Sustainable Development News

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Sam Judd: Nature enter me
It seems that New Zealanders and foreigners alike consider that we are lucky in this land of ours. People who live in high-rise apartments in dense cities like Hong Kong flock to our shores to get close to nature. This week I had the privilege of attending a conference called “A Place To Live” in Whanganui. Keynote speaker and renowned bestselling author Richard Louv told the audience that we have an excellent level of access to nature here in New Zealand. He lamented that in some inland communities in his Californian city of San Diego, 34% of children had never been to the ocean. Stating that he would rather be hiking or fishing than working he aptly described some of the benefits of time spent in the natural world by saying that “unlike TV, nature does not steal time, it enhances it.” But the truth is, while most of you now, who are reading this on a computer have probably got the ability to spend crucial time in nature regularly, the reality is very different for other sectors of society.

Energy and Climate Change

Resilient energy systems: how will the UK adapt?
Earlier this month, the UN released a report that said climate change was set to cause “severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts” on the natural world unless carbon emissions were cut sharply. UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon added his voice to the warnings by urging financial markets to stop investing in fossil fuels, such as oil and coal, and focus on renewables. While the warnings are stark, there are also opportunities for those striving to make energy systems more resilient to the risks posed by climate change and the move to clean fuels. But what are the greatest risks facing our existing energy infrastructure? How will changes in the environment affect energy distribution? Will such systems be able to withstand extreme weather events brought on by climate change and where do the opportunities lie?

Portugal switching to greener energy with more than 50 per cent from renewable sources
Portugal has a population of just 11 million people but it is punching above its weight in renewable energy industries. Almost 60 per cent of its energy needs came from renewable sources last year, a 20 per cent increase from 2012. Carlos Pimenta is considered the country’s renewable guru. The former Portuguese and European Parliament member was a negotiator for the Kyoto protocol and with Al Gore a founder of the GLOBE organisation. He said the energy market has changed dramatically since its liberalisation.

UK’s first ‘poo bus’ hits the road
Britain’s first ‘poo bus’ will take to the road on Thursday, powered entirely by human and food waste. The 40-seat “Bio-Bus” runs on biomethane gas, generated through the treatment of sewage and food waste. It can travel up to 186 miles on one tank of gas, which takes the annual waste of around five people to produce. The bus is run by Bath Bus Company and will transport passengers between Bath and Bristol Airport. Engineers believe the bus could provide a sustainable way of fuelling public transport while improving urban air quality.

Environment and Biodiversity

Polar Bear Numbers Plummeting in Alaska, Canada—What About the Rest?
A large population of polar bears in Alaska and Canada has decreased by 40 percent since the start of the new millennium, new research shows. The number of the large predators living in the southern Beaufort Sea (map) plummeted from 1,500 animals in 2001 to just 900 in 2010, according to the study, published on November 17 in the journal Ecological Applications. But there’s a lot we don’t know about the 18 other known polar bear populations, which are scattered throughout the U.S., Canada, Russia, Greenland, Norway, and Denmark, experts say.

Economy and Business

WATCH: The 2014 UN Global Compact Lead Symposium livestream
The annual Global Compact Lead Symposium is an opportunity exclusively for Lead companies to come together with global experts to exchange experiences and views on advanced aspects of corporate sustainability vision, strategy and practice. This year’s Lead Symposium will challenge participants to sketch a vision for The Future Corporation. On 20 November 2014, Lead companies and invited experts will identify key characteristics of what the sustainable corporation could and should look like in the future – how it will be governed, create value and manage its impact on society – providing a beacon for the transition of the global business community that is already underway, fueled by deeper integration of sustainability into strategies and operations.

10 things we learned about scaling global social enterprise
As the global social enterprise movement grows, governments and big businesses are entering the market, but there is a need for accountability, collaboration and training for the sector to scale. In a recent online debate, social enterprise experts discussed the need for collaboration and infrastructure as well as the role that governments and big businesses can play.

Unilever: 100% Traceable Palm Oil for European Foods This Year
One hundred percent of palm oil sourced for Unilever’s European foods business will be traceable and certified sustainable by the end of 2014, according to the company’s sustainable palm oil progress report. The report says 58 percent of its global volume is now traceable to known sources and Unilever now has visibility of about 1,800 crude palm oil mills, representing around two-thirds of all mills in the global palm oil industry. Unilever has set a goal that by 2020 the entire industry will achieve 100 percent sustainable palm oil.

McDonald’s, Beef Industry Slammed for ‘Greenwashing’
McDonald’s and the rest of the Global Roundtable on Sustainable Beef are “greenwashing” beef production with their principles and criteria for global sustainable beef, according to consumer, worker and environmental groups. In a letter to the Roundtable’s Executive Committee, 23 groups — including Friends of the Earth, Animal Welfare Approved, Consumer Reports and Food Chain Workers Alliance — criticized the principles and criteria for not addressing misuse of antibiotics and lacking specifics measurable performance standards, among other things.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Closing the loop on steel: what we can learn from a manufacturer in Ecuador
In 2013, world crude steel production totalled 1.6bn tonnes and employed 50 million people, either directly or indirectly. The industry is vocal in its support for sustainable development, claiming that – despite massive growth in demand – the amount of energy required to produce a tonne of steel has been reduced by 50% in the past 30 years. A far stronger virtue in its pursuit of sustainability is that steel is 100% recyclable and backed by an impressive business case: more than 1,400kg of iron ore, 740kg of coal, and 120kg of limestone are saved for every tonne of steel scrap made into new steel (because these products are required if steel is produced as raw material). It is puzzling, therefore, that usage of scrap steel in 2013 was still only around 580m tonnes. Why is closing the loop on steel so difficult?

