Sustainable Development News

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

Here’s what happens when you try to replicate climate contrarian papers | Dana Nuccitelli
…there’s a slim chance that the 2–3% minority is correct and the 97% climate consensus is wrong. To evaluate that possibility, a new paper published in the journal of Theoretical and Applied Climatology examines a selection of contrarian climate science research and attempts to replicate their results. The idea is that accurate scientific research should be replicable, and through replication we can also identify any methodological flaws in that research. The study also seeks to answer the question, why do these contrarian papers come to a different conclusion than 97% of the climate science literature?

Energy and Climate Change

Hawaii turns its back on LNG as it pursues 100% renewable energy
The Asia Pacific Resilience Summit kicked off this morning, an event that showcases clean tech solutions for island grids, communities, and military applications across the Pacific. The opening keynote speaker, Governor David Ige, wasted no time in making major headlines, stating, for the first time publicly, a strong opposition to proposed LNG projects.

Nissan and Foster + Partners join forces to drive ‘fuel station of the future’ design
Auto giant Nissan has teamed up with influential architecture firm Foster + Partners to develop the “fuel station of the future”. The two companies announced today they will work together to develop a concept design for a sustainable fuel station, which offers the infrastructure needed for an increasingly diverse range of low-emissions vehicles. The concept, which is anticipated to be revealed at the end of the year, will focus on improving the infrastructure for zero-emissions and autonomous vehicles, whilst also harnessing battery storage and vehicle-to-grid technology.

Climate change and Hurricane Katrina: what have we learned?
Three weeks and three days before Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans 10 years ago, a paper of mine appeared in the scientific journal Nature showing that North Atlantic hurricane power was strongly correlated with the temperature of the tropical Atlantic during hurricane season, and that both had been increasing rapidly over the previous 30 years or so. It attributed these increases to a combination of natural climate oscillations and to global warming… We have learned much in the intervening years.

Planning officials throw support behind Hunter mine expansion
New South Wales planning officials have made a preliminary recommendation supporting a controversial Hunter Valley mine expansion, rejecting fears it will force massive thoroughbred studs to move. Anglo American’s Drayton South mine was last year rejected by the independent Planning Assessment Commission (PAC)… It said the impacts would not be significant enough to cause the thoroughbred studs to move, adding the benefits outweigh the risks with the project securing the mine’s 500 jobs.

Connie Hedegaard: Australia risks being left in coal quagmire
Former EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard told a business lunch hosted by the City of Sydney, and The Fifth Estate in a follow-up interview, that Australia could plan an orderly transition to a low carbon economy, or wait for disruptive and costly change. “If one acknowledges that we need to go to a low carbon society, that climate change is real and we have to do something about it, then the choice is whether to do something about it in an orderly, gradual way, or in a very disruptive way,” Ms Hedegaard said. “That is the choice. Do we want to plan how are we getting there, or do we wait and suddenly you will see disruptions that are much more difficult to handle as a society?”

Fossil Fuel Divestment

Citigroup sees $100 trillion of stranded assets if Paris succeeds
If you hear a lot of noise about climate policies and climate action over the next few months in the lead up to the Paris climate conference, it is because there is a lot at stake. According to Citigroup analysts: $US100 trillion of potential stranded assets in the fossil fuel industry.

Total ends coal production as fossil fuel stocks dive
The world’s fifth-largest energy company Total will no longer produce coal after selling off its last mining affiliate, Total Coal South Africa.  Total has also decided to divest from its coal marketing operations and says it will no longer be involved in the coal business by the end of 2015. Chief executive Patrick Pouyanné said on Monday: “It was a matter of both consistent strategy and our credibility. “Faced with the issue of climate change, Total is committed to promoting the use of natural gas, the cleanest fossil fuel, especially compared to coal, which emits twice as much greenhouse gas when used to generate power…”

Environment and Biodiversity

Warming seas will set marine life on the move, with some good news among the bad
How will climate change affect life in the oceans? In research to be published in Nature Climate Change we, among several other authors, show that the answer is likely good and bad. Our study models how species might move in response to different future climate scenarios. The good news is that overall, thanks to species migrations, most places will end up with greater numbers of species… The bad news is that there are a few very special places that will lose species – particularly the spectacular ocean ecosystems of what’s known as the Coral Triangle, the epicentre of global marine biodiversity.

