farm, butterfly garden and aquaponics system on the roof.

Uber for couriers: Australian logistics software promises to minimise traffic and emissions
Brad Lorge began his entrepreneurial journey helping charities more effectively coordinate the collection of food from supermarkets and warehouses. Now the software engineer is the co-founder of Premonition, a logistics optimisation firm helping online retailers and shipping companies meet heightened consumer expectations and develop more sustainable supply chains.

NAB announces commitment to “science-based” climate targets
National Australia Bank has announced it will set a “science-based target” to reduce its emissions by 21 per cent of 2015 levels by 2025. The bank said its new target was in line with the goal set at the Paris COP21 to limit global warming to less than two degrees above pre-industrial levels.

High cost to criminalised marijuana – NZIER
NEW ZEALAND – An economic research think tank is calling for marijuana to be legalised saying it could save the country over $300 million a year. Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) principal economist Peter Wilson said outlawing the drug had not stopped 10 percent of New Zealanders using it. He said although policies reducing its harm were needed, Treasury had calculated changing the legal status of marijuana would mean the government rather than criminals would benefit.

Politics and Society

After Brexit, nationals could take a lesson in integration from immigrants
Psychologists, anthropologists, and political scientists have studied how migrants can integrate – maintaining the heritage culture of the country where they were born, while simultaneously adapting to a host culture. So a German migrant living in the UK can have German friends, speak German and cheer for the German football team while at the same time be fluent in English, hang out with British friends, and wear a poppy in November. Overall, migrants who identify with, and participate in both their heritage culture and the host culture have better overall well-being and their children even do better at school.

How to get a better bang for the taxpayers’ buck in all sectors, not only Indigenous programs
AUSTRALIA – A report released today by the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS) has drawn attention to the lack of quality evaluations being conducted on Indigenous programs.The report identified 1082 Indigenous-specific programs delivered by government agencies, Indigenous organisations, not-for-profit NGOs and for-profit contractors. It found 92% have never been evaluated to see if they are achieving their objectives. While it oversteps in some regards, this report raises a very important point: we don’t really know what works if we don’t check. That’s a lesson that applies to all areas of public policy spending, not just Indigenous affairs.

Creative co-living in Australia: did Beethoven knock off at six o’clock?
According to research released by Upwork last year, Australian workers are increasingly shifting to freelance work, although most of us haven’t quite figured out how to negotiate the perennial work-life divide… But now there’s a new option that could disrupt the working model: co-living.  Offering “digital nomads” (usually millennial creatives such as designers, developers or tech startups) a bed/room, bathrooms, internet access, working space, laundry facilities and shared kitchen space, these co-living spaces give freelancers the luxury of working and living in a prime location while being surrounded by a community of like-minded individuals.

New badger culling trials given go ahead across England
Badger culls are to be carried out in five new areas of England in a bid to control bovine TB, the BBC has learnt. Shooting of badgers will begin in early September in South Devon, North Devon, North Cornwall, West Dorset, and South Herefordshire, the BBC understands. Culling is part of the government’s 25-year-strategy to eradicate the disease, but opponents say there is no evidence culling is effective.
See also: New Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom’s first major act is to allow ‘inhumane slaughter’ of badgers

Built Environment

Fears for Koala colony rise after Pacific Highway upgrade gets Josh Frydenberg’s nod
AUSTRALIA – A nationally significant koala population could be wiped out within a couple of decades after the federal government approved an upgrade of the Pacific Highway that bisects a key colony, environment groups say. Josh Frydenberg​, the new Environment and Energy Minister, approved the four-lane expressway’s new route near Ballina on the NSW North Coast on July 19, the day he was sworn in, the groups say. The NSW Roads and Maritime Services  made the approval public only on Monday – a month later.

Bravo for sustainable buildings that follow through with results
AUSTRALIA – One Perth apartment complex created with sustainability in mind has seen design intent follow through to performance outcomes, cutting carbon emissions by 64 per cent and saving $20,000 a year in avoided energy costs.


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