Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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The Solutions Project: How 139 Countries Can Hit 100% Renewable Energy
The idea of hitting 100% renewable energy (yes, energy, not just electricity) scares a lot of people. That is, a lot of people don’t think their cities or countries can achieve 100% renewable energy. However, a leading energy researcher at Stanford has led teams of researchers in order to practically show how 139 different countries could go 100% renewable. Based on research done by Stanford University, led by Mark Z. Jacobson, The Solutions Project is popularizing the maps and plans.

Energy and Climate Change

France calls on world leaders to give Paris climate deal ‘new push’
World leaders should give international efforts to fight global warming a new push by ratifying the historic Paris climate deal in person, according to France’s foreign minister. Laurent Fabius, who steered December’s UN talks, wants heads of state to ratify the accord at a meeting in April in New York, so that it can be enshrined in international law. Nations accounting for more than 55% of global emissions must formally sign up before the Paris agreement can be made official.

Wind and solar records tumble as China and India accelerate energy transition
Key developments in China and India this week provide more confirmation that the global electricity markets are transforming a great deal faster than anyone expected. China is expected to have set two new clean energy world records in 2015 – one for installing a record 30.5 gigawatts (GW) of wind in a single year, and the second for installing 16.5GW of solar. And the Indian solar sector has started 2016 with a further 7% reduction in tariffs to Rs4.34/kWh (US6.5c), building rapidly on the 20% decline achieved in 2015 alone (and 80% decline in just five years).

ARENA considers another round of large scale solar funding
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency may make another $100 million of grants available in a new round of funding for large scale solar projects in Australia following the overwhelming response to its latest program… Now, it appears, ARENA is already considering a further round of a similar scope. The Coalition government, ironically, has yet to withdraw legislation seeking to fold up the operations of ARENA, but environment minister Greg Hunt flagged the likely second round in an interview on Thursday after officiating at the opening of the 102MW solar plant at Nyngan, and the 53MW solar plant in Broken Hill.

German Minister Declares Pilot Solar Auctions A “Complete Success”
Germany piloted a new system for setting the price paid for electricity from ground-mounted photovoltaic arrays in 2015. Instead of receiving a government-set feed-in tariff, interested parties bid in three solar auctions for a share of 500 MW of capacity. On Wednesday, Germany’s federal minister for economic affairs and energy, Sigmar Gabriel, declared the pilot auctions a “complete success,” noting they had been “received well by market participants.” He also said he wanted to transfer other renewables to the bidding process. Under the country’s Renewable Energy Act 2014, the new system should be the norm from 2017. However, the new process, which was introduced in part under pressure from the EU Commission, was initially met with criticism.

Weird weather? Blame the North Atlantic
Whether dubbed “climate extremes” or “global weirding”, we have been witnessing some surprising and concerning weather events. In Europe, seasons seem to be changing, but not consistently. Since the turn of the millennium, the UK in particular has experienced record-breaking summer heatwaves, extraordinary rainfall in different seasons, and winters extreme in both warmth and cold. Something seems wrong, and we don’t have a complete understanding of what is going on.

Blizzard kills at least 19, shuts down parts of US as it dumps near-record snow
A massive blizzard that claimed at least 19 lives in the eastern United States finally appears to be winding down, giving snowbound residents the chance to begin digging out. The near-record snowstorm clobbered the US on Friday and Saturday (local time), shutting down New York and Washington and impacting some 85 million residents.

Environment and Biodiversity

Bolivia’s second-largest lake dries up and may be gone forever, lost to climate change
Overturned fishing skiffs lie abandoned on the shores of what was Bolivia’s second-largest lake. Beetles dine on bird carcasses and gulls fight for scraps under a glaring sun in what marshes remain. Lake Poopó was officially declared evaporated in December. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people have lost their livelihoods and gone. High on Bolivia’s semi-arid Andean plains at 3,700 metres (more than 12,000 feet) and long subject to climatic whims, the shallow saline lake has essentially dried up before only to rebound to twice the area of Los Angeles. But recovery may no longer be possible, scientists say.

See also: Bolivia’s second-largest lake lost to climate change – video

Rare harvest mice return to Hampshire village where they were first discovered
Rare harvest mice have been rediscovered in the village where the species was first identified, after work by farmers and volunteers to help wildlife.  More than 150 nests of the tiny mammal, immortalised by Beatrix Potter, have been found around the village of Selborne, Hampshire, where it has been thought to be locally extinct for more than 25 years.  Its return to the village, birthplace of famous naturalist Gilbert White who first distinguished the harvest mouse, Micromys minutus, as a species in 1767, comes after work by a “farmer cluster” to manage the landscape for wildlife.

Stepping Stones program supports farmers to replant natural habitat after mining
AUSTRALIA – Andrew Shaw says he is “not a quintessential farmer”. A more accurate view might be that you won’t find many coal mine workers like him in the Hunter Valley. After 25 years of driving bulldozers and other heavy mine machinery, Mr Shaw has lately been trying to redress some of the damage by revegetating parts of his farm block. “I love living out here in the bush, but I’m guilty by association in destroying it,” Mr Shaw said at his parent’s land at McCully’s Gap near Muswellbrook.

