Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Today’s top story is an expression of frustration that many of us share – let’s do something about climate emissions. The human condition has a nasty tendency to procrastinate and miss deadlines, especially if it’s a tough problem. Prof Doherty writes a nice piece about the problem, options available and what needs to happen.

Nice reading for a Friday in other news with a paper outlining how we might quantify what needs to be done to live sustainably, right down to an individual level; how big data is ramping up to assist with identifying emissions in real time; NZ publishes a collaborative report to protect biodiversity; can you prevent cancer by eating organic; and nature is good for the brain – how to get kids into it. Oh, and mustn’t forget, big news… Tesla finally made a profit in the last quarter. Bring on the EVs.

Top Story

We have so many ways to pursue a healthy climate – it’s insane to wait any longer | The Conversation
As a broadly trained life scientist, my concern about climate change isn’t the health of the planet. The rocks will be just fine! What worries me is a whole spectrum of “wicked” challenges, from sustaining food production, to providing clean water, to maintaining wildlife diversity and the green environments that ensure the survival of complex life on Earth. What’s more, as a disease and death researcher, I think of climate change as equivalent to lead poisoning: slow, cumulative, progressive and initially silent but, if not treated in time, causing irreversible, catastrophic damage.

Climate Change

Climate change: Five cheap ways to remove CO2 from the atmosphere | BBC News
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and others have all stated that extracting CO2 from the air will be needed if we are to bend the rising temperature curve before the end of this century. These ideas are controversial with some seeing them as a distraction from the pressing business of limiting emissions of CO2. But a new assessment from the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine says that some of these “negative emissions technologies” are ready to be deployed, on a large scale, right now.

Brexit and Germany erode EU climate resolve | Climate Change News
Britain is leaving, Germany is “wobbling” and talks on EU emissions cuts are tipping in favour of the bloc’s more reticent countries, according to diplomatic sources following climate files in Brussels. Europe’s staunchest advocates for tougher climate change measures are concerned about the one-two punch of Brexit and a German government weakened by September’s election.

How big data can help us fight climate change faster | World Economic Forum
By 2030, carbon dioxide emissions caused by humans need to fall by about 45% from 2010 levels, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050, says the report. Remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the atmosphere, for example through reforestation and improved land management… Big data — whether historical or real-time — can also help us tackle the problem, for example by locating harmful emissions or identifying pressure points along the supply chain. This transformative change in data capabilities is an example of what the World Economic Forum refers to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

Environment and Biodiversity

Forest & Bird hails biodiversity report as breakthrough | RNZ News
NEW ZEALAND – Forest & Bird is hailing a report published today as a breakthrough for the country’s environmental policy. Setting out 22 recommendations for local councils to follow, it is the first step in creating a National Policy Statement for indigenous biodiversity. The Biodiversity Collaborative Group (BCG) which published the report is funded by the government and is made up of stakeholders including Forest & Bird, Federated Farmers, Forest Owners Association and the Iwi Chairs Forum.

Queensland nature refuge program ‘at breaking point’, report warns | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – Queensland’s 4.4m hectare network of nature refuges is “stretched to breaking point” and badly under-resourced, a new report commissioned by an alliance of conservation groups warns. The refuges are designed to protect and restore environmentally sensitive land on private property across Queensland. Landholders agree to dedicate part of their property as a private protected area, and in turn receive government support.

Economy and Business

Australia urged to model economic effects of 1.5C and 2C climate increases | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – Progressive thinktanks and investor groups want the Australian government to model the economic effects climate change will have on Australia under 1.5C and 2C warming scenarios. This week the new Treasury secretary, Phil Gaetjens, told a Senate estimates hearing the department had done no modelling that compared the difference in economic impacts of 1.5C of warming and 2C.

