Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Solar Impulse 2 Completes Trip Around World, Demonstrates Clean Energy and Aviation
The Solar Impulse 2 concluded its journey Monday, becoming the first aircraft to circumnavigate the globe without a drop of liquid fuel. And while we won’t be boarding sun-powered commuter flights anytime soon, the solar plane’s feat does point toward the future of energy.

The Solar Impulse 2 flies around Egypt's pyramids shortly before completing the final leg of its trip around the world. Photograph by Jean Revillard, Solar Impulse2/Getty

The Solar Impulse 2 flies around Egypt’s pyramids shortly before completing the final leg of its trip around the world. Photograph by Jean Revillard, Solar Impulse2/Getty


Energy and Climate Change

Land carbon storage swelled in the Little Ice Age, which bodes ill for the future
The dip in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels during the Little Ice Age wasn’t caused by New World pioneers cutting a swathe through native American agriculture, as had been previously thought. Instead, our new analysis of the climate record contained within Antarctic ice cores suggests that the fall in atmospheric CO₂ levels during the cold period from 1500 to 1750 was driven by increased net uptake of carbon by plants. This in turn suggests that if plants reacted to falling temperatures by taking up more carbon, they are likely to react to the current rising CO₂ levels by releasing yet more of it into the atmosphere.

EPA ruling on aircraft emissions paves way for new regulations
USA – The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday declared that jet engine exhaust endangers public health by contributing to climate change, a key milestone as it works to develop regulations that will cut carbon emissions from commercial aircraft. Large commercial jets account for 11% of all emissions from the global transportation sector. Aircraft emissions are expected to grow by 50% by 2050 as demand for air travel increases.

The global impact of air conditioning: big and getting bigger
In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), Paul Gertler and I examine the enormous global potential for air conditioning. As incomes rise around the world and global temperatures go up, people are buying air conditioners at alarming rates. In China, for example, sales of air conditioners have nearly doubled over the last five years. Each year now more than 60 million air conditioners are sold in China, more than eight times as many as are sold annually in the United States.

Review backs up Chch sea level rise report
NEW ZEALAND – A report which suggested sea levels would rise by 1m and affect 18,000 Christchurch homes has been backed up by a peer review. Homeowners of the houses deemed vulnerable in the initial report were given a reprieve at the end of last year when Christchurch City Council put new planning rules on hold pending a peer review of the science used to make the decision. A draft of that peer review is now back, and backed up the original report’s modelling which relied on the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and predicted 1m of sea level rise over the next 100 years.

Schneider Electric Launches Network to Help Companies Discover, Vet Energy Prospects
Today, energy management and automation specialist Schneider Electric launched a collaborative online platform to help commercial and industrial companies find the right tools and financial vehicles to meet their sustainability goals. Designed to simplify and accelerate the buying process, the New Energy Opportunities (NEO) Network™ allows end users to quickly identify and vet renewable energy, cleantech and energy-efficiency prospects.
See also: Schneider Electric switches on renewables research network

A 10-step guide to going off grid – from your utility
Last year, a CSIRO study confirmed that up to one-third of all consumers may wish to quit the grid altogether if presented with the right technology, and they get tired of the way they are treated by the grid-based utilities. Many downplay the idea, describing such decisions as “irrational” and “uneconomic”, and seek to convince consumers to stay on the grid, sometimes with scare campaigns about the cost of leaving. One utility, however, has decided to address the issue in a different way, and published a 10-step guide for consumers considering the idea.

Environment and Biodiversity

Let’s re-engineer the way we adapt to climate change
Around the world, countries as diverse as the United Kingdom, Mexico and the Philippines are adapting to climate change… Several international agreements reflect the importance and value of an ecosystem-based approach to disaster risk reduction. But although we know that restoring ecosystems is cost-effective and can generate more economic benefits, all too often, the default approach is a structural, single-purpose solution… This is why we must translate what we know about how ecosystems perform in ways that engineers can understand, so we can we fully integrate these non-conventional options into core engineering practices and policies.

Catalyst: Gut Reaction Pt 1 (Video 27:06)
Back by popular demand, this two-part Catalyst special investigates whether food could actually be our medicine? Unbeknownst to most of us, we each carry about 1.5 kg of bacteria – that’s trillions of tiny microbes that contribute 100 times as many genes as our genomes do. Scientists are now beginning to discover just how crucial these microscopic creatures are to our overall health … and what they’re learning is shaking the very foundations of medicine and nutrition.

