Sustainable Development News

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

Dutch court orders government slash greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25 per cent by 2020
A Dutch court has ordered the country slash greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25 per cent by 2020, after a group of citizens took their government to court.  “The court orders the state to reduce the overall volume of greenhouse gas emissions in such a way that they are at least 25 per cent less in 2020 compared to 1990,” judge Hans Hofhuis said.

Energy and Climate Change

China hints at multi-trillion dollar green investment plan
The Chinese government is preparing to mobilise $6.6tr of investment over the coming years in a bid to meet its emissions reduction targets, the country’s lead climate change negotiator has revealed. According to Reuters reports, Xie Zhenhua, China’s top negotiator for the upcoming Paris Summit in December, told the three-day Strategic and Economic Dialogue forum in Washington the country would deliver a wide-ranging new low carbon investment plan when it submits its national climate action plan, known as Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), to the UN.

Reports question viability of coal mining in Galilee Basin
AUSTRALIA – Amid the continuing fall in coal prices, there are increasingly insistent questions over the future of the massive Galilee Basin coal mine in Queensland. The market’s been asking questions for some time about the financing of the Indian company Adani’s $16 billion mine.  Today, a report in the Guardian says Adani has stopped engineering work around the project’s Carmichael Mine and a new Climate Council report says coal mining in the Galilee Basin is not environmentally or economically sustainable.

Environment and Biodiversity

Will Humans Survive the Sixth Great Extinction?
In the last half-billion years, life on Earth has been nearly wiped out five times—by such things as climate change, an intense ice age, volcanoes, and that space rock that smashed into the Gulf of Mexico 65 million years ago, obliterating the dinosaurs and a bunch of other species. These events are known as the Big Five mass extinctions, and all signs suggest we are now on the precipice of a sixth. Except this time, we have no one but ourselves to blame.

Vast ecosystem discovered in ice
For decades, scientists had little inkling that Antarctica, one of the bleakest places on the planet, was home to an abundance of colourful creatures ranging from giant spiders to bizarre, ice-loving sea anemones. But recent research efforts and modern technology have revealed tens of thousands of new creatures we never knew could even survive on the vast, frozen continent. This dramatic change in understanding has made it clear to scientists that Antarctica holds an important, unique and wide-ranging biodiversity of species.

New Zealand’s sea lion now endangered
New Zealand’s sea lion is now considered endangered, and experts say the Government should shoulder some of the blame. The sea mammal’s continuing plight was highlighted when the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) released its latest Red List this week. The IUCN said disease, habitat modification caused by fishing, and accidental death as a result of bycatch made the remaining population of around 10,000 animals one of the rarest sea lion species in the world.

Royal Navy bomb explosions caused mass whale deaths, report concludes
Four large bombs exploded underwater by the Royal Navy were to blame for a mass stranding which killed 19 pilot whales on the north coast of Scotland in 2011, government scientists have concluded. A long-delayed report released on Wednesday by the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs says that the noise from the explosions could have damaged the hearing and navigational abilities of the whales, causing them to beach and die.

Pakistan’s extreme heat prompts state of emergency as deaths top 700
The government has declared a state of emergency in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest southern city, after a heatwave killed more than 700 people there and left thousands fighting for their lives at hospitals. The declaration came on Tuesday, with more than 700 dying in the port city since Friday, said Jam Mehtab Dahar, health minister of southern province of Sindh. The hospitals were overflowing with thousands of patients suffering heat stroke and heat exhaustion who were being driven in by long queues of ambulances, with Morgues also at capacity, Dahar said.

Economy and Business

Report: Biobased Products Industry Adds $369B, 4 Million Jobs to US Economy
A new report suggests the U.S. biobased products industry has a notable impact on the nation’s economy. It is the first research effort to quantify the effect of this industry from an economics and jobs perspective, according to U.S. Agricultural Secretary, Tom Vilsack. “Before, we could only speculate at the incredible economic impact of the biobased products industry. Now, we know that in 2013 alone, America’s biobased industry contributed four million jobs and $369 billion to our economy,” Vilsack said.

First industry-wide EPD for timber registered
The sustainability case for timber in building will now be easier to quantify, with the Australian timber industry this week registering the first industry-wide Environmental Product Declaration as part of the new Australasian EPD Programme.  The EPD, which covers softwood sawn timber products of Australian origin, provides data including lifecycle footprint, emissions such as formaldehyde, carbon impact and what to look for in terms of chain of custody certification. The data is benchmarked against European standards.

Meet China’s clean energy upstarts who are $US9 billion richer
A new class of clean energy entrepreneurs is emerging in China and creating fabulous wealth — $US9.13 billion ($11.8 billion) this year alone. Call them the wildcatters of the solar age. To some extent, they’re riding the froth of Chinese equity markets. The Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index is up about 40 per cent since Jan. 1, compared with an increase of about 3 per cent for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index. But they’re also being enriched by a fundamental shift in China’s energy policies. China was the world’s biggest investor in renewable energy last year…

Waste and the Circular Economy

£29bn: the value of a UK ‘circular revolution’
Closing the loop on resource use and moving to a service-based economy has the potential to boost the UK economy by 1.8% over a 10-year period, according to new research.  The research, carried out by Imperial College London on behalf of waste management firm Veolia, found that a fully-functioning circular economy would add around £2.9bn to UK GDP every year, as well as creating new jobs and significantly reducing the country’s environmental impact.