Urgent review of whitebait rules needed
NEW ZEALAND – An urgent review of whitebait stocks is needed before the native fishery becomes extinct, a South Taranaki iwi leader says. Just 10 days after the whitebait season opened in Taranaki, Te Korowai o Ngaruahine general manager Cassandra Crowley said it made no sense to allow catching of the fish to continue when four of the five main species were either in decline or threatened. Crowley said if nothing was done to address the over-fishing, the environmental factors or the commercial element related to the popular past-time, it was likely all species would continue to dwindle to a point where nothing was left, something she considered to be a possibility within 20 years.

Dolphins, rays among hundreds of non-targeted animals killed on Queensland shark nets and drum lines, figures show
Queensland’s shark control program has been accused by researchers of killing “innocent bystanders” after new figures showed 406 non-targeted animals died in nets and on drum lines between 2009 and 2014. The figures, released under right to information laws to Shark Files Queensland, includes the deaths of 76 dolphins and 28 manta rays. Seven Australian humpback dolphins, two snubfin dolphins and three spinner dolphins were killed Those dolphin species are listed as vulnerable or near threatened.

Economy and Business

Time for the ‘green tape’ debate to mature: jobs and the environment are not implacable foes
On one hand, those seeking to invest in the development of Australia’s natural resources and jobs growth have been making a clear case that Australia’s system of assessment and approval for major projects is riddled with procedural uncertainty. On the other, environmental advocates and local communities feel that the current system does not adequately protect the environment – correctly pointing out Australia’s less than stellar record in preventing species from going extinct. As a nation, however, we need to lift our game on both fronts.

Pierre Ducret: Shifting to a resilient economy is an economic conundrum
Following the global economic crisis that deeply affected Europe after 2008, there was a debate between those who considered that recovering growth with traditional economic means was the urgent priority to bring back employment and income and those for whom shifting to a new economic model, to a green economy, was a way to overcome the crisis. Shifting to a greener economy is commonly agreed as a necessity for environmental reasons: climate change, resource scarcity, pollution, biodiversity losses. But the investment needed to shift is estimated at five per cent to 10 per cent higher than business as usual so it has long been considered as a cost that our economies can’t afford.

Car sharing business expands to target commercial sector
Collaborate Corporation’s peer-to-peer car rental business has recently expanded into leasing vehicles to the business sector.  The DriveMyCar business venture is being rolled out in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth, and has already attracted corporate clients including BCS Airport Systems, Propac and Pharmacor, according to CC chief executive Chris Noone.

Starbucks and palm oil, wake up and smell the coffee
Two years after Starbucks stated publicly that it was committed to using 100% RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) certified sustainable palm oil in products such as its raspberry chocolate chip scone and Mallorca sweet bread by 2015, customers are in the dark. Has or hasn’t the coffee giant eliminated conflict palm oil from its supply chain? Starbucks’ public commitment, made in 2013, followed a shareholder resolution requesting the board of directors adopt and implement a comprehensive sustainable palm oil policy. Yet there has been no direct reporting of its progress – if any – and no information available on the RSPO website. There is therefore no way for the public to know if Starbucks is on track.
[Ed: The author, Hanna Thomas, is a campaign manager at SumOfUs]

Waste and the Circular Economy

Bureo’s Upcycled Sunglasses Campaign Funded Within Hours of Launch | Sustainable Brands
We have been following Chile-based startup Bureo from its launch in late 2013 to its first incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign last year. Now the company, which got its start upcycling plastic marine waste lining Chile’s waters and shores, has expanded its product range to sunglasses. Having found such success with its first Kickstarter campaign to launch “The Minnow” — a skateboard engineered from recovered and recycled plastic fishing nets — Bureo recently launched a second campaign to raise funds for its new, upcycled sunglasses. Once again, the response has exceeded all expectations: Reaching its initial target of US$30,000 within five hours, total funding now stands at over US$114,000.

Trending: Biobased Microbeads, Flexible Foams Could Offer Renewable Materials for Hundreds of Products
TerraVerdae BioWorks, an industrial biotechnology company developing advanced bioplastics and environmentally sustainable biomaterials, announced Monday that it has successfully achieved key milestones for the commercial production for its line of Polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA)-based biomaterials. These include 10,000-liter production runs of its line of biodegradable, natural microspheres for use in personal care and cosmetic products. TerraVerdae’s biobased beads are being primed as a direct replacement for the non-degradable polyethylene microbeads…

Recycling program for old ACT Government computers saves $3m
ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr still uses his old laptop when in the Legislative Assembly but outdated software and general ware and tear means it is time for the device to be replaced.  It could be disposed of at Canberra’s Mugga Lane landfill site, but such disposal puts an added burden on the system, and wastes the value the computer still holds. To stop this from happening the Government has been working with Canberra-based company Reuse-RecycleIT to recycle computers that have reached their “end of life”.  Through this partnership, which began in 2009, 100 per cent of the ACT Government’s excess and superseded IT equipment has been saved from landfill. The Government has earned $3 million from the sale of the old equipment.

