Sustainable Development News

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

Fossil fuel use must fall twice as fast as thought to contain global warming – study
Climate scientists have bad news for governments, energy companies, motorists, passengers and citizens everywhere in the world: to contain global warming to the limits agreed by 195 nations in Paris last December, they will have to cut fossil fuel combustion at an even faster rate than anybody had predicted.

Energy and Climate Change

California says Australia has nothing to fear from more renewables
One of the senior members of the California Energy Commission, which is overseeing the state’s ambitious 50 per cent renewable energy target, says Australia has nothing to fear from a grid with high renewable energy penetration. “We are at the beginning of the end of the coal era,” said David Hochschild, one of 5 CEC commissioners. And, he adds, high levels of renewables will not “crash the economy”, nor will they cause blackouts. In fact, in California, they had found the reverse.

Where should we stash carbon? Look down
All the while we’ve been strategizing to reduce the carbon flowing into the air, the ground beneath our feet is in dire need of it. Soil just may be the perfect carbon sink, Professor Peter Byck of Arizona State University told attendees of the GreenBiz 16 event, underway in Phoenix this week. Agricultural soil in most of the developed world has been depleted of half its carbon, which plants need to grow.

Environment and Biodiversity

Ocean acidification is already harming the Great Barrier Reef’s growth
A new experiment on the Great Barrier Reef has shown, for the first time, that ocean acidification is already harming the growth of coral reefs in their natural setting. As our research published in Nature today shows, the reduction in seawater pH – caused by carbon dioxide from human activities such as burning fossil fuels – is making it more difficult for corals to build and maintain their skeletons.

Bushfires have a sting in the tail for Tasmania’s honey industry
AUSTRALIA – The bushfires that have burned for the past couple of months in western Tasmania have raised concerns about the vulnerability of our world heritage-listed forests to future changes in climate and management… The blazes have raised concerns about damage to wildlife, tourism, homes and infrastructure. But there is another group that relies directly on Tasmania’s natural forests and which has so far been largely overlooked: the beekeeping industry.

Getting rid of 2.5m feral cats by 2025
NEW ZEALAND – Members of the National Cat Management Strategy Group (NCMSG) include the SPCA, Local Government New Zealand and Gareth Morgan’s Foundation. In a draft document outlining the group’s intentions it said it wanted to promote responsible cat ownership, environmental protection and humane cat management. It also said it wanted to bring the number of feral cats in the country to zero by 2025.

Domestic cat movements in NSW bushland to go under spotlight
AUSTRALIA – The Central Tablelands Local Land Services project will kick off in March at Lithgow and will involve attaching GPS devices on cats for up to 11 days. Spokesman Peter Evans said it would challenge a common belief by cat owners that their pets did not leave their backyards. He said while feral cats posed the greatest risk to natural habitats, many people were unaware of how far domestic cats roamed into bushland.

Even This Incredibly Elusive Bird Isn’t Safe from Traffickers
Pittas are a birdwatcher’s prize. Called “jewels of the forest” for their glorious plumage, these shy, secretive birds are almost impossible to spot in the wild. But head to Indonesia’s massive wild bird markets, and they’re a common sight, according to a new report by TRAFFIC and Birdtour Asia. That’s despite a law banning hunting and trade of all pitta species.

Economy and Business

Beyond big goals: Where does business go from here on climate?
“The way Paris was framed was kind of brilliant,” said Bill Weihl, Facebook’s director of sustainability, during a panel discussion on Wednesday at the GreenBiz 16 conference in Scottsdale, Arizona. “We were all agreeing on the North Star goal, and we’re getting back together to reevaluate. That’s exactly what we do at companies.” Now, the hard part: seeing through the ambitious individual corporate goals set in the run up to Paris, which represent a departure from the time-tested model of setting incremental environmental goals you know you can hit.

Electric vehicles to be 35% of global new car sales by 2040
The electric vehicle revolution could turn out to be more dramatic than governments and oil companies have yet realized. New research by Bloomberg New Energy Finance suggests that further, big reductions in battery prices lie ahead, and that during the 2020s EVs will become a more economic option than gasoline or diesel cars in most countries. The study, published today, forecasts that sales of electric vehicles will hit 41 million by 2040, representing 35% of new light duty vehicle sales

Defra revamps Natural Capital Committee, as WWF calls for system of nature stress tests
The government has today announced a revamp of its Natural Capital Committee (NCC) with the appointment of six new members, alongside chair Professor Dieter Helm. Defra confirmed the committee will be joined by leading academics and executives from across the environmental field, who will advise the department on natural capital issues as it continues work on the development of a new 25 year Environment Plan.

