Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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‘It’s the end of energy and transportation as we know it’: Tony Seba
Within just 15 years conventional energy production and transport will have been rendered obsolete by the revolution taking place in batteries, solar power and electric cars. The startling thesis by energy disruption guru and Stanford University lecturer Tony Seba has been around for a couple of years but after originally being dismissed as crazy, is now catching serious attention from investors. There is “no excuse” for any board of a utility in Australia not to know what’s coming, he says, outlining a world with little centralised power generation, 100 per cent electric vehicles and minimal private car ownership.

Energy and Climate Change

Toyota Advances Safer, Longer-Lasting Rechargeable Batteries
Earlier this month, engineers at the Toyota Research Institute of North America (TRINA) announced they made a breakthrough in magnesium battery technology that could lead to smaller, longer-lasting rechargeable batteries for “everything from cars to cell phones.” Magnesium metal has long been theorized as a much safer and more energy-dense alternative to current lithium battery technology, but research on magnesium-based batteries has previously been limited by a lack of suitable electrolyte.

El Nino bows out after driving year of record heat as La Nina lurks in the wings
After a year of driving global temperatures to unprecedented warmth, the giant El Nino weather event in the Pacific is officially over, raising hopes that drought-hit regions may be in for some relief in Australia and elsewhere.

Environment and Biodiversity

Octopus and squid populations are booming – here’s why
Squid, octopus and cuttlefish populations are booming across the world. These fast-growing, adaptable creatures are perfectly equipped to exploit the gaps left by extreme climate changes and overfishing, according to a study colleagues and I published in the journal Current Biology.

UN calls for overhaul of national laws to tackle wildlife crime
Governments around the world need to pass national laws outlawing the possession of wildlife and timber that has been illegally harvested or traded elsewhere, a new report by the UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) urges. At present, unlisted but endangered flora and fauna can be legally sold in other nations, even if it was illicitly taken from the countries of origin, due to a lack of coverage in the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites). As the Guardian revealed last year, conservation authorities believe that the survival of many endangered species is being threatened as a result.

6 More Global Fashion Leaders Join CanopyStyle to Help Ensure Forest-Free Rayon by 2017
Canadian forest-conservation NGO Canopy has announced six new brand partnerships in its successful CanopyStyle initiative, through which more than 65 major fashion brands, designers and retailers have pledged to end the use of ancient and endangered forests in their rayon supply chains.

Body Shop ‘bio-bridges’ to regenerate forests and connect wildlife habitats
A programme to regenerate thousands of acres of forest and link habitats in wildlife-rich parts of the world has been launched. The “bio-bridges” scheme, which creates corridors of natural habitat to prevent threatened wildlife populations being cut off from each other, is being run by the Body Shop in partnership with the World Land Trust. Every customer purchase will help to restore and protect one square metre of habitat, the company pledges, with aims to protect 75 million square metres, or more than 18,500 acres of land.

Economy and Business

Tokyo’s cap and trade scheme goes beyond hitting the bullseye
The city-wide Tokyo Cap and Trade Program has stimulated energy efficiency in the commercial and industrial sector so effectively it has achieved double its emissions reduction goal across the 1300 properties covered, according to a recent research report. The commercial office sector outperformed all others, achieving a reduction of emissions intensity of 27 per cent by financial year 2013, compared to the year 2000 baseline. The target had been set at eight per cent by FY 2015, and 20 per cent by 2020.

Exxon Mobil facing ‘change or die’ moment on climate change
A significant group of shareholders are seeking to force Exxon Mobil to acknowledge the growing threat from climate change at the company’s AGM on Wednesday.  These investors want the world’s biggest publicly traded oil company to support the goal of a 2C global temperature limit. Exxon Mobil is also being investigated for potential fraud by withholding information on the role of fossil fuels in driving up temperatures.  The company says that the shareholder resolutions are unnecessary, while the investigations by several states are “politically motivated.”

