Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Approval of Adani’s Queensland coalmine faces another legal challenge
Adani’s plan for Australia’s largest coalmine faces yet another snag, with a conservation group mounting what is now the eighth legal challenge to the contentious project. The group, Land Services of Coast and Country, filed an appeal for a judicial review of the Queensland government’s environmental approval of the Carmichael mine in the supreme court on Wednesday…  The Coast and Country spokesman, Derec Davies, said the decision to grant environmental authority to the Galilee basin mine “ignored climate change totally and failed to properly take account of the true jobs figures – 1,464 net jobs not the 10,000 advocated”.

Energy and Climate Change

Shutting Australia’s dirtiest coal plant would have “negligible” impact on power prices: RepuTex
Shutting down the dirtiest of Australia’s coal-fired power generators in the next couple of years would have a “negligible” effect on electricity prices, while also helping to the nation’s emissions reduction task and addressing an oversupply of capacity in the market, a new report has found. The analysis, by energy and emissions market advisory firm RepuTex, models the introduction of new legislation which would see emissions-intensive generators – like Victoria’s Hazelwood, Loy Yang A, Loy Yang B, and Yallourn – bid competitively for the cost of closure of their plant.

Japanese Monks Recorded the Climate for 700 Years
Lake Suwa sits in the Kino Mountains of central Japan, in a region sometimes called the Japanese Alps. When the lake freezes over, daily temperature changes cause the ice to expand and contract, cracking the surface and forcing it upward into a ridge.* Legend has it that the ridge, called the omiwatari, is formed by the feet of the Shinto gods as they cross the lake. Every year since at least 1443, the priests who live at the shrine on the edge of Lake Suwa have carefully recorded the date the ridge appears.

Environment and Biodiversity

Malaysia proposes to amend environment act to curb haze from forest fires
Malaysia is proposing to amend an act to allow the government to seize control of land where big fires are discovered, as part of its long-term efforts to curb haze from slash-and-burn forest clearing techniques usually linked to palm oil plantations.

Hidden housemates: the termites that eat our homes
Most of our hidden housemates are harmless. But when it comes to termites, some can literally eat us out of house and home. While termites’ ability to damage our homes by eating wooden foundations is legendary, most species do not cause problems. Usually they are rarely seen, hidden away inside wood, underground or in their nests… Outside our homes, termites play a critical role as carbon recyclers and are considered keystone species in many tropical ecosystems, such as savannah habitats like those of northern Australia, Africa and South America.

No brain? No problem! Single-cell slime mould can learn
Scientists have discovered slime mould — a single-cell organism at the bottom of the food chain — can learn. The finding has important implications for understanding the evolution of intelligence, as well as how many organisms can be “smart” and successful without a brain.

How These Dogs Protect Elephants
The roar of airplanes and rumble of trucks at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport doesn’t bother Rocco as he gets to work. In a cargo-loading area, he leaps onto a conveyor belt carrying luggage bound for destinations around the world. He runs purposefully from one suitcase to the next, sniffing each. He stops dead in his tracks at a small bag, briefly sits, then lunges for his reward—a rubber toy his handler presents to him. Rocco has found what X-ray machines and human screeners could easily miss: a piece of ivory. The hand-size tip of an elephant’s tusk was hidden inside the bag for a demonstration of the canine’s olfactory prowess.

Great Barrier Reef bleaching stats are bad enough without media misreporting
The widespread bleaching event occurring across the Great Barrier Reef is unprecedented in scale and severity. It has rightly gained global media attention. Sadly, however, some of the headlines it has generated are factually incorrect or misleading:

  • Half of Great Barrier Reef “dead or dying” (ITV News)
  • Coral are bleaching along the entire Great Barrier Reef (Ars Technica)
  • Climate change has destroyed 93% of the Great Barrier Reef (RedOrbit)

Economy and Business

What one milk carton says about sustainability messaging around the world
You might not realise it when you walk along the aisles of your local supermarket, but you are surrounded by marketing messages. These differ in every country. Buying milk in the UK? You’ll probably see messages about climate change and the environment. Go to China and the packaging is more likely to emphasise its origins and address consumer concern about food safety. These simple but fundamental differences, with in this case milk, illustrate how businesses adapt their marketing strategies depending on the market. They use whatever elements of sustainability consumers care most about in a given market.

Timberland Extends Rigorous Environmental Standard Across Entire Product Portfolio
Global outdoor lifestyle brand Timberland prides itself on its commitment to innovate and operate in an accountable and responsible manner — in terms of its products, the communities in which it operates, and the outdoors. As part of this commitment, the company today announced the implementation of its rigorous environmental standard — the Timberland Environmental Product Standard (TEPS) — across all of its product categories, beginning with its Spring 2016 collection.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Capturing circular economy value through reverse logistics
Deutsche Post DHL Group and Cranfield University have published a new report entitled, Waste not, want not: Capturing the value of the circular economy through reverse logistics, which looks at the potential to evolve a model where materials, components and products are more effectively recovered and re-processed.