No fin whales to be hunted in Iceland this summer
Conservationists are hopeful that an end to commercial whaling in Iceland has moved one step closer following media reports that no fin whales will be hunted there this summer. Kristjan Loftsson, the director of Iceland’s largest whaling company, told daily newspaper Morgunbladid on Wednesday that Hvalur HF would not be sending out vessels to slaughter the endangered whales this season because of difficulties exporting the meat to the Japanese market.

NZ: Why workplace health and safety can be an open door for sustainability
Changes to New Zealand’s workplace health and safety legislation are creating an opportunity to get environmental management incorporated into health and safety management planning, according to Sustainable Edge director Annette Lusk. The new Health and Safety at Work Act comes into force in April 2016. The act spotlights the issue of managing critical risks, and it is the risk aspect Ms Lusk says clients are engaging with regarding environmental performance.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Massive wet wipe blockage

Massive wet wipe blockage

Wet wipes blockage weighing a tonne pulled out of sewer pipe near Newcastle
NSW, AUSTRALIA – A massive blockage made up of wet wipes and sewage pulled from an underground pipe near Newcastle has highlighted the problem of the increasing use of wet wipes. The Hunter Water Corporation tweeted a photo of the blockage, which was removed in January using a crane and buckets in the Lake Macquarie suburb of Eleebana.

‘We are on the verge of a litter crisis’ – British ‘grotspots’ cleaned for the Queen
The canal bank beside Northbrook Street near Birmingham city centre looks and smells like a tip. The grass is strewn with plastic cups, fag packets, cans, tins, wraps, cloth, papers, peel, binliners, bags, butts and bottles. Builders have come in vans and flytipped waste, kids have graffitied the brickwork. The canalside has been nominated by the public as one of the worst “grotspots” in British cities and an army of volunteer litter pickers will descend on it and hundreds of other places in March in an attempt to tackle what has become known as the “blight of Britain”.

Kiama artists team up with pro surfers to promote environmental message
An art exhibition on Sydney’s northern beaches starting at the weekend will see surfers and artists collaborate to help reduce pollution in the ocean. Artists from the Kiama-based Local Artists Division have painted the broken boards of surfers on the World Tour and high profile free surfers. The art works will be auctioned to raise money for the charity Take 3, dedicated to encouraging people to collect three pieces of rubbish each time they leave the beach.

Project receives funding for developing invisible labels for plastic to help sorting
Funding of £772,000 has been given to a project that could identify luminescent materials that could help plastics be sorted for recycling… Nextek managing director Edward Kosior said: “This could be the equivalent of an invisible barcode for plastics recycling. It is a significant step forward in the sub-categorisation of plastics which are sorted automatically at high speed. It enables new initiatives from brand owners eager to recover their packaging as part of the circular economy. Of course, it also provides a massive impetus for new businesses in the recycling sector.”

Trending: Zero-Waste Ale, Restaurant Save Food From Landfills in the UK
Food waste charity Feedback partnered with Hackney Brewery to launch a quality pale ale that is made from surplus loaves of bread: Toast Ale. Feedback founder Tristram Stuart got the idea from a Beligian brewer who follows the same process and wanted to replicate the model in the UK. Bread is thought to be the most wasted food item amid the UK’s estimated 15 million tonnes of annual food waste from households and the commercial sector. An estimated 24 million slices of bread are currently thrown out every day by UK households.

Sunshine Coast Community tackles disposable society
In an era of cheap mass production, a Sunshine Coast community is working to foster recycling and re-use of household items rather than throwing them away. The Maleny Fix-It Cafe opened 3 years ago, and it encourages locals to bring in an item for volunteers to repair.  Jim Straker who has been managing the cafe for a year now said the cafe was working to change perceptions about consumerism.

Exclusive Preview: A New Dynamic 2 (Book Talk)
Circulate is pleased to release a sneak preview of the latest book edited by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, A New Dynamic 2. Effective Systems in a circular economy. The second book in the New Dynamic series, reflects on the necessity to develop a whole-system approach to re-think our economy.