Storks shun migration for junk food
Storks feeding on rubbish dumps instead of migrating are more likely to survive the winter, research shows. The bird is among a growing number of migratory species that have changed their behaviour due to human influences, says an international team.  Until recently, all white storks in Europe migrated south for the winter, but now more are flying shorter distances to snack on food on dumps.

Economy and Business

Surprise, Surprise: Climate Change Leads Top Global Risks for 2016
For the first time, an environmental risk has topped the World Economic Forum (WEF)’s Global Risks Report ranking for risk with the greatest potential impact since the report was published in 2006. “Failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation,” was considered to have greater potential damage than weapons of mass destruction (which ranked 2nd), water crises (3rd), large-scale involuntary migration (4th), and severe energy price shock (5th). Failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation also ranked third in terms of likelihood, behind large-scale involuntary migration (1st) and extreme weather events (2nd).

Why do oil prices keep going down?
Global stock markets have been in a tailspin this week. And the sinking price of oil received at least some of the blame. Just this week, the cost of a barrel of crude reached a 12-year-low of US$27, down from more than $100 a little more than year ago. And that may not be the end of it, according to some in the industry. Plummeting oil prices have raised fears of a worldwide recession, even though countries are still reporting growth in jobs and income. Are there other factors driving oil prices globally?

A Dutch City Is Experimenting With Giving Away A Basic Income Of $1,000 A Month
If you give people $,1000 a month, no strings attached, will they pocket the money and do nothing with their lives (nothing, that is, that’s socially useful)? Or, will they use the $1,000 as a platform to earn more money and live a richer, more productive life?

Waste and the Circular Economy

Challenges For E-Waste Recycling Sector
It has been reported that the e-waste recycling sector is currently struggling economically in difficult market conditions. E-waste recycling has always posed significant challenges, including the implementation of reverse logistics mechanisms, the illegal exporting of e-waste and challenging in effective material separation or reconfiguration for sale. However, current conditions, which are seeing electronics products becoming increasingly small and where oil prices are very low, are apparently making trading in that marketplace even more difficult.

US Navy launches first biofuel-powered ship
The USS Stockdale, began its deployment on Wednesday, powered in part by alternative fuel made from waste beef fat provided by farmers in the Midwest.   The fuel blend powering the USS Stockdale – an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer – was purchased through a partnership between the Department of the Navy and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) aimed at making alternative fuel blends a regular part of the military’s bulk operational fuel supply.

Worldwide interest in Australian Seabin as surfers’ invention becomes online viral sensation
An Australian invention to reduce marine pollution is set to go global after becoming a viral sensation, attracting more than 120 million views online. The unique ocean-cleaning technology, dubbed “Seabin”, has raised more than $300,000 in two months during a crowdfunding campaign. After becoming frustrated at the amount of rubbish floating around in the ocean, surfers Andrew Turton and Pete Ceglinski quit their jobs to come up with a sustainable solution.

New Zealand needs to tax plastic bags
OPINION: Plastic bag after plastic bag after plastic bag, millions of them every year head to landfills across this beautiful place on earth. Why? And how can we change this? Putting a tax on plastic bags would not only reduce the number of petrochemical bags going into holes in the ground in this country, but it would also galvanise New Zealanders into discussing our waste issues (and they are so much bigger than just the plastic bag).

Trending: ReKindness, Hubbub Creating Circular Model for Clothes Through Swapping, Upcycling
There are new options for Americans and Brits alike who want to “re-fashion” their wardrobes. ReKindness is an Atlanta, Georgia-based startup that is allowing members to swap clothes through its online platform. On the other side of the pond, environmental charity Hubbub is running events to help people learn how to repair and upcycle clothes and accessories, in addition to “clothes swapping boutiques.”

Politics and Society

Looking within to discover our leadership and activist styles
What is our activist style? And what’s our leadership style? Discovering what activist and leadership style we are naturally drawn to is key to developing successful initiatives that are in alignment with our character and works effectively with our peers. This process involves understanding our temperament and identifying the right “fit.”

US court approves Obama’s Clean Power Plan
A federal court in the US rejected a bid by 27 states to block the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan on Thursday, in a significant victory for the President’s climate strategy. The Clean Power Plan is the centrepiece of Obama’s efforts to combat climate change by reducing carbon emissions from coal fired power plants.

Rehabilitation may suffer as coal mining sinks, mayor warns
AUSTRALIA – The ailing state of the coal industry means taxpayers may end up being lumped with the bill for the rehabilitation of some mines, while safety and other standards are also at risk, says Martin Rush, mayor of Muswellbrook. Muswellbrook Shire Council has been battling BHP Billiton to make good on its current obligations and Mr Rush said he is worried the Baird government will not insist the mining giant and others big companies deliver on their obligations.

Call for McArthur River Mine’s security bond to be made public
AUSTRALIA – In the Northern Territory, there are calls for the security bonds held by mining companies to be made public so taxpayers know whether they’ll have to foot the bill if mining companies can’t pay to rehabilitate their former sites. The Environmental Defender’s Office of the Northern Territory’s been trying to find out how much money’s been set aside by the operator of one of the world’s largest zinc deposits, the McArthur River Mine in the Gulf Country. A recent report found that once that mine’s closed, the site may need to be managed forever and that the operator hasn’t allowed for that cost.


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