How Energizer is taking on the holy grail of e-waste
Recognizing the possibilities for applying circular economic principles to its batteries, Energizer in 2008 embarked on a journey to begin upcycling currently wasted materials. The circular economy is an alternative to the traditional “take-make-waste” model, in which resources are kept in use for as long as possible — with the maximum value extracted while in use — and are recovered at the end of product life and used as materials for the next generation of products. Eight years later, this quest resulted in EcoAdvanced, the world’s first battery made with 4 percent recycled batteries.

Politics and Society

Dentist wins ‘green oscar’ for using healthcare incentives to halt logging
As a dental surgeon, a successful career in conservation was not something Dr Hotlin Ompusunggu ever imagined. But her work in Indonesia, where she has helped save orangutans by providing people with healthcare discounts if their villages stop logging, has clearly paid off. As well as cutting logging and improving health, this week she won second a “green oscar” prize and there are plans to replicate her model across south-east Asia.

Australian politics in lead up to the 2 July election:

MPs urge parliament to approve 2030 carbon target
The government should approve the UK’s 2030s carbon target in the wake of the signing of the Paris agreement on climate change, an influential committee of MPs has urged. The so-called fifth carbon budget sets a limit on the quantity of greenhouse gases that can be produced across the country between 2028 and 2032, as a way of meeting national and international commitments on combating global warming.  It is set by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), the statutory body set up under the Climate Change Act, but must be approved by parliament before it can enter into force.

Saudi Arabia unveils plan to end oil “addiction”
The future king of Saudi Arabia unveiled ambitious plans on Monday aimed at ending the kingdom’s “addiction” to oil and transforming its economy. Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said the world’s top oil exporter would raise the capital of its public investment fund to 7 trillion riyals ($2 trillion) from 600 billion riyals ($160 billion) and reduce its near complete dependency on fossil fuels.

Hamilton City Council debates fresh water stance
NEW ZEALAND – Hamilton politicians are urging the Government to widen the debate over fresh water to include a discussion on companies that profit from selling drinking water. The city council is working through its submission on the Government’s consultation document: Next steps for fresh water, after elected members requested more time to give their views… The consultation document outlines the Government’s proposals to improve the management of fresh water in New Zealand.

Built Environment

The 5 toughest challenges tomorrow’s cities face
From New York to Shanghai, cities across the globe are swelling, compounding social and environmental sustainability challenges. Meanwhile, cities are on the frontlines of the climate change fight — although they generate 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, city dwellers have smaller carbon footprints than national averages, according to the International Institute for Environment and Development. In addition to climate change concerns, cities face challenges with communicating urgent but less visible sustainability problems to stakeholders, modernizing water and transportation infrastructure, improving urban design and feeding growing populations.

Will Habitat III defend the human right to the city?
Luar Batang, one of Jakarta’s oldest waterfront squatter areas, is being flattened. Residents and their homes will be removed to free up flood-prone land and access to the city for tourists. Thousands of people will be evicted, disrupting if not destroying livelihoods, jobs, homes and long-established social networks… The Luar Batang story is not exclusive to Jakarta. In many cities in the Asia-Pacific and developing countries, informal or unplanned settlements continue to grow and are seen as a blight on city development… In October 2016, the UN Habitat III Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development takes place in Quito, Ecuador. This global event happens only every 20 years.
MPs: UK air pollution is a ‘public health emergency’
Air pollution in the UK is a “public health emergency”, according to a cross-party committee of MPs, who say the government needs to do much more including introducing a scrappage scheme for old, dirty diesel vehicles. The government’s own data shows air pollution causes 40,000-50,000 early deaths a year and ministers were forced to produce a new action plan after losing a supreme court case in 2015. But the MPs’ heavily critical report, published on Wednesday, says even more action is required to tackle the crisis, such as giving dozens of cities which currently suffer illegal levels of air pollution stronger powers to deter polluting vehicles with charges.

Which London mayoral candidate does most to make cycling mainstream?
The city desperately needs a mayor who will bring cycling into the mainstream, rather than considering it a fringe form of transport. The main thing people say stops them taking up cycling is their unwillingness to mix with motor traffic. So, can the candidates who are currently leading the polls commit to the changes we need? I took a look at the manifestos of Labour’s Sadiq Khan and the Conservatives’ Zac Goldsmith, to find out.

Food Systems

Decade old burger still going strong
We all know McDonald’s burgers have preservatives in them, but this image of a 10-year-old burger and fries with virtually no mould is enough to make you shudder.

The decade old burger is pictured next to a note saying "do not eat!" Photo / Reddit

The decade old burger is pictured next to a note saying “do not eat!” Photo / Reddit

NZ schools surrounded by junk food
Councils are being urged to toughen up their rules on fast food outlets, after a study showing most schools are less than a kilometre from unhealthy food shops. The Auckland University study – published today in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine – mapped nearly every school in the country in 2014 and their proximity to takeaways and dairies.

The science of aquaponics
NEW ZEALAND – 18 year old Georgia Lala is a keen gardener but when her family moved to an Auckland apartment above an antique shop she couldn’t find the space to grow plants. But after a trip to Disneyland she had an idea – to create a model ecosystem growing plants in fish tanks where the waste from the fish would feed the plants while the plants kept the water clean and supplied with oxygen. Her research into aquaponics won her the Prime Minister’s Future Scientist award, and she’s now set up a company, Root Aquaponics, which she’s considering using to sell her specially designed aquaponics kits to homes and schools


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