Sustainable Development News

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

Energy markets: the planet’s unlikely new ally in the emissions effort
In the aftermath of Paris climate talks, analysts lined up to point out why the celebrated agreement was simply not good enough… But for many analysts and advocates at the time, particularly those in Paris, the agreement had three important outcomes. First, the Paris deal provides a foundation for international climate cooperation post-Kyoto. Second, it was an important moment in the politics of climate change, demonstrating the possibility of cooperation and action in response to civil society. And third, it has sent important signals to the market, promoting increased investment in renewables and driving down the profitability of fossil fuels.

Energy and Climate Change

Innovation: Pre-fab solar farms could slash cost of big solar
A group of Australian engineers is busy working in a suburban Sydney workshop on a technology that they think could change the economics of large-scale solar in Australia. The company – 5B – is working on a pre-fabricated and re-deployable solar farm solution: essentially meaning that the technology can be shipped to a project site ready made, and can then be packed up and moved when no longer needed.

Methane Emissions From Oil & Gas 27% Higher Than Earlier Estimates
Methane emissions from the oil and gas industry are significantly higher than previous official estimates, according to draft revisions of the U.S. greenhouse gas emissions inventory released Monday by the Environmental Protection Agency. At 9.3 million metric tons, revised estimates of 2013 emissions are 27% percent higher than the previous tally. Over a 20-year timeframe, those emissions have the same climate impact as over 200 coal-fired power plants. The lost gas is worth $1.4 billion at 2015 prices.

Environment and Biodiversity

Marine ecosystems can’t be returned to original ‘pristine’ state: study
Trying to restore marine ecosystems to their original state before human activity is failing to curtail degradation, an international study has found. The research, published in the oxford journal BioScience, includes studies by Professor Gary Kendrick from the University of Western Australia. The study found marine ecosystems were being degraded at alarming rates, many faster than they could be restored.

The Great Barrier Reef faces a mixed future in acidifying oceans
Warming water is one of the greatest threats facing the reef in the long term. But what about another consequence of rising carbon dioxide, ocean acidification?… In research published in Nature Communications, we mapped parts of the reef that are most exposed to ocean acidification. As you’d expect, there will be some regions more strongly affected than others, indicating where we might focus our efforts to preserve the reef.

Climate stirring change beneath the waves
Human-induced climate change is triggering changes beneath the waves that could have a long-term effect on marine food webs, a study suggests. An assessment of phytoplankton in the North Atlantic found the microscopic organisms’ pole-ward shift was faster than previously reported. It observed that the ocean’s tiny plant community was “poised for marked shift and shuffle”. The findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Calls to extend Leigh marine reserve after serious fish decline
NEW ZEALAND – Fish and crayfish stock are lower now at the popular Leigh Marine Reserve than when the reserve was first established. Increased fishing outside the reserve is being blamed, with calls for the Goat Island reserve to be extended 3 kilometres from the shore rather than the current 800 metres. Fish numbers shot up after the reserve was first established in the 1970s, University of Auckland Marine Ecology Associate Professor Dr Mark Costello says. But over the past few decades those numbers have been declining.

Give beavers permanent residence – we’d be dam stupid not to
Beavers have recently made a tentative return to Britain… Should we let these beavers take up permanent residence? The Scottish government has first refusal. It is overdue to make a decision on the back of five years of scientific monitoring and other evidence. While conservationists wait with bated breath, we think there’s only one sensible choice – beavers should be allowed back.

Economy and Business

Lord Stern warns economic models are underestimating climate risks and clean tech opportunities
The economic models currently used to calculate the risks and costs associated with climate change adaptation and mitigation are “grossly misleading”, Lord Stern has said. Writing in an article published today in the journal Nature, the Grantham Institute chair and former Treasury advisor urged researchers to help policymakers by better modelling both the risks climate change presents to future generations and the vast potential of clean technologies.

Why you should stop selling sustainability
Although I’ve been working under the “sustainability communications” banner for more than a decade, in that time I’ve chosen my messages carefully. Only a few audiences, mainly business and government, have been interested in buying or deciding based purely on sustainability criteria. To everyone else I sell something much more powerful. I sell better value, more meaning and standing up for what matters. Because most of us, most of the time, aren’t looking for a lecture.

From Broad to BMW: is disruptive innovation the new frontier of climate leadership?
Corporate climate action is dominated by a ‘target and reduce’ mantra on carbon emissions. Now that the Paris COP21 Agreement has set the world on a journey towards net-zero carbon, companies and investors need to think radically differently about the DNA of corporate leadership.

 “Doing less bad is not the same as doing more good. Don’t think about minimizing the footprint of a person or society. Think about a beneficial footprint. Committing to continuous improvement is the beginning of a great journey.”