Transforming culture at Barclays, Enel and Campbell Soup
Forming a culture that enables an employee to understand what sustainability means for both the organization and his or her role within it is necessary in order to deeply embed sustainability. Yet culture is difficult to define and often described simply as “how we do things around here.”  To fully integrate sustainability issues into the company’s decision-making, employees need a clear set of values and shared understanding. And the company’s leadership is critical when it comes to enhancing or diminishing a shared understanding of sustainability.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Kiwi corporates join forces to tackle textile waste
Air New Zealand, New Zealand Post, Fonterra, SKYCITY Auckland and The Warehouse Group have set up a working group to look at what to do with old uniforms that have been replaced. Collectively these organisations produce more than 60,000 uniforms every year, presenting an opportunity to establish an environmentally and commercially sustainable business solution. The Formary, which is expert in textile fibre recovery and re-engineering, is working with the five organisations and leading the project. The Formary’s founder Bernadette Casey says technical challenges are often difficult to solve in isolation and the business partnership is a good idea.

Can cigarette butt-bricks build a better environment?
Cigarette butts are a bigger environmental problem than you might realize, with some 6 trillion cigarettes produced every year, creating 1.2 million tonnes of garbage. And due to the chemicals and heavy metals in the filters, that garbage is technically toxic waste. So what if we could get rid of butt litter by using them to make bricks? A team at RMIT University in Australia tried the idea out.

Politics and Society

Five Climate Successes Since An Inconvenient Truth
Ten years ago, An Inconvenient Truth brought the issue of climate change out into the open and into mainstream culture like never before. People began asking tough questions about our climate and wanted to know what they could do to make our planet a safer, healthier place for us all. And 10 years later, we can see the results.
See also: How ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ influenced a generation of professionals

A big majority of Australians say Malcolm Turnbull is doing little or nothing about climate change
Two-thirds of voters say the Turnbull government is doing “not very much” or “nothing at all” to combat climate change. And they are not alone – exclusive international polling for Fairfax Media shows a similar proportion in 22 other nations think their governments are doing little or nothing to address global warming. Climate change has featured little in federal election campaign so far but the new poll results point to widespread voter dissatisfaction with current policies.

Climate groups join forces for election campaign blitz
AUSTRALIA – An unprecedented level of coordination between climate activists and conservation groups is aiming to raise the profile of climate change in this year’s election. A coalition of groups has been organising tactics aimed at engaging both politicians and voters with climate change for the 2 July election.

Why doing good can do you good
We feel good when we do a good deed, so there must be a psychological benefit to helping others? But how can we know for sure? The best way to study the health benefits of kind deeds is to look at studies of volunteering.

Customer power: are you the kind of energy user who makes a difference?
In the story of how energy is made and used to keep a country functioning, you don’t get a starring role. You are the passive receiver and consumer of electricity or gas in a tale dominated by governments, corporations and the media. We put the kettle on, we set the thermostat but we don’t take any heat for shaping or challenging the status quo. In truth though there are distinct, if overlapping, types of energy users which together tell a different story. Most likely without realising, they play a crucial role in creating, altering and establishing new energy systems.

Portland schools ditch textbooks that question climate change
Schools in Portland, Oregon, have voted to abandon textbooks that “express doubt about the severity of the climate crisis or its root in human activities”.

North Yorkshire council fracking decision a ‘declaration of war’
Anti-fracking campaigners have accused North Yorkshire council of declaring war on people’s rights to clean air and water after it approved the first operation to frack for shale gas in five years. Campaigners opposed to the development outside Kirby Misperton – a village in Ryedale near the North York Moors national park – launched a “people’s declaration” in an attempt to stop the process going ahead. There have also been calls for a judicial review from Friends of the Earth and Frack Free Ryedale, which led the campaign against the application by Third Energy.

‘Mummy, where does steak come from?’ How Australian families talk about meat
Australia is a nation of meat-eaters. Our identities are deeply tied to our pastoral history: we have the highest rates of meat consumption in the world. But with increasing urbanisation, Australians are becoming more disconnected from how their food, including meat, is produced.

Built Environment

Unreliable car emissions tests harming fight against air pollution, expert says
The growing gulf between laboratory tests and real world air pollution from cars is hampering efforts to cut the toxic air that kills millions of people a year worldwide, a leading expert has warned. The UN admitted on Tuesday that the global response to air pollution is not up to scratch, after it was revealed last week by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that harmful airborne particulates had risen by 8% in cities around the world.

Food Systems

Gore dairy farmers have ‘happier cows and happier staff’
NEW ZEALAND – Elieen and Shane Walker are working towards a happy farm, happy cows and happy staff with the introduction of a wetland and once-a-day milking on their farm. The Willowbank dairy farmers, near Gore, began developing a wetland, complete with native plantings and a pond, on an unproductive paddock in March 2014.


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