Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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You may have seen in the news a few weeks ago the astounding graphic showing how domesticated animals outweigh wild animals by several factors. Today’s top story is from the authors of that paper with suggestions on what we should do with that knowledge. In other news, a Professor of climate science explains the UK heatwave; political action in Australia’s conservation space; plastic bottles become currency 😊; reducing slavery in seafood supply chains; and, I don’t know how they did it, but the US Department of Energy has managed to support loans for tribal lands (read renewables).

Top Story

Humans account for only 0.01% of life on Earth – but our impact has been immense | World Economic Forum
Most of us, including scientists, are blind to the full scope of the living world. This was illustrated by an informal survey which asked biologists and ecologists from elite universities two questions. In terms of mass, is the living world mostly composed of animals, plants or bacteria? And is there more global biomass on land or in the oceans? The majority of them answered both questions incorrectly. In an age of unparalleled access to information, this is a glaring gap in our knowledge. We are now equipped to close it.

Climate Change and Energy

Three (and a half) reasons why it has been so hot and dry in the UK and Ireland | The Conversation
The UK and Ireland have been experiencing a prolonged hot and dry spell since June, with the first half of summer being the UK’s driest on record. The lack of rainfall has led to hosepipe bans in Northern Ireland and the north-west of England, while the weather is also playing havoc with farming. A shortage of lettuce and broccoli is expected in the next few months, and grass isn’t growing fast enough to feed Ireland’s sheep and cattle through the winter.

South Australia on track to meet 75% renewables target Liberals promised to scrap | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – South Australia’s energy minister says the state is on track to have 75% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2025 – the target set by the former Labor premier Jay Weatherill and once rejected by his Liberal government… several expert analyses have found the state is likely to meet or nearly meet the aspirational target, which was not tied to a policy mechanism. The Australian Energy Market Operator has projected South Australia would have 73% renewable power by 2020/21 while consultants Green Energy Markets found it could reach 74% by 2025 without any additional policies being introduced.

Australia energy plan may breach Paris climate commitments | Climate Home News
AUSTRALIA – An Australian government plan to lock in electricity emissions targets may breach a key commitment to the Paris Agreement. A paper on the national energy guarantee circulated to state ministers on Tuesday, seen by Climate Home News, explains key elements of the proposed national policy.

See also: NEG: Commonwealth paper shows Coalition not budging on emissions | RenewEconomy

US Department of Energy issues $2bn loan deal for tribal lands | Climate Action Programme
USA – Tribal lands in the United States could soon see a new influx of renewable energy projects. The vast tracts of land, making up an estimated 5.8 percent of the contiguous US, remain ideal locations to build clean energy, albeit largely untapped.

Environment and Biodiversity

Why do dingoes attack people, and how can we prevent it? | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – We know that there are carnivores throughout the world with the potential to kill us. And while most of us will never come face to face with a hungry wolf, lion, tiger or bear, such attacks do unfortunately still occur. In the scale of things, such attacks are very uncommon – although that is little consolation to the victim. Australia’s dingoes are no exception; despite some infamous examples, dingo attacks on humans are mercifully rare. But people will still understandably want to know why they happen at all, and what can be done to prevent them.

The 2016 Great Barrier Reef heatwave caused widespread changes to fish populations | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – The 2016 marine heatwave that killed vast amounts of coral on the Great Barrier Reef also caused significant changes to fishes and other animals that live on these reefs. Coral habitats in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) and in the Coral Sea support more than 1,000 fish species and a multitude of other animals. Our research, published in Nature today, documents the broader impact across the ecosystem of the widespread coral losses during the 2016 mass coral bleaching event.

Logging ‘destroying’ swift parrot habitat as government delays action | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – Habitat for the critically endangered swift parrot is being “knowingly destroyed” by logging because of government failures to manage the species’ survival, according to research. Matthew Webb and Dejan Stojanovic, two of the Eureka prize finalists from the Australian National University’s difficult bird research group, say governments have stalled on management plans that would protect known feeding and nesting habitat in Tasmania.

The critically endangered swift parrot. Photograph: Chris Tzaros

The critically endangered swift parrot. Photograph: Chris Tzaros

Koala group to take Queensland government to court over ‘politically sanctioned extinction’ | SMH
AUSTRALIA – An international koala conservation group plans to take the Palaszczuk government to court for being too slow to protect the koala and for what it describes as “politically sanctioned extinction”. Sue Arnold, from the conservation group Australians for Animals, which also works extensively in the United States, said they planned to use environmental law barrister Dr Chris McGrath, who has worked with the Environmental Defenders Office and provided evidence in the 2015-16 Carmichael coal mine court cases.

