Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Brazil Seeks to Save Isolated Amazon Tribe Threatened by Loggers
After years of delay, Brazil has approved the creation of a sprawling reserve that would protect a highly vulnerable tribe of isolated nomads along one of the most volatile frontier regions in the Amazon rain forest. Tribal rights activists are hailing the decision, which will set in motion the labor-intensive process of physically marking the boundaries of the Kawahiva do Rio Pardo Indigenous Territory. The Kawahiva are a tribe of hunter-gatherers who for decades have been living on the run from logging crews and other intruders who covet the mineral and timber wealth in their species-rich forests.

Energy and Climate Change

How long to wean the world off fossil fuels?
In 1973, scientists discovered that the continued use of ozone depleting gases such as CFCs were a major environmental threat to Earth’s protective shield against ultra-violet light. An international treaty, the Montreal Protocols, was passed in 1987 phasing out the harmful chemicals. At the time, a senior chemist at DuPont, among the major manufacturers of CFCs, warned that there was no practical substitute for CFCs and predicted that the phase out would be virtually impossible and/or enormously expensive. It was neither.

World could warm by massive 10C if all fossil fuels are burned
The planet would warm by searing 10C if all fossil fuels are burned, according to a new study, leaving some regions uninhabitable and wreaking profound damage on human health, food supplies and the global economy.  The Arctic, already warming fast today, would heat up even more – 20C by 2300 – the new research into the extreme scenario found. “I think it is really important to know what would happen if we don’t take any action to mitigate climate change,” said Katarzyna Tokarska, at the University of Victoria in Canada and who led the new research. “Even though we have the Paris climate change agreement, so far there hasn’t been any action. [This research] is a warning message.”

Here’s how smart power could help the UK reach 100% renewable energy
If the UK is to usher in an era of low carbon energy by bringing more renewables online, then its energy infrastructure needs a major overhaul. The energy grid must be smart, flexible and integrated – which means making it more open and accessible via the latest technology. With many existing fossil fuel power stations set to be decommissioned in the coming 10 years, and energy from UK coal hitting zero for the first time in 100 years, it’s time to start implementing “smart” energy infrastructure.

REBA shows what it takes to scale corporate renewable energy
As GreenBiz senior writer Heather Clancy described recently, REBA is the creation of a heavyweight group of three-letter NGOs: BSR’s Future of Internet Power working group, RMI’s Business Renewables Center and the Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles, a project of WWF and WRI. The goal is to radically scale corporate adoption of renewable energy projects, specifically to get to 60 gigawatts by 2025. What was striking at the Summit was the engagement, breadth and clout of the participants in the room. Every flavor of big company was represented: tech giants like Microsoft and Facebook, major retailers like Walmart, auto makers from GM to Tesla and, more so than last year, utilities as well as renewable energy developers.

Environment and Biodiversity

UNEP releases landmark report at UN Environment Assembly
Environmental impacts are responsible for nearly 25 per cent of all deaths and there is an urgent need to place environmental issues at the centre of efforts to improve human health, according to a new study published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Indonesia’s forestry ministry follows through on palm oil permit freeze
The Indonesian forestry ministry is on board with President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s plan to ban new oil palm permits, and has rejected all outstanding requests to establish plantations in the forest zone, a ministry official said on Friday. Sixty-one palm oil companies have had their proposals rejected, sparing a total of 851,000 hectares of land from conversion, according to the San Afri Awang, the ministry’s head of governance and planning. That’s 12 times the size of Singapore. “We are bringing the president’s directive on [the moratorium] to fruition as best we can,” Awang told

Good news for calamari lovers: squid populations on the rise
While most marine species have come under increased pressure, cephalopods – squid, octopus and cuttlefish – have seen populations consistently rise since the 1950s. These are the findings of a global survey of fisheries data by an international team led by Zoe Doubleday at the University of Adelaide. Dr Doubleday said: “Cephalopods have a unique set of biological traits, including rapid growth, short lifespans and flexible development. These allow them to adapt to changing conditions more quickly than many other marine species.”

South Africa Just Lifted Its Ban on the Rhino Horn Trade
With just three terse sentences, South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal has legalized rhino horn trade in South Africa again, rejecting an appeal by the government to keep a ban on domestic trade in place. The decision opens a door to criminal activity that some say is necessary to save a species—and others say will doom it.

Economy and Business

Murray Goulburn and Fonterra are playing chicken with dairy farmers
Dairy giants Murray Goulburn and Fonterra played a dangerous game of chicken by hanging onto high milk prices despite the global dairy market volatility. Even though both cooperatives are shifting responsibility to each other for the fall in milk prices, which is pushing dairy farmers to the brink, they are both at fault for their race to the bottom. Now both will have to work hard to win back the trust of farmers.

Tens of countries sign up to shut pirate fishers out of their ports
In March, the Argentinian coast guard shot at and sank a Chinese vessel that was alleged to be fishing illegally in Argentinian waters (the crew were all rescued). While it’s unclear whether the boat was committing crime, the incident showed that the tension surrounding pirate fishing is reaching a peak, marked elsewhere by increasing conflict, and the detainment and scuttling of illegal fishing fleets. But for pirate fishers, the financial gains appear to be worth these risks.

