Sustainable Development News

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

The Moth Snowstorm: an environmental call to arms as powerful as Silent Spring
There are few more pressing 21st-century issues than the threat to the world’s natural environment. Yet how can we halt the loss of wildlife across the Earth? How can we balance economic development and population growth against ecological concerns? In The Moth Snowstorm, one of Britain’s leading environmental writers, the journalist Michael McCarthy, presents a timely reminder of the state of the destruction of the natural world.

Energy and Climate Change

Renewable energy capacity overtakes coal
The International Energy Agency says that the world’s capacity to generate electricity from renewable sources has now overtaken coal.  The IEA says in a new report that last year, renewables accounted for more than half of the increase in power capacity.

Australia’s coal seam gas emissions may be vastly underestimated – report
The coal-seam-gas industry could be vastly underestimating its emissions, jeopardising Australia’s commitments made at Paris and swamping any benefits gas has over coal, according to a landmark report by the Melbourne Energy Institute, commissioned by The Australia Institute. The report found the industry’s true emissions could easily amount to twice the emissions Australia has promised to cut by 2030.

Solar energy developers attracted to Port Augusta after power station’s closure
Solar energy developers are honing their attention on the South Australian city of Port Augusta after the community’s economy took a hit when its largest employer, Alinta Energy, closed its coal-fired power station. For the past five years, the community has been pushing for a transition from coal to renewable energy, which is now steps closer to becoming reality.

Environment and Biodiversity

Why Global Warming Hits the Arctic Harder Than Anywhere Else
In his new documentary, Before the Flood, Leonardo DiCaprio takes viewers on an eye-opening tour of how climate change is affecting the planet’s oceans right now, from rising seas threatening Miami to the perilously melting Arctic. One of the experts DiCaprio meets in the film is Enric Sala, a marine biologist and National Geographic explorer-in-residence. Sala is working to study, document, and protect some of the most biologically important areas of the ocean through the Pristine Seas project. We spoke with Sala about his work and role in the new film.

Northern Great Barrier Reef coral bleaching damage worse, surveys suggest
Fresh surveys of the Great Barrier Reef six months on from a mass coral bleaching have found large-scale damage north of Cairns, where a growing coral death rate due to heat stress is being exacerbated by disease and predators, scientists say. Researchers from the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies have released a map with new pictures and video that show the aftermath of the extreme underwater heatwave last summer.

Company poised to destroy critical orangutan habitat in breach of Indonesia’s moratorium
Try to get your head around this one. There is this beautiful natural forest area in West Kalimantan, called Sungai Putri, which roughly translates as the River of the Princess. At about 57,000 hectares (141,000 acres), it is a sizable piece of forest enough to provide a home to between 750 and 1750 orangutans. This makes it the third largest population of this Critically Endangered species in the province. Sungai Putri has extensive deep peat areas, up to 14.5 meters (48 feet) deep in places. And it is covered with forest. Given that the Indonesian government is committed to protecting peat, forests, and orangutans one would assume that this area is safe. Well, as it turns out, it is not.

US funding new soldiers in wildlife trafficking war: giant rats
The US government will fund the training of a team of giant rats to combat illegal wildlife trafficking in Africa. An elite group of African giant pouched rats will be used at ports, initially in Tanzania, to detect illegal shipments of pangolins – the world’s most trafficked animal, which has been pushed towards extinction due to the trade in its scales and skins – as well as hardwood timber.

Night parrot population discovered in Queensland national park
AUSTRALIA – The elusive night parrot has been recorded in Diamantina national park in central-west Queensland, expanding its known range and leading scientists to believe it may not be as rare as previously thought.

Economy and Business

Million new jobs in prospect by 2040 even as emissions dive, study finds
Cutting carbon emissions in line with the Paris climate goals could generate more than 1 million extra jobs by 2040 as Australia transforms its energy and other sectors provided policy settings are right, a new study has found. The Jobs in a Clean Energy Future report, using modelling by the National Institute of Economic and Industry Research, found the policies needed to reduce 2005 levels of carbon pollution by 80 per cent by 2040 would generate far more jobs than were lost.

Melanesia’s oceans are worth US$5.4 billion but are at environmental crossroads
Earth is distinguished from all other known planets by the presence of a warm, salty ocean that covers over 70% of its surface. The ocean puts food on the table, provides jobs, and underpins trillions of dollars of economic activity worldwide. In a new report for the WWF, we looked in particular at how Melanesia’s ocean economy is fairing. Melanesians – the people of Fiji, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu – have a strong social and cultural dependency on the sea.  Faced with looming global challenges such as climate change and food security, the region is a now at a crossroads.

22 insurers seriously assess climate risk — does yours?
In the past two years, as one record-breaking hot year followed another and property damages from Western wild fires and eastern hurricanes mount, there’s been a doubling in the number of insurance companies that seriously evaluate climate risk in their underwriting, investment and governance decisions, according to an analysis by Ceres. But that means 22 insurers among 148 of the largest insurers do so rather than just the nine insurers that seriously considered climate risk in 2014.

