Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Energy and Climate Change

UN climate talks and the Paris deal: A bluffer’s guide
Nearly 200 governments will descend on Paris for the first two weeks of December, aiming to thrash out a deal to tackle climate change.They’re aiming high. A treaty at this scale has never been accomplished before, and the one under construction will affect the way the entire global economy operates.Modern society has been built on fossil fuels, but according to climate scientists that can’t last forever.

Five seismic shifts to shake global electricity over next 25 years
BNEF’s forecast to 2040 sees $2.2 trillion boom in small-scale solar as consumers seize control of their power, and weaker growth in electricity demand, but prospects for the climate are bleak. Global power generation will experience five dominant trends over the next 25 years, putting unprecedented pressure on energy companies, utilities and policy-makers, according to the New Energy Outlook 2015, published today.

NEO 2015 is Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s latest annual long-term forecast for global power, based on detailed analysis country-by-country and technology-by-technology of electricity demand, costs of generation and structural changes in the electricity system. It draws on the expertise of more than 100 analysts and researchers around the world specialising in the energy transition.

How do you bring electricity to 620 million people?
Chronic shortages of power… affect the whole of sub-Saharan Africa. Almost 620 million people — 60 percent of the region’s population — lack access to electricity, according to the African Development Bank. Even those who in theory have access face very high prices for insufficient and unreliable supplies. This lack of power matters: Countries with electrification rates of less than 80 percent consistently have a lower per-capita gross domestic product than other countries, and more power is crucial if Africa is to meet basic development goals. But how the situation improves is important, too.

Fossil Fuel Divestment

A beginner’s guide to fossil fuel divestment
Divestment is the opposite of investment – it is the removal of your investment capital from stocks, bonds or funds. The global movement for fossil fuel divestment (sometimes also called disinvestment) is asking institutions to move their money out of oil, coal and gas companies for both moral and financial reasons. These institutions include universities, religious institutions, pension funds, local authorities and charitable foundations.

Environment and Biodiversity

Lions among species decline highlighted by IUCN Red List of endangered species
THE MIGHTLY LION, reclusive cave crabs and the world’s rarest sea lion are among nearly 23,000 species at risk of dying out, a top conservation body warned on Tuesday. In an update to its ‘Red List’ of threatened species, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature hailed some clear advances in saving endangered species like the Iberian Lynx. But, it warned, those successes have been overshadowed by declines in a range of species, with 22,784 species of animals and plants threatened with extinction.

Economy and Business

A Planetisation of Finance: The Earth as a Going Concern
In recent decades considerable effort has been invested into describing and identifying the planet’s natural environment in terms that can be appreciated and integrated into the language of economics and finance. From the 1997 work of Robert Constanza, et al onwards, the TEEB coalition and the Natural Capital Coalition, to the multi-capitals approaches to accounting and reporting that are forming part of efforts by organisations such as SASB (Sustainability Accounting Standards Board) and the IIRC (International Integrated Reporting Council). Each is seeking to quantify and therefore consider the value of natural systems and their outputs in comparable financial terms.

Five titbits on large companies and business model innovation
“Companies that thrive in the future will be those that analyze and understand planetary boundaries and market risks and create responsive models.” UK consultancy SustainAbility has followed up its landmark report on new business models, ‘Model Behavior’ (2014), with ‘Model Behavior II: strategies to rewire business’, released last Friday, 19th June 2015. Full of interesting case studies, this latest report offers guidance to large companies to harness the power of business model innovation in order to create a more sustainable future. Here are our top five takeaways from the report.

International Monetary Fund Blasts ‘Trickle-Down’ Economics
A new report from the International Monetary Fund suggests that the widely popular “trickle-down” economics just increases the gap of income inequality, creating injustices in almost every country. The study written by five IMF economists said that if governments want to increase growth, they should focus on helping the poorest 20 percent of citizens. “We find that increasing the income share of the poor and the middle class actually increases growth, while a rising income share of the top 20 percent results in lower growth — that is, when the rich get richer, benefits do not trickle down,” the report said.

