Thursday 27 August 2015
Sustainable Development News
Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Energy and Climate Change
Lord Stern hits out at claims about cost of climate cuts
Several business groups have complained about the costs of climate mitigation and Andrzej Duda, the Polish prime minister, recently said that EU plans for ambitious emissions cuts would be costly and “bad for Poland”. But speaking to an audience of ambassadors in Paris, Professor Stern, the chair of the Grantham research institute on climate change and the environment, said that it was a false dichotomy to posit growth against climate action.
World must face up to cost of carbon reductions, says European climate expert
The former European commissioner for climate action Connie Hedegaard has urged countries to acknowledge the cost of reducing emissions to fight climate change, and called on politicians to shift away from short-term thinking. Speaking at the City of Sydney’s CityTalks 2015 on Tuesday, Hedegaard urged action to reduce emissions in the lead-up to the Paris climate conference in December. “It’s extremely important to acknowledge it’s not for free to make this sort of change. But neither is continuing business as usual,” she said.
Bushfires, heatwaves and early deaths: the climate is changing before our eyes | Tim Flannery
When I wrote The Weather Makers, I laid out the state of climate science as it was understood in 2005. The book received much acclaim, but it was also criticised by climate-change sceptics as extremist and alarmist. Since the book was published, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has completed two major summaries, in the form of its fourth and fifth assessment reports, and thousands of scientific publications have added to our understanding of how Earth’s climate system responds to carbon pollution. As a result, many details of climate science have been clarified.
Decades on, the promise of ‘clean coal’ remains elusive
Last week Citigroup released a report with the catchy title ENERGY DARWINISM II: Why a Low Carbon Future Doesn’t Have to Cost the Earth arguing that commercial CCS may come too late to save some members of the coal industry, unless it receives significant government assistance. The trouble for the coal industry is that the market has already decided. Over the past 15 years CCS has received all the (expensive) support it is ever likely to get from politicians and investors, and aside from some pilot projects and a very special case or two, it has not delivered anywhere near the number of projects that were anticipated.
Indigenous Australian 10kWh battery system set to launch – cheaper than Tesla
Another battery storage offering is set to launch onto the Australian market, targeting the nearly 1.5 million solar households looking to make the most of their rooftop solar generation. The 10kWh system –Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 10.04.15 am a local offering from Indigenous Brisbane-based company AllGrid Energy – is due to go on sale next week, and according to AllGrid, it will be the most cost-effective system on the market – by around 30 per cent.
My town is building a “smart” local energy network
Sustainability commentator Murray Hogarth was invited to present at the Australian Regional Development Conference 2015 earlier this week. This is an edited version of his presentation.
My title for this talk highlights the regional opportunities for “smart” local energy networks. But I really want to make the case for why clean, distributed, data-rich local energy networks are going to be “better”. The rapidly emerging future of energy already is a very good story for regional Australia. It can be a terrific story – socially, economically and environmentally – boosting local jobs and investment, independence, efficiency, adaptability and resilience.
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More of Synergy’s power stations will have to close if the West Australian Government is to bring power prices under control, Energy Minister Mike Nahan says. There is currently too much capacity sitting idle in the market and it is costing taxpayers dearly. Dr Nahan said several factors had driven the oversupply. “Given the excess capacity on a good day – 42 per cent – and also the growth of solar … and declining demand, we have excess capacity”, Dr Nahan said.
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Everything that is happening in the solar industry is happening in Nevada right now. On the one hand, President Obama announced a slew of new incentives and financing mechanisms for renewable energy and efficiency Monday at the 8th annual Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas… But he also seemed to be taking the local utility to task during the speech. On Wednesday, Nevada’s public utility commission (PUC) will decide whether to agree with a proposal by the local utility and implement huge rate increases in solar customers that industry insiders say will completely devastate the residential market in the state. “We see the trend lines. We see where technology is taking us. We see where consumers want to go,” Obama said Monday. “That, let’s be honest, has some fossil fuel interests pretty nervous, to the point where they are trying to fight renewable energy.”
Fossil Fuel Divestment
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AUSTRALI A – Newcastle, home to the world’s biggest coal export port, has voted to curb its links to banks backing the fossil fuel industry in a move described by a dissenting councillor as taking the city “back to the Stone Age”. Newcastle City Council on Tuesday voted 6-5 to alter its policies to steer its $270 million in funds into banks involved in “environmentally and socially responsible investments” and avoid those in “harmful activities”, such as greenhouse gas pollution.
