Sustainable Development News

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

50 years after The Lucky Country, Australia’s sustainability challenge remains
More than 50 years ago Donald Horne, then working in an advertising agency, described Australia as “a lucky country run mainly by second-rate people who share its luck”. The phrase “the lucky country” quickly became part of the language, though its message was often misrepresented. Horne’s 1964 book sounded three loud warnings about Australia’s future: the challenge of our geographical position, the need for “a revolution in economic priorities”, and the need for a discussion of what sort of country we want to become. Those warnings are even more urgent today after 50 years of inaction by our second-rate leaders.

Energy and Climate Change 

Industrialised nations need to lead the world with an exit strategy for fossil fuels
…Truly, our problem is not a scarcity of fossil resources, it is the exact opposite. We lack an exit strategy for oil, coal and gas. Energy efficiency and renewable energy are indispensable parts of a response to climate change, but they do not tell us why private companies and private individuals should stop extracting, marketing and consuming fossil fuels.

Despite politics, U.S. ahead of pace on Clean Power Plan goals
Even as the Supreme Court remains deadlocked over the future of the Clean Power Plan (CPP), the U.S. appears likely to achieve the CPP goals a full 14 years ahead of schedule. That’s according to a story by Daniel S. Cohan and Leah Y. Parks in The Hill. According to the authors, this early arrival will come courtesy of a combination of energy efficiency and alternative sources of energy.

Environment and Biodiversity

How people can live next to lions without killing them – new study
…Living with these predators is not easy. For many people in rural Africa, livestock pay for school fees and hospital bills, and insure against misfortune. Imagine finding half your nest egg has been taken overnight and, worse, worrying your family might be next. Unsurprisingly, many lions that live near people end up shot or poisoned. Yet it doesn’t have to be this way. A new five-year study that I have been involved in shows that when people directly benefit from lions, they become more tolerant of their faults.

Ethiopia’s vulnerable tropical forests are key to securing future of wild coffee
Coffee is the drink of choice for millions of us. But the world’s second-most traded commodity originates in Ethiopia – and its home is under threat. Ethiopia isn’t all dusty deserts – far from it. The country also contains rugged highlands and lush, tropical forests. Coffea arabica grows here in its original, wild form. The forests of south-west Ethiopia are considered to be the birthplace of coffee and the centre of its genetic diversity. But these forests and this gene pool are under pressure.

New Zealand leads world in island conservation
Removing invasive mammals from islands is a highly effective and relatively cheap way of saving endangered species and stemming the loss of the world’s biodiversity, according to new research published this week in the journal PNAS.

Fiordland Marine Pathway Plan to protect area from marine pests
NEW ZEALAND – A plan to keep marine pests out of Fiordland will protect the economic wellbeing of Southland, Environment Southland says. Environment Southland councillors agreed to publicly notify the proposed Fiordland Marine Pathway Plan on April 9, at a council meeting on Wednesday. Biosecurity manager Richard Bowman said the plan, which was the first of its kind in New Zealand, could protect Fiordland from marine pests which were present in other ports in the country.

Great Barrier Reef bleaching event: what happens next?
Monitoring the scale and intensity with which coral bleaching manifests in real time is not a job we wish for, but in reality it provides a powerful tool to enable better management against future events. It is crucial we learn from El Niño events, which we can treat as natural experiments, to show just how much bleaching occurs as conditions change. It can show us which species are most affected and to what extent the patterns and timing of bleaching reflect the reef’s weakened state from other stresses such as pollution.

Bacteria could be speeding up the darkening of Greenland’s ice
A single species of bacteria could be about to accelerate the melting of Greenland. A photosynthesising microbe from a genus called Phormidesmis has been identified as the guilty party behind the darkening of Greenland. It glues soot and dust together to form a grainy substance known as cryoconite. As the surface darkens, the Greenland ice becomes less reflective, more likely to absorb summer sunlight and more likely to melt.