Australia, an ‘injured’ energy superpower with a renewables future: Ross Garnaut
As the world moves to limit global warming to two degrees from pre-industrial levels, Australia’s fossil fuel exports will depend on advances in technology to capture and store the carbon emissions although “little effort” has been made by producers to develop the know-how, he said. Still, Australia has “by far the greatest per capita potential” for low-cost renewable energy among developed economies given the nation’s endowment of solar, wind, wave and other renewable sources. Provided the right policies are in place, such as a carbon price, the country could be even more important to global energy than in the past, Professor Garnaut said.

First Solar CEO: ‘By 2017, we’ll be under $1/watt fully installed’
Jim Hughes, CEO of vertically integrated solar developer First Solar, spoke at the recent Edison Electric Institute meeting in New Orleans… Cost, cost, and cost: “We recently did a strategic review of our business and asked, ‘What does it take to trigger demand? How do we gain competitive advantage over our competitors?’ The answer is cost.” Hughes said that markets are being driven by “demand elasticity versus price in a rather spectacular fashion.” He gave two examples…

Petrol tax: Labor strikes deal with Government to revive twice-yearly hike in fuel excise
The Federal Government and Labor have struck a deal that will increase tax on petrol twice every year, with the next hike coming in August. The Opposition agreed to back the Government’s reintroduction of petrol excise hikes and approached it on Tuesday offering its support. The Government said the current excise cost is estimated at 40 cents per week for a typical household.

Waste and the Circular Economy

10 things we learned about tackling plastic ocean waste
Earlier this year an NGO warned we could end up with ‘as much plastic in our oceans as fish’. Here is what the experts said in an online debate on plastic pollution.

3 Architects Who are Converting Your Waste to Buildings
Tomorrow’s cities, some architects say, won’t be dependent on the sustainable materials we can create in the future, but upon the waste we’ve accumulated in the past. From paper cartons to steel hulls big enough to house several apartment buildings, the waste that we generate each year on the planet is staggering. And while much of that material finds itself into recycling projects or are sold for other purposes, some architectural designers are asking whether we’re using the materials — and the manpower, energy and carbon emissions it takes to break them down to base components — in the best way possible.

Taking stock in the rock hard paper industry
NEW ZEALAND – Rockstock, the stone paper brand, has won the National Energy Globe Award for New Zealand and is in the running for the Energy Globe World Awards.  Rockstock paper – made  from the rock wastage in quarries – is durable, suitable for a wide variety of purposes and, according to CEO of the Stone Paper Company Alan Good, doesn’t create chemical waste, carbon  emissions from tree-felling or waste water (the process is cyclic) during production. There is no water-borne, airborne or solid waste during manufacture.

Politics and Society

Climate change threatens 50 years of progress in global health, study says
Climate change threatens to undermine half a century of progress in global health, according to a major new report. But the analysis also concludes that the benefits to health resulting from slashing fossil fuel use are so large that tackling global warming also presents the greatest global opportunity to improve people’s health in the 21st century. The report was produced by the Lancet/UCL commission on health and climate change, a collaboration of dozens of experts from around the world, and is backed by Margaret Chan, head of the UN World Health Organisation.

10 recommendations for governments to improve public health by tackling climate change: Lancet report
Public health could be vastly improved if governments deal with the effects of climate change, according to a major study. The Lancet Commission on climate change and health said that tackling climate change could be the “greatest global health opportunity of this century”. The report found the indirect effects of climate change include air pollution, the spread of disease, food insecurity, under-nutrition, displacement and poor mental health.

The Guardian’s Keep it in the Ground campaign has been highlighting the impact of climate change on public health by focusing on the world’s two largest health charities – the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust. The campaign is asking them to move their investments out of fossil fuel companies.

Built Environment

London Climathon competition hails air quality innovation
Efforts to tackle air pollution in the capital received a boost late last week, as two new concepts emerged as winners of the London Climathon. Airbike and Pollupla were declared the winners of the London branch of the competition, which was organised by Climate-KIC and partner organisations, The Greater London Authority, The Liebreich Foundation and Energy Unlocked, which presented harmful air quality, waste, and peaking energy demand as challenges the teams had to identify economically viable ways of combatting.


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