Sustainable Development News

Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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Top Story

Green power success stories take the wind out of Tony Abbott
AUSTRALIA – Germany, the world leader in installing renewable energy, had a moment last month. It was producing so much electricity from solar, wind and biomass that more than half of the country’s electricity was flowing from these renewable sources. There was so much, in fact, that the price of electricity actually fell to zero. And the price kept falling. It went negative. There were times on April 17 when wholesale electricity in Germany was selling for minus 14.91 euros for a megawatt hour. So it wasn’t free – it was cheaper than free.

Tony Abbott won an election promising to help families cut their power bills by getting rid of the carbon tax. He kept his promise. Electricity prices fell by an average of 9 per cent. If Abbott wanted to, he could help Australians cut their power bills by much more than 9 per cent. The way to do it, as the German event demonstrated, is with more renewable energy. But it couldn’t happen here, right? Not so. In fact, it has happened here.

Energy and Climate Change

Scientist in a spin over climate change
For most of us, it’s a tough ask to draw a link between somewhere as warm as Bangladesh and as chilly as Antarctica. But that’s been the mission of Kiwi scientist Dr Daniel Price, now well through a 17,000km cycling odyssey to get people caring about climate change ahead of his eventual destination – the United Nations climate congress in Paris in December. Ahead of the conference, the Government has opened consultation on what New Zealand’s climate change target should be beyond 2020.

Bureau of Meteorology rejects Maurice Newman’s climate claims
AUSTRALIA – Claims by the Prime Minister’s chief business adviser about climate change have been rejected by the head of the Bureau of Meteorology as “incorrect”, irrelevant and “old red herrings”… In a Senate estimates hearing on Monday, Greens climate spokeswoman Larissa Waters read through the opinion piece, paragraph by paragraph, asking the bureau’s director of meteorology and chief executive Rob Vertessy to respond to Mr Newman’s claims.

Environment and Biodiversity

Barrier Reef spill: Authority cannot afford to clean up grounded ship’s toxic mess
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) says it cannot afford to clean up all the toxic mess left over from the grounding of a bulk coal carrier on the reef in 2010. Chinese ship Shen Neng One ran aground on Douglas Shoal off the central Queensland coast on April 3, 2010, after veering more than 10 kilometres outside the shipping lane. The grounding damaged one of the ship’s fuel tanks, resulting in a four-kilometre-long slick of heavy fuel oil and leaving toxic antifouling paint embedded in the sea floor.

Great Barrier Reef: Mining industry told foreign journalists ports not a danger
Foreign journalists who attended an Australian government-sponsored fact-finding tour on the health of the Great Barrier Reef were briefed by the mining industry that shipping and ports posed no danger to coral. But, with just days until UNESCO announces whether the marine wonder will be placed on its “in danger” list, questions have emerged about the applicability of the research used by the Queensland Resources Council to back the industry’s claims. A council document, “Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Overseas Journalists Briefing” shows the council’s chief executive, Michael Roche, cited research by the Australian Institute of Marine Science to claim ports and shipping posed no threat to the reef.

IS threat to Syria’s northern bald ibis near Palmyra
A rare bird may become extinct in Syria because of the capture of Palmyra by Islamic State, experts say. A tiny breeding colony of the northern bald ibis – a critically endangered species – was found near the city in 2002. Only one female returned from the wintering grounds in spring 2013. Three further birds held in captivity were abandoned last week after their Bedouin guards fled the fighting. Their fate is unknown. The Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon has offered a reward of $1,000 (£646) for information on the whereabouts of Zenobia (named after the queen of Palmyra), the only remaining bird who knows the migration routes to wintering grounds in Ethiopia

Economy and Business

Green Initiatives Improve a Brand’s Perceived Value
These days, if your business isn’t going green, it’s going extinct. Consumers aren’t only looking for businesses that offer high-quality products and competitive prices; they want to know that the organizations that take their money are going to use it to make the world a better place. Recent studies have found that green initiatives can significantly improve a brand’s value. Because of this trend, more and more corporations are including green initiatives in their marketing campaigns, in order to show that they are willing to play a part in the push to preserve and sustain the environment. But beyond simply improving company reputation, taking on an environmentally sound and responsible position benefits businesses in more practical ways as well. For example, many organizations have found that by taking steps to reduce energy use, they end up saving a great deal of money.

