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Friday 26 September 2014

Sustainable Development News

Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world. Sign up to the newsletter if you would like the news direct to your inbox each weekday morning.

UN Climate Summit

Summaries of country statements given at the UN secretary general’s climate summit
The 65 summaries below are taken from the statements made to the UN secretary general summit yesterday by country delegates, often verbatim.

Europe’s carbon cuts should be subject to Paris climate deal – EU energy chief
Europe should only push ahead with its planned cuts to carbon emissions if the rest of the world agrees to a global climate change deal at a crunch summit in Paris next year, according to the EU’s energy chief. Next month, EU leaders are expected to sign off on a package of targets for 2030 that will include a 40% cut in Europe’ emissions, legally enforceable Europe-wide targets of a 27% market share of renewables, and 30% improvement in energy efficiency. But Europe only accounts for around 10% of global emissions, and industry leaders have complained bitterly that emissions-cutting obligations will hurt their competitiveness if other regions do not follow suit.

Poet brings world leaders to tears at UN Climate Summit (Video)
The UN Climate Summit has been graced by the likes of actor Leonardi DiCaprio and US President Barack Obama, but the haunting words of a young mother from a tiny Pacific Island nation have made the most lasting impression.  Spoken-word poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, 26, from the Marshall Islands, was just one of four people chosen from 544 nominees to address the opening of the UN Climate Summit in New York. In front of an audience of 120 state dignitaries, Jetnil-Kijiner performed a poem she wrote for her seven-month-old daughter, in which she promises to protect the child from the threat of climate change, which she says world leaders are ignoring.

Global Compact of Mayors pushes for massive carbon reductions
Cities are again taking a leadership role in the climate change fight, with a global Compact of Mayors comprising 2000 cities launched at the UN Climate Summit in New York, promising to help cities make deep collective carbon cuts. The Compact, which features the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability and United Cities and Local Governments, will try to drive aggressive carbon cuts in cities through public, annual emissions reporting through a format similar to that used by nations under the Kyoto Protocol.

Energy and Climate Change

UK coal power back to historic lows as electricity demand continues to fall
The UK’s demand for electricity is falling and generation is becoming less carbon intensive, new government statistics show. The Department of Energy and Climate Change’s (DECC)  quarterly energy statistics show gas partially replaced coal power between May and July this year. Low carbon energy sources such as wind, solar and nuclear generated almost five per cent more electricity than in the same three months last year, the data shows.

Environment and Biodiversity

U.S. Creates Largest Protected Area in the World, 3X Larger Than California
The Obama administration announced Thursday that it will create the largest marine reserve in the world by expanding an existing monument around U.S.-controlled islands and atolls in the central Pacific. The Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument will now be nearly 490,000 square miles, nearly three times the size of California and six times larger than its previous size. Commercial fishing, dumping, and mining will be prohibited in the reserve, but recreational fishing will be allowed with permits, and boaters may visit the area.

World-first app will help protect bees from crop sprays and pesticides
The plant science industry’s peak body has developed a smartphone app which allows farmers to let beekeepers know where chemicals are being sprayed. CropLife chief executive Matthew Cossey says the world-first technology will help protect bees from exposure to pesticides. “When I go on as a farmer and say, ‘Well tomorrow, I’ve got to apply whatever crop protection product’, I’ll log that activity on my farm,” he said. “And if that could possibly impact on the hives, it’ll send an alert to the registered beekeeper…There’s a dedicated 10-kilometre perimeter. That allows them to undertake measures either to move hives or put off the spraying, or know that it’s in an area they don’t need to worry about.”

Barrier reef dredging: green groups win more time for court challenge
Green groups have won more time for a court challenge to plans to dump dredge spoil from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park on land. The federal government last year approved a plan to have three million cubic metres of spoil dumped in the marine park boundaries in north Queensland, but following a public backlash the Queensland premier, Campbell Newman, this month announced that his cabinet was instead backing a plan to have the material disposed of on land. Conservationists, however, remain opposed to any dredging which would enable the expansion of the Abbot Point coal terminal, near Bowen.