Durable Duds: The Disruptive Startups Looking to Wear Out Fast Fashion
As leading fashion brands continue their creative battles against textile waste… a new breed of circular clothing disruptor is starting to emerge. These purposeful startups are looking to stop fast fashion in its tracks by building longevity and emotional durability into their apparel.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Biodegradable plastic ‘false solution’ for ocean waste problem
Biodegradable plastic water bottles and shopping bags are a false solution to the ubiquitous problem of litter in the oceans, the UN’s top environmental scientist has warned… Greener plastics that breakdown in the environment have been marketed as a sustainable alternative that could reduce the vast amount of plastic waste that ends up in the sea after being dumped. But Jacqueline McGlade, chief scientist at the UN Environment Programme, told the Guardian that these biodegradable plastics were not a simple solution.

Trending: Levi’s, EU Project Unlock New Ways to Turn Textile Waste Into New Products
With dramatically large amounts of clothing and other textiles being thrown out every year – nearly 10 million tonnes in the United States and more than 3 million tonnes in European Union (EU) countries – it is no wonder why designers and companies are increasingly looking to this waste as a potential resource.

Textile technology startup Evrnu recently partnered with Levi Strauss & Co. to create the world’s first jean made from regenerated post-consumer cotton waste. | Image credit: Evrnu

Textile technology startup Evrnu recently partnered with Levi Strauss & Co. to create the world’s first jean made from regenerated post-consumer cotton waste. | Image credit: Evrnu

Politics and Society

Humanitarian summit aims high amid refugee rights concerns
ISTANBUL (AP) — An ambitious summit to revamp humanitarian aid and global responses to modern-day crises opened in Turkey on Monday with lofty goals overshadowed by concerns that key participants are violating refugee rights and humanitarian law. The first World Humanitarian Summit was convened in Istanbul in an attempt to tackle what the United Nations has described as the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II. An estimated 125 million people worldwide require humanitarian assistance, among them 60 million displaced from their homes by conflict, natural disasters and climate change.
See also: World’s first humanitarian summit: a ‘fig-leaf of good intentions’ that won’t help the poorest

Environment inspection program to be rolled out across the country
AFTER 2,856 environmental concerns were discovered during a pilot environment inspection program in north China’s Hebei, one of the most severely polluted provinces, the comprehensive scheme will be rolled out nationwide. According to environment authorities in Hebei, about 15 provincial regions will be inspected this year and the remainder next year. It is the first time inspectors have been sent in the name of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council, giving them unprecedented authority and power.

Election 2016: do we need to re-establish a department of climate change?
AUSTRALIA – With a federal election looming, Australia’s top mandarins will once again be turning their minds to the incoming government briefs, the so-called blue book if the Coalition is returned and the red book if Labor is elected. High on the agenda will be the organisation of the bureaucracy and it won’t get any trickier than climate change. A question for an incoming government will be whether to re-establish a Department of Climate Change? And if not, what should be done?

Trump denies global warming, but claims climate change is ruining his golf course
Donald Trump has claimed he doesn’t believe in climate change, but that apparently didn’t stop him from citing it as a reason to build a sea wall to protect one of his golf courses. According to Politico, the presumptive Republican nominee applied for permission to erect a wall to prevent erosion at Trump International Golf Links & Hotel Ireland and explicitly cited the consequences of global warming as the main reason for building the infrastructure.

Dolphin ‘harassment’ in the Marlborough Sounds
NEW ZEALAND – Boaties have been warned off harassing and hooning around dolphins. The Department of Conservation urged boaties to slow down in the Marlborough Sounds to avoid injuring the marine mammals and disrupting feeding grounds. Boatie Pete Davison saw a boat travelling at 30 knots plough through a pod of 10 dolphins on Sunday morning near Karaka Point.

Built Environment

Coastal law shift from property rights to climate adaptation is a landmark reform
Coastal management in Australia is subject to competing interests and challenges. These range from land use and strategic planning issues to ecosystems preservation. Local councils are at the coalface as both key decision-makers and the first point of contact for communities. Exacerbating these day-to-day challenges for councils are risks to property. A quantitative assessment undertaken by the then-Department of Climate Change in 2009 identified impacts of sea-level rise as a serious threat to property.

The Rotterdam couple that will live in a house made from waste
Rotterdam, the Dutch city home to more than 600,000 people and hundreds of high-rise buildings, can feel pretty dense. But hop on a bike and cycle around the city centre and you can still discover empty plots of land.  This is how a young couple, Nina Aalbers and her boyfriend Ferry in ‘t Veld, architecture graduates of the Technical University of Delft, found the perfect place to build their first house together. The twist? They’re building it from waste.

How dampness enters our homes
Did you know, a family of four can produce 34 litres of moisture a day through everyday tasks? Moisture makes its way into your home in many ways, including cooking, showering, water leaks from the roof and windows and even breathing. Based on figures produced by the University of Otago, the Herald has calculated how much water vapour a family of four produces through daily activities in their home.

Food Systems

Eat locals: swapping sheep and cows for kangaroos and camels could help our environment
We may be what we eat, but our dietary choices also affect the health of the environment, and farmers’ back pockets. Energy and water use, native habitat cut down for crops and grazing, and emissions that exacerbate climate change, are just some of the profound effects agriculture has on Earth. And, there are more and more mouths to feed. Perversely, both starvation and obesity are severe health issues across the world. With agriculture confronted by economic and environmental uncertainties, society faces enormous challenges. But challenges also offer great opportunities. Drastically rethinking what we eat, and where and how food is produced, could help our health, the planet, and our farming businesses. That means eating fewer sheep and cows, and more kangaroos, feral animals, and insects.


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