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Friday 27 October 2017

Sustainable Development News

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

Australian ministers write to China to confirm approval of Carmichael mine
Senior Turnbull government ministers have written a formal letter to China’s government to confirm that the controversial Adani Carmichael coal project in Queensland has passed all necessary environmental approvals. Frances Adamson, the secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, told senators on Thursday that Adani may have requested the letter to help it secure funding from the Chinese.

Climate Change and Energy

China does not need any new coal fired generation
China – the biggest consumer of electricity in the world – does not need any new coal fired power stations, and there are US$237 billion ($A307 billion) of potential stranded assets because of a massive over-build that already amounts to a 35 per cent surplus. “There are no provinces in China where new coal generation capacity is needed,” the report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance and Climateworks says.

Coal use must ‘pretty much’ be gone by 2050 to curb sea-level rise, researchers say
Coal use will have to be “pretty much” gone by mid-century if the planet is to avoid sea-level rise of more than a metre by 2100 as Antarctic ice sheets disintegrate faster than expected, new modelling by an Australian-led team has found.


Solar panels could cut schools’ power bills by $20m a year
New Zealand’s schools could soon sport rooftop solar panels to help tackle climate change – and cut up to $20 million a year off their power bills. The Labour and Green Parties have said in their governing agreement this week that “solar panels on schools will be investigated” as part of moving electricity to 100 per cent renewable, non-carbon-burning sources by 2035.

We asked 5 hurricane experts: why were there so many hurricanes this season?
It’s an image that sums up what a punishing Atlantic hurricane season it has been. From late August to early October, it seemed that just as one storm was barreling west, another was spinning up right behind it. Irma, the center storm in this image, broke a new record for hurricane intensity by sustaining 185 mph winds for 36 hours. In the days after this image was taken, Jose would obtain major hurricane status (Category 3), marking the first time on record where two Atlantic storms had 150 mph winds at the same time. Just a week later, Hurricane Maria would form and eventually knock out Puerto Rico’s power grid, setting off a terrible ongoing humanitarian disaster.

This is one of the most incredible images of 2017. It’s a satellite from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration peering down on Hurricanes Katia and Irma and Tropical Storm Jose (from left to right) on September 8.

This is one of the most incredible images of 2017. It’s a satellite from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration peering down on Hurricanes Katia and Irma and Tropical Storm Jose (from left to right) on September 8.

Environment and Biodiversity

Insect ‘Armageddon’: five crucial questions answered
Are we facing insect Armageddon? A recent study found that German nature reserves have seen a 75% reduction in flying insects over the last 27 years. The researchers involved made stark warnings that this indicated a wider collapse of the general insect population that would bring about an ecological catastrophe if left unchecked. But is this an over-dramatisation of a single study in one country, or is there some real cause for concern? Here we answer five questions about how important this result is and whether we should be worried.

Misplaced monarchs: Clusters of butterflies stuck in Canada, northern US
Monarch butterflies, those delicate symbols of spring and summer, should mostly be in the US state of Texas by now, winging their way to Mexico for the winter. But Darlene Burgess keeps seeing colourful clusters of them – and she lives in Canada. “As nice as this is to see, I really wish I wouldn’t see it because they’re running out of time,” said Burgess, who does evening monarch counts at Point Pelee National Park in Canada. “It’s really not good for them.”

Illegal deer release ‘eco-terrorism at its worst’ – DoC
NEW ZEALAND – The Department of Conservation (DoC) has called an illegal release of up to 50 sika deer in north Taranaki forests disgusting, selfish and short-sighted. Sika browse on native plants, inhibiting the regeneration of habitat for birds and other wildlife. DoC director-general Lou Sanson said the organisation got a tip-off and has strong leads indicating the deer have been brought in within the past two weeks, in retaliation for 1080 pest control by it, the regional council and others.

Economy and Business

Zurich-Based Fund Generates Impressive Returns from Sustainable Development
One Zurich-based, fund… is generating wealth for investors while boosting sustainable development opportunities worldwide. Led by a portfolio manager with 25 years of experience who has conducted business in over 40 countries, this fund invests about $1.2 billion a year in ventures across the globe – and doing so in places usually off most investors’ radar, from Egypt to Bhutan.

How Millennials and Young Farmers Are Demanding CSR
They have been raised in an era that has allowed them to have the internet at their fingertips from the moment they could hold an iPhone. The wealth of the information online keeps them informed and allows them to have their voice heard on millions of different platforms and websites every day. They are demanding better working conditions and that their employers hold themselves accountable for their ecological impact.

Waste and the Circular Economy

This startup is creating biodegradable fabric from methane-eating bacteria
USA – At the center of the startup’s work are microbes, which feed on waste methane — a greenhouse gas far more potent than carbon dioxide. Mango Materials is piloting its process using a series of test equipment and working out of a shipping container at a municipal wastewater treatment plant in Silicon Valley, collecting the biogas from an anaerobic digester at the site and forcing it into a substance that serves as the feedstock for the bacteria.