How date palm seeds can remove toxins from the environment
As anybody who has eaten dates will know, the succulent fruits contain a large pit which is normally discarded… But what if, rather than throw these pits away, we could use them to address a very modern issue, solving a serious problem that plagues people around the world and especially those in countries ravaged by conflict such as Iraq and Syria? What if we could use them to remove toxins from the environment?

How to catch a poacher: Breaking Bad and fake eggs
Sometimes life really does imitate art. In the fourth season of the hit TV show, Breaking Bad, police put GPS devices on barrels of methylamine to try and track the show’s protagonists to their meth lab. Inspired by the episode, Kim Williams-Guillen, a conservationist with Paso Pacifico, decided to take the concept one step further: what if you could catch wildlife poachers by slipping GPS devices into convincingly faked wildlife parts? In this case: Hollywood-inspired, high-tech sea turtle eggs; fake eggs so convincingly crafted that poachers would have a hard time distinguishing them from the real thing.

Koalas – smarter than your average bear
Koalas are very cute and sleepy animals that can certainly draw a crowd at any zoo. They are also quite smart, according to a new study that has tracked the movements of the Australian animal in suburban Brisbane. Griffith University researchers from The Environmental Futures Research Institute team comprehensively monitored 130 man-made koala crossings over a 30-month period.

The technology behind plans for a predator-free New Zealand
Deadly toxins, genetic intervention and poison falling from the sky – the quest to purge New Zealand of predators may involve an arsenal of tools befitting James Bond. Scientists say getting communities on board with new predator control methods is vital, as some could be controversial. The Government on Monday announced its target to eradicate all of New Zealand’s predators by 2050.

Economy and Business

CISL Reveals Insights from Testing Natural Capital Protocol, Launches Protocol Application Program
Two years in the making, the Natural Capital Protocol – launched earlier this month – is a framework developed by the Natural Capital Coalition to help businesses identify, measure and value their direct and indirect impacts and dependencies on natural capital. Over the last 18 months the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)… has managed a pilot Program on behalf of the Coalition with over 50 companies including Coca-Cola, Hugo Boss, Jaguar Land Rover, Kering and Nestlé, testing the business relevance and usability of the Protocol. The impacts of these pilot tests on individual businesses are revealed in a new CISL-authored report, Business Insights: Pilot testing the Natural Capital Protocol, launched today by the Natural Capital Coalition.

Waterways surrounded by rich mangrove belts in Vidaththal Theevu, Mannar district. In the last half-century, more than half the world’s mangroves have been lost. Sri Lanka has launched a project to protect its 37,050 acres of mangrove forests, combining legal protection, education and conservation, while supporting sustainable economic development for Sri Lanka’s coastal communities

Waterways surrounded by rich mangrove belts in Vidaththal Theevu, Mannar district. In the last half-century, more than half the world’s mangroves have been lost. Sri Lanka has launched a project to protect its 37,050 acres of mangrove forests, combining legal protection, education and conservation, while supporting sustainable economic development for Sri Lanka’s coastal communities
Photograph: Thilanka Ranathunga/Seacology

Mangroves and incomes flourish as Sri Lanka’s women promote conservation – in pictures
A new project in Sri Lanka offers training and loans to women to start sustainable businesses as an alternative to cutting mangroves, and commits them to help replant degraded areas of the mangrove forests.
Related: Sri Lanka prime minister: Mangroves curb climate threat

CEFC hits record $837m of clean energy investments in 2015-16
AUSTRALIA – The Clean Energy Finance Corporation has marked its third year of operation with a record $837 million committed to new investments in the Australian clean energy sector, contributing to projects with a total value of $2.5 billion.

Politics and Society

Young people urge UK politicians to help safeguard nature
Almost nine out of 10 young people think it is important for politicians to take care of wildlife and the environment, according to a new poll. Two-thirds of 16- to 34-year-olds agree the environment is a top voting priority for them, the CensusWide survey of 1,000 people of all ages revealed. The findings come as a report by young environmental campaigners urges the government to ensure nature is flourishing by 2050.

People-powered: renewable energy project changes Indigenous lives in Barkly
Deep in the outback, about a 90-minute drive from Tennant Creek, two tiny Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory are coming back to life. Since May, the Kunapa communities  of Ngurrara and Kurnturlpara have been returning to the Barkly tableland, moving into the houses that had been abandoned years ago, setting up a School of the Air for their 15 children, and re-establishing their Indigenous culture. In fact, in a little over a month, the population has increased from just two people to about 40. And the reason? Solar power.

