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Tuesday 27 September 2016

Sustainable Development News

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

Birds, bees and bugs: your garden is an ecosystem, and it needs looking after
Whether you live in an urban apartment or a rural homestead, your outdoor area is more than just a private space. Ecologically, a garden is another jigsaw piece in the landscape. Whatever their size, gardens can contribute to natural functions and processes in the local area, such as regulating water drainage, buffering the damaging effects of strong winds, or providing food and shelter for native wildlife. Many wildlife species survive in urban areas, but their presence and persistence depend on how specific their food and shelter needs are, how they respond to disturbances, and the quality and quantity of other green spaces in the landscape.

Energy and Climate Change

Current emissions could already warm world to dangerous levels: study
Current greenhouse gas concentrations could warm the world 3-7℃ (and on average 5℃) over coming millennia. That’s the finding of a paper published in Nature today. The research, by Carolyn Snyder, reconstructed temperatures over the past 2 million years. By investigating the link between carbon dioxide and temperature in the past, Snyder made new projections for the future. The Paris climate agreement seeks to limit warming to a “safe” level of well below 2℃ and aim for 1.5℃ by 2100. The new research shows that even if we stop emissions now, we’ll likely surpass this threshold in the long term, with major consequences for the planet.

Global Warming Is Real—But 13 Degrees? Not So Fast
A study published today in one of the world’s top science journals, Nature, offers the most complete reconstruction to date of global sea-surface temperatures for the past two million years—a valuable addition to the climate record, scientists say. But the conclusions the study’s author drew from that research—that even preventing any further increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere could still leave the Earth doomed to a catastrophic temperature rise of up to 7 degrees Celsius (about 13 degrees Fahrenheit)—isn’t supported by the data, several top scientists said.

U.S. Likely to Fall Short of International Climate Change Commitments, Study Says
Researchers behind the new study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, suggest that the U.S. could still meet its emissions reductions commitment, but only if the country implements a number of initiatives that have been proposed but are not yet close to happening. Even then the best possible outcome is at the low end of the range committed to by the U.S.
Read also: US emissions set to miss 2025 target in Paris climate change deal, research finds | The Guardian

Airlines agree to UN Pollution Plan
At least 60 nations have agreed to a new deal that caps international flight emissions at 2020 levels. The accord is the first global climate pact to target a single industry, and requires companies to offset their emissions growth by funding environmental initiatives. Airlines will not be forced to cut their pollution but must instead compensate for any emissions growth after the Agreement begins in 2020 by buying credits that back renewable energy development, forest preservation or other environmental measures.

See also:

Does rapid renewables expansion necessarily mean higher electricity prices?
AUSTRALIA – Perhaps one of the many points coming out of the Grattan Institute’s latest report is the idea that rapid expansion of renewable capacity must necessarily mean higher electricity prices. But what has been the experience in Europe over the last five years during which there has been a rapid expansion of renewable capacity in most European countries?

Climate change: Survey finds 77pc of Australians believe it is occurring
AUSTRALIA – A survey of more than 2,000 Australians by the Climate Institute has found 77 per cent believe climate change is occurring and 90 per cent believe the Federal Government has a responsibility to drive action on it. The research showed most Australians trust the scientific evidence of climate change and believe there are job and investment opportunities in renewable energy.

Read also:

New $8.5m study to grapple with ‘extreme fire’
NEW ZEALAND – They call it “extreme fire” – a fast-moving mass of heat and flames spewing burning embers and behaving in ways that firefighters can’t predict. Understanding how these wild beasts act is now the focus of an $8.5 million study that could lead to the development of fire-fighting robots or technology that can accurately predict how fire will spread over different landscapes.

Environment and Biodiversity

The thriving oysters of Wellfleet Harbor
Cape Cod’s Wellfleet Harbor houses a complex ecosystem. Horseshoe crabs and Diamondback Terrapin Turtles form integral populations, but they are both most importantly bound to this harbor by its population of oysters, a keystone species that both purifies the water and provides an excellent habitat to other creatures. This unique and diverse harbor, as well as the research that’s been done on its wildlife over the past few decades, is documented in the film Safe Harbor, created by independent Canadian filmmaker Richard Elson.

Indonesia seeks foreign funds to aid peat restoration drive
Indonesia’s peat restoration agency is advocating for greater foreign investment to fill an expected funding shortfall in the government’s plan to rehabilitate more than 2 million hectares of peat across seven provinces. “We do believe there are foreign parties who are willing to help finance the restoration of peat across Indonesia,” Peatland Restoration Agency (BRG) chief Nazir Foead said in Jakarta on Monday. “If we are to rely on [corporate social responsibility] and grants the restoration target will not be met.” The comments from the BRG come as Indonesia’s Ministry of Finance readies a reform package to provide incentives to invest in peat rehabilitation.

Wellington to be ‘world’s first pest-free capital’
NEW ZEALAND – Wellington’s leaders have officially announced plans to make the city the world’s first predator-free capital – a goal researchers say is possible. The ambitious effort has now prompted calls for Auckland to step up and follow suit. Those behind Wellington’s plan say a predator-free city would mean that birds, lizards, geckos and other native fauna could thrive in the city, bringing big environmental and economic benefits.

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) Summit

Wildlife trade summit is a ‘do or die’ moment for endangered animals
A global wildlife summit opening on Saturday is a “do or die” moment for endangered animals around the world, say conservationists, from iconic species such as elephants and lions to lesser known, but equally troubled, creatures such as devil rays and the psychedelic rock gecko.

