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 noticed a few stories recently about satellites being used to track air pollution and deforestation. One article in particular described the detection of large amounts of a Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) banned under the Montreal Protocol for it’s damaging effect on the ozone layer, and it’s a greenhouse gas. Our top story today tells that eight Chinese companies have been using CFC-11 in manufacturing plastic foams. The volume is large and emissions could be the equivalent of another 16-20 coal fired power stations.

In other news, James Hanson’s 1988 modelling of expected global temperature rise is remarkably similar to the actual temperature increase we’ve seen over the past 30 years and Australia is on track to increase emissions and miss its paltry reduction target. Some wise words from a kiwi kid who is debating overseas on the problem of ocean pollution. New Zealand continues to forge ahead with more predator control measures, while researchers cite the impact of feral cats on Australian wildlife.

Top Story

Mysterious emissions of banned greenhouse gas traced to Chinese factories | Climate Home News
CHINA – Chinese factories are illegally producing chemicals that damage the ozone layer and the climate. That was revealed in a survey of manufacturers carried out by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and corroborated by the New York Times on Monday. The EIA identified eight companies in four provinces that were using CFC-11 in the production of plastic foams, which are most commonly used for building insulation. It is one of a group of chemicals banned under the 1987 Montreal Protocol to protect the ozone layer.

Climate Change and Energy

30 years later, deniers are still lying about Hansen’s amazing global warming prediction | Dana Nuccitelli | The Guardian
The incredible accuracy of Hansen’s climate model predictions debunks a number of climate denier myths. It shows that climate models are accurate and reliable, that global warming is proceeding as climate scientists predicted, and thus that we should probably start listening to them and take action to address the existential threat it poses.

Scenario B from Hansen’s 1988 paper, with the trend reduced by 27% to reflect the actual radiative forcing from 1984 to 2017, compared to global surface temperature data from Cowtan & Way. Illustration: Dana Nuccitelli

Scenario B from Hansen’s 1988 paper, with the trend reduced by 27% to reflect the actual radiative forcing from 1984 to 2017, compared to global surface temperature data from Cowtan & Way. Illustration: Dana Nuccitelli

Record emissions keep Australia on path to missing Paris target | The Guardian
Australia’s emissions over the past year were again the highest on record when unreliable data from land use and forestry sectors are excluded, according to new data from NDEVR Environmental. If the country’s greenhouse gas emissions continue on their current trajectory, Australia will miss its Paris target by a billion tonnes of CO2, which is equal to about two years of Australia’s entire national emissions.

Environment and Biodiversity

A hidden toll: Australia’s cats kill almost 650 million reptiles a year | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – Cats take a hefty toll on Australia’s reptiles – killing an estimated 649 million of them every year, including threatened species – according to our new research published in the journal Wildlife Research. This follows the earlier discovery that cats take a similarly huge chunk out of Australian bird populations. As we reported last year, more than a million Australian birds are killed by cats every day. Since their introduction to Australia, cats have also driven many native mammal species extinct.

$1.2m predator-proof fence planned by Northland iwi to protect endemic species |
NEW ZEALAND – A predator-proof fence to protect endemic species at the top of the country is in the works for a Northland iwi [tribe]. Ngāti Kuri trustee Sheridan Waitai said the $1.2 million fence would not only protect species from harm but would also restore the relationship between people and their land. “In that particular tip of our community is one of the most biodiverse hotspots in the country,” Waitai said.

Trampers along the Heaphy Track spot takahe in the tussock |
NEW ZEALAND – A family of takahē who have made their home near the Heaphy Track are surprising trampers in the Kahurangi National Park. Department of Conservation takahē recovery team ranger Jason van de Wetering​ said 18 birds were released in March, with another 12 released into the Gouland Downs area of the park in May. It is the first time an attempt has been made to establish a wild population of takahē outside Fiordland on such a scale. The takahē was thought to be extinct, until 1948 when Geoffrey Orbell rediscovered the flightless bird in the Murchison Mountains.

Scoop the Takahe outside the Gouland Downs hut in the Kahurangi National Park. Photo: Department of Conservation

Scoop the Takahe outside the Gouland Downs hut in the Kahurangi National Park. Photo: Department of Conservation

Economy and Business

UK to host new Green Finance Institute | Edie
UK – The Government will fund a new Green Finance Institute alongside the City of London Corporation to “champion sustainable finance” in the UK and abroad. The Insitute was announced by Chancellor Philip Hammond on Thursday (21 June) as part of his vision for the future of the UK’s financial services sector. Hammond said that the body would help develop the UK’s green finance market and help to mobilise the investment required to reach the country’s climate targets.

Indonesia turns to green finance for development projects | Mongabay
Indonesia, one of the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters, is turning to green finance markets to fund new development projects it promises will be both environmentally and socially friendly. In issuing these ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ bonds, Indonesia joins a growing number of developing countries seeking to appeal to ecologically and socially conscious international investors. But critics question just how green and sustainable these bonds really are, highlighting concerns about greenwashing.