New Hope For U.S. Coastlines Even As Seas Rise
Scientists have encouraging news for planners along the Eastern seaboard staring down the worsening crisis of sea level rise: if managed well, most of the region’s shorelines could adapt naturally to the drenching changes that lie ahead. The research, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, offers hope that vulnerable coastal areas could remain above water during the decades ahead, even if some of those areas may change beyond recognition.

Plant-growing season in UK now a month longer than in 1990
The growing season for plants has become a month longer than it was a few decades ago, Met Office figures show. In the last 10 years, the growing season, measured according to the central England temperature daily record, which stretches back hundreds of years, has been on average 29 days longer than in the period 1961-1990, the data show.

Economy and Business

World Water Day brings a gush of initiatives, investments
On the United Nations’ World Water Day on Tuesday, no less than 150 companies and NGOs announced new initiatives towards enhancing water quality, conservation and management at a White House Water Summit.   Water scarcity and quality issues have already been on the radar internationally, since 663 million people lack access to clean water. The World Economic Forum in 2015 named water scarcity the world’s biggest risk.

Meet the South Korean entrepreneurs promising a clean energy revolution
For South Korean millennials born into bright lights, cheap energy and bustling modernisation, the country’s dimly lit, war torn past is a thing of the history books. This made Akas Kim’s trip to rural India, seeing remote villages struggling to secure running water and power, all the more shocking for him. He was determined to make a difference.

World Bank approves $500m loan for clean-air projects in Beijing
The World Bank will provide a $500 million loan to support air pollution control projects in the Chinese capital Beijing. The loan is part of a $1.4 billion climate finance programme over the next six years, the World Bank said.

Global Cleantech Summit opens with launch of ‘Accelerator 100’ project to support China’s Five-Year Plan
The Global Cleantech Summit in Beijing, China, hosted by The Climate Group, opened today with the launch of the ‘Accelerator 100′ project. Over 300 financial institutions, policymakers and leading clean technology firms from China, Europe, North America and beyond have gathered for the two day Summit aimed at driving the transformation in China’s energy, industrial and economic development.
See also: Understanding China’s Five Year Plan: Changhua Wu

Could cheap oil accelerate sustainable energy investment?
An increasingly unprofitable global oil market is driving fuel prices to historic lows and hemorrhaging investment in conventional energy sources. Breaking with tradition, cheap oil no longer foretells disaster for renewable energy companies. On the contrary, disillusioned fossil fuel investors are seeking high-growth opportunities — just in time to ride the renewables wave in the wake of the 2015 Paris climate talks.

How climate factors are driving the autos sector
Six months ago the Volkswagen emissions scandal broke, dramatically drawing the attention of investors to vehicle emissions performance and wiping billions off Volkswagen’s value. In the wake of the scandal, emission regulations around the world are set to tighten and investors want to know which auto-manufacturers are ahead of the curve in responding to these changes.

European clean tech industry falls into rapid decline
Europe’s once world-beating clean technology industry has fallen into a rapid decline, with investment in low-carbon energy last year plummeting to its lowest level in a decade. The plunge in European fortunes comes as renewable energy is burgeoning around the world, with China in particular investing heavily.

Sky joins RE100 with a global commitment to going ‘100% renewable’
Sky plc has furthered its longstanding commitment to tackling climate change by joining RE100 with a goal to source 100% renewable electricity by 2020 where available. The European entertainment company already obtains most of its electricity from renewable sources globally. Across its managed UK & Ireland sites, Sky’s energy is provided by either its own on-site renewable energy plants, or through a renewable energy tariff.

Apple close to being 100% powered by renewables
Apple has confirmed that 93 per cent of its facilities worldwide are powered by renewable energy. The company’s vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, Lisa Jackson, made the announcement at Apple’s ‘Loop You In’ event on Monday.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Tools-on-Demand for independent garages and workshops
Traditionally, independent garages and workshops have been limited by the quantity, diversity and quality of tools that they are able to afford and maintain. However, a recently released Innoverne product may provide an answer to some of those challenges. ALOA (Agra Location Outillage Automobile) is a Tools-on-Demand service provided for Groupe AGRA.