Animal trafficking: the $23bn criminal industry policed by a toothless regulator
The illegal trade in wildlife is a most attractive crime. But it is highly destructive, and its scale is threatening the extinction of some of the world’s most iconic species… At every stage in the supply lines, the systems that are supposed to defend the animals against this global butchery are no match for the organised crime groups that dominate the trade. This is a vast business, valued by the UN Environment Programme at $23bn (£18bn) a year – twice the gross domestic product of poached countries such as Tanzania or Kenya. The profit margins are enormous.

African elephant population tumbles but some countries want to lift the ivory ban
Johannesburg: The number of elephants in Africa has dropped by 111,000 in 10 years to just 415,000 today. The 20 per cent drop between 2006 and 2015 is because of a surge in ivory poaching, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said in a report. Swiss-based IUCN is regarded as the most authoritative source on wild fauna populations and the report’s release at a UN conference on the global wildlife trade will lend a sense of urgency as some countries seek to keep the global ivory trade shut while others want to reopen it.

Zambia’s front line between elephants and humans
As the Cites conference on endangered species meets in Johannesburg, the BBC’s Matt McGrath travelled to Zambia to hear the voices of people with first-hand experience of conflicts between humans and wildlife.

Economy and Business

The SDGs, one year in: Where do we stand?
As businesses around the world grapple with the implications of this new framework, one thing has become crystal clear: The SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals] will not be realized without business. With an annual $5 trillion to $7 trillion needed to finance the goals, business has a critical role to play as a source of investments and as a driver of technological development and innovation, not to mention as an engine for economic growth and employment. Many forward-thinking companies already realize this, and they are taking action.

Why we must embrace digital disruption and ensure no worker is left behind
Disruption in the workforce is hardly a new phenomenon. Mechanisation of manufacturing, mass production and the advent of the internet and computers have all changed the way that work is done… There is wide acceptance that this has led to productivity improvements and higher economic growth – new jobs were generated that led to improvements in standards of living. The benefits have overwhelmingly outweighed the costs and there has never been a better time to be a human being. The current wave, characterised by automation becoming smarter, machine-to-machine communication, artificial intelligence and continued technological improvements – and otherwise described at the fourth industrial revolution – still brings uncertainty and threatens a broader range of occupations and skill levels.


Lord Mayor Graham Quirk backs koala-led economic recovery
AUSTRALIA – As Brisbane suffers from a downturn in the resources sector and a slowing construction industry, Lord Mayor Graham Quirk hopes the city can embrace a koala-led economic recovery. And he has cited the Chinese city of Chengdu, the home of the panda, as an inspiration for the cute-and-cuddly economic approach.

Waste and the Circular Economy

The circular economy as a $1 trillion opportunity
Growth without rapacious consumption of resources. Finding and realizing new value in existing, already used materials. Keeping materials and their molecules in play. A trillion dollar shot in the arm to the global economy. These are all ways the circular economy has been described. The hyped but often misunderstood circular economy is beginning to take shape along side the traditional linear economy, as companies put into practice circular operations in parts of their enterprises. The audience at VERGE 16 in Santa Clara last week heard from the pioneers.

UK plans to ban food waste
The UK government is currently considering legislation to stop the food waste crisis in Britain. The Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee have launched an inquiry into the introduction of food waste laws following research which showed that eight million tonnes of food is wasted post-manufacture in the UK.

Politics and Society

‘Syria: Always Beautiful’ – can tourism be a force for peace?
Earlier this month the Syrian government released a new tourism advertisement to promote its beaches and landscape. Under the banner “Syria – Always Beautiful”, the video did not mention that the same beach, in the seaside town of Tartus, had recently been the target of a suicide bombing. Nor did it refer to any of the other cruelties that are a daily reality of the civil war in Syria. It might seem inappropriate to promote tourism in the middle of an unfolding tragedy. Or, at best, it might be called premature. But in our new paper in Annals of Tourism Research we show tourism can be an effective way to generate peace.

Tuvalu Language Week focuses attention on climate change
This week New Zealand is marking Tuvalu Language Week – Te Vaiaso o te ‘Gana Tuvalu, for the fourth time. The theme, “Ulu kite fatu e malu ei koe – shelter in the rock for your safety” focuses attention on the climate change and sea level rise facing Tuvalu.

Trump’s transition team has tapped a longtime climate skeptic to set environmental policy
Donald J. Trump’s transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency includes a person who has raised doubts about the mainstream scientific consensus that climate change is happening and is caused largely by humans, according to a person familiar with the transition.

Built Environment

International research reveals the huge health benefits of compact, active cities
Shifting to a compact cities model and increasing active travel could reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease in Melbourne by almost 20 per cent and type 2 diabetes by 14 per cent, research published in the Lancet has shown. The research forms part of a three-part series by international experts led by University of Melbourne professor of urban transport and public health Mark Stevenson, who says it is the first to quantify the relationship between land use, transport systems and population health.

Is Australia Failing at Coastal Risk Management for our Built Environment?
When eight-metre waves crashed into beachfront properties in the northern Sydney waterfront suburbs of Collaroy and Narrabeen last June and images of washed away backyards and one collapsed swimming pool were beamed around the nation, the power of nature was on full display. Also laid bare was the need to ensure that our built environment within coastal areas was as resilient as possible with respect to risks which may occur. This includes risks which may occur through rain, storm surge, waves, cyclones, erosion, sea level rise or a combination of these.

Food Systems

Southland dairy cow welfare programme to go nationwide
NEW ZEALAND – A southern-run project for measuring dairy cow welfare and production is launching nationwide. WelFarm was a pilot project created by XLVets as a tool for dairy farmers to use to measure animal welfare and production on their farms, as well as benchmark regionally and nationally.

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