Annual upgrade? How your mobile contract is really costing the earth
We’ve all seen reports on TV: queues round the block, makeshift camps, furtive checking of watches, and the rapturous applause on the opening of the doors. Such is the clamour for new “must-have” technology. While I admire the leaps forward in mobile technology we’ve witnessed in the last decade, this rush for new devices is having a devastating effect on the environment. We must acknowledge this and deal with the problem if we are to continue to enjoy our planet as much as we do our new mobile lifestyles.

Supermarkets take shared responsibility for food waste crackdown
The UK’s three largest supermarket chains and the trade body which represents them have unanimously agreed that more collaboration is needed to redistribute more surplus food to charities.  Representatives from Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda and the British Retail Consortium (BRC) gathered around the same table at a food surplus event in London earlier this week; concluding that they should “leave our corporate colours at the door” in a bid to tackle the issue.

Politics and Society

Hague climate change judgement could inspire a global civil movement
“You have been negotiating all my life”, cried out 21-year-old Anjali Appadurai from the lectern of a UN climate change conference four years ago. The activist, speaking on behalf of her nation’s youth, could have speaking for anyone who has taken a mild interest in more than two decades of international negotiations on climate change and stood aghast as world leaders have failed to protect the most basic of human rights – to exist. But today, thanks to 886 Dutch citizens who decided to sue their government, all of that may change. We may not have to wait for the politicians to save us – the lawyers may step in instead.

Warm crimes: The bid to put ‘toxic’ carbon in the dock
Will island nations be able to sue for damages if their lands become inundated by rising sea levels caused by climate change, and if so, who should pay? Justice Brian Preston, chief judge of the NSW Land and Environment Court, is among leading jurists exploring how domestic and international law might be used to address or remedy such “warm crimes” – and many others – caused by human activities.

Climate change should be top foreign policy priority, G7 study says
Tackling climate change risks must become a top foreign policy priority if the world is to combat the global security threat it poses in the 21st century, according to a new study commissioned by the G7 countries. Multiple conflicts have taken the government systems for dealing with them “to their limits”, according to one of the authors of the report, which was launched at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) on Tuesday. Written by an international consortium including peacebuilding NGO International Alert and the European Union Institute for Security Studies, it calls climate change “the ultimate threat multiplier” in fragile situations.

Want to Create Real Change? Make Sustainability Cool
At Futerra we recently co-published a guide for Selling Sustainability, offering a framework for marketers struggling with the challenge of making sustainability desirable. That’s nice and all. But as Raz Godelnik recently asked in a post on TriplePundit, is this the answer? Let’s see.

People want better lives and a better world. We can positively say this, whether we believe attitude surveys or not. And sustainability practitioners often believe they have the answer: greener, cleaner, safer and all that jazz. Here is the crux. This answer isn’t giving people what they want. For decades sustainability has been sold on better for planet, for people and for close-to-extinction tree frogs. The problem: The only ones to listen are the already converted (Futerrans included of course).

Hiding ethics classes from parents is bad faith
AUSTRALI A – Several weeks ago, NSW Premier Mike Baird found himself under scrutiny for allegedly cutting a deal with Fred Nile to reduce parents’ ability to be aware of the option of ethics classes as an alternative to Special Religious Education (SRE) – or “scripture” – in NSW Primary Schools. Although the allegations of a deal were denied, Nile and other faith groups would still prefer that the NSW Government approve policy that would make parents aware of the availability of ethics classes only after they had decided against SRE.

Kids wing it for monarch artwork
NEW ZEALAND – Kiwi kids have flooded an Auckland environmentalist’s mailbox with droves of paper monarch butterflies for an art installation marking the Moths and Butterflies Trust of New Zealand’s 10th anniversary. The artwork is to be installed at the gala premiere of the movie Flight of the Butterflies, at Hoyts Sylvia Park on Monday. The film followed the year-long annual migration cycle of the butterflies and showed millions of monarchs in their overwintering sanctuaries in Mexico.

Built Environment

Real estate owners earn more from green buildings, study says
Real estate owners should make their properties more energy efficient to attract more investment, according to the Richard Branson-backed NGO Carbon War Room. The organisation has published research undertaken by the University of Cambridge that found investors are increasingly putting their money in trusts that fund sustainable buildings. The study makes use of a Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) dataset, which analyses the sustainability performance of Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) and sets a benchmark figure for the real estate industry. Last year’s GRESB survey observed 56,000 buildings worth $2.1tn (£1.33tn).

Food Systems

Will Greece go hungry if it exits the euro? That’s a question for insurers
The globalisation of food trade over the past few decades has made the world food system better equipped to respond to small localised losses in food production and feed a growing global population. It has arguably also increased our exposure to systemic risks.  A major crop failure in top exporting countries like the US, Ukraine, Australia or Brazil will now be felt in every country in the world. This could cause civil unrest in some countries or significantly affect our economic and financial systems.

Beyond organic: promoting Indonesia’s indigenous farming cultures
The first time Helianti Hilman visited the indigenous farmers of the West Java town of Garut, she was asked to remove her shoes before entering their fields. Her surprise grew when the farmers quizzed her on her mood – they didn’t want her upsetting the plants. “That’s when I realised that their approach to agriculture was much more than just growing organic,” says 44-year-old Hilman, an Indonesian entrepreneur and former lawyer. “It was a whole way of life. That’s when my perspective changed.”


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