Coal mines should pay for polluting waterways and air, say environmentalists
Environmentalists are calling for the NSW government to include coal mining in its “pay to pollute” scheme after analysis revealed the industry was responsible for a significant proportion of the heavy metal pollution in NSW waterways including arsenic, lead and selenium.

Plastic recycling has weak relationship with oil, but recyclers feeling pinch warns WRAP
WRAP’s updated Plastics Market Situation Report has suggested that the price of recycled plastics has a weak relationship with the price of oil. But it also warned that plastic recyclers are particularly vulnerable to changes in market conditions due to their position in the middle of the supply chain, often feeling the squeeze from both sides as well as higher costs and lower input prices. The report found that the low oil price was a contributing factor to currently lower prices but was not the whole story.

Illegal dumping ‘unrecognised’, costing Waikato ratepayers thousands
NEW ZEALAND – Councils are spending thousands to clean up illegally dumped rubbish, but one environmental advocate says the problem is still largely out of sight and out of mind. Waipa District Council has been forced to spend nearly $84,000 in the past seven months to clean up rubbish strewn around the roads. It started counting the cost of illegally tipped rubbish and launched a “Don’t Waste Waipa” campaign this week to inform ratepayers.

Politics and Society

How to inoculate people against Donald Trump’s fact bending claims
A potential Donald Trump presidency terrifies people worldwide. His racism, bullying, and enthusiasm for violence are a great concern for onlookers. But we see a positive in Trump’s candidacy: We can improve our critical thinking by using him as an example of how people spread misinformation. And there is no shortage of material to work with, given Trump’s firehose of falsehoods. Politifact found that 78% of Trump’s statements were Mostly False, False, or “Pants on Fire” (the most extreme form of false).

Post-recession Britons are healthier, better off and living greener lives
Recovery from the deepest recession in Britain’s post-war history has left Britons healthier, better off, less likely to be victims of crime and living greener lives, according to the latest official snapshot of national wellbeing. Life expectancy and living standards rose while unemployment fell during a three-year period from 2012-14, a time when the UK finally shrugged off the after effects of the financial crisis that began in 2007.

Trudeau commits $6.75bn to Canadian green projects in first budget
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has revealed his plan to make Canada a “champion of clean growth” with the release of his budget containing plans to spend almost $7bn on cutting emissions across the country’s economy and infrastructure.

Turnbull’s renewable fund could drive much-needed investment, but…
AUSTRALIA – Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced the creation of a A$1 billion Clean Energy Innovation Fund, to be jointly managed by the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).


A cautionary tale on rooftop solar: who pays the price for weak industry regulations?
AUSTRALIA – Little more than a week after the Clean Energy Council announced new industry-led initiatives to crack down on shonky rooftop solar suppliers, a cautionary tale has emerged illustrating how easy it is for the average Australian consumer to unwittingly buy PV panels that don’t meet key regulatory guidelines.

Built Environment

Saving Money With Public Transportation: Top 20 US Cities
The American Public Transit Association (APTA) recently released its February Savings Report. The association releases a monthly savings report in order to analyze how much money the average two-person household can save by taking public transportation and using one less automobile. The average commuter is looking at a savings of more than $754 a month for the frugal individual.

Food Systems

Manawatu raw milk buyers unimpressed with regulations
NEW ZEALAND – New regulations will make it harder and more expensive for consumers to buy raw milk, says organic milk producer Daniel Sproull. The Gorge Fresh producer told about 50 people at a meeting at his farm, near the Manawatu Gorge, the difficulties that new regulations would bring for them. National MP Ian McKelvie said he would find out about the impact on the suppliers of raw milk in Manawatu, and go into bat for them.


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