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Wednesday 25 October

Sustainable Development News

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

EU on brink of historic decision on pervasive glyphosate weedkiller
A pivotal EU vote this week could revoke the licence for the most widely used herbicide in human history, with fateful consequences for global agriculture and its regulation. Glyphosate is a weedkiller so pervasive that its residues were recently found in 45% of Europe’s topsoil – and in the urine of three quarters of Germans tested, at five times the legal limit for drinking water. Since 1974, almost enough of the enzyme-blocking herbicide has been sprayed to cover every cultivable acre of the planet. Its residues have been found in biscuits, crackers, crisps, breakfast cereals and in 60% of breads sold in the UK.

Ed: Many of the chemicals used in products around the world have been used for their effectiveness with no real idea about the impact on ecosystems around them, including humans.  See related articles below on California requiring the labelling of chemicals in household products and the decline of bees attributed, at least in part, to the use of neonicotinoids.

Climate Change and Energy

Queensland Labor ups ante on rooftop solar, battery storage, ahead of election
AUSTRALIA – Queensland’s Labor government has unveiled a suite of new policies that will open the way for thousands more homes in the Sunshine State – including the largely untapped rental market – to gain access to rooftop solar and battery storage and cut their electricity bills.

Renewables roadshow
AUSTRALIA – Watch the videos visiting the Australian communities embracing renewable energy.

Italy proposes phasing out coal power plants by 2025
Italy has set its sights on phasing out coal power plants by 2025, the Italian Industry Minister said on Tuesday presenting a consultation document on a new energy strategy.

Nicaragua to join Paris climate accord, leaving US and Syria isolated
Nicaragua is set to join the Paris climate agreement, according to an official statement and comments from the vice-president, Rosario Murillo, on Monday, in a move that leaves the United States and Syria as the only countries outside the global pact.

Related: Trump to auction off a vast swath of the Gulf of Mexico to oil companies

Environment and Biodiversity

‘Steady decline’ in honey crop raises concern for honeybees’ future
Beekeepers have raised concerns over the future of honeybees as an annual survey showed a “steady decline” in the honey crop.  The survey by the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA) revealed beekeepers in England produced an average of 11.8kg (26 lb) of honey per hive this year, down 1kg on last year. While weather can cause fluctuations in honey yield, the organisation said it is the steady overall decline in quantity that is worrying, with long-time beekeepers saying a crop of 25-45kg was typical in the 1950s.

The world lost an area of tree cover the size of New Zealand last year
Last year the world lost an area of tree cover the size of New Zealand, according to satellite data. That’s around 29.7 million hectares (29,700 square kilometers) – and was a 51 percent jump over 2015.

See also: FSC mulls rule change to allow certification for recent deforesters

Catalyst: Gut Revolution: A Catalyst special – Part 2 (Video: 57mins)
Gut Revolution seeks to sort the facts from the faeces in an observational series that follows two people with debilitating gut issues on their quest for better health. Garry has tried it all to lose weight, from the Biggest Loser to meal replacement shakes. And despite temporary victories, the kilos always pile back on. Are Garry’s gut bacteria keeping him fat and can the Gut Revolution help him? Nutrition scientist Dr Joanna McMillan and her team of experts explore new and controversial science that suggests gut bacteria might just be affecting our appetites and moods.

Economy and Business

Tracking climate progress 2017
The Carbon Disclosure Project’s CDP’s global analysis shows that business is picking up the pace on climate action. Spurred by the Paris Agreement, more leading companies are embedding  low-carbon goals into their long-term future business plans. Among our sample of high-impact companies, 89% of respondents report emissions reductions targets in 2017. More than two thirds (68%) of those are setting targets to at least 2020, and 20% are mapping out sustainability actions to 2030 and beyond.

P&G, SC Johnson back California chemical labeling law
In mid-October, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed the Cleaning Product Right to Know Act, authored by Democratic Sen. Ricardo Lara. The law makes California the first state to require companies to disclose the chemicals present in both commercial and householder cleaning products through both packaging labels and online declarations, joining New York as one of just two states that regulate chemicals disclosure.

New Apparel Institute Aims to Scale Sustainable Solutions for Fashion Industry Impacts
The launch of a new initiative designed to spur collective action around sustainability in the apparel and footwear industry is providing brands and manufacturers with the knowledge and resources necessary to select, fund and accelerate projects that can improve upon the sector’s problematic environmental impacts… the Apparel Impact Institute (AII) will identify promising projects that are working in limited geography or are targeting a narrow problem yet show potential for broader application. By connecting them with the appropriate resources, AII will help them scale more quickly.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Victoria’s plastic bag ban: a good start, but we can do more
The Victorian government is proposing to ban single-use lightweight plastic shopping bags. First of all, for plastic bag devotees, don’t panic – there are alternatives such as paper, cloth and a range of other reusable bags (you can even use the cardboard cartons from the shop). For those who have been advocating for a ban, don’t relax – there is still more to be done.