– William McDonough

The ‘Awareness’ Trap: Why Most Companies Are Failing to Change Consumer Behaviour
Many sustainability-driven businesses aren’t providing consumers with the environments in which to meet their sustainability aspirations — that’s according to Sille Krukow, founder of Krukow Behavioural Consulting. Krukow was speaking during an interview at the SB’16 Copenhagen preview event in Denmark earlier this month, where she took delegates on a captivating journey into the world of Behavioural Economics.

Report: WestConnex business case doesn’t stack up
A report into the NSW Government’s $16.8 billion 33 kilometre WestConnex has found the project’s updated business case has overstated the benefit-to-cost ratio, with an actual BCR of less than one “entirely possible”. It also labels the purported renewal of Parramatta Road as “questionable”.

Waste and the Circular Economy

FactCheck: do Australians with an average seafood diet ingest 11,000 pieces of plastic a year?
Australians are growing increasingly aware of the real danger posed by the vast amount of plastic dumped in our seas every year. It’s an important issue, so it’s crucial we get the facts right. Ahead of a Senate committee hearing on the threat of marine plastic pollution in Australia, Dave West from the environmental group Boomerang Alliance told a Fairfax video journalist that an average seafood diet in Australia would result in ingesting about 11,000 pieces of plastic a year. Is that accurate?

Scotland aims to cut food waste by a third
Food waste will be cut by a third in Scotland and will save the country £500 million by 2025 according to Scottish Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead.

7 things we learned about healthcare and the circular economy
The circular economy is the concept of keeping resources in use for as long as possible through their recovery and re-use. For healthcare, this might be buying refurbished MRI scanners or sharing under-utilised surgical equipment. A recent live chat debated how circular economy principles might take root in the healthcare sector. Here are seven things we learned.

Politics and Society

Nike chairman gives $400m to Stanford program to solve ‘global challenges’
What’s a better way to celebrate your 78th birthday than giving away $400m to solve climate change?  Stanford University has announced that Nike co-founder and chairman Philip H Knight – one day before his 78th birthday – was contributing $400m to the school to create a new program called Knight-Hennessy Scholars. Graduate students chosen for the program will address the “increasingly complex challenges facing the world” such as poverty and climate change.

Automation will mark the end of our work-obsessed society
If we can overlook the irony that this social critique is born of capitalism’s very own “culture industry”, what we find in the opening of The Lego Movie is a pertinent appraisal of modern society, whose rhythms are organised primarily around the activity of paid work. It’s a society where, as Theodor Adorno argued, even free-time has become a “continuation of the forms of profit-oriented social life”, shaped to a depressing extent by the need to escape and recuperate from work.

Bryan Gould: Community spirit can be used beyond sands of Awaroa
NEW ZEALAND – Most people will feel a warm glow of pleasure that a campaign to save a beautiful beach for public use and access has been successful. That sense that “people power” has prevailed will be felt well beyond the 39,000 who pledged their contributions. The great majority of those contributors will probably, along with the rest of the population, never get to walk or swim or sail at Awaroa beach. What is inspiring, however, about what has been achieved is that, for once, personal aggrandisement has taken a back seat. The pleasure that people feel is because the community has spoken and a public good has been secured.


Marnie Prickett: NZ’s shocking freshwater issues
This summer, a group of young Kiwis have been touring rivers and lakes across New Zealand and speaking with local communities about their state. Following new freshwater quality measures announced by the Government yesterday, Marnie Prickett of the Choose Clean Water Tour writes about the tour.

Jamie McDell and fans clean up Motuihe Island
Known for its pristine beaches and coastlines, New Zealand’s clean green image is at risk as litter problems get worse. But one Kiwi songstress is encouraging her fans to help out.  Jamie McDell spent the best part of Wednesday cleaning up the beach on Motuihe Island in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf, rewarding her fans and helpers with a free gig afterwards.

Climate policy: Coalition told to cut the cr*p
A new analysis on the state of Australia’s low-carbon investment market has called on the federal Coalition to cut down on the climate double-speak – a well-honed feature of the Abbott-Turnbull administration that is currently proving a much bigger hindrance to local market confidence than weak, short-sighted policy.

Built Environment

Cyclone Winston: Island villagers’ lives violently changed after deadly storm
A week ago the villagers of Namacu on Koro island were tending their gardens, fishing, and relaxing in a beautiful coastal hamlet of around 250 people. They could not know that by Sunday morning their lives would be utterly, violently, changed.  Everyone knew Tropical Cyclone Winston was going to be bad. People had prepared for high winds, but not gusts of 330 kilometres an hour.
See also: Cyclone Winston: Fiji death toll reaches 42 with reports entire villages wiped out on remote islands

Food Systems

Project Catalyst a ‘game changer’ for cane growers ready to embrace change
Cane growers have been meeting in Cairns to reflect on some of the success stories of Project Catalyst… Collectively, growers have led the way in reducing run-off, cutting nitrogen use, saving water, boosting soil health and adopting farming practices that have resulted in improving the quality of more than 150 billion litres of water flowing to the Great Barrier Reef.


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