Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Here’s what happened at Habitat III — the world’s biggest conference on cities
Habitat III – the United Nation’s global conference on the future of cities – has come to a close. About 30,000 people gathered in Quito, Ecuador, to discuss the key issues facing cities today and sign off on the New Urban Agenda – the global strategy which will guide urban development over the next 20 years.  For four days, the Casa de la Cultura Benjamín Carrión – where most of the conference events took place – buzzed with action. A range of diverse voices was heard in the conference precinct: from high ranking UN conference officials, to activists who fight every day for a more just city. UN-Habitat can take credit for a diverse and generally inclusive conference which delivered an optimistic – though somewhat ambiguous – outlook on the future of cities.

Energy and Climate Change

The eco guide to televisions
It’s not very rock’n’roll, but I’ve always loved an energy rating. A third of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions come from Energy Using Products (EUPs) in offices and industry and also, significantly, in our own homes, too. The ones we control can really help to reduce that percentage, so choosing the best energy-rated model makes sense.

Greens call on Government to ‘call in’ major gas-fired power plant under RMA
NEW ZEALAND – As the deadline looms for a massive gas-fired power plant to be deemed a project of national significance, the Greens are accusing the Government of abandoning its responsibilities on climate change.  The Government has until Tuesday to “call in” a proposed 360-megawatt gas-fired power plant in Waikato, so that it can be subject to national consultation.

The latest disaster risk from climate change — huge glacial floods
We all hear about how the glaciers of Greenland and Antarctica are losing ice, and so threatening to raise our sea levels — perhaps quite dramatically. But mountain ranges across the globe are also strewn with far smaller glaciers that are suffering perhaps an even bigger wallop from rising temperatures — and now, new research suggests their retreat could, quite literally, be deadly in some cases to communities living below.

Environment and Biodiversity

Snow leopards: Numbers decline due to ‘retaliation’
Hundreds of snow leopards are being killed by poachers every year across the high mountain ranges of Asia, according to a new report.  It’s estimated there are just 4,000 of these elegant but elusive creatures now surviving in the wild. Around four a week are being poached say experts, with most killed by local people in revenge for livestock losses. The report highlights concerns that the illegal trade in snow leopard skins is moving online to evade the law.

The powerful camouflage of the snow leopard's coat makes them hard to see in snowy, mountainous locations

The powerful camouflage of the snow leopard’s coat makes them hard to see in snowy, mountainous locations

Hundreds of snow leopards being killed every year, report warns
Hundreds of snow leopards are being killed every year across the mountains of central Asia, threatening the already endangered big cat, according to a new report. There are as few as 4,000 of the solitary and elusive cat remaining and numbers have fallen by a fifth in the last 16 years.  But between 220 and 450 are killed each year, found the report from Traffic, the wildlife trade monitoring network, published on Friday ahead of a meeting on the crisis at the UN in New York. The number could be much higher, the NGO warned, as killings in remote mountain areas often go undetected.

Rare birds thriving on Scilly Isles after scheme rids islands of rats
UK – A scheme to kill rats on two of the Isles of Scilly, backed by Prince Charles, has led to a resurgence in rare sea birds. The number of Manx shearwaters has risen to 73 nesting pairs this year, the highest in living memory and almost triple the number of nesting birds just three years ago. The birds appear to be breeding successfully, with 30 chicks spotted on the popular holiday islands. Another species of rare ground-nesting birds, storm petrels, have also returned to the Scillies.

Backyard buddies: you won’t believe some of the insects on your side
AUSTRALIA – The days are longer and lighter. And while the temperatures haven’t been typically spring-like, the annual explosion of backyard bugs is on. So who is your friend and who is your foe? The answers might come as a surprise.

Review: Sonic Sea at the Environmental Film Festival
The increasing use of the sea for human activities has resulted in a dramatic rise in noise levels. A new film, Sonic Sea, screening at the Environmental Film Festival Australia, shows that the ocean is not at all silent. It highlights our emerging understanding of the consequences of human-produced noise pollution in the ocean. The documentary, directed by Michelle Dougherty and Daniel Hinerfeld, brings together beautiful cinematography and audio effects that draw viewers into this ethereal underwater world.

Researchers propose trial to protect native animals by leasing them privately
AUSTRALIA – Native animals at risk of extinction could be leased to landowners under a proposal to conserve threatened species and their habitats.  The plan would enlist landholders, community groups and investors in the fight against extinction, allowing them to lease vulnerable species from state and territory governments and protect them on private land.

Foreign invaders infiltrate Britain’s ancient woodlands
In July 2013, a large, strangely shaped beetle emerged from the fabric of a wooden chair that had just been bought in the UK. The inch-long creature had developed inside the chair’s wooden frame before it ate its way to the surface and burst through the seat’s plastic covering – much to the alarm of its purchaser. Crucially, the furniture had been made in, and imported from, China. Analysis by Fera Science, formerly the Food and Environment Research Agency, showed the beetle was a Japanese pine sawyer. Worse, the beetle was found to be infested with a second serious pest: the pinewood nematode worm.

Economy and Business

Corporate climate risk is all about turning a profit, not fixing the problem
Risk has become a central construct for how businesses should respond to climate change. As Hank Paulson, former Secretary of the US Treasury has argued, “climate change is not only a risk to the environment but it is the single biggest risk that exists to the economy today”. The G20 is currently investigating how companies are exposed to climate risk, and how they disclose that risk to consumers.  However, instead of dealing with the larger problem of rapid and systemic decarbonisation, most businesses construct climate risk solely through the lens of profitability and market opportunity.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Dave Armstrong: What’s not to like about a plastic bag levy?
NEW ZEALAND – I think the current move to impose a small 15-cent charge on plastic bags is a great idea. Many shoppers are fine with it, even though it will be them who do the paying, and most of our local bodies strongly support a levy. In the UK, where a 5p plastic bag surcharge has been imposed in big stores, there has been an 80 per cent drop in usage and more than NZ$50m has been raised for charity.  But our Government is reluctant to get behind the idea.

