Sustainable Development News

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

Supportive housing is cheaper than chronic homelessness
AUSTRALIA – It costs the state government more to keep a person chronically homeless than it costs to provide permanent supportive housing to end homelessness, our recent research shows. Over a 12-month period, people who were chronically homeless used state government funded services that cost approximately A$48,217 each. Over another 12-month period in which they were tenants of permanent supportive housing, the same people used state government services that cost approximately A$35,117.

Energy and Climate Change

Two setbacks for clean energy – or times a-changin’?
Two big, disconcerting clean energy stories hit the headlines in the last month. The first was our report that global investment in the third quarter of 2016 was down 43 percent on the same period a year earlier; the second was Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull blaming overly aggressive renewables targets for an eight-hour system-wide black-out of Adelaide and the rest of South Australia on September 28. What might seem like two unconnected stories may actually be signs that the clean energy times, in the words of Bob Dylan, this year’s Nobel Laureate for Literature, are a-changin’.

What is causing the rapid rise in methane emissions?
The stomachs of cattle, fermentation in rice fields, fracking for natural gas, coal mines, festering bogs, burning forests — they all produce methane, the second most important greenhouse gas, after carbon dioxide. But how much? And how can we best cut these emissions? And is fracking frying the planet, or are bovine emissions more to blame?  Until now, the world has not had a definitive answer to these questions. But in recent months, researchers believe they have finally begun to crack the problem — and the results are surprising.

State of the Climate 2016: Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO
State of the Climate 2016 provides an update on the changes and long-term trends in Australia’s climate. The report’s observations are based on the extensive climate monitoring capability and programs of CSIRO and the Bureau, which provide a detailed picture of variability and trends in Australia’s marine and terrestrial climates. The science underpinning State of the Climate informs impact assessment and planning across all sectors of the economy and the environment.

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IEA hails “impressive progress” of solar PV manufacturers
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has increased its mid-term renewable forecast by 13%. Largely on the back of key policy developments in the U.S., India, China and Mexico, the agency has pointed to wind and solar PV’s central role as increasingly “affordable solutions” in the fight against climate change and air pollution.

Environment and Biodiversity

Oil drilling underway beneath Ecuador’s Yasuní national park
Ecuador has confirmed that oil drilling has begun under the country’s Yasuní national park, one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. But the government claims that there has been only minimal disturbance to the Unesco biosphere reserve in the Amazon rainforest since extraction of 23,000 barrels of oil a day began last month.

Logged but not out: Altered landscapes important for conservation
Ecologists have struggled to peg a value to logged forests for the plants and animals that call them home. They know, for example, that these altered landscapes don’t offer the rich habitats that old-growth forests do, but just how drastically and to what degree has remained a mystery. Now, a study of mammal biodiversity in Malaysian rainforests published July in the journal Ecological Applications has added to our understanding of what’s happening when we thin a forest. And the conclusions reveal that we might not be giving these areas the credit they deserve.

‘Significant’ diesel spills in River Derwent killing birds, fish: EPA report
AUSTRALIA – Up to 10 significant diesel spills in Hobart’s Derwent Estuary have killed birds and fish in the past year, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) says. The spills are noted in the EPA’s 2015-2016 annual report released on Wednesday. The authority does not know how the spills into Hobart’s Prince of Wales Bay eventuated and admitted they were difficult to investigate.

Economy and Business

Paris pathway paved with risk and opportunity for business, says CDP chief
“A story of risk and opportunity” is emerging for businesses that are yet to modify their operational plans to account for climate change and drive the transition to a “well-below two degrees” world, the chief executive of global disclosure organisation CDP has claimed.

5 climate finance topics to watch at COP22 in Marrakech
Finance is always a hot topic at the climate negotiations, and this year is no exception. The Paris Agreement is clear that all finance flows — both public and private — must become consistent with a low-emission and climate-resilient development pathway… At COP22 in Marrakech, work to develop the rules that deliver on this goal continues. Here are five key climate finance issues to watch.

World Medical Association joins global divestment push
The World Medical Association (WMA), the umbrella body which oversees many of the world’s national medical associations, has become the latest high profile  group to back the global fossil fuel divestment campaign.

Super Fund urged to fully divest from fossil fuels
Environmental, health, union and church groups are calling on the New Zealand Superannuation Fund to immediately divest from fossil fuels. In an open letter to the fund’s chief executive, Adrian Orr, 11 groups – including Greenpeace, Oxfam, the Public Service Association and the Anglican Church – say climate change is not only a moral issue but a reality, and the Super Fund must act. The Super Fund announced last week it would start pulling out of the biggest polluters, but would not be divesting from all fossil fuels.

EU invests €74m to support sustainable development in LAC region
The European Union is to plough more than €74m in sustainable development in Latin America and the Caribbean. It announced the investments during this week’s joint meeting with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States in the Dominican Republic. Caribbean counties will share €44.2m, of which €9.2m has been allocated for the technical assistance programme for sustainable energy in region, which supports transition towards sustainable energy and low-carbon economic growth.

