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 amazing example of how embracing ecosystem services can provide water to a city.  When the author asked if they chlorinate the water, the water company staff member asks, “What is chlorine?”  Half the world’s population lives in cities and this proportion is growing.  The intensity of city living means inhabitants have a much greater footprint in the world so the need for sustainable solutions are amplified.  There are some good articles in the built environment section today.  Look also for discussion of a book talking about the new type of power we are seeing develop this century.

Top Story

Better than bottled: How a Dutch company uses bison to maintain pure drinking water | Mongabay
Water companies in the Netherlands have introduced bison and other large grazers to the dunelands from which they draw water to serve more than 4 million customers. The grazers keep tree and shrub growth in check and allow the dune ecosystem, home to 50 percent of the country’s biodiversity, to reach optimal ecological health. The reintroduction of the bison, which has been extinct in the Netherlands for thousands of years, also gives conservationists new insights into the management of the iconic species outside of forests.

Climate Change and Energy

California To Experience Drought-To-Flood Whiplashes More & More As Time Goes By, Study Finds | CleanTechnica
Anthropogenic climate weirding and warming will drive increasing volatility in the climate of California — with severe drought-to-flood events becoming more common as time goes by — according to a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Brazil’s actual forest-related CO2 emissions could blow by Paris pledge | Mongabay
Brazil is reporting its CO2 emissions within U.N. guidelines, but those rules ignore significant sources of national greenhouse gas emissions ¬by disregarding carbon emitting processes related to forests, say scientists. None of this underreporting is likely unique to Brazil, but it is perhaps more acute there than in other nations due to Brazil’s vast forests. The U.N. doesn’t require Brazil and other developing nations to count certain greenhouse gas emissions in detail…  This, for example, includes CO2 released from wildfires. Forest degradation, methane emitted from reservoirs, and carbon released from soils where forests are converted to croplands or pastures go partly or totally untallied in emission reports…

Stacks of rainforest timber. Global demand for wood by a rising human population helps drive Amazon deforestation, which in turn helps drive intensifying climate change. Image by Rhett A. Butler/Mongabay

Stacks of rainforest timber. Global demand for wood by a rising human population helps drive Amazon deforestation, which in turn helps drive intensifying climate change. Image by Rhett A. Butler/Mongabay

UK failing to address ‘dangerous’ F-gas emissions, MPs say | Edie
UK – MPs have today (25 April) called on policymakers and businesses to ramp up efforts to remove fluorinated gases (F-gases) from the atmosphere to bend the curve of global temperature rises.

Clive Palmer seeks approval for ‘monster mine’ next door to Adani | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Clive Palmer has sought federal environmental approval for a huge greenfield coal mine in central Queensland, which documents suggest could produce 33 per cent more coal than Adani’s controversial and delayed Carmichael mine. Its viability depends on the construction of the Carmichael mine, or another mine with a rail link to the coast, adding weight to claims the Adani project could open the floodgates to significantly more coal mining in the Galilee Basin.

Environment and Biodiversity

Conservation Effectiveness series sparks action, dialogue | Mongabay
Some strategies for protecting forests and wildlife, such as protected areas and community forestry, have become immensely popular around the world. But do these conservation strategies truly achieve the objectives they set out to realize? How much scientific evidence do we have about their effectiveness? What is the quality of that evidence? What are the information gaps? Our seven-part series Conservation Effectiveness sought to answer these questions through an in-depth investigation spanning 10 months.

Economy and Business

This Ag Commodities Giant has Rolled Out a New Sustainable Supply Chain Technology | Triple Pundit
More companies are feeling the pressure to ensure their supply chains are minimizing their environmental and social impacts. To that end, Olam International recently announced what it calls AtSource – a traceable sourcing solution the company says will offer insights into the journey raw materials take from farms to consumers’ shopping carts. Based in Singapore and operating in 66 nations, Olam is among the globe’s largest supplier of cocoa, coffee, rice and cotton.

700+ leading companies are now driving climate action | We Mean Business Coalition
More than 700 leading businesses around the world are now embracing the low-carbon transition, with many now delivering on the climate commitments they have made through the We Mean Business coalition’s Take Action campaign. Of those 700+ companies, now more than 100 have approved science-based targets (SBT).

Who’s missing out on Australia’s rooftop solar boom? | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – As Australian homes and small businesses continue to install solar at a record-breaking and world-leading rate, some major gaps in the market remain. A new report, to be published next week by EnergyLab, has identified four key markets where solar uptake is lagging the rest of Australia – and that are ripe for the picking for canny start-ups and installers prepared to use a little innovation and entrepreneurial spirit.

Waste and the Circular Economy

UK businesses make world-first pact to slash plastic packaging | Edie
UK – Major firms including Nestlé, Marks & Spencer (M&S) and Unilever have today (26 April) made joint commitments to make unnecessary single-use plastic packaging “a thing of the past”. The Plastic Pact includes signatories from 42 businesses that are responsible for more than 80% of the plastic packaging on products sold in UK supermarkets. The likes of Asda, PepsiCo and Procter & Gamble (P&G) have vowed to eliminate single-use packaging through redesign by 2025. The Pact will also see members ensure that 100% of plastic packaging can be reusable, recyclable or compostable. Backed by the UK Government and launched by not-for-profit WRAP, the Plastic Pact will look to stimulate new business models and build a new recycling system to tackle plastic pollution in the UK.