When terror goes viral it’s up to us to prevent chaos
To apply a metaphor from the science of chaos, we are, it seems, in a moment of phase transition. A state of relative global order – the Long Peace, as Steven Pinker describes it in The Better Angels Of Our Nature – has existed since 1945. We’re now moving into a new configuration of competing powers and ideologies, the structure of which we cannot predict, except to assume it will be very different from what we have known.

Germany faces one of its greatest political challenges since World War II
Within the space of a week a teenager seriously injured three people on a train in Würzburg before being shot dead by police and another shot and killed nine people in a Munich shopping centre. A Syrian man was also arrested in the city of Reutlingen after a woman died in a knife attack, and another Syrian man is dead and several injured after he set off a bomb in Ansbach. Four events, one seeming similarity. The attackers were all either asylum seekers or Germans from an immigrant background… What is really at stake here goes much deeper. Western European societies, spoilt by virtually more than six decades of peace, have unlearned how to cope with violence. This is especially the case for Germany.

AI can help silence the trolls, but tackling online abuse is ultimately a human choice
Leslie Jones, the actress and comedian who plays Patty Tolan in the all-female reboot of Ghostbusters, has become the latest celebrity on Twitter to be subjected to torrents of abuse. Her ordeal is yet another in a long list of people, overwhelmingly women, who have been abused online. Yet again attention has turned to focus on what steps Twitter is taking to tackle abusive trolling.

Built Environment

There’s a “virtuous cycle” from using timber in buildings, UN says
Using timber in green buildings is a key way for the forestry industry to assist in the transition to a low carbon economy, according to a new United Nations report. Released by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, the Forestry for a low-carbon future: Integrating forests and wood products in climate change strategies report also analyses the economic case, policy opportunities and bottlenecks for each stage of the forest lifecycle. “Forests are at the heart of the transition to low-carbon economies,” the report states. “Forests and forest products have a key role to play in mitigation and adaptation, not only because  of their double role as sink and source of emissions, but also through the potential for wider use of wood products to displace more fossil fuel intense products.

How Milwaukee is brewing energy efficiency, financial innovation
While not as flashy as solar or wind technology, energy efficiency is one of the most cost-effective and powerful tools for helping cities mitigate and adapt to climate change. The cheapest and cleanest power? The kind you don’t need to produce in the first place. Cities account for over 70 percent of global energy use and 40 to 50 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, according to the U.N.’s Human Settlements Program (UN-HABITAT). That’s why ramping up energy efficiency programs is crucial.

Dirty fuel crackdown won’t prevent thousands of deaths from air pollution
AUSTRALIA – Air pollution would cause the deaths of at least 2500 people across Sydney and Melbourne in the year 2030 even if the federal government swiftly clamped down on poisonous car fuels, a government-commissioned report has found.

In Christchurch? Support the restoration of a local rive
NEW ZEALAND – Million Metres has teamed up with the Avon-Ōtākaro Network and Sustainable Coastlines to crowdfund the planting of 2000 native plants at Anzac Drive Reserve in Christchurch. This is part of the Mahinga Kai Exemplar project led by Ngāi Tahu and the Avon-Ōtākaro Network. The project is designed as a best practice example for Christchurch’s red zone. The aim is to restore a thriving native ecosystem in this area badly damaged by the Christchurch earthquakes. The project incorporates best practice ecological restoration with Mātauranga Māori and education outreach at local schools.

Food Systems

Ten facts you need to know about the chicken and eggs on your table
AUSTRALIA – When I am asked by friends what I do for living, I tend to raise eyebrows because my job is somewhat odd to many city people. That’s because I’m a poultry nutritionist. Typically, the conversation turns into a friendly debate on the myths around eating chicken. Do we feed chicken hormones? Are any chickens genetically engineered? Do free range chickens taste better? And so on. So to save everyone some time, here are some of the most common questions I get asked, and the answers I give.

Government signs off on new rules to safeguard bobby calves
NEW ZEALAND – New rules to protect bobby calves being transported for sale or slaughter come into effect on August 1. They are designed to clamp down on the inhumane treatment highlighted by animal rights advocates last year, when at least 5000 calves were estimated to have been killed en route to processing plants.


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