Supply can’t keep up with demand for impact investment
AUSTRALIA – Demand for impact investments is tipped to grow to at least $18 billion over the five years from 2014-15 and there is not enough supply to meet demand. In FY2015, the domestic-based sector grew to at least $1.2 billion in investment, and a further $800 million was added in the first quarter of FY 2016, according to The Benchmarking Impact: Australian Impact Investment Activity and Performance Report 2016 released at the Impact Investment Summit Asia Pacific today (Wednesday).

Cockatoo Island: Kimberley traditional owners worried Pluton Resources collapse could trigger environmental incident
Traditional owners in Western Australia are worried the collapse of Pluton Resources could trigger a significant environmental incident in the Kimberley. The WA Department of Mines and Petroleum has confirmed Pluton’s Cockatoo Island iron ore pit is filling with water and is expected to be full within days… Pluton’s pumps have been turned off because they are expensive to run and the Perth-based miner is in liquidation.

Volkswagen pumps €20m into Sustainability Council and low-carbon aspirations
Volkswagen has this week continued its brand rebuilding process in the wake of dieselgate, by announcing a new €20m fund to finance projects related to lowering carbon emissions a meeting emissions regulations post-2025.

Islabikes: You’ll never have to buy your child a bike again
Why sell bikes outright to children who will only be able to use them for a short period of time before they outgrow them? It’s the question that Isla Rowntree, owner of children’s bicycle manufacturer Islabikes asked herself. The solution, it turns out, is simple, Islabikes will now rent out its products to customers, who will have the opportunity to return the bicycles to the factory for refurbishment.

Waste and the Circular Economy

UK water firms call for ‘do not flush’ labelling on wet wipes
UK water companies are urging a national trading standards body to help stamp out “misleading” labelling on disposable wet wipes that are marketed as flushable but clog up drains and litter oceans at huge environmental cost.  They are calling on manufacturers of moist toilet tissues and other non-biodegradable cleaning cloths such as bathroom cleaning wipes – which are routinely flushed away by consumers in their toilets – to ensure that such products are prominently labelled as not flushable and are to be disposed of in a bin.

Politics and Society

Japan pleads with whaling watchdog to allow ‘cultural’ hunts
Japan pleaded with the world’s whaling watchdog Wednesday to allow small hunts by coastal communities, arguing that for three decades these groups had been unjustly barred from a traditional source of food. The issue of “small type coastal hunting” is a key dispute between pro- and anti-whaling nations gathered in Slovenia for the 66th meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

The ‘Saddest’ Polar Bear Lives in a Mall in China
BEIJING — In a shopping mall in southern China, a polar bear named Pizza paces past murals of icebergs in his glass enclosure. He shakes his shaggy head under artificial lights. He crouches by an air vent to sniff the outside world. All are distress behaviors, say Chinese animal welfare advocates, who on Tuesday called on Zhu Xiaodan, the governor of Guangdong Province, where Pizza lives in an aquarium at the Grandview Mall in Guangzhou, to move the bear to a more appropriate environment. Pizza has become known as “the world’s saddest polar bear,” the advocates, from 48 organizations, wrote in an open letter to Mr. Zhu.

Hectare by hectare, an indigenous man reforested a jungle in Indonesia’s burned-out heartland
PALANGKARAYA, Indonesia — The road from this inland provincial capital in southern Borneo to the delta city of Banjarmasin is littered with degraded forests and peat swamps, hallmarks of a region at the epicenter of last year’s nationwide fire and haze crisis. Amid this arid landscape, however, lies an oasis: the peat forest of Jumpun Pambelom, whose name means “life source” in the local Dayak Ngaju language. The jungle here is largely the work of a Ngaju man named Januminro. Since 1998, when Indonesia experienced one of the worst episodes of uncontrolled burning in recorded history, the 54-year-old has bought up and reforested degraded land in the area — a hectare here, a few there.

$1.2bn economic cost of environmental ‘lawfare’
Environmental groups’ legal challenges to development projects ranging from dams and roads to coalmines are estimated to have cost the economy up to $1.2 billion — an amount that is rising as more “vexatious and frivolous” claims are made. The 32 legal challenges under the environment laws that went to court meant developers spent a cumulative 7500 days — or 20 years — in court even though 28 of the environmental cases were defeated and three required only minor technical changes to go ahead.

Built Environment

Habitat III is over, but will its New Urban Agenda transform the world’s cities?
The New Urban Agenda was officially adopted in Quito, Ecuador in the last plenary of the Habitat III conference. The agenda provides a 20-year “roadmap” to guide sustainable urban development globally.

Green building design is a smart business move, finds report
A reduction in sick days, an improvement in productivity and increased collaboration between workers are among some of the key business benefits that are being realised through ‘healthy’ and ‘green’ office design and operation. Investment in green buildings is also a smart business move for building developers and owners as it can have a positive impact on property values and attract premium rents, according to a ground-breaking new report released by the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) this week. Read the report here.

Food Systems

Prince of Wales joins soil boosting project
The Prince of Wales is joining an Anglo-French government initiative to improve the condition of global soils. Ministers from both governments are meeting the prince to discuss how to improve soil health and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from farming. Typically the focus of cutting greenhouse gases has fallen on transport and industry, but France says agriculture must play its part.


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