Sustainable Development News

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

China’s coal peak hailed as turning point in climate change battle
The global battle against climate change has passed a historic turning point with China’s huge coal burning finally having peaked, according to senior economists. They say the moment may well be a significant milestone in the course of the Anthropocene, the current era in which human activity dominates the world’s environment. China is the world’s biggest polluter and more than tripled its coal burning from 2000 to 2013, emitting billions of tonnes of climate-warming carbon dioxide. But its coal consumption peaked in 2014, much earlier than expected, and then began falling.

Energy and Climate Change

Can the world’s biggest factory ever be fully green?
Much has been made of the use of solar power at what is to become the largest factory in the world, the Tesla Gigafactory near Reno, Nevada, which will produce battery packs for cars and other applications. The “end-to-end” vision of using renewable energy sources to generate electricity for product manufacture and use is compelling, and one that has been forcefully made by Elon Musk… Look beyond the hype, however, and there are major environmental questions that need to be answered, as the rhetoric and reality of green production are very different.

ZEN Energy wins $1m battery storage tender for SA govt buildings
In what is believed to be an Australian first, three battery storage systems totaling 512kWh of capacity will be installed at government-owned buildings in Adelaide by local solar and storage specialist, ZEN Energy.

Renewables – how tenants can get in on the onsite solar action (Book Talk)
Businesses that rent commercial office space should consider a shared approach to installing solar panels, according to Adelaide’s dsquared Consulting. The sustainability consultancy recently installed a 5.5kW system on its rooftop, in collaboration with its landlord and another tenant, while also taking advantage of a grant from the City of Adelaide.

Why fossil fuel industry needs South Australia “experiment” to fail
The sharp spike in electricity prices in South Australia earlier this month certainly put the wind up some large energy users, and some long-time critics of renewable energy. But the really scary thing for the fossil fuel industry is that these price spikes don’t happen often enough anymore. You only have to go back a few years to find that such price spikes were so common they used to happen once every two days in the National Electricity Market, particularly in summer months.
Related: Failed gas unit caused biggest spike in electricity price, regulator says

Australia’s first hybrid wind-solar farm to be built near Canberra
Australia’s first large-scale hybrid wind and solar farm is set to be built near Canberra, with the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (Arena) providing a $9.9m grant. The money would go towards the $26m cost of building a 10MW solar photovoltaic plant alongside the existing Gullen Range windfarm.

Environment and Biodiversity

Vast wildfires are burning in remote Siberia, far from humans – here’s why we should care
You’ve probably seen dramatic images of out of control wildfires that directly and immediately affect people. The news recently followed 200 firefighters tackling a blaze in California, while this May many watched the evacuation of more than 50,000 people from Fort McMurray in Canada. But, every so often, in regions too remote for the TV cameras, satellite images reveal vast fires covering thousands of square kilometres in smoke. This is what’s happening in Siberia, right now.

Government sets target to make New Zealand ‘predator-free’ by 2050
The Government wants to make New Zealand predator-free by 2050, formally adopting a target to eradicate all pests that threaten New Zealand’s native birds.  Prime Minister John Key announced the goal, alongside Conservation Minister Maggie Barry, as well as a $28 million funding injection into a joint venture company to kickstart the campaign.  “Rats, possums and stoats kill 25 million of our native birds every year, and prey on other native species such as lizards and, along with the rest of our environment, we must do more to protect them,” Key said.
See also: In World First, Country to Wipe Out Invasive Predators | Nat Geo


Crisis on high
Deep in the Himalayas sits a remote research station that is tracking an alarming trend in climate change, with implications that could disrupt the lives of more than 1 billion people and pitch the most populated region of the world into chaos. The station lies in the heart of a region called the Third Pole, an area that contains the largest area of frozen water outside of the North Pole and South Pole. Despite its relative anonymity, the Third Pole is vitally important; it is the source of Asia’s 10 largest rivers including the Yellow, the Yangzi, the Mekong, the Irrawaddy and the Ganges — and their fertile deltas.