‘This is not somebody else’s problem,’ – New Zealand’s hidden rubbish heaps
Take a closer look and you might find that New Zealand is not as clean and green as you think. Jonathon Hannon from Massey University’s Zero Waste Academy has given a grim look into the future of the world’s rubbish problem, including the drastic impact plastic is having on the environment.

Politics and Society

Shark nets: Hundreds rally on Lighthouse Beach in Ballina against installation plans
AUSTRALIA – Hundreds of people have gathered on the NSW Far North Coast to protest against plans the NSW Government has to install shark nets in the area. Crowds including politicians, animal rights activists and marine scientists gathered on Ballina’s popular Lighthouse Beach to voice their opposition, before a planned turtle release.

Social movements on the rise: and students lead
AUSTRALIA – Students and academics at RMIT this week Melbourne delivered an open letter to their Vice Chancellor Martin Bean, calling for the university to divest its $1.2 billion fund of fossil fuels, prompting these observations from 350.Org Australia chief executive office Blair Palese.

Departing green finance chief Oliver Yates says Australia must improve on climate
AUSTRALIA – Outgoing green finance chief Oliver Yates has fired several parting shots at the Turnbull government, stating its carbon goal is too weak and that coal’s share of the electricity sector must dive to make way for renewable energy even with the recent SA blackout.

Next generation pushes for green energy to renew Hazelwood power station
AUSTRALIA – The Latrobe Valley is home to three coal mines and four power stations, but now the 75,000 residents in the area are facing serious questions about their future. French company Engie has said it has no immediate plans to shut down the ageing Hazelwood plant, but in the valley many believe it is only a matter of time before Australia’s most polluting power plant stops operating. And that has led to a group of its younger residents calling for a different kind of future.

The UK public love wind power and they don’t even know it
Back in 2014, David Cameron told the House of Commons Liaison Committee that people are “basically fed up” with wind farms. In 2015, his government then went on to not only cut subsidies for onshore wind, but also make it harder and harder to get planning permission. But politicians are wrong to think wind power is unpopular. Again and again, polls show the UK public are pretty supportive of onshore wind. Our ComRes poll out today, for example, shows 73% of the British public back onshore wind power. Politicians can only dream of such approval ratings.

Government concedes decision that approved Port Melville on Tiwi Islands was wrong
The Federal Government has admitted the decision to allow a $130 million deep sea port on the Tiwi Islands near Darwin without an environmental assessment was wrong, following a Federal Court ruling. On Friday the Court overturned the Federal Government’s decision to allow Port Melville to operate as a marine supply base, after legal action by the Environment Defenders Office (EDO).

Droughts don’t have to spell disaster. El Niño countries, take note
As Botswana celebrates its 50th anniversary of independence this year, its people have a lot to celebrate. The country has seen remarkable development progress over the past half century thanks to smart investments in its people, the land, and the institutions of government. And, critically important, Botswana has adapted to a changing climate, which presents important development challenges for this semi-arid country.

Built Environment

UN Habitat III summit aims to shape future urban living
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called on city leaders to make “tough decisions” in order to provide safe and sustainable cities in the future. Mr Ban made his remarks in an address at the UN Habitat III conference that is only held once every 20 years. Many urban areas, which are home to more than half of the world population, continue to grow unplanned and unregulated, experts warn.

Data-driven cities a key to the Habitat III new urban agenda
Urbanisation has been identified as one of the 21st century’s most transformative trends. With this, comes the sustainability challenges of housing, infrastructure, basic services, food security, health, education, decent jobs, safety and natural resources, among others. The New Urban Agenda, already drafted and ready for adoption, reaffirms our collective commitment to a more effective sustainable urban development that delivers on these outcomes.

QLD releases draft 50-year plan for a sustainable SEQ
AUSTRALIA – Climate change resilience and creating more sustainable cities are two of the major threads in ShapingSEQ, the draft South East Queensland Regional Plan released today (Thursday) by the Queensland government. The plan proposes a 50-year roadmap for ensuring the region can provide affordable living, protect its natural assets and environment and generate jobs in new and emerging industries. Read the ShapingSEQ draft plan here.

Adelaide City Council ‘leads the way’ with rollout of 40 electric car charging stations in 2017
AUSTRALIA – Electric cars are the way of the future and Adelaide will lead the nation in developing infrastructure to encourage more of them, Adelaide’s Lord Mayor says. The Adelaide City Council has announced it will roll out 40 electric charging stations throughout the city in 2017 in addition to the four charging points it currently has in two CBD car parks.

Four in 10 UK councils exceed air pollution limits, figures show
Four in 10 of Britain’s local authorities breached legal air quality limits last year, largely due to heavy road traffic, government records reveal. Ministers have admitted that 169 local authorities were found to have gone over annual limits on nitrogen dioxide. It is an invisible gas produced predominantly by road traffic, and is linked to lung disease and cardiovascular problems such as heart attacks and strokes.

Food Systems

Global wine production expected to fall by 5% due to ‘climatic events’
Global wine production is expected to fall by 5% in 2016 because of “climatic events” causing steep drops in production in most of the southern hemisphere, particularly Chile and Argentina. The International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) has estimated that output will reach 259.5m hectolitres (mhl) this year, making 2016 one of the lowest production years in the past two decades.


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