Sustainable Development News

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Global warming threatens to strip the identity of Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park, Montana:  What will they call this place once the glaciers are gone? A century ago, this sweep of mountains on the Canadian border boasted some 150 ice sheets, many of them scores of feet thick, plastered across summits and tucked into rocky fissures high above parabolic valleys. Today, perhaps 25 survive. In 30 years, there may be none.

A warming climate is melting Glacier’s glaciers, an icy retreat that promises to change not just tourists’ vistas, but also the mountains and everything around them. Streams fed by snowmelt are reaching peak spring flows weeks earlier than in the past, and low summer flows weeks before they used to. Some farmers who depend on irrigation in the parched days of late summer are no longer sure that enough water will be there. Bull trout, once pan-fried over anglers’ campfires, are now caught and released to protect a population that is shrinking as water temperatures rise.

Energy and Climate Change

WA Government unprepared for tenfold increase in solar panels: report
The use of solar panels on West Australian homes and businesses will increase tenfold over the next decade but the Government is unprepared for the uptake, a new report warns.  The uptake of solar has been growing at a rate of almost 20 per cent a year, while the cost of buying panels has been dropping at the same time.  Report author Professor Bill Grace from the University of Western Australia said falling cost would be the main driver behind the continued growth.

Australia’s coal and gas exports are being left stranded
In the last week the US and China announced goals to reduce emissions by 26-28% and cap emissions by 2030 respectively. India also signalled its aim to end coal imports within 2-3 years. These are telling signs of a move away from fossil fuels by some of the world’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, including countries that are key importers of Australia’s coal and gas. The latest report from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), released this week, called for an end to carbon pollution by 2070, followed by action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions already in the atmosphere (what we call “beyond zero”). But government forecasts produced by the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics (BREE) predict continuing expansion of fossil fuel exports at least until 2050.

Germany may shut down eight more coal power plants, document shows
Germany is working on a new law to force energy companies to shut down several more coal-fired power plants as it tries to reach ambitious climate goals, a document seen by Reuters showed on Sunday. According to a draft legislation prepared by the economy ministry, energy companies will be asked to reduce carbon emissions by at least 22 million tonnes by 2020. Some 50 facilities already registered for decommission will not count, however, meaning that a further eight coal-fired power stations may be closed down. Europe’s biggest economy is aiming to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2020 from 1990 levels, but its environment ministry has already warned the country risks missing the target by between 5 and 8 percentage points.

EPA to Help Utilities Increase Climate Change Resilience
USA – The EPA is providing up to $600,000 in training and technical assistance to help water utilities in more than 20 communities increase their climate change resilience and readiness. Utilities for drinking water, wastewater and stormwater will participate in a multi-year program to prepare for potential impacts from climate change. Challenges include droughts, more intense and frequent storms, flooding, sea-level rise and changes to water quality.

Environment and Biodiversity

Antarctic ice thicker than previously thought, study finds
Groundbreaking 3D mapping of previously inaccessible areas of the Antarctic has found that the sea ice fringing the vast continent is thicker than previous thought. Two expeditions to Antarctica by scientists from the UK, USA and Australia analysed an area of ice spanning 500,000 metres squared, using a robot known as SeaBed. They survey discovered ice thickness average between 1.4m and 5.5m, with a maximum ice thickness of 16m.

Atlantic mackerel catch limits slashed by 25%
Quotas for mackerel catches in the north and west Atlantic have been cut by a quarter in a deal between the EU, Norway and the Faroe Islands that conservationists welcomed as “a positive step in the right direction”. The annual catch limit was reduced from 1.4m tonnes to 1.05m tonnes under the EU’s precautionary principle, which errs towards caution when dealing with unknown risks… How to share the remaining stocks while populations continue to recover remains a divisive issue among the countries of northern Europe. In the Shetlands, resentment is rife at a perceived tilt from Brussels towards the Faroe Islands, due in part to a shift in stocks towards the Atlantic’s north and west.

Economy and Business

World bank to focus future investment on clean energy
The World Bank will invest heavily in clean energy and only fund coal projects in “circumstances of extreme need” because climate change will undermine efforts to eliminate extreme poverty, says its president Jim Yong Kim. Talking ahead of a UN climate summit in Peru next month, Kim said he was alarmed by World Bank-commissioned research from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, which said that as a result of past greenhouse gas emissions the world is condemned to unprecedented weather events.