A dead koala with joey from the Koala in crisis Facebook page, which has criticised shifting koalas from bushland at Coomera. Photo: Supplied

A dead koala with joey from the Koala in crisis Facebook page, which has criticised shifting koalas from bushland at Coomera. Photo: Supplied

New high country reserve for poorly hopping grasshopper that avoids grass |
NEW ZEALAND – A threatened part of the high country will become a reserve for a unique native species – a grasshopper that avoids grass and struggles to hop. A 440ha section near Tekapo in the South Island’s Mackenzie Basin will be added to the conservation estate to protect a population of the highly endangered Brachaspis robustus – commonly known as the robust grasshopper.

A small robust grasshopper camouflaging into stones. Photo: Jencsch, Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 4.0

A small robust grasshopper camouflaging into stones. Photo: Jencsch, Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 4.0

Economy and Business

UK theme parks to offer half-price entry in exchange for used plastic bottles | Business Green
Visitors to some of the UK’s most popular tourist attractions are to be offered half-price entry in exchange for used plastic drinks bottles, as part of a trial starting on Wednesday which gives instant incentives for recycling. In a tie-up between theme park operator Merlin and drinks giant Coca-Cola, a series of so-called “reverse vending machines” will be installed outside the entrances of Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, Chessington World of Adventures and Legoland.

New green fund to target hospitals, data centres, student housing and aged care | The Fifth Estate
AUSTRALIA – Alternative asset manager Morrison & Co and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) have announced a new $1 billion green fund targeting social and economic infrastructure. The fund will invest in “essential” infrastructure such as data centres, hospitals, aged care facilities, student housing and renewable energy.

The myth of mining’s ‘resource curse’ | World Economic Forum
The question of whether an abundance of mineral resources hinders countries’ economic progress is complex and has been the subject of extensive study and debate. While the “resource curse“ primarily affects economic and governance factors – such as poor economic growth, inequality, autocratic regimes and conflict – it is often suggested that social progress, in terms of poverty, education and other social metrics, also suffers. Bluntly, from a social standpoint, that countries are better off not having mineral resources than having them. Does this proposition stand up to scrutiny?

Waste and the Circular Economy

Most people support recycling but are confused about which bin to use, research finds | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Most people are supportive of recycling but hopelessly confused about what goes in which bin, research by Perth’s Murdoch University has found. Furthermore, most people assume they are sorting their household waste correctly and don’t realise that rules about recycling differ between suburban councils.

Kiwis may think their milk cartons are recyclable but not in NZ |
NEW ZEALAND – For years plastic has been the enemy, but some Kiwis are now finding their Tetra Pak-like cartons can’t be recycled. There is no company which recycles them within New Zealand, and they’re sent to the landfill instead.

Politics and Society

Editorial: Government should lead way on environment | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – The Government needs to hold firm on forward-looking environmental policies. It currently faces two big decisions – whether to ban all new mining on Department of Conservation land and whether to ban single use plastics bags. Both will be pitched as radical by some opponents but the reality is things have to change.

Shaw calls for joint Pacific push on climate threat | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – Climate Change Minister James Shaw has kicked off a three-day trip to the Pacific by calling for a joint push from the region for global action… While Shaw wouldn’t be announcing any fresh measures around climate-related support in the region, he wanted to send a clear message that Pacific nations could show leadership on the world stage. Low-lying nations such as Kiribati and the Marshall Islands were facing an “existential” threat in the face of rising seas and severe storms.

Gene editing is GM, says European Court | BBC News
The European Court of Justice has ruled that altering living things using the relatively new technique of genome editing counts as genetic engineering.

Built Environment

Hyperloop test pod sets speed record | BBC News
A competition helping to drive development of the futuristic hyperloop transport system has been won by engineering students from Munich. The hyperloop idea involves passengers in pods travelling at very high speeds down sealed tunnels. The team’s pod hit 457km/h (290mph) on a 1.2km (0.75 mile) test track.

Food Systems

How to reduce slavery in seafood supply chains | The Conversation
Seafood is one of the most-traded foods in the world. The sector employs at least 260 million workers globally, and some 3 billion people rely on seafood as a primary source of protein. The US State Department and other credible sources have consistently identified the seafood sector as a significant contributor to the global incidence of modern slavery. Widespread forced labour has been reported in the seafood industry in 47 countries. Part of the problem is that global seafood supply chains are long and complex. That’s why my colleagues and I have developed a five-stage framework, published today in Science Advances, that identifies the risk for specific products, all the way from ocean or farm to the supermarket shelf.

Rural sector motivated to work towards low-carbon future |
NEW ZEALAND – Sheep and beef farmers are well aware of the challenges climate change brings. They feel the impacts of climate change first-hand with severe weather events such as droughts and floods becoming more frequent. That’s one of the reasons why Beef and Lamb New Zealand has developed a new environment strategy, which includes a key goal – farmers continuing to reduce carbon emissions and moving towards a carbon neutral sheep and beef sector by 2050.