Musk hails breakthrough quarter as Tesla redefines future of transport | RenewEconomy
Elon Musk puts months of private hell behind him as he and analysts hail a “breakthrough” quarter for Tesla and its ability to redefine the future of transport. Even the skeptics get on board. Musk, the CEO and founder of Tesla who has fallen foul of regulators and others because of his Twitter activities, unveiled a profit against most expectations, arresting the bleeding of cash, and lighting a fire under the company’s stock, which surged in after-market trade to its highest levels (US321/share) since he tweeted about plans to take the company private.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Sick of foam packaging for your vegies? A national solution is still years away | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – A council from regional NSW is blaming excess packaging as the reason why it cannot reach its zero waste-to-landfill target. The Coffs Harbour director of sustainable infrastructure, Mick Raby, said that goal was currently impossible. “There are two things [we need] to reach this target,” he said. “One is slightly better use of our three-bin system. At the moment people are pretty good at putting the right thing in the right bin, but when they put the wrong thing in the wrong bin, it’s very hard for us. The primary change has to be a system of national legislation that forces people not to make stuff that can’t be recycled.”

Politics and Society

Can your actions really save the planet? ‘Planetary accounting’ has the answer | The Conversation
The climate is changing before our eyes. News articles about imminent species extinctions have become the norm. Images of oceans full of plastic are littering social media. These issues are made even more daunting by the fact that they are literally global in scale. In the face of these global environmental crises it can be hard to know where to start to help change the state of our planet. But in a paper published in the journal Sustainable Earth, we set out how to translate many of our global environmental issues into action at a more manageable level.

Being in nature is good for learning, here’s how to get kids off screens and outside | The Conversation
I have devoted the majority of my teaching and academic career to examining the relationship of people and nature. In the last few decades, society has become estranged from the natural world, primarily due to urban densification and our love affair with technological devices (usually located in indoor built environments). Contact with nature can enhance creativity, bolster mood, lower stress, improve mental acuity, well-being and productivity, cultivate social connectedness, and promote physical activity. It also has myriad educational benefits for teaching and learning.

We need to talk about integration after migration. Here are four ways we can improve it | World Economic Forum
Integration is the delicate, critical transition of the migrant from outsider to insider – the process by which migrants become a part of their new community. Successful integration is hard to measure because it is multilayered, touching every part of the migrant experience, from education to housing, political participation and civic engagement. We might not be able to capture it well, but few doubt its importance. While many migration issues remain hotly contested, integration is widely considered to be a good thing for migrants and for the societies they have moved into.


Sonnen to start making batteries in Australia next month | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – German energy storage giant sonnen Group has revealed it expects to produce its first Australian-made residential sonnenBatterie within weeks, at the former Holden car factory in Elizabeth, South Australia. The manufacturing plant, first proposed under the state’s former Labor government, aims to produce 10,000 batteries a year to meet soaring demand from Australian households, as well as for export to the neighbouring Asia Pacific region.

Blood coal: Ireland’s dirty secret | The Guardian
IRELAND – The connections between County Clare, Ireland and La Guajira, Colombia may not be entirely obvious at first glance. Yet the regions are linked through a shared commodity: coal. Extracted in one region and burned in the other. Coal extraction in La Guajira has a dirty secret, which I’ve witnessed first-hand: it is connected to a system of production entrenched in violence, bloodshed and environmental destruction.

BP get green light for North Sea oil project | Climate Action
UK – Just weeks after the stark warning from the IPCC report, BP have been granted approval for a North Sea project which will target 20 million barrels of oil. The Alligin development, given approval by the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA), will involve two wells, which will be tied back into the existing Schiehallion and Loyal subsea infrastructure.

Built Environment

Shell starts rollout of ultrafast electric car chargers in Europe | The Guardian
Shell has stepped up its move into electric vehicle infrastructure with the installation of its first ultrafast charging points in western Europe – but they are so powerful that no car currently on sale today would be able to fully exploit them. The chargers at a motorway service station outside Paris are one of 80 European locations the Anglo-Dutch firm is planning for swift charging by 2020, including as many as eight in the UK.

Food Systems

Working to reclaim and rebuild our food systems from the ground up | The Conversation
Contrary to popular critique, our food system is not broken. As Holt-Giménez explains so eloquently in his book, it works perfectly well for Big Food. Multinational food, beverage, agri-business and retail corporations control global supply chains. But they don’t feed the world.

Research Check: can you cut your cancer risk by eating organic? | The Conversation
The research, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found those who chose more organically grown foods over 4.5 years had slightly lower rates of cancer, and in particular, lymphoma and postmenopausal breast cancer. But while there is a correlation between eating organic foods and lower rates of cancer, it doesn’t necessarily mean one caused the other. People who choose organic foods are likely to be healthier, wealthier and better educated, all factors known to impact risk of cancer.