Walmart Adopts Groundbreaking Animal Welfare Policy
Walmart, the largest food retailer in the U.S., recently announced a new animal welfare policy. It’s a policy animal rights groups are calling groundbreaking as it engages the company’s entire supply chain and covers a wide range of issues from antibiotic use to housing systems. The new policy includes the responsible use of antimicrobials, including antibiotics… The policy asks suppliers to be proactive in eliminating animal abuse… Walmart’s new animal welfare policy embraces the Five Freedoms of animal welfare by the Farm Animal Welfare Council…

Science- vs. Context-Based Metrics – What’s the Difference?
As the importance of measurement and reporting in sustainability continues to grow, it should be helpful, I think, to clarify the distinction between so-called science- and context-based metrics. These terms are not synonymous, although they do overlap. More important is the fact that science-based thinking is by no means sufficient for purposes of setting goals or measuring performance in organizational sustainability — necessary, perhaps, but insufficient.

Landowners urged to move away from radiata pine
NEW ZEALAND – Forestry experts are encouraging landowners to use recently announced forestry grants to plant trees other than radiata pine. These other species include manuka, eucalypts, Douglas fir and cypress species. However, their development comes with a more expensive price tag than radiata. Forest Owners Association president Dean Satchell said New Zealand imported $500 million worth of timber which could be replaced by local trees. The imports included cedar for cladding, and tropical hardwoods for flooring and decking. In 2014, total forest exports were worth $5.1 billion.

Politics and Society

Big green donors warn funds could dry up if Abbott government changes tax rules
AUSTRALIA – Prominent financial backers of environmental causes have warned any move by the Abbott government to tighten tax concessions for donations to green groups will dry up funding to protect nature and the climate. And shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus – Labor’s frontbench representative on a parliamentary committee inquiry now looking at the charitable status of almost 600 environment groups – has declared the review an ideological attack by the government on political advocacy.

Anything but coal: solar the most popular energy source in Australia
Solar energy is the most popular source of electricity in Australia with more than three times the backing of coal-fired or nuclear power, a survey by Ipsos has found. The poll of almost 1200 people around the country found that solar panels on roof tops were supported by 87 per cent of respondents, with large-scale solar farms “strongly” or “somewhat” backed by 78 per cent. Wind farms and hydro, at 72 per cent, also far eclipsed backing of just 23 per cent for coal and 26 per cent for nuclear energy.

Has the Last Human Trekked to the North Pole?
Faced with a dearth of logistical support and challenges related to climate change, human-powered trips to the North Pole may be on the brink of extinction. “North Pole expeditions are going the way of the passenger pigeon,” says Eric Larsen, a Colorado-based polar explorer who has completed three North Pole expeditions.

Built Environment

Let’s get our cities moving: industry responds to Infrastructure Audit
AUSTRALIA – The property sector and industry associations have welcomed the initial findings of the Australian Infrastructure Audit, particularly recommendations for a more integrated approach to planning and greater investment in rail and public transport.  The Green Building Council of Australia renewed the call for the government to appoint a Minister for Cities, describing investment in our cities as “mission critical”. “The audit underscores the importance of making our cities work – with cities expected to contribute $1.6 trillion to the economy by 2031, a 90 per cent increase on their current contribution,” GBCA chief executive Romilly Madew said. “It also clearly outlines the future we face if we don’t get it right – with skyrocketing congestion costs, high emissions and rising inequality just the start.”

Food Systems

Australian Tuna Association welcomes new proposal to manage tuna stocks in the Indian Ocean
The Australian Tuna Association has welcomed a proposal to better manage fishing in the Indian Ocean and hopes other countries will take notice.  Australia, the Maldives, and the European Union have created a joint proposal to guide sustainable catch limits on tuna stocks in the Indian Ocean.  Association chief executive Brian Jeffries said there were many other global players including Japan, Taiwan, and China that are using the stock.


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