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Tuesday 27 March 2018

Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Hope for Australia today as Environmental Law experts proposes the establishment of an independent national agency charged with protecting our environment. As Emeritus Prof. David Shearman explains, this will benefit Australia in a myriad of ways.  In other news, a study shows that keeping average world temperature increase to 1.5oC will cost a lot more, especially in the near term, in a classic dilemma of paying now to save later.  And insights from an 80-year old who was around before plastic bags and plastic packaging. There are also a few articles on our food systems that will get you thinking about how your food is produced.

Top Story

Why Australians need a national environment protection agency to safeguard their health | The Conversation
Australia needs an independent national agency charged with safeguarding the environment and delivering effective climate policy, according to a new campaign launched today by a coalition of environmental, legal and medical NGOs. Most Western democracies have established national regulatory action, such as the US Environmental Protection Agency – yet Australia is a notable exception. Today in Canberra, the Australian Panel of Experts on Environmental Law (APEEL) will hold a symposium on the reform of environmental laws in Australia. If enacted, these proposals would offer protection to Australia’s declining biodiversity and environment, as well as helping to safeguard Australians’ health.

Climate Change and Energy

Emissions controls for 1.5C climate target to cost three times 2C: study | Climate Home News
Pollution control measures needed to limit global warming to 1.5C this century will cost three times as much as holding temperature rise to 2C. That was revealed in a study published in Nature Climate Change this month, led by Joeri Rogelj of the Vienna-based International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.

Liebreich: Beyond Three Thirds, The Road to Deep Decarbonization | Bloomberg New Energy Finance
In my BNEF Summit keynote in London last September, I talked about how far clean energy and transport had come over the last fifteen years. Where renewable energy used to be dismissed as “alternative”, I talked about the “new orthodoxy” of what I called the Three-Third World: by 2040 one third of global electricity will be generated from wind and solar; one third of vehicles on the road will be electric; and the world’s economy will produce one third more GDP from every unit of energy. The fact that we are on track for the Three-Third World is quite extraordinary.

Zibelman: Old energy market rules make no sense | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – The head of the Australian Energy Market Operator, Audrey Zibelman, says Australia is transitioning to a new energy system faster than any other economy, but this transition could be held back because its energy market rules are rooted in the past. “You can’t expect the technology to move as fast as it is and the market design to stay the same as it was in the 1990s – almost pre-internet … it doesn’t make sense,” Zibelman told an American Chamber of Commerce function in Adelaide on Friday.

Changing agricultural practices key to cutting greenhouse emissions – James Shaw | Stuff.co.nz
NEW ZEALAND – Tackling climate change is of “critical if not existential significance”, said Government minister James Shaw while setting out measures to deal with New Zealand’s high levels of agriculture emissions. The Minister for Climate Change on Monday announced a temporary committee would get a head-start on addressing the agriculture problem before a climate change commission was established under the forthcoming Zero Carbon Act. He said experts and the public would be consulted on it in June and July before it was introduced to Parliament in October.

Environment and Biodiversity

‘IUCN Green List of species’: A new way to measure conservation success | Mongabay
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the world’s most widely used information source on a species’ conservation status, may soon get a makeover. The Red List measures the decline in populations of plants and animals, and classifies species into groups on the basis of their extinction risk. But what if, despite years of conservation efforts, the threat category of a species doesn’t budge. Does this mean that conservation efforts have been unsuccessful? Does it mean that the species is not recovering? Scientists have now proposed a framework for a new “Green List of species to change the way we measure conservation success.

Okapis, or “forest giraffes,” were unknown to the Western world until the 20th century. They are only found in the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.

Okapis, or “forest giraffes,” were unknown to the Western world until the 20th century. They are only found in the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.

Bigger isn’t better for protected areas | CEED
As global efforts to expand Earth’s total area under protection ramp up, it’s critical to balance size-based approaches with a focus on overall conservation impact to ensure maximum gains for nature and the billions that depend on it. If unchanged, current standards could lead to detrimental consequences for conservation, according to new research published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Population, corruption must be addressed to halt biodiversity loss, scientists say | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – We need to focus on limiting human population growth, reducing resource consumption, and cracking down on government corruption, if we’re going to stop the global loss of species known as the sixth great extinction. That’s the message from a team of scientists who today published their recommendations for slowing current rates of biodiversity loss, in a paper in Nature Ecology and Evolution… Professor Bekessy said she believes people may not realise how much their day-to-day decisions can impact on species loss. “Whether we choose to have beef or vegetable for dinner, or what sort of coffee we choose to have in the morning, all of these things lead to the survival or extinction of species,” she said.

Economy and Business

Disasters 2017: The devastating hurricanes, fires, floods, and heat, explained | Vox
USA – It’s official: 2017 was the costliest year on record for natural disasters in the United States, with a price tag of at least $306 billion.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which tracks billion-dollar disasters, reported in January that the record total came from 16 separate events with damages exceeding $1 billion.

Billion dollar disasters in 2017 in the USA. Javier Zarracina/Vox

Javier Zarracina/Vox

Hydrogen-powered transport key to climate targets, says Shell | The Guardian
Planes and trucks powered by hydrogen will be a crucial part of efforts to cut carbon emissions to safe levels, according to oil giant Shell. For the first time, the Anglo Dutch firm, which is facing calls by activist shareholders to take stronger action on global warming, has mapped out how the world could hit the Paris climate deal’s target of keeping temperature rises below 2C.