Survey Reveals How Much Consumers Hate Waste
Consumers don’t like to waste food items like peanut butter and mayonnaise and beauty items like toothpaste and body lotion. They dislike it so much, in fact, that they will take extreme measures to get every last drop, according to results of a survey conducted by LiquiGlide. The company, whose technology allows viscous liquids to move easily, surveyed more than 1,000 consumers about their attitudes and habits related to the packaging, use, waste and disposal of sticky consumer goods. The results offer insight into how much consumers dislike wasting consumer goods and why.

Politics and Society

US poll finds most back limits on coal emissions even if power prices rise
A majority of Americans support tougher pollution limits on coal-burning power plants even if it means paying more for electricity. The survey of 1,275 adults backs President Barack Obama’s efforts to bypass Congress and enact climate regulations by executive authority. Two-thirds of those polled by researchers at Yale and George Mason universities support limits on carbon dioxide emissions even after being told such measures would raise power prices, they said on Wednesday. The survey also reveals a “misunderstanding” of climate change as only one in 10 of those polled said they know that more than 90 per cent of climate scientists say humans are contributing to global warming. Just half blame human activity while even fewer are “very worried” about climate change.

UK pledges £720m to climate change fund for poor countries
Britain will face a disaster if it adopts an “isolationist approach” to the environment, the energy secretary, Ed Davey, has warned as he announced the UK is to give £720m to an international fund to help poor countries cope with climate change. In remarks aimed at rightwing Tories and Ukip supporters, as voters go to the polls in the Rochester and Strood byelection, Davey said a “little Englander approach” would be self defeating as climate change does not recognise borders. Davey was speaking to the Guardian on the eve of an announcement that Britain is to donate more than France and Germany to the UN’s Green Climate Fund which has a target of $10bn (£8bn). The UK commitment to the fund, seen as a vital step towards rich and poor nations sealing a deal to tackle global warming in 2015, is surpassed only by the US and Japan.

10,000 children estimated to work in Nepal’s carpet industry
Aged 11, Sanju was sent by her parents in rural Nepal to work for a carpet factory in the capital Kathmandu. They were assured she would be paid and well looked after. That was the last they heard of her. Her new employer had her working from 4am until 8pm, seven days a week. She stitched knots until her fingers bled. An animated video of Sanju’s story forms part of a global push to see the elimination of child labour included in the United Nations’ post-2015 development goals. Launched this week to coincide with End Child Slavery Week, the campaign is headed by child labour activist Kailash Satyarthi, joint winner of this year’s Nobel Peace prize.

New South Wales Government says new native vegetation rules will “cut red tape”
The New South Wales Government has released three self-assessable native vegetation codes which, it says, will place trust in landholders to manage their land sustainably while protecting the environment. Minister Kevin Humphries said the codes were an important part of the reform of native vegetation management.  “The codes will help to make life easier for farmers to produce the food and fibre the state relies upon, and at the same time include environmental protections,” Mr Humphries said.

Built Environment

How to re-imagine languishing strip retail centres, starting with Bridge Road, Richmond
Local retail strips – with a mix of goods and services within walking distance – are the heart and soul of sustainability. But when they fail – such as in the case of Melbourne’s Bridge Road, Richmond, or Oxford Street in Sydney – it can be a challenge to work out what went wrong and how to fix it. In the case of Bridge Road case, local business Tract Consultants recently initiated a two-day forum with the City of Yarra and a range of experts and stakeholders to identify the key issues for this once vibrant retail strip and how to re-imagine its future.

Gil Penalosa: a pathway to a more sustainable Sydney
Sydney lacks walkability and needs to become much more pedestrian and bike friendly, according to sustainable urban mobility expert Gil Penalosa. In Sydney for the World Parks Congress, Mr Penalosa, executive director of Canadian not-for-profit 8-80, said the city was outstanding but getting around could be difficult. “Creating a city that is a good place to live, whether you are eight or 80 years old, wealthy or struggling, a long-time Australian or a newly arrived resident, is something we all need to aim for. We know from research around the world that our urban lifestyles are contributing to our increasing sickness and poor health. As non-communicable diseases are responsible for two-thirds of all deaths globally we need to look to our lifestyle for answers. As most Australians live in a city, we need to closely examine our cities and how we can make them healthier and better places to live.”

Food Systems

Sustainable palm oil enters the UN environmental agenda
The development program for socially, environmentally and economically sustainable palm oil is poised to accelerate following the signing of a cooperation agreement between the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). UNEP senior executive Douglas Cress noted on Wednesday that cooperation should be a model for the sustainable development of other farm commodities, as the RSPO engaged all representatives from the whole spectrum of the palm oil supply-chain. He added that the UNEP-RSPO engagement aimed to raise global awareness about sustainable palm oil and generate market demand for an important commodity that has the potential to play a key role in preserving the earth’s biodiversity.

Is a ban on GM crops more harmful than growing them?
The EU’s de facto ban on genetically modified (GM) crops may have caused more harm than good, according to the UK’s chief scientist. Sir Mark Walport told MPs on the Science and Technology committee on Wednesday: “The consequence of inactions are that we are potentially, particularly in Europe, denying access to technologies that actually will potentially help feed people in ways that damage the environment less.” He said food security in Europe, particularly in Britain, was more tenuous than people realised and the costs of controlling agricultural pests could be significantly reduced.



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