Here’s how Australia’s recycling system can be fixed for just $150m | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Australia’s recycling system is in crisis. China, which previously took about half the paper and plastic thrown into yellow-topped bins, has refused to take anything but the most highly sorted, cleaned, and processed waste. That change of policy has sent the global price for recyclable waste plummeting, leaving Australia’s recycling industry at risk of going broke. But many see the crisis as an opportunity for Australia to build the infrastructure needed to keep our rubbish on shore.

The waste crisis is an opportunity for smart Australian businesses | The Fifth Estate
AUSTRALIA – Recent moves by China to limit its imports of Australian comingled recycling are not the end of the world for kerbside collections – they are actually an opportunity some in the industry have seen coming for some years.

Politics and Society

‘We’re doomed’: Mayer Hillman on the climate reality no one else will dare mention | The Guardian
“We’re doomed,” says Mayer Hillman with such a beaming smile that it takes a moment for the words to sink in. “The outcome is death, and it’s the end of most life on the planet because we’re so dependent on the burning of fossil fuels. There are no means of reversing the process which is melting the polar ice caps. And very few appear to be prepared to say so.” Hillman, an 86-year-old social scientist and senior fellow emeritus of the Policy Studies Institute, does say so… The 86-year-old social scientist says accepting the impending end of most life on Earth might be the very thing needed to help us prolong it.

How ‘new power’ is driving journalism in the digital age | The Conversation (Book Talk)
A new book on so-called “new power” has attracted endorsements from a glittering array of public figures, ranging from entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, comedian Russell Brand and primatologist Jane Goodall to former Australian High Court judge Michael Kirby. According to the book’s authors, Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms, the differences between “old power” of the 20th century and “new power” of the 21st century are the approaches to governance, competition, sharing of information, expertise, and loyalty and affiliation.

Kidnapped democracy: how can citizens escape? | The Conversation
José Saramago’s parable Seeing (2004) explores how irrationality and stupidity become manifest when political decision-making is taken “hostage” by financial powers. The Nobel Prize-winning author warns that contemporary politics is no longer able to resist the pressure of economic power. This is because we live in amputated and kidnapped democracies that no longer protect citizens’ interests.

Call for climate action growing, but many still unfazed | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – More Kiwis want action on climate change than at any time in the past decade – but large numbers still don’t see a need to deal with it now, or even at all. Horizon Research’s latest poll was carried out after New Zealand’s hottest summer in recorded history – and some of its findings have concerned a prominent climate scientist who says the world is running out of time to act.

Built Environment

Cities must evolve to meet the demands of a carbon-constrained world | The Fifth Estate
The Paris Agreement urges countries to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, and while focus is being placed on transitioning the electricity sector to meet that target, there are also much-needed changes needed in urban planning and transport, according to a new paper. Published in the Urban Planning journal, The City of the Future argues that a vastly different transport and urban paradigm must emerge for cities to meet their climate ambitions.

Making cities cooler is a no brainer – so why are we doing so little about it? | The Conversation
You walk through a park in a city on a warm day, then cross out to a narrow street lined with tall buildings. Suddenly, it feels much hotter. Many people will have experienced this, and climate scientists have a name for it: the urban heat island effect.  Heavily urbanised areas within cities are between 1℃ and 3℃ hotter than other areas. They are contributing to global warming and damaging people’s health, and it’s set to get worse as urbanisation intensifies.

‘Supermud’ bricks could help tackle the world’s housing crisis and cut carbon emissions that cause climate change | The Conversation
Much of modern housing is built with two materials: fired bricks and concrete. These have served well in terms of their strength, durability and ease of use. Their major drawback lies in their environmental impact – in particular, the carbon emissions associated with their production.

Residents could go car-free in Newcastle’s latest transit-oriented developments | The Fifth Estate
AUSTRALIA – Residents of the two residential towers planned for Newcastle’s $200 million transit-oriented The Store redevelopment will probably be able to do without cars, according to managing director of Bates Smart Simon Swaney. On completion, the mixed-use project comprising residential, commercial, retail and public space will be a node that connects every form of Newcastle transport including heavy rail, local buses, regional coaches, cars and the light rail that is currently under construction.

WorldGBC case studies show strong business case for healthy buildings | The Fifth Estate
The financial benefits of healthy green buildings have been highlighted in a new report from the World Green Building Council. Doing Right by Planet and People: The Business Case for Health and Wellbeing in Green Building provides case studies of 11 projects across the globe, zeroing in on the financial benefits flowing from buildings that have prioritised health and wellbeing. For example, a case study of Cundall’s new offices at One Carter Lane, London found that absenteeism dropped by 57 per cent and staff turnover reduced 27 per cent since moving to the building, which prioritised improved indoor air quality.

Cleanest city in Africa? Kigali scrubs up | PLACE
RWANDA – Earlier this year, at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, U.N. Environment Programme head Eric Solheim referred to Kigali as the “cleanest city on the planet”, both in terms of lack of rubbish on the streets and green initiatives. The accolade recognised a combination of government schemes that have made the Rwandan capital much tidier than before, but that also have spurred resistance from many displaced slumdwellers.


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