Politics and Society

You can’t change my behaviour (and it’s rude to try)
If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that behaviour change is a concept that needs to change. Everyone’s talking behaviour change. And for good reason… changing the world means needing people to change how they do things. The problem is, that’s all fine and well when you’re the one doing the changing, but what if you’re the changee? I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my behaviour changed. I’m quite happy with it like it is, thank you very much. What’s more, if you try to change my behaviour, I might just find that offensive, and then I won’t change – just to prove a point. So, I dig in my heels, no one changes and the problem remains. So what’s the answer?

Environment Minister Greg Hunt ordered to hand over briefing notes on Port Melville approval
AUSTRALIA – The order was made on the first day of a Federal Court challenge to the decision, launched by the Northern Territory’s peak environmental group, which has warned the action could “cripple” it with legal costs. The $130-million deep sea port, located on the coast of Melville Island, north of Darwin, is in an area listed as internationally significant for wildlife. It is operating despite no formal environmental impact assessments from either the Northern Territory or Commonwealth governments. Environment Centre NT is arguing the decision was an improper exercise of Mr Hunt’s powers.

Poachers and wildlife traffickers to face prison sentences across Europe
New sentencing policy would end legal loopholes that leave wildlife crimes in many central and eastern European countries punishable by non-custodial sentences

European commission plans to relicense controversial weedkiller
The European commission plans to give a new 15-year lease to a controversial weedkiller that was deemed “probably carcinogenic to humans” by the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). A draft implementing law seen by the Guardian says the commission has decided it is appropriate to renew the licence for glyphosate after a lengthy review, which sparked a scientific storm.

Built Environment

Feeling dense about housing density?
Have you got lost in the heated debate over Auckland housing density? RNZ News Auckland issues correspondent Todd Niall provides a dummy’s guide.

Auckland’s population is forecast to grow by between 750,000 and 1 million by 2041. The Council’s “Auckland Plan” calls for 60-70 percent of those people to be housed within the urban boundary. That will only be possible with an increasing proportion of higher-density housing such as townhouses, terraced houses or apartments.

Urban sprawl is threatening Sydney’s foodbowl
Sydney loves to talk about food, and the housing market. But rarely do we talk about the threat that housing poses to the resilience of Sydney’s food system. If we continue along the path we’re on, Sydney stands to lose more than 90% of its current fresh vegetable production. Total food production could drop by 60% and the city’s supply of food from within the basin could drop from 20% of total food demand to a mere 6%. Like most Australian cities, Sydney is facing an influx of people – 1.6 million new residents are expected over the next 15 years.

NSW moves to tackle “average” performing buildings
The NSW government has started a campaign to tackle the energy efficiency of what it calls “average-performing” commercial office buildings. The “No More Average Buildings” campaign, a partnership between NABERS and the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, will involve financial assistance to office buildings with NABERS ratings of three or fewer stars.

Hemp at the heart of Western Australia’s first eco-village
The project manager of Western Australia’s first eco-village, partly built with hemp, believes the finished product will add weight to the growing push for it to be widely used in the construction industry. Tendering contracts are out for the construction of 12 dwellings, due to be built in the WA south coast town of Denmark, about four and half hours from Perth. Project manager Paul Llewellyn said a key feature would be the combination of hemp hurd, the innards of the plant’s stem, and lime, which is used to render the traditional timber frames.

Seven simple ways you can reduce air pollution in your home
Outdoor air pollution is responsible for around 40,000 deaths in the UK each year, according to a new report by the Royal College of Physicians. It’s a scary headline number. However just as significantly this is also one of the first reports to recognise how important indoor air quality is to our health. After all, we spend around 90% of our time inside, whether at home, at work, or commuting.

Food Systems

A day’s work for the ‘kelp lady’ is a walk along the beach
A new ‘kelp lady’ is continuing a visionary business established 50 years ago to harvest and sell seaweed for its nutritional and health benefits. In 1965, when Betty Long was diagnosed with what she was told was an incurable circulatory disease she changed her lifestyle and her diet, moved to her father’s south-coast property and adopted a diet of fruit, vegetables, nuts, fish — and seaweed. The seaweed products had to come from overseas, however, and so Ms Long took to gathering the fresh seaweed that washed up on the beach of her new coastal home and learned how to process it.


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