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Thursday 26 October 2017

Sustainable Development News

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

Adani: DFAT facing questions over possible secret requests for foreign cash to fund controversial mine
AUSTRALIA – Key federal crossbenchers will today grill senior government bureaucrats about possible secret approaches to foreign agencies for financial support for Adani’s controversial Carmichael coal mine. The questions have been sparked by a Freedom of Information request to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) for documents relating to requests for foreign government financing for the controversial multi-billion-dollar mine and rail project.

Related: Activists lock themselves to grading equipment as Adani starts work on rail line to Abbot Point 

Climate Change and Energy

How climate change affects the building blocks for health
NEW ZEALAND – In August last year, a third of the residents of the North Island township Havelock North fell acutely ill with gastroenteritis after their water was contaminated with campylobacter. Following a long dry spell, the heaviest daily rainfall in more than ten years had washed the pathogenic organism from sheep faeces into the aquifer that supplies the town’s drinking water… This is just one example of how climate change may affect our health, according to a report released by the Royal Society of New Zealand today.

See also:

Turnbull’s NEG claims first major renewable energy victim
AUSTRALIA – The value of one of biggest renewable energy companies operating in Australia has been slashed dramatically following the unveiling of the Coaliton’s government’s proposed National Energy Guarantee. Analysts at global investment bank Deutsche Bank said they had slashed the value of Tilt Renewables by around 15 per cent, mostly because the market ascribes no value to its development pipeline of more than 1650MW of wind and solar projects, which now have much less chance of seeing the light of day.

Enova launches community “Solar Garden” for those who can’t install
AUSTRALIA – NSW community energy retailer Enova has launched a first-of-its kind project that will enable renters and others who can’t install rooftop solar to invest in a “solar garden” and benefit from reduced bills.

Environment and Biodiversity

Australia among 7 nations responsible for more than 50 per cent of global biodiversity loss
Australia is one of seven countries responsible for more than half of global biodiversity loss, according to a study published today. Scientists based their findings on the worsening in conservation status of species between 1996 and 2008 on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list. The IUCN red list uses a series of categories to rank how close a species is to extinction, from “least concern” through to “extinct in the wild”. Of the 109 countries studied, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, China and the United States (primarily Hawaii) also ranked inside the top seven as the worst offenders on conservation… “We found that conservation spending strongly reduced [the biodiversity decline score],” they stated.

Drop, bears: chronic stress and habitat loss are flooring koalas
Koalas are under a lot of stress. Heatwaves, land clearing and even noise pollution are all taking a toll. Each year, hundreds of koalas are taken to veterinary clinics after being rescued from roadsides or beneath trees, and the incidences increase during the summer months.  Chronic and ongoing pressures such as habitat destruction are overwhelming koalas’ ability to cope with stress. Koalas are nationally listed as vulnerable, so it’s important to understand how they are affected by threats that can reduce life expectancy and their ability to cope with problems.

Prince Charles: Companies chased away from Amazonian rainforests now destroying plains
The loss of rainforest in the Amazon has been a familiar cause for activism for more than 30 years, but the partial success of efforts to protect it is moving the spotlight to a new landscape: Brazil’s cerrado. Environmentalists fear that measures to reduce the exploitation of the Amazon rainforest for commodities such as soy and beef have pushed some of those activities into formerly less exploited regions such as the cerrado, a vast tropical savannah covering more than 2m sq km.

Wildlife colonises man-made rockpools
Mini rock pools are being created by scientists trying to protect sea life from the boom in manmade sea defences. Aberystwyth University researchers have drilled holes the size of a family baked bean can into a breakwater made of smooth granite blocks. The blocks had attracted few intertidal creatures.  But the new holes were swiftly colonised by fish, anemones and important reef-building honeycomb worms.

Economy and Business

Big companies’ climate change targets are ‘unambitious’, say analysts
Nearly nine out of 10 of the world’s biggest companies have plans in place to reduce carbon emissions, new research has found, but only a fifth of them are doing so for 2030 and beyond. The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) also found that only 14% of its sample of 1,073 large companies around the world had “science-based targets” – that is, goals to reduce carbon emissions which are in line with the global agreement to hold warming to no more than 2C, enshrined in the 2015 Paris agreement.

Bullard: Utilities Accept the New, But Will They Embrace It?
USA – Texas power generator Luminant announced that it will close two coal-fired power plants in early 2018. The week before, it said it would close another coal plant that is more than 40 years old — an announcement that came days before the clearly telegraphed effort to roll back the Clean Power Plan. The three plants join the ranks of more than 200 plants that have closed in the past decade due to age, a losing battle against low-cost natural gas and renewable energy, low or negative demand growth, and pollution regulations. The news indicates that long-term economics, not short-term politics, are shaping today’s power mix.

Waste and the Circular Economy

China move prompts call for greener packaging
New Zealand’s packaging manufacturers are being encouraged to be greener, in the wake of China’s recent move to stop taking the world’s recyclable waste. Amid the confidence and supply agreement just signed between Labour and the Greens this week was also a commitment to making a big reduction in all types of waste going to landfill, within the next two years. Kiwi households annually send around 2.5m tonnes of waste to landfill each year, including around 350,000 tonnes of packaging.