The environmental costs of Heathrow expansion
Significant questions about the environmental impacts of Heathrow’s new runway remain unanswered in the wake of the government’s announcement. Opponents say that the expansion will make air quality and noise pollution much worse.  It makes a complete mockery of the government’s commitments on cutting carbon emissions, they say.  But supporters of the airport say that developments in technology will mitigate many negative consequences.
See also: Heathrow approval puts business above political and environment issues

Airbnb, SolarCity Partner to Incentivize Members to Switch to Clean Energy
Airbnb has formed another strategic partnership aimed at increasing the environmental benefits of home sharing: Airbnb and SolarCity, the nation’s largest solar power provider, have joined forces to connect Airbnb hosts and guests with an affordable and sustainable way to power their homes with solar energy.

Fashion Brands Lagging in Efforts to Stop Exploitation of Refugees in Turkish Factories
Many clothes are now made in Turkey because of its proximity to Europe, allowing retailers to fill last-minute orders and get new designs into shops more quickly. But Turkey is a challenging place to do business, especially following the influx of almost 3 million refugees escaping war and bloodshed in Syria. With under-resourced humanitarian assistance, jobs and wages are critical to refugee families’ well-being and security.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Backyard battery recycling is biggest chemical polluter for poorer nations
The World’s Worst Pollution Problems, published by NGOs Pure Earth and Green Cross Switzerland on Tuesday, reveals the top 10 most polluting industries in low and middle-income countries.  Mining, leather tanning, rubbish dumps and the dye industry are among the most polluting activities harming health and causing early deaths. The NGOs estimate 200 million people are at risk in the 50 nations they analysed.

Politics and Society

Catalyst: Dr Jane Goodall Profile (Video 06:07)
Meet Dr Jane Goodall DBE, world-renowned primatologist, humanitarian, conservationist and UN Messenger of Peace.

Alaska seal can be protected based on future climate threat, court says
Species can be listed as “threatened” and receive protection based on climate change projections that stretch until the end of the century, a federal appeals court has ruled, in a decision that could have major implications for the fate of animals as their environment rapidly changes. A three-judge panel at the US ninth circuit court unanimously rejected an appeal by a coalition of oil companies, the state of Alaska and indigenous Alaskans to prevent a subspecies of the Pacific bearded seal from getting federal protection.

Whaling nations block South Atlantic sanctuary plans
Japan and other pro-whaling nations have defeated a proposal to create an sanctuary for whales in the South Atlantic.  The push to create the protected area during a biennial meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) was defeated after 38 countries voted yes and 24 against, as proposals at the conference require 75% of votes to pass. Two abstained.\

Another pipeline spill reported in Peruvian Amazonian as indigenous protests enter eighth week
Hundreds of people gathered since September 1 in Saramurillo, an indigenous community on the bank of the Marañón River in Peru’s northeastern Loreto region, have blocked transportation on the river to press for their demands. The protesters are calling for a state of emergency to be declared in two districts of the lower Marañón Valley where a series of oil spills has affected five indigenous communities. Underlying the protest, however, is a call for a national debate on whether oil drilling should continue in the Peruvian Amazon.

Built Environment

Australian cities map the road to resilience
Rapid urbanisation, combined with an increasing overall population, is fuelling this dizzying growth in the sheer numbers calling our cities home. This rising urban population would be a massive challenge on its own, but it’s just one of the trials faced by cities globally. As climate change kicks in, cities face rising temperatures, and changing sea levels. More extreme weather events are becoming more frequent, meaning floods and fires will more often threaten our ever expanding urban environments. Geopolitics is also heating up, with an increased likelihood of extreme events, such as terrorism.

How the oil and gas industry can help save the world
What if oil and gas were the key to solving climate change? The basic idea is quite simple: If we shift the primary end use of oil and gas from combustion to building materials, there is no need for hydrocarbons to remain locked beneath the earth’s surface in order to address climate change. In fact, the scale and urgency of climate change requires we tap these resources to build a sustainable future.

Food Systems

Urban farms won’t feed our cities, but they’re still a great idea – here’s why
Large-scale urban agriculture is on the rise globally, with more and more farms appearing in our cities. A far cry from allotments and community gardens, urban farms occupy much bigger spaces; they can employ people, regenerate huge neighbourhoods and give residents access to fresh produce on their doorsteps.

Farmwatch releases more video of abused NZ calves
A new video showing bobby calves being thrown onto the back of trucks has emerged from animal rights group Farmwatch. Calves being loaded onto trucks and dropped to the ground was filmed in August on farms throughout Taranaki and Waikato, RNZ reported.
See also: ‘Laggards’ to blame for calf mistreatment – MPI minister


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