Sustainable Development News

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

Global emissions nearly stall after a decade of rapid growth, report shows
Global carbon emissions virtually stalled last year after a decade of rapid growth, figures published on Wednesday show, just days before world leaders meet in Paris for international talks on climate change. The slowdown in the growth of the emissions that have caused record-breaking heat in recent years was largely down to China, which bucked its trend of ever-increasing coal use, the Netherlands environment agency said.

Energy and Climate Change

Climate change makes past five-year period the warmest on record: WMO
Climate change made 2011-2015 the warmest five-year period on record, according to the World Meteorological Organisation’s (WMO) state of the global climate report. This year is set to be the single hottest ever registered, with planetary temperatures passing the symbolic milestone of 1C above pre-industrial levels.  The WMO’s stock-take attributes the sweltering conditions to a cocktail of man-made global warming and the effects of the El Niño oceanic phenomenon.

Temps El Nino

The household cost of responding to climate change
The cost to New Zealand households of responding to climate change could be $6 a week in petrol and electricity bills, a paper by the Ministry for the Environment shows. The Government’s main policy for combating climate change, the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), is being reviewed. The scheme requires all sectors except agriculture to pay for each tonne of carbon they emit, and these costs are usually passed on to consumers.

UK cancels pioneering £1bn carbon capture and storage competition
The UK government has cancelled its £1bn competition for carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology just six months before it was due to be awarded, breaking a key pledge in the Conservative party manifesto.

If we want investment in sustainable fuel, rules cannot constantly change (Opinion)
There is no question that the world faces a tremendous challenge in confronting the threat of climate change. I am confident that the world’s innovators can create the energy technologies necessary to reduce emissions and meet the climate challenge. It is more difficult, though, to have faith in our political leaders to make and keep the policy commitments intended to drive innovation.

Experts discuss how to build a carbon-free energy industry
A recent Guardian roundtable, sponsored by global energy company Enel, looked at what the sector can do to pick up the pace of the transition. The chair, Oliver Balch, asked whether politics is holding the transition back. Diminishing subsidies and support for renewables under the current UK government led the World Energy Council [WEC] recently to downgrade the UK from AAA to AAB rating for its energy policy.

5 reasons why U.S. climate action is accelerating
Earlier this year, President Barack Obama formally announced the U.S. commitment to reduce its emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. Throughout 2015, the administration has taken important and unprecedented actions in several sectors to help achieve this goal,

Paris 2015: UN Conference on Climate Change

Paris climate march banned: what do you want to say to UN climate talks?
Thousands of climate change campaigners had planned to blockade the major UN climate summit COP21 in Paris this Sunday, but security concerns following the Paris attacks have seen some demonstrations banned…  We want you to tell us what message you want to send to the heads of state and government. We’ll use a selection of responses in a feature about why people protest at climate summits and what they want.

Paris 2015: Australians back deeper carbon cuts as climate summit looms
Australia will go to the Paris climate change summit with public backing to do more to cut greenhouse gas emissions if it helps get a global deal, according to a new poll by the Lowy Institute. The survey for the foreign affairs think-tank found 62 per cent of people backed Australia bolstering its emissions reduction targets in the interests of a reaching a global climate agreement – something nations hope to do at the two-week Paris summit starting Monday.

Australia has met its 2020 greenhouse emissions target five years early, Environment Minister Greg Hunt says
The Federal Government says it has met its 2020 greenhouse emissions target, ahead of this week’s climate change talks in Paris. It has released figures from the Department of Environment showing Australia had already achieved a 5 per cent reduction based on 2000 levels. By 2020, the department predicted Australia would have met its target by 28 million tonnes. Environment Minister Greg Hunt told the National Press Club it would make it easier to make additional cuts in the future.

India is focused on energy and poverty, but it can still sign a global climate deal
Why would a country with a third of its population living in poverty support a global agreement at the Paris climate talks? With per capita greenhouse emissions of about a tenth of many developing countries, why wouldn’t India just argue that it should be exempt from climate deals while it focuses on bringing electricity, food and jobs to its hundreds of millions of poor? In short, because a strong global agreement on climate change is in India’s interests and the political interests of its Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as well as those of the international community.

The hardest climate change quiz ever
Next week, world leaders are meeting in Paris at a crucial summit on tackling global warming. Take our quiz to see if you are a climate change expert

Fossil Fuel Divestment

€865bn assets in France and Germany pledge coal divestment
German insurer Allianz, French investor Caisse des Dépôts and French insurance corporation CNP Assurances have all made big commitments, reducing the coal exposure of more than €865bn of assets and potentially mobilising more than €20bn into green sectors.

Environment and Biodiversity

Saving homes, saving wildlife: Victoria ditches burnoff targets

AUSTRALIA – Last week Victoria announced a new plan to manage bushfire risk by conducting prescribed burns. Previously, Victoria had adopted a plan to burn 5% of the state’s area each year to manage bushfire risk. The 5% target has been criticised by scientists for damaging the environment without necessarily reducing risk. But, following a review, the state is shifting to a new “risk-based” strategy. So, how does the new strategy work and what can we learn from it?


