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 details how working with nature provides more benefits than working against it. Continuing that theme, scientists argue that weakening environmental protections during drought is detrimental in the longer term (that term that doesn’t exist in most politicians’ dictionary); why business needs to consider sustainability to survive (hint: because consumers demand it); news on achieving the sustainable development goals at the UN General Assembly; and the Senate enquiry reveals emails indicating Great Barrier Reef grant recipients would focus on shorter term actions providing visible results for political gain.

Top Story

Harnessing the power of nature in the fight against climate change | World Economic Forum
If we are to solve our global climate and development challenges, we will need nature’s help. Healthy forests, soils and mangroves are not only important allies for addressing our global food security conundrum, they are also critical carbon sinks: storing CO2 is their daily business. New research suggests that up to 37% of the vast emission reductions required by 2030 if we are to give ourselves a chance of avoiding dangerous and costly climate change in the long-term could be delivered by these natural climate champions.

Climate Change

New map shows how different parts of the world are experiencing global warming | Climate Action Programme
A new interactive map by Carbon Brief shows how every part of the world has warmed. The map, created by Zeke Hausfather and Rosamund Pearce, combined observed temperature changes with future climate model projections to show how climate change has changed up to present day, but also how it is forecasted to change in the future. To do this, they divided the world into “grid cells” which represent every degree latitude and every degree longitude. These temperatures, based on land and ocean observations, were obtained from the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project. The map is interactive and you can click on the divided grids to see regions temperature rises. You can also search specific regions to find out their statistics.
To use the interactive map to find out your home town’s temperature rise, click here.

Environment and Biodiversity

We must strengthen, not weaken, environmental protections during drought – or face irreversible loss | The Conversation
Australian rural communities face hardships during extended drought, and it is generally appropriate that governments then provide special support for affected landholders and communities. However, some politicians and commentators have recently claimed that such circumstances should be addressed by circumventing environmental laws or management – by, for example, reallocating environmental water to grow fodder or opening up conservation reserves for livestock grazing. But subverting or weakening existing protective conservation management practices and policies will exacerbate the impacts of drought on natural environments and biodiversity.

Omnivore sharks and cannibal hippos – the strange truth about dinnertime in the animal kingdom | The Conversation
The natural world is far from fully understood, and while new scientific discoveries continue to be made, these revelations aren’t keeping pace with the rate of environmental destruction. Equally, nature seems to have a habit of surprising us. Or perhaps it’s just that we forget that animals don’t read the books we write about them.

Guardian dogs, fencing, and ‘fladry’ protect livestock from carnivores | The Conversation
Farmers have struggled for millennia to protect their livestock from wolves, lions, bears, and other large carnivores. It’s expensive and time-consuming for farmers, governments and related agencies. Many current approaches have led to dramatic reductions or the complete loss of some apex predators from many regions of the globe. Despite these substantial costs and their long history, we have remarkably little understanding of what methods best reduce livestock attacks.

Livestock guardian dog breeds, such as Maremma, are often raised with and trained to consider themselves part of a livestock herd and so protect their herd from threats. Shutterstock

Livestock guardian dog breeds, such as Maremma, are often raised with and trained to consider themselves part of a livestock herd and so protect their herd from threats. Shutterstock

Help for São Paulo’s Complex Water Woes: Protect and Restore Forests | World Resources Institute
BRAZIL – Managing alternating droughts and floods alongside threats to water quality will be a challenge—one that the city’s existing infrastructure isn’t equipped to handle. A surprising and often overlooked solution can play a significant role in addressing these complicated threats. The forests surrounding São Paulo’s main drinking water system filter water and help buffer against the impacts of droughts and floods—but over three-quarters of these forests have been degraded and destroyed.

Economy and Business

Why ignoring sustainability could make your business unsustainable | World Economic Forum
“Can I afford to buy organic, go sustainable or shop Fair Trade?”

We have all often stood in front of store shelves asking ourselves this question. Threats from climate change, growing inequality and poor working conditions, and other mounting pressures on people and planet tell us that we can’t afford not to. But with high markups on many ethical and sustainable goods it is clear that our markets, systems and supply chains are not optimized in favour of the consumer. The right choice is often not the easy choice.

Meet the 2018 Social Entrepreneurs of the Year | World Economic Forum
Girls’ education, sexual violence, prison reform, financial inclusion and disaster relief are among the issues addressed by the 12 honourees recognized by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship as the 2018 Social Entrepreneurs of the Year.

UN recruits Mike Bloomberg to lead green finance push | Climate Home News
The UN named Mike Bloomberg to lead a year-long green investment drive in New York on Wednesday. The billionaire businessman and former New York mayor is charged with steering private finance towards clean energy and climate resilience projects around the world.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Reducing food waste could dramatically cut GHG emissions | GreenBiz
As the planet’s growing and increasingly wealthy population doubles the demand for food, we can’t afford to double our consumption of the planet’s natural resources. Fortunately, we don’t have to. That’s because we already produce enough food to meet consumer demand today and for years to come. It’s estimated we lose or waste a third of it — 1.3 billion tons of food either lost in fields and trucks or wasted in restaurants, supermarkets and home kitchens, every year.