Economy and Business

20 Questions with Claus Stig Pedersen: Sustainability – and Now SDG – Pioneer
Last month, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon named Claus Stig Pedersen, Head of Corporate Sustainability at Novozymes, one of ten 2016 Local Pioneers of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Sustainable Brands CEO KoAnn Skrzyniarz recently caught up with Claus at SB’16 Rio to find out more about the role the SDGs play in his work at Novozymes, his sustainability journey to date, and what he’s learned along the way.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Wine without waste: De Bortoli aims to be Australia’s first zero-waste winery
One of Australia’s biggest family-owned wineries wants to become the country’s first zero-waste wine producer, and has invested more than $15m to achieve this goal. De Bortoli Wines, which has wineries at four sites in two states, has already cut the amount of waste it disposes to landfill from 300 tonnes a year to 48 tonnes as part of a long-term sustainable business plan adopted in 2004.

Calls grow for a return to the days when we were paid to recycle
NEW ZEALAND – Councils have been lobbying the Government for a return to the days of giving cash refunds to people who recycle bottles and cans.   Bottle refunds are back on the agenda after a push by Palmerston North District Council at last weekend’s Local Government New Zealand conference in Dunedin… The scheme was “back to the future stuff” and a “no-brainer” that would double the amount of recycling and create about 2000 jobs, while saving councils up to $40 million a year, Smith said.

Politics and Society

Disasters linked to climate can increase risk of armed conflict
Climate-related disasters increase the risk of armed conflicts, according to research that shows a quarter of the violent struggles in ethnically divided countries were preceded by extreme weather. The role of severe heatwaves, floods and storms in increasing the risk of wars has been controversial, particularly in relation to the long drought in Syria. But the new work reveals a strong link in places where the population is already fractured along ethnic lines.

Why sustainable development is a matter of (coherent) policy
At a time of climate disruption and accelerated ecosystem degradation, rising inequalities, economic insecurity and citizen’s disaffection with governments around the world, reconciling environmental, economic and social concerns is essential for all countries. This integration is central to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aim to shift our societies towards shared and sustainable prosperity. As decision-makers work on solutions, it’s becoming clear that a vital ingredient for achieving this transition is policy coherence.

China sets up South China Sea environment protection fund
China has set up a 15 million yuan ($2.25 million) environmental protection fund for the South China Sea having already spent double that in the past four years, the Xinhua state news agency said on Monday. The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled this month that China did not have historic rights to the South China Sea and it criticized environmental destruction in the waters. China rejected the ruling and refused to participate in the case.

The power of rewards and why we seek them out
Any dog owner will tell you that we can use a food reward as a motivation to change a dog’s behaviour. But humans are just as susceptible to rewards too. When we get a reward, special pathways in our brain become activated. Not only does this feel good, but the activation also leads us to seek out more rewarding stimuli. Humans show these neurological responses to many types of rewards, including food, social contact, music and even self-affirmation.

Built Environment

How eco-friendly communes could change the future of housing
When a massive wildfire destroyed more than a thousand homes last year in the bone-dry hills of drought-stricken Lake County, California, about two hours north of San Francisco, Magdalena Valderrama Hurwitz and her husband Eliot were among those made homeless. Eager to transform their tragedy into an opportunity, they got together with a group of neighbors who had also lost their homes and began imagining a different kind of community.

‘The best solution? Move the Mauritanian capital’: water on the rise in Nouakchott
Wedged between the advancing dunes of the Sahara and the rising Atlantic Ocean, the Mauritanian capital is a prisoner of climate change (pdf). Nouakchott has no mains drains. Much of the city is at or below sea level, protected from the ocean only by an eroding dune. In the past decade, local and international studies have warned that the city is in danger of being swallowed by the sea.

‘Basically we’re going to get washed away’
Taranaki, NEW ZEALAND – East Beach residents in Waitara say they feel abandoned by the local authorities and fear for their properties. David Zimmerman’s home is one of those most exposed to the elements at the mouth of the Waitara River. He said he could hear logs crashing about at high tide last night and was worried he and his partner would have evacuate his rented bach.

Driftwood and more was washed up by the storm, and there are concerns the erosion will continue. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Driftwood and more was washed up by the storm, and there are concerns the erosion will continue. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Related: Wave goodbye: Tide rising on Haumoana


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