Your Business: Sustainability with Rachel Brown, Sustainable Business Network
NEW ZEALAND – What are some small businesses doing to make themselves more sustainable – to minimise their impact on the environment and ensure they stay viable for the long term?  Sustainability is a buzzword you hear often in business, but it’s a topic where there can sometimes be more talk than walk. So what are some small businesses doing to make themselves more sustainable – to minimise their impact on the environment and ensure they stay viable for the long term?

Measuring Sustainability, Part I: The Basics of a Sustainability Index
When we work with a company that is just starting its sustainability journey, we try to focus on one central framing question: What does sustainability mean to your organisation? Sustainability has evolved way beyond merely measuring carbon emissions, which means it requires management of many factors. There are a multitude of impacts to consider: impacts on water use and water supply; impacts on human health; and even social impacts on workers and communities.

Tesco Developing Online Sustainability Community for 5,000 Suppliers
Tesco has appointed Anthesis Group to develop and manage a single online sustainability community spanning the retailer’s supply-base. The Tesco Supplier Network will help Tesco, suppliers and producers to drive sustainability across their businesses by fostering collaboration and innovation among suppliers and producers. The site will help 5000 members to interact directly with other suppliers, producers and Tesco, sharing the challenges and opportunities of delivering sustainable goods and services to the UK’s largest retailer. It will bring together the existing supplier networks; the Tesco Producer Network, which serves fresh food producers, and the Tesco Knowledge Hub, which serves branded manufacturing and processing suppliers.

Philips, Bank of America Announce Plans to Improve Global Access to Clean Cooking Technologies
Philips and the SNV Netherlands Development Organisation have partnered to improve access to clean cooking solutions in Africa by introducing clean and efficient household cook stoves to rural communities across the continent. Bank of America, Deutsche Bank and the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (GACC) announced separate plans to raise $100 million to help provide clean cooking solutions to millions of people worldwide. The Philips-SNV partnership aims to improve the health and wellbeing and income of rural populations while having a direct positive impact on the environment. It will include research, community education and access to financing for adopting clean cooking technologies.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Nestle UK Turning Unsold, Rejected Chocolates Into Electricity
Nestle’s Fawdon-based confectionary factory has installed a 200 kW power generation unit that converts leftover chocolates and residual raw material used for making confectionaries into electricity. The unit is based on anaerobic digestion that generates methane gas from decomposition of waste products… The plant uses residual starch, unsold or rejected chocolates, and other confectionaries in order to produce methane post decomposition and generate electricity. It converts about 200,000 litres of feedstock and 1,200 tonnes of residues per day. The power generation unit produces enough electricity to supply about 8% of the factory’s total power requirement, which, in turn, saves about £100,000 every year.

Politics and Society

Government runs unconvincing rearguard defence against Obama’s Barrier Reef intervention
Barack Obama certainly hit a sensitive domestic nerve when, speaking at the University of Queensland last weekend, he highlighted the threat climate change poses to the Great Barrier Reef. The Abbott and Newman governments were outraged, and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is leading the attempt to discredit Obama’s argument and contain the damage. In a series of interviews from New York on Thursday and Friday, Bishop said that before the speech she’d extensively briefed the United States Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, on what Australia was doing to protect the reef. Bishop was “surprised” the material wasn’t reflected in the speech. In light of that, her office then sent a briefing to the White House about Australia’s “commitment and capacity” to preserve the reef. Obama’s omissions shouldn’t have surprised her. What she was citing – Australia’s work with UNESCO, a ban on dumping capital dredge waste, putting money into the health of the reef – were conservation measures. Obama was talking about the broad danger to the reef from climate change.

Taxpayers to fund hundreds of fracking boreholes across the country
Hundreds of government-funded boreholes are set to be drilled across Britain to try to persuade the public that a looming shale gas boom can be developed safely, the Observer has learned. Sensors in the boreholes would detect possible water pollution or earthquakes caused by fracking and the information would be made public. “We will be taking the pulse of the sub-surface environment and will reveal if things are going wrong, but also if they are going right,” said Professor Mike Stephenson, director of science and technology at the British Geological Survey, which would drill the boreholes. “The aim is to reassure people that we can manage the sub-surface safely.”

Food Systems

Field to Market, The Sustainability Consortium Partnering to Harmonize Metrics for Sustainable Agriculture
Across the entire agricultural supply chain — from the farm to the store shelf — the challenge of meeting demand for a rapidly growing population, while conserving natural resources, necessitates a harmonized, science-based approach to measure and communicate sustainability in agriculture. On Friday, Field to Market®: The Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture announced a partnership with The Sustainability Consortium (TSC) aimed at achieving this goal.


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