UK food industry commits to halving food waste | Climate Action Programme
UK – 90 of the UK’s largest retailers, food producers and manufacturers have committed to ambitious targets stated in a new Food Waste Reduction Map. The initiative, developed by IGD and WRAP, aims to drive down the UK’s annual £20 billion food waste bill which is the equivalent to more than £300 per UK citizen. The roadmap clearly shows the actions large businesses will take to address food waste. It also sets out how these businesses can engage with customers to help reduce their food waste.

New labelling system aims to take the confusion out of recycling | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Many supermarket products come in plastic or cardboard packets, and Australians diligently try to recycle them, but figuring out what goes in which bin can be complicated. In an attempt to make the process easier, a new, nationally consistent label has been developed. It was launched today and has already started appearing on some packaging.

Photo: Explanation of the new Australasian Recycling Label (Courtesy of Planet Ark)

Photo: Explanation of the new Australasian Recycling Label (Courtesy of Planet Ark)

Cranswick cuts 450 tonnes of plastic since February | Business Green
UK – Cranswick, one of the UK’s largest meat suppliers, has cut 450 tonnes of plastic from its supply chain since joining the UK Plastics Pact, the company announced this week. The food giant said the reduction was achieved by removing single-use plastic items, cutting unnecessary plastics from processing, and ‘light-weighting’ remaining packaging. The reduction represents just over three per cent of the firm’s total plastic use, it added.

Politics and Society

Climate change and multilateralism figure high on first day of UN General Assembly debate | UN News
If there was one issue that was a recurrent theme on Tuesday on the first day of the United Nations General Assembly’s annual general debate, it was the potentially catastrophic impact of climate change , from Secretary-General António Guterres’s opening address warning global Heads of State and Government that “its speed has provoked a sonic boom SOS across the world”, to individual leaders highlighting their individual vulnerabilities.

Related: Ardern’s climate change pledge |

Harnessing the power of nature in the fight against climate change | World Economic Forum
How can we achieve the sustainable development goals? What urgent action is needed to save our environment, and our planet? The World Economic Forum Sustainable Development Summit 2018 was held this week in New York, in the midst of the UNGA. Here are some of the biggest stories of the week.

Related: Financing the 2030 Agenda: What is it and why is it important? | UN News

Macron: ‘Reject trade deals with those who don’t comply with Paris Agreement’ | Business Green
French President Emmanuel Macron has reignited his was [sic] of words with the Trump administration, with a call for governments to reject trade agreements with countries which do not adhere to the principles of the Paris Agreement climate change. Speaking at the UN General Assembly yesterday, the French President aimed a thinly-veiled rebuke at Donald Trump’s ‘America First’ style of diplomacy and the US government’s decision to back out of the Paris Agreement.

Great Barrier Reef scientists told to focus on projects to make government look good | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – Great Barrier Reef scientists were told they would need to make “trade-offs” to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, including focusing on projects that would look good for the government and encourage more corporate donations, emails tabled in the Senate reveal. The documents, including cabinet briefing notes, contain significant new details about the workings of the foundation and the government decision to award it a $443m grant.


Powering New Markets for Battery Storage | World Bank
A new, first-of-its-kind $1 billion World Bank Group program aims to help fast-track investments in battery storage, so it can be deployed affordably and at scale in middle-income and developing countries, including some of the fastest growing economies in the world. Battery storage allows for wind and solar energy to be used at a much greater scale by making it possible to store electricity and use it when it is needed most. The program, which is expected to mobilize another $4 billion, will help countries leapfrog to a new era of energy technology and improve their energy security and grid stability while bolstering global efforts to transition to clean energy.

China coal power building boom sparks climate warning | BBC News
CHINA – Building work has restarted at hundreds of Chinese coal-fired power stations, according to an analysis of satellite imagery. The research, carried out by green campaigners CoalSwarm, suggests that 259 gigawatts of new capacity are under development in China. The authors say this is the same capacity to produce electricity as the entire US coal fleet. The study says government attempts to cancel many plants have failed.

Food Systems

Fishing industry announces 22 per cent reduction in hoki quota |
NEW ZEALAND – The fishing industry will cut the West Coast hoki quota by 22 per cent, after a leaked report showing thousands of tonnes of fish dumped and unreported. Quota owners in the New Zealand hoki fishing industry announced on Wednesday the decision to reduce the amount of hoki they will catch next year, in response to changing patterns observed in one of the five fishing grounds.

Indonesia touts agrarian reform, but activists say success hinges on indigenous rights | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Indonesian officials touted a new agrarian reform law as a major step forward in an ambitious land distribution programme, but activists warned on Wednesday that the plan will fail without legally recognising the territorial rights of indigenous people. President Joko Widodo this week signed a decree on agrarian reform, which seeks to issue titles to the landless and raise farm incomes. The government aims to register all land in the country by 2025.