Is all this plastic really necessary? Anna Gregroy/flickr, CC BY

Is all this plastic really necessary? Anna Gregroy/flickr, CC BY

Politics and Society

Here’s Why Vaccines Are So Crucial
Go see the child, Samir Saha said. Just sit with her. Probably the siblings will be there too, the brother and sister whose lives are also altered permanently. ‘This is why the vaccine is so important,’ Saha said. ‘We want to reduce this number to a minimum, if not zero. So no other children will be like this.’… Saha is a microbiologist, internationally renowned for his research on a bacterium called pneumococcus. The laboratory he founded is wedged into one corner of Dhaka Shishu, the biggest children’s hospital in Bangladesh. Just down the hall, rows of beds fill the open wards; during family hours, each bed seems to hold both a sick child and many attentive relatives.

New government faces Herculean policy list
NEW ZEALAND – The new Labour government has set itself a monumental challenge to enact the agreements it has struck with New Zealand First and the Greens, as the price of power. Along with its own extensive policy manifesto, it has now signed up to dozens of new initiatives and law changes, including several reviews: of the welfare system, Working for Families, power pricing and monetary policy – to name a few. Running strongly through both agreements are commitments to environmental change.

Climate change action a winner in coalition deal
NEW ZEALAND – Climate change action has emerged as a winner in deals just signed between Labour, the Greens and New Zealand First. The parties have agreed to introduce a new Zero Carbon Act and launch a new independent Climate Commission, based on previous recommendations by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.

ESB told to ignore climate, as lobby groups muscle in on policy
AUSTRALIA – The Energy Security Board has been instructed to completely ignore Australia’s long term commitment to the Paris climate treaty, in yet another example of the extraordinary double speak that surrounds the Coalition’s latest climate policy thought bubble. The ESB has been asked to present modelling to the COAG energy council within a few weeks, but in the letter sent by energy minister Josh Frydenberg, the ESB was told to restrict its modelling to only one specified short term target, and then assume emissions would “flatline” after that.

Built Environment

What’s an efficient building? Nearly zero energy, according to EU
The European Union could be set to define energy efficient buildings as “nearly energy zero” if the definition, proposed last week by the European Parliament’s Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committee, is adopted into law. The Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) who form the committee have issued a radical new draft for the ongoing revision of the bloc’s Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), and then voted 51-1 in favour of it on 11 October. The directive revision forms part of the European Commission’s Clean Energy Package.

Ed: Note the advocacy of timber buildings being good for the environment and this article where the Wood Council of NZ is asking the new government to support timber buildings: Forestry calls for wooden public buildings (Radio New Zealand News) 

Greater Sydney Commission firms up plan for three cities
AUSTRALIA – It was not so much a reveal than a reiteration when Greater Sydney Commission head Lucy Turnbull announced Sydney would become a tale of three “30-minute” cities by 2056 – we heard that last year when the city’s draft district plans were released… The rationale behind the move is that currently only 39 per cent of Sydneysiders can get to their jobs and other services within 30 minutes. Decentralising the city into three aims to boost that figure to 70 per cent by 2056. The plan is based around four key planks: infrastructure and collaboration, liveability, productivity and sustainability.

Bees in the city: Designing green roofs for pollinators
CANADA – Declining bee populations have been widely covered in the news. It is a pressing issue worldwide as one in three bites of food that we eat relies on bee pollination. A key factor that affects bees is increasing urban development as people flock to cities. As cities develop, they sprawl into their surroundings, fragmenting animal habitats and replacing vegetation with hard surfaces such as concrete and asphalt. Insects, including a multitude of native bees, rely on soil and plants for foraging and nesting.

Change call on tree protection after mass felling in Auckland
NEW ZEALAND – One third of Auckland’s residential trees have been felled in the past five years, the Tree Council says. The Tree Council was a long-standing non-profit organisation established in 1986 to act as a steward for the trees of the Auckland region. Its secretary, Dr Mels Barton, said changes to the Resource Management Act saw blanket protections on trees lifted in 2012, leaving 90 per cent of trees in residential areas unprotected.

Food Systems

Impact investors flock to sustainable agriculture
Massive venture capital investments in food make for a steady stream of splashy, dramatic headlines. A growing number of investment companies in this realm are using capital to help ranchers switch to 100 percent grass-fed beef production, connect small farms to communities with little access to fresh food and transition farmland used to grow commodity corn and soy to organic, regenerative systems.

As Northwest salmon economy teeters on brink, Trump gives it a push
Four years ago, Malcolm Sampson says, the ocean changed in a way that terrified him. Now in his 60s, Sampson, an ethnic-Tsimshian and member of the Lax Kwalaams First Nation, had spent his entire life hunting salmon in the open ocean and torturous passages of Canada’s North Coast, just south of the Alaska border. But he had never seen anything like that: “The water went warm,” he said, nodding down at the blue-gray waves lapping at his boat, anchored about a mile offshore. In the distance, we could see the forbidding heights of British Columbia’s coastal range poking through the haze. Sampson was dour. “We pulled the sockeye out of the gill nets still alive, and they were already rotting,” he said. Algae bloomed on the water’s surface, pushing the surviving salmon far out to sea. Throughout the fishery, he said, the harvest collapsed.

Global wine production predicted to slump to 50-year low
If you haven’t got a wine cellar, it’s time to get one and start stockpiling – because global wine production is to fall to its lowest level in more than 50 years. On Tuesday the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) said it expected an 8% decrease in global wine production to 247m hectolitres for 2017. The international producer group’s forecast foretells the worst global harvest since 1961, with the weather to blame, after vines in key wine-producing countries such as Italy and France were ravaged by both freakishly hot and cold weather.

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