Inside One Man’s Quest to Build a Photo Ark for Animals

Ten years ago today, National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore’s wife, Kathy, was diagnosed with breast cancer. That diagnosis, and Sartore’s subsequent need to stay home and care for his wife and children in their Lincoln, Nebraska home, spawned an unplanned—and unprecedented—photographic project called Photo Ark to help save the world’s species. Through his Photo Ark project, Sartore has made photographic portraits of 5,400 animals at zoos and aquariums worldwide—and he won’t stop, he says, until he documents all 12,000 captive species.


Economy and Business


Brazil’s mining tragedy: was it a preventable disaster?

The recent collapse of a mining dam in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais is one of the biggest environmental disasters in the country’s history. Apocalyptic images of communities swallowed by mud and a river flooded by mining waste have shocked a population that has become hardened to tragedy. Between 40-62m cubic metres of the water and sediment from iron ore extraction sluiced down a mountainside more than two weeks ago when the Fundão tailings dam failed at an open-cast mine operated by Samarco, a joint venture between mining giants BHP Billiton and Vale.


World in danger of spending trillions on unviable fossil fuel projects, says climate change adviser

A former investment banker turned climate change adviser says the world risks building trillions of dollars worth of uneconomic fossil fuel projects over the next 10 years because of measures to limit global warming. Research analyst Mark Fulton is the lead author of a report by London based environmental think tank Carbon Tracker, which has warned there are $US2.2 trillion in potentially unviable coal, gas and oil projects around the globe.


Time to act on natural capital is now, says Charles

Prince Charles has lamented the “economic invisibility of nature” and called on business leaders to act now to save the world’s natural capital. In a video message to a global gathering in Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales warned of a failure to “run the global bank that we call our planet in a responsible and competent manner”. He urged delegates to “act now before it is too late”.


Two-faced Exxon: the misinformation campaign against its own scientists

Investigative journalism by Inside Climate News (ICN) into Exxon’s internal documents revealed that the company was at the forefront of climate research, warning of the dangers posed by human-caused global warming from the late-1970s to the late-1980s. As Harvard climate historian Naomi Oreskes noted, “But Exxon was sending a different message, even though its own evidence contradicted its public claim that the science was highly uncertain and no one really knew whether the climate was changing or, if it was changing, what was causing it … Journalists and scientists have identified more than 30 different organizations funded by the company that have worked to undermine the scientific message and prevent policy action to control greenhouse gas emissions.”


Royal Caribbean credits bubble technology with driving down cruise emissions

On ship solar panels, LED lighting, and even micro-bubble technology have combined to help Royal Caribbean Cruises slash its annual carbon emissions by more than 20 per cent over the past decade, according to the company’s latest annual sustainability report. The report confirmed that in 2014 greenhouse gas emissions from the company were 21.4 per cent below its 2005 baseline, thanks to a raft of clean tech and energy efficiency measures.


Waste and the Circular Economy


How Circularity Indicators, Partnerships Are Accelerating Adoption of Circular Business Models

The concept of the circular economy has, at least over the last couple of years, evolved as somewhat of a holy grail for the sustainable business world… Blériot briefly introduced the circular economy concept and its relative merits to the standard linear model, based on the linear production chain of manufacturing a product, using it over a relatively short time period and discarding to landfill (make-use-dispose). The circular economy disrupts this model by keeping materials in the use loop for as long as possible, with aims to minimise the amount of material which escapes this circular flow as waste. This is achieved through a reuse, refurbish, remanufacture or recycle model, with aims to maximise a product’s lifetime.


Retailers welcome plan to recycle soft plastics

NEW ZEALAND – Retailers are welcoming a new initiative which will see up to 70 per cent of the country able to recycle soft plastics. Greg Harford, Retail NZ’s public affairs spokesman said Soft plastics include shopping and bread bags, but also food wrapping and “anything scrunchable”. The initiative is a joint effort by retailers, the packaging industry and the Government to extend the recycling programme to plastics that were previously not recycled. Collection bins will be placed at 70 New World, Pak ‘n Save, Countdown and The Warehouse stores in Auckland and if successful, will be rolled out to other centres over the next three years.


Built Environment


Nightingale’s sustainability song falls on deaf ears as car-centric planning rules hold sway

The Commons apartment building in the inner Melbourne suburb of Brunswick has won swags of awards, including the Best of Best at the 2014 BPN Sustainability Awards. Among its many lauded attributes is its total lack of on-site car parking. Residents get a yearly public transport ticket and membership of a car share scheme with a prepaid usage allowance. A share car is located on the street in front of the building. Cycling is the fastest mode of transport into the city, so there are 76 bike spaces for just 24 apartments. The council waived the car parking requirement on the proviso that no on-street parking permits would ever be issued to residents. More than 620 people are on the waiting list for a Commons-type apartment.


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