Economy and Business

Bright ideas: how SMEs can save energy
Energy is a significant cost to any small business. It is therefore a wise move to adopt energy-efficient measures. Yet there is scant evidence of this happening. The Forum for Private Business found that 87% of businesses reported an increase in energy costs in 2013. Despite this, according to the Business Energy Index, 53% of small businesses in the UK have no methods in place to manage energy efficiency. Trying to unpick what prevents small businesses from adopting energy efficiency measures was the focus of a recent Guardian roundtable sponsored by ScottishPower.

Politics and Society

Energy green paper scores ‘pass’ on electricity, ‘fail’ on climate
The Energy Green Paper 2014 released this week by federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane provides more clear direction and coverage of critical policy issues than did its 2012 predecessor. However, while it sets out a confident path in key areas such as gas supply, it is tentative in others regarding the electricity market and frustratingly silent on the critical issue of climate change. So how might we score the Green Paper?

Built Environment

World Green Building Week pushes new ground
While the world takes a deep dive into uncertain territory, especially on climate issues and especially in Australia,  the world of green buildings moves inexorably onwards. For World Green Building week concluding Friday the focus broadened from buildings and owners to tenants, emerging stars and now the concept of positive development through social outcomes. At 50 Bridge Street in Sydney, AMP Capital did some “gamification” with tenants to drive home some key messages on carbon consumption and savings using balloons, lollies in giant jars and guessing competitions. According to national sustainability manager for AMP Capital, Dominic Ambriano, the exercise played into the company’s Building Connections program designed to engage tenants in “nodes” of focus such as sustainability, health and well-being.

Overwhelming evidence green design boosts productivity, WorldGBC says
There is now “overwhelming evidence” green buildings lead to healthier, more productive staff, according to a new report released by the World Green Building Council as part of this week’s World Building Week. Health, wellbeing and productivity in offices: The next chapter for green building brings together evidence on topics like air quality, thermal comfort, daylighting and interior design to make a strong case for green buildings from a staff productivity perspective, rather than pushing the typical environmental case. Quantifying the human benefits of green buildings has been the holy grail of the green building industry, as staff can account for up to 90 per cent of business operating costs. Small improvements in worker productivity can therefore mean massive financial gains.

Adelaide’s recycled water pipeline helping droughtproof city parklands
A guaranteed supply of recycled water for Adelaide’s city and parklands has bolstered council efforts to transform parts of the city. A pipeline that was completed in 2010 moves water from the sewage treatment works at Glenelg to the CBD which is used to re-landscape city areas. The link cost more than $76 million and also required an upgrade of the Glenelg wastewater treatment plant. The purple pipeline supplies up to two gigalitres of recycled water annually to irrigate city parklands and also has the capacity to supply up to 5.5 gigalitres of recycled water to support any new CBD projects.

Growing our way out of climate change by building with hemp and wood fibre
How can buildings help with climate change? It’s all about renewables and “sequestered carbon”. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’ 2010 report on Low Carbon Construction concluded that construction was responsible for around 300m tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, which is almost 47% of the UK’s total. Of this, around 50m tonnes is embedded in the fabric of buildings. Making one tonne of steel emits 1.46 tonnes of CO2 and 198kg of CO2 is emitted make one tonne of reinforced concrete. One square metre of timber framed, hemp-lime wall (weighing 120kg), after allowing for the energy cost of transporting and assembling the materials actually stores 35.5kg of CO2.

Food Systems

Grow more food with less water? There’s an app for that
Today some 2.8 billion people face insufficient supplies of fresh water, and according to the United Nations that number is set to increase to half the world’s population by 2030. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that 40% of the world’s food depends on irrigation, which accounts for almost 70% of fresh water used. It makes sense then that farmers are turning to new and old technology in an attempt to manage their water.

Don’t buy wild-caught salmon, British shoppers told
British consumers are being urged by a marine charity to avoid buying and eating wild-caught salmon because of concerns about depleted stocks resulting from overfishing. In the Marine Conservation Society’s (MCS) update of its sustainable seafood guide, wild-caught Atlantic salmon remains on the ‘danger list’ along with some whiting – often suggested as a good alternative to cod and plaice. But the new ratings reveal better news for mackerel, herring and halibut as stocks are improving. Other tea-time favourites have mixed fortunes. Cod from both the east and west Baltic get a cautionary rating, while North-east Arctic haddock and mackerel from the EU and Norway are all back on the ‘Fish to Eat’ list.

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