Why Wells Fargo’s cleantech incubator is a hit | GreenBiz
USA – Wells Fargo started its Innovation Incubator program four years ago as a way to help clean-technology startups get a foothold in the commercial marketplace, while also helping the bank reach its sustainability goals. Now, the Denver-based program, IN2, has tripled in size, to $30 million, and is arguably one of the best launchpads for cleantech startups in the United States.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Looming plastic bag ban has people wondering how they’ll cope without them | ABC News
From July 1 supermarket customers in Western Australia will have to bring their own bags or shell out for reusable ones when a ban on supplying single-use plastic bags takes effect.  The ban has provoked both dismay and praise, but the biggest question for many seems to be what to line their bins with when the supply of free plastic bags dries up?

How smartphones are heating up the planet | The Conversation
When we think about climate change, the main sources of carbon emissions that come to mind for most of us are heavy industries like petroleum, mining and transportation. Rarely do we point the finger at computer technologies.  In fact, many experts view the cyber-world of information and computer technologies (ICT) as our potential saviour, replacing many of our physical activities with a lower-carbon virtual alternative.  That is not what our study, recently published in the Journal of Cleaner Production, suggests.

Politics and Society

How life outside of a school affects student performance in school | Brookings USA – In recent years, policymakers have paid increasing attention to the many ways in which factors beyond school influence a child’s educational outcomes. Indeed, recent research finds that the “poverty” achievement gap – that is, the difference in academic achievement between poor and non-poor children – has grown faster than the racial achievement gap.[1] But there is less widespread recognition of the severe traumas that children can face, including homelessness, domestic violence, parental drug abuse, neglect and physical or sexual abuse.

Living in limbo: Indonesia’s refugees face uncertain future | Thomson Reuters Foundation When she was eight, Sharifa Begum was forced to flee her village in Myanmar’s Rakhine State after fighting erupted and homes were set on fire. Separated from her parents in the panic, she escaped with her 17-year-old brother and 66 other Rohingya people on a boat, drifting at sea for a month with little food or drinking water. Eventually rescued and towed to land by Indonesian fishermen, Begum – whose name has been changed to protect her identity – has since spent almost half her life living as a migrant in limbo. Like almost 14,000 other refugees in Indonesia and more than 250,000 across Southeast Asia, Begum, now 15, has no access to citizenship and few rights in the country where she lives – but she is unable to go home due to safety fears.

Activists plan blockade of annual oil industry conference in Wellington | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – About 200 people are expected to set up a blockade to disrupt an oil industry conference in Wellington tomorrow. Activist groups from around the country are gathering in the capital this week to protest the New Zealand Petroleum Conference. A number of different groups have travelled to Wellington to hold a rally for climate justice outside the conference at the TSB Arena on Tuesday.
See also: ‘We need to leave all new fossil fuels in the ground’ – protester | Radio New Zealand News 

FactCheck Q&A: are South Australia’s high electricity prices ‘the consequence’ of renewable energy policy? | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – During an episode of Q&A, Minister for Urban Infrastructure and Cities Paul Fletcher said that South Australia has the “highest retail electricity charges in the country”. That statement in itself is correct. But Fletcher went on to say that the high prices were “the consequence” of former SA Premier Jay Weatherill’s renewable energy policies, which included the introduction of a 50% renewable energy target, met in 2017. Was Fletcher right?

Built Environment

Victorian government backs push for solar on all new-build homes | One Step Off The Grid
AUSTRALIA – The push to make all new-build homes in Australia not just energy efficient, but energy self-sufficient – with built in rooftop solar, and potentially storage – has won new backing from the Victorian government. In an announcement on Monday, the Labor Andrews government revealed plans to partner with land developers and home builders in a $2.18 million pilot program to supply zero net carbon homes in growth areas of Melbourne.

Food Systems

Land degradation drives mass migration, climate change – experts | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Billions of people live on farmland that is deteriorating and producing less food, and this situation could force hundreds of millions of people to migrate over the next three decades, a major report said on Monday. The study, which is backed by the United Nations, said climate change and worsening land quality could see crop yields halve in some regions by 2050, and warned that larger tracts of degraded land meant conflict over resources was more likely. The report was written by more than 100 experts from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), a global scientific group.

Fiji’s efforts to keep fish in the sea | Newsroom.co.nz
FIJI – For Pacific nations, it’s the $850 million question: how can we stop illegal fishing in our waters? As Fiji’s Fisheries Minister Semi Koroilavesau says, his country and others depend on their sealife for food security both now and in the future. “If we do not ensure sustainability, we will exhaust these resources – we need to be aware of that.” There is also a significant economic cost to the overfishing.

Dairy’s ‘dirty secret’: it’s still cheaper to kill male calves than to rear them | The Guardian
UK – The number of male calves being killed straight after birth is on the rise again, despite efforts by the dairy industry to end the practice known as ‘the dirty secret’.  A Guardian analysis shows that it can cost a farmer up to £30 per calf to sell it on for beef or veal, while early disposal costs just £9. A growing number of farmers feel compelled to take the latter option, with 95,000 killed on-farm in the most recent set of figures.

A Win for Cocoa Farmers and Forests: Ghana Grants First-Time Ownership of Timber Trees | Sustainable Brands
GHANA – For the first time ever in Ghana, cocoa farmers have obtained official ownership of non-cocoa trees on their farms. Some 150 farmers in the country’s western region will now be able to include shade trees as part of their business plans, providing additional sources of income in the form of timber while reducing deforestation and the effects of climate change.

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