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The Ipswich City Council, west of Brisbane, has resolved to oppose future coal mines and coal seam gas exploration and work to extinguish existing mining leases. It is the latest of several local governments around Australia to act on community concerns about mining. Queensland is known as Australia’s coal state and Ipswich used to be Queensland’s coal city. The city only has one active mine left but there are still seven coal exploration permits in the area. Councillor Paul Tully, the city’s planning chairman, said the community had been concerned with mining companies coming in and taking over properties. “We want to draw a line in the sand and saying that even though it’s an old industry for the city that mining exploration and future leases are no longer appropriate,” he said.
Environment and Biodiversity
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Last fall the National Audubon Society published an alarming report about the future of North American birds. Of the hundreds of species that they studied, more than half are threatened with extinction as a result of climate change. Accompanying the report was a series of animations, produced by the San Francisco firm Stamen Design, showing how each threatened bird’s home range could shift over the next 65 years. Many of the maps showed suitable habitat drifting north in response to rising temperatures and in some cases disappearing… One of the less talked about aspects of the Audubon report was its baseline data—observations about habitat ranges that had come from amateur bird-watchers.
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NEW ZEALAND – A five-year community project to develop a new wetland area near Carterton began last week with the planting of 2000 plants. The development of the 2.4 hectare site on Carterton District Council owned land next to the town’s waste water plant complements the council’s irrigation of treated waste water onto land. Located in low-lying south east corner of the Daleton Farm property and not suitable for irrigation, the project will raise public awareness of the environmental benefits of wetlands including improved water quality, moderating stream flow in the catchment and improving the habitat for native species.
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NEW ZEALAND – Environmentalists are calling on Southlanders to help protect a fish that predates the dinosaur. The boneless fish, called the kanakana or lamprey, are in the middle of their annual migration from the sea into Southland rivers to spawn. Jane Kitson, an ecologist from the Southland-based environmental consultancy business Kitson Consulting, said the species was in trouble.
Economy and Business
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AUSTRALIA – Mining giant Glencore and the NT Health Department did not act on a recommendation from the Chief Health Officer to warn people living near the McArthur River Mine to not eat fish from three locations, Northern Territory Government documents show. For more than a year Borroloola’s Indigenous clans have worried reactive waste rock on McArthur River Mine and leaking tailings dams could be health risks and have been asking the Giles Government to tell them whether it is safe to eat fish from nearby waterways. The mine in the remote Roper River region south of Arnhem Land on the Gulf of Carpentaria is one of the world’s largest producers of lead, zinc and silver.
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NEW ZEALAND – Amanda Judd founded Lovenotes in 2008 and is the company’s head of customer experience; Reza Fuard is the firm’s CEO. “We’ll take your one-sided office paper, turn it into stationery and deliver it back to you. We’ve found that by explaining to people what we do, rather than saying we’re ‘upcycling’ we avoid getting put into some stereotypical boxes.”
Waste and the Circular Economy
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Can you find a classy outfit to wear to a wedding for $30 or less at a charity store? Two intrepid 666 ABC Canberra reporters headed to retail sites in Canberra’s north and south to compete in a National Op Shop Week challenge. Afternoons producer Farz Edraki visited the St Vinnies Centre in Mitchell while cross media reporter Clarissa Thorpe hit the Salvation Army Store in Fyshwick.
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From startup designers to major retailers, the fashion world continues to battle our culture of fast fashion and wasteful wardrobes with innovative designs and recycling efforts. First up, the world’s first 100 percent compostable denim jeans have arrived. According to Ecouterre, Swiss upcycled bag and clothing brand Freitag is expanding its F-abric line of European-grown and -produced workwear with a new, entirely cotton-free jean made from a material “like no other in the fashion and textile world.” The E500 jean line will comprise 81 percent linen and 19 percent hemp. The jeans will contain neither rivets nor nylon thread, making each pair 100 percent compostable after the removal of buttons. The denim conforms to Oeko-Tex standards, which test textiles for harmful substances throughout production.