Politics and Society

This fund seeks to accelerate business solutions for the SDGs
The Sustainable Development Goals, also known as the SDGs or Global Goals, were adopted nearly three years ago… The goal is to achieve them by 2030, even as the world careens towards deepening inequality, worsening climate catastrophes, a booming population and dwindling resources.  To kickstart more action, especially from the corporate sector, the United Nations in September launched a new public-private accelerator program that is backed with at least $4 million annually, with the promise of more funds on the horizon. The initiative, Partnering for Green Growth and Global Goals 2030 (P4G), was formed with the intention of helping incubate and scale solutions that could have global relevance.

Burning down the house: Myanmar’s destructive charcoal trade
Deep in the heart of the forests of Myanmar, a massive trade in illicit charcoal to neighboring China is feeding a multi-million dollar industry that connects the forests and its people to industrial warehouses in China and the products they make for the world.

Auckland fuel tax on the table for ‘gridlocked’ city – Twyford
NEW ZEALAND – The government is open to legislating to bring in an Auckland regional petrol tax to help pay for light rail, the Transport Minister Phil Twyford says. Mr Twyford told Morning Report the $15 billion programme, to get light rail from the CBD to the airport and from the city to West Auckland, would be rolled out over ten years. He said the government was open to legislating for the tax, if the Auckland Council wanted. “There’s no question that rapid transit should be funded on the same basis as state highways.”

Peter Garrett: Back on centre stage to fight Adani, push for 100% renewables
A fortnight ago, Riverside Stage in Brisbane was rocking (in the rain) to the sounds of Midnight Oil and its front man Peter Garrett, cranking out the band’s best tunes of the past 40 years as part of their three-month Return of Midnight Oil tour. It was a great concert, even if it was wet. Garrett, now 64, retains phenomenal energy, and his voice – possibly thanks to that decade-long interlude in federal politics – has barely diminished. And neither has his passion for environmental issues. Wearing “Stop Adani”  and “Coral not Coal” t-shirts, Garrett’s constant theme through the evening was the protection of the Great Barrier Reef, the stopping of the massive coal projects in the Galilee Basin, and the push to 100 per cent renewable energy. The crowd of 15,000 roared its approval.

Ciwem environmental photographer of the year 2017 winners – in pictures
Winner of Ciwem environmental photographer of the year 2017: Quoc Nguyen Linh Vinh for ‘The hopeful eyes of the girl making a living by rubbish’.  Vinh’s winning photo is a poignant image of a child and her mother collecting waste. Vinh said “The child was happy, looking at the dark clouds and chatting to her mother. This was so touching. She should have been enjoying her childhood and playing with friends rather than being there.”

Winner of Ciwem environmental photographer of the year 2017: Quoc Nguyen Linh Vinh for ‘The hopeful eyes of the girl making a living by rubbish’

Winner of Ciwem environmental photographer of the year 2017: Quoc Nguyen Linh Vinh for ‘The hopeful eyes of the girl making a living by rubbish’

Built Environment

Charger site rollout could help boost EV take-up
AUSTRALIA – Imagine not having to pay for your car’s fuel? With an electric vehicle and NRMA membership, you won’t have to. The organisation has announced it will establish Australia’s largest electric vehicle fast-charging network, which will be free for its members. The $10 million investment will deliver at least 40 chargers – more than double the current amount in NSW and the ACT – removing the barrier of fuel costs, increasing renewable energy use and supporting tourism by unlocking regional locations currently inaccessible to EVs.

Superstorm Sandy, Five Years Later: Pictures Show New Jersey Shore Homes Rising Up
Normal, simple houses designed to be at ground level take on a whole different look up in the air. After Superstorm Sandy slammed into the New Jersey shore in 2012, people whose houses were still standing began having them raised—lifted on temporary pilings so that permanent foundations could be put in. Some did it to meet new construction codes or to reduce their flood insurance rates. But for others, I think, it was just a heartfelt bid to stay where they had sunk their roots, no matter the surroundings.

Related: As climate changes, Boston weighs strategies for staying dry

Food Systems

Agroforestry: An increasingly popular solution for a hot, hungry world
At first glance Cameroon’s western regions seem lush, but a closer look shows a land degraded by overgrazing, unsustainable cropping practices, deforestation of vegetation for firewood, and uncontrolled bush fires. Still, some plots teem with biodiversity: coffee grows under the shade of banana trees, while nearby there are African plum trees (known locally as safou), cola, oranges and timber trees like mahogany. To the untrained eye this might appear to be natural forest, but is in fact the fruit of agroforestry – the growing of trees with crops.

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