Graphene-infused concrete could pave the way for on-road EV charging | The Fifth Estate
AUSTRALIA – Perth-based minerals company Talga Resources has created a graphene-infused concrete with high electrical conductivity that is says could eventually enable wireless charging of electric vehicles (EVs) – both while driving and while parked. On Monday the company said in an ASX statement that it had achieved a “global breakthrough” in electrical conductivity of graphene-enhanced concrete, achieving a resistance of 0.05 ohm-cm (a lower figure indicates higher conductivity) compared to a reference mortar resistance of 1,000,000 ohm-cm.

Morrisons’ paper bag switch is bad for global warming, say critics | The Guardian
UK – Experts have criticised Morrisons’ decision to switch from plastic to paper bags for fruit and vegetables, branding it a retrograde step for efforts to tackle climate change. This week the supermarket ditched transparent plastic bags in favour of recyclable paper ones, in a move it said was prompted by customers’ worries over pollution. But the step is likely to have unintended consequences and trade one environmental challenge for another.

See also: Morrisons brings back paper bags in grocery aisle | BusinessGreen

Waste and the Circular Economy

Waste crisis: where’s your recycling going now? | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – The Australian recycling industry is facing its greatest challenge yet; one that could result in its collapse unless governments, manufacturers and consumers step up… Yellow bins are still being collected, but in many council areas around the country, their contents are ending up in stockpiles, landfill or being shipped to countries other than China for processing. The recycling industry is in trouble and no one really has a solution.

Related: TDC recycling revenue falls as price of paper, cardboard plummets 90% |

HP used eight million ‘ocean-bound’ plastic bottles in products last year | Edie
The technology firm’s latest sustainability report, published on Friday (June 22), revealed that HP used more than 18,000 tonnes of PCR plastics in its cartridges in 2017, including 8.3 million plastic bottles sourced from Haiti as part of its partnership with Thread and the First Mile Coalition. The move means that 80% of HP ink cartridges now contain 45-70% recycled content and all toner cartridges contain at least 10% recycled content. In total, more than 8.3 million “ocean-bound” plastic bottles were used for HP products in 2017.

M&S, Sainsbury’s and Tesco team up on closed-loop solution for black plastics | Edie
UK – Supermarket giants Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer (M&S) have collaborated to introduce a solution for hard-to-recycle black plastic that places recycled content into food-grade packaging. The supermarkets worked with recycling and packaging production firm Viridor on the recycled solution, which will enable 120 tonnes of plastic to be recycled in the UK every month, starting from July, with the volume expected to rise over the next 18 months.

Politics and Society

Shock at Wellington Habour pollutant haul has student travelling to the Seychelles |
Jack Tetley knew something had to change when he saw 26 tyres, 20 road cones and hundreds of bottles fished from Wellington Harbour. The haul was pulled up during a recent Wellington Harbour Clean Up, and came as a shock to the 13-year-old student of St Bernard’s College… Jack believes education is the key to solving the problem of plastics in the ocean. “I think that people only [pollute] – not because they go out and set out to throw something in the water to kill something – but because they don’t understand it.”

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill led to new rules. Trump repealed them. | Vox
USA – The Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig exploded on April 20, 2010, killing 11 workers. Gas erupted into a massive fireball, and then the rig gushed 4.9 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. It soon became the largest and most expensive marine oil spill in history, with an estimated $17.2 billion in damages to properties, fisheries, and tourism across the Gulf Coast. In response, President Barack Obama signed an executive order creating a commission to study the spill. The commission recommended new safety rules, accountability standards, and environmental regulations for drilling in US waters.

Built Environment

Working with nature can help us build greener cities instead of urban slums | The Conversation
As Australian cities grow and transform, we need to ensure we are not building the slums of the future by making buildings so tall and tight they turn our streets into stark canyons. Sydney’s Wolli Creek, where buildings dominate and tower over a transport hub, is an example of where this is happening. It is now considered one of the city’s densest areas.

Food Systems

Toronto pay-what-you-can store aims to tackle landfills and hunger | The Guardian
CANADA – In a bright, airy Toronto market, the shelves are laden with everything from organic produce to pre-made meals and pet food. What shoppers won’t find, however, is price tags. In what is believed to be a North American first, everything in this grocery store is pay-what-you-can. The new store aims to tackle food insecurity and wastage by pitting the two issues against each other, said Jagger Gordon, the Toronto chef who launched the venture earlier this month. Every provision is donated by a network of partners across the region, and many of them – from blemished or misshapen produce to staples that are nearing their expiry date – would have otherwise ended up in landfills.

North America’s first pay-what-you-can grocer.

North America’s first pay-what-you-can grocer.

Helping plants remove natural toxins could boost crop yields by 47 percent | The Conversation
The goal of Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) is to increase the efficiency of photosynthesis – the process plants use to convert energy from the sun into the food we eat. In our most recent publication we’ve shown that it is possible to dramatically boost crop yield, by enabling the plant to get rid of its toxins more quickly. It’s critical that we begin developing new crops now because it can still take at least a decade for agricultural innovations to reach farmers.