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Coca-Cola has announced it will meet a target to replenish 100 per cent of the water it uses four years earlier than planned. The drinks giant yesterday revealed it now replenished 94 per cent of water used in its finished beverages, based on 2014 sales volumes. Coca-Cola said by the end of this year that figure will have risen to 100 per cent, a target it originally planned to hit by 2020. During 2014, the drinks giant returned around 126.7 billion litres of water used in its manufacturing processes to communities and nature via treated waste water. It says its efforts put it on track to become the first global food and beverage company to replenish all the water it uses.
Politics and Society
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Desmond Tutu, Vivienne Westwood, Naomi Klein and Noam Chomsky are among a group of high-profile figures who will issue a mass call to action on Thursday ahead of the UN’s crunch climate change conference in Paris in December. They call for mass mobilisation on the scale of the slavery abolition and anti-apartheid movements to trigger “a great historical shift”. Their statement, published in the book Stop Climate Crimes, reads: “We are at a crossroads. We do not want to be compelled to survive in a world that has been made barely liveable for us … slavery and apartheid did not end because states decided to abolish them. Mass mobilisations left political leaders no other choice.”
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Wednesday marks the 95th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the United States. At the same time, one of the last countries to deny women the vote is preparing to open its polls: this December, women will vote in Saudi Arabia for the first time. This achievement, like the ones that came before it, wasn’t handed to Saudi women, who have been pressuring their government for years. Around the world, women have only won suffrage because they’ve demanded it.
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The Egyptians line their beaches with fine two-metre high nets that can stretch for miles across the Nile delta and will catch any bird coming close; the Maltese will cover whole trees in nylon; the Cypriots smear branches in glue to stop birds flying; the Italians will kill nearly anything that flies and the French like to set metal traps for small birds. But the sheer scale of the cruelty of the illegal wild bird killings around the Mediterranean which was revealed last week has shocked conservationists and bird lovers across Europe.
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What types of communities do the best job of living with a minimal impact on the planet? I asked myself this question when I read a recent article on The Conversation, which argued that even if everyone on Earth lived in an ecovillage we would still be using too many resources. I am more optimistic — some ecovillages provide a much better blueprint than others. As a 2013 study of 14 ecovillages by US political scientist Karen Litfin shows, ecovillages can be regarded as “pioneer species”. They show people how to improve their sustainability: the ecovillages Liftin studied used 10–50% fewer resources than their home-country averages and, being whole communities, were more influential than a single sustainable household.
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Australians spend $22 billion on renovations a year and not-for-profit Beyond Zero Emissions aims to capitalise on that market with a new book promising to “wipe out electricity and gas bills” in nine steps. The Energy-Freedom Home, being released this week, is targeting the 50 per cent of Australians looking to renovate their homes over the next four years with detailed yet easy to comprehend, structured information on the key techniques to achieving an energy-bill free home, saving on average $2400 a year.
Government extends plug-in car grants to February 2016
UK – The Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) has today confirmed the Plug-In Car Grant will continue to be offered at current levels until 2016. The cross-governmental body will continue to offer discounts worth up to £5,000 on plug-in hybrid or electric cars until at least February next year, while a review of the current levels of support will take place in the Autumn Spending Review due in November. The news comes after the government previously indicated levels of support could be modified when 50,000 grants had been awarded – a milestone that is expected to be reached in November this year. Ministers have also signalled they intend to shake up the scheme to better target grants at the lowest emission vehicles.
Formula 1-style energy recovery system could reduce lorry emissions by 25%
A French start-up claims to have developed the world’s first Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) for road freight vehicles. Popularised in Formula 1, a KERS system recovers the kinetic energy usually lost under braking, and uses it to power a small electric motor. French firm Adgero, working with German company Skeleton Technologies, claims to have developed a KERS system that can be used with trucks and lorries, reducing associated emissions by up to 25%.
Banned pesticides pose a greater risk to bees than thought, EU experts warn
Three pesticides banned in Europe for their potential to damage bee populations could pose an even greater threat than was thought, according to a new assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa). Already proscribed for seed treatments and soil applications, the Efsa analysis says that clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam also pose a ‘high risk’ to bees when sprayed on leaves. The UK is currently facing a legal challenge to an emergency exemption it granted, allowing use of two of the substances, after protests by the National Farmers Union. But far from supporting the British case, the advisory expert assessment will add to pressure for an extension of the ban to apply to fruit orchards after blooming, and crops grown in greenhouses, Greenpeace says.