Staying at home to use leftovers can save average family thousands, new report says
Food waste is costing the average Australian household more than $1,000 a year, according to a new report. The Rabobank Food and Farming Report 2017, which surveyed 2,300 Australians, found 14 per cent of food was wasted, costing each household on average $1,050 a year.

Food waste puts more pressure on food production systems (Opinion)
Today, the world relies on less people to supply their food with consumer expectations demanding more from food production systems. In the United States in 1960, one farmer produced enough food to feed 25 people, today it is 155 people and in 30 years’ time it could be closer to 264. Some prominent citizens of the world see lab meat and milk replacing agricultural products in the foreseeable future as the solution. This will certainly challenge the way that we would view food and the production of that food. What are some of the limitations and conversations we need to consider for producing food in the “paddock to plate model”?

Politics and Society

Love. Greg Foyster

Love. Greg Foyster

Imagining a better world: the art of degrowth (Art)
We are living in an age of gross ecological overshoot – our demands on the planet far exceed what is sustainable. Wealth is extremely concentrated while billions go hungry. And with the world’s population heading toward 11 billion by the end of the century, something has to give.  One response to these overlapping crises is degrowth…  Degrowth means embracing sufficiency for all, rather than excess for a few, and culturally, it means imagining a good life beyond consumerism. This can be hard for people conditioned to living in a wealthy society.

Nothing but truthiness: Adani and Co’s post-truth push for the Carmichael mine
“Post-truth”, defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”, was the Oxford Dictionary’s 2016 Word of the Year, selected as a hallmark of the times in the US and UK… How can a coal mine be subject to a regime of “truthiness”? A decision to build a greenfield megamine would appear to come down to the facts, with the known harms weighed against the potential benefits. Yet we can identify three distinct traits in official discourses around the Adani mine that show truthiness at work.

Are religious people more moral?
Why do people distrust atheists? A recent study we conducted, led by psychologist Will Gervais, found widespread and extreme moral prejudice against atheists around the world. Across all continents, people assumed that those who committed immoral acts, even extreme ones such as serial murder, were more likely to be atheists. Although this was the first demonstration of such bias at a global scale, its existence is hardly surprising.

With a seat on the UN Human Rights Council, Australia must fix its record on Indigenous rights
It was a big week for Australia at the United Nations last week. It won a seat on the leading international human rights body, the UN Human Rights Council, for a three-year term. The UN Human Rights Committee also reviewed Australia’s compliance with a key human rights treaty, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. One would assume the Human Rights Council seat means Australia will lead on issues of human rights domestically, including in the area of Indigenous rights (one of the five pillars of Australia’s bid) and self-determination.  However, as the UN Human Rights Committee review showed, Australia is failing to meet basic human rights standards for Indigenous peoples.

Protecting forest dwellers goes hand in hand with protecting forests, Whitehall told
Activists have marched through Whitehall to urge the UK government to give more support to environmental defenders who risk their lives protecting rainforests, rivers and the climate… Behind them, dozens of climate, environment and indigenous rights activists marched in silence, some bearing photographs of defenders who have been killed in recent years, including Berta Caceres, Chut Wutty and Edwin Chota. Last year was the deadliest ever for environment and land activists, according to the NGO Global Witness. With 158 already killed this year, the death toll in 2017 is on track to be even higher.

Built Environment

Five keys to a healthy and liveable city
The world’s cities today are facing multiple challenges, from exposure to climate change to concerns about social segregation to deepening health crises… With public finances under stress worldwide, one thing’s for sure: Allocating municipal money to tackling these issues separately isn’t just ineffective — it’s unaffordable. So how can cities address these challenges holistically?

Becoming more urban: attitudes to medium-density living are changing in Sydney and Melbourne
Australia is increasingly linked to a fast-growing global population. The populations of Sydney and Melbourne are both expected to exceed 8.5 million by 2061. What will Australia’s cities look like then? Will they still be among the world’s lowest-density cities? Such sprawling cities result in economic (productivity), social (spatial disadvantage) and environmental weaknesses (including a very big ecological footprint). Can our cities transform themselves to become more competitive, sustainable, liveable, resilient and inclusive?

Electric cars emit 50% less greenhouse gas than diesel, study finds
Electric cars emit significantly less greenhouse gases over their lifetimes than diesel engines even when they are powered by the most carbon intensive energy, a new report has found. In Poland, which uses high volumes of coal, electric vehicles produced a quarter less emissions than diesels when put through a full lifecycle modelling study by Belgium’s VUB
University. CO2 reductions on Europe’s cleanest grid in Sweden were a remarkable 85%, falling to around one half for countries such as the UK.

In Jakarta, solving problems with new tech tools and people power
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Jakarta often appears in photographs as a teeming metropolis awash with honking motor bikes, buses and cars snarled in traffic. Then there are the deadly floods that frequently befall this megacity of more than 10 million people. But defying the clichés that surround it, the capital city of Indonesia also is beginning to earn its spurs in urban innovations. What is generating a lot of interest across the country and beyond is web-based planning mechanisms that involve residents in local government’s decision-making process. Citizens are becoming engaged in identifying the city’s most pressing problems and proposing solutions.

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