Politics and Society

Government permission to use banned pesticides face legal challenge
UK – A government decision to permit the use of banned pesticides linked to declining bee populations is to be challenged in the high court by the environmental charity Friends of the Earth (FOE). The use of three neonicotinoid pesticides is currently illegal under a European Union law, which is due to be reviewed at the end of the year.  Last month the UK government decided to make two of the pesticides available for 120 days on about 5% of England’s oil seed rape crop on farms in Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.

Climathon winners revealed
NEW ZEALAND – The Wellington Climathon, held in June 2015, started with a bold challenge: ‘Twenty four hours to do something about climate change’. It is fair to say that the very diverse sixty or so people who attended the Climathon really rose to the challenge. They formed ideas, discussed and debated them and then tested them with the public (as a bunch of surprised Wellington shopkeepers can attest). As result of this process, four teams have been selected to advance their ideas further, with the hope of getting a chance to present to world leaders at the big climate change meeting in Paris at the end of the year.

Built Environment

Our strategy to rebuild New Orleans for the threats it will face in 50 years’ time
I’m from the New Orleans area, but in 2005 was living in New York doing neighbourhood redevelopment work. I watched Katrina unfold on television, and after seeing those shocking images, I felt passionately that I needed to come home and use my training to help rebuild the city… I began volunteering doing urban planning work, and ended up working in the governor’s recovery office, putting plans together for the rebuilding of the city and surrounding communities that were impacted. I’ve been in New Orleans ever since. In November 2014, I was appointed the city’s first chief resilience officer, a role developed by the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities initiative. Today we are launching our “resilience strategy”, in the week that the city marks the 10th anniversary of Katrina.

Iconic Sydney Opera House becomes a Green Star
One of Australia’s most recognisable landmarks, the Sydney Opera House, has been awarded a 4 Star Green Star – Performance rating by the Green Building Council of Australia. The announcement was made this morning by NSW deputy premier and minister for the arts Troy Grant, along with GBCA chief executive Romilly Madew and Sydney Opera House buildings director Greg McTaggart. The Opera House now joins a small handful of World Heritage buildings that have achieved green certification globally.

HVAC optimisation guide to cut commercial building energy use
A new guide for the commercial property sector that outlines strategies for reducing energy use through optimising heating, ventilation and airconditioning systems has been released by the Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heating and the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. According to AIRAH chief executive Phil Wilkinson, HVAC systems can be responsible more than 40 per cent of the energy used in a commercial building. The HVAC Optimisation Guide aims to reduce that massive number, while at the same time improving outcomes in terms of occupant comfort, reducing ongoing maintenance and delivering improvements to a building’s NABERS rating through increased energy efficiency. Download the guide.

Food Systems

‘Gourmet farmer’ Matthew Evans launches online petition calling for Country of Origin Seafood labelling
An online petition calling for Country of Origin seafood labelling has generated more than 38,000 signatures in just four days. TV “gourmet farmer” Matthew Evans launched the petition after the two major parties combined in the Senate to defeat a bill calling for more transparent labelling of seafood in fish and chip shops and restaurants. Mr Evans said he would take the petition to Canberra once it hit 50,000 signatures.

Do I look big in this supermarket? How large shops are making you fat
As you load up the car boot with shopping bags from your weekly trip to the supermarket, have you ever thought about how the particular supermarket you shop at might affect your health? Two studies published this year suggest a link between how often people go shopping and the healthiness of the food they buy. Large supermarkets are undoubtedly very convenient. They’re a one-stop shop with a huge variety of products on offer. But evidence suggests their size prompts us to shop less often and buy more on each trip. Could the enormity of our shops be making us fat?

Dale Farm undertakes massive riparian planting project
NEW ZEALAND – Dale Farm is getting an environmentally friendly makeover with help from a crowdfunding initiative. The Te Anau Landcorp farm has been working to improve the water quality and biodiversity of the Whitestone River and the Waiau Catchment.  Riparian planting was done along three tributaries and was completed through the Million Metres Stream Project, a crowdfunding conservation initiative which allows New Zealanders to donate towards conservation projects. The project was funded by 36 donors who contributed a total of $25,200.


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