Sustainable Development News

Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
Sign up on the right for sustainable development news delivered direct to your inbox each weekday morning. 

Top Story

China coal production falls for first time this century
The impact of China’s clean air and renewable energy policies are beginning to have an impact on the country’s coal industry, according to reports suggesting domestic coal production fell last year. State media reported on Monday that coal production fell in 2014 for the first time this century, with production totalling 3.5bn tonnes between January and November representing a 2.1% fall on the same period in 2013. The China National Coal Association (CNCA) predicted that full year production will fall 2.5% year-on-year. Meanwhile, Jiang Zhimin vice president at the CNCA, told news agency Xinhua that the sector expected production to decline by a further 2.5% this year.

Energy and Climate Change

Greenhouse gas: why nitrous oxide is no laughing matter for the environment
Carbon dioxide is the “face” of the greenhouse gases, but nitrous oxide (N2O) merits its own spotlight. The same “laughing gas” once used by dentists as an anaesthetic and used today by people looking for a quick, giggly high, turns out to be pretty bad for the environment. Nitrous oxide (a molecule made of two nitrogen atoms and an oxygen atom) is over 300 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2 and accounts for 6.3% of all UK greenhouse gas emissions. If nations are to meet their climate change targets, they need to pay attention to N2O.

Stark figures but no surprises in updated climate change predictions from CSIRO, Bureau of Meteorology
The CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology say updated climate change predictions confirm what they’ve been saying for years. The agencies’ updated figures show Australia is on track for increasingly extreme weather as the climate is affected by greenhouse gas emissions. Researchers say climate science and modelling has become more sophisticated and detailed since the agencies released their last joint climate change projection study in 2007. Senior CSIRO research scientist Kevin Hennessy said the data brought together for the 2015 update provided no surprises. “These new projections are consistent with what we said back in 2007,” he said. “One of the key findings is that a warmer climate there’ll be more extremely high temperatures and fewer colder temperatures.

Climate change: how can we move beyond the committed few?
“The government is risking the sacrifice of UK jobs to the altar of green credentials,” proclaimed the Confederation of British Industry in 2004. Just a few years later it was arguing that “green is a vital driver of growth”. Over the last decade the business community’s approach to climate change has transformed; the progressive voice has become more mainstream and carbon emissions are firmly on the agenda. With the Paris climate talks approaching at the end of this year, business influence is more important than ever. But are we going far and fast enough?

We should not surrender to climate change (Dunya Maumoon, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Maldives)
This month a team of scientists reported that melting ice caps and glaciers due to climate change are causing oceans to rise more drastically than previously calculated. The news is particularly troubling for my country, the Maldives — the world’s lowest lying island chain — and for other coastal and island nations that sit just metres above sea level. In fact, saltwater has already begun to contaminate our groundwater supplies, while erosion is wearing away our shores.

Analysts predict global renewable energy capacity to double by 2025
Frost & Sullivan has become the latest analyst firm to highlight the growing importance of the renewable energy industry, with the publication of a new report suggesting global renewable energy capacity will more than double over the next 10 years. The analyst firm yesterday released its Annual Renewable Energy Outlook 2014, which featured a central forecast that renewable energy capacity will increase from 1,566GW in 2012 to 3,203GW by 2025 delivering an average annual growth rate of 5.7 per cent.

Smart thermostats reviewed: Which can save you the most?
Smart thermostats are here and they’re finally worth some serious consideration. The premise is simple and compelling: smarter control of your heating, remote access and the promise of energy savings of 20-30%. With smart thermometers starting at £200 and the average 2014 UK household heating bill hitting £1,264, buying a smart thermostat would seem a no-brainer. On one condition: they do what they promise.  Over the last 12 months the Guardian has tested the four biggest smart thermostat brands. This is what we found.

Environment and Biodiversity

Decline of England’s natural environment ‘hits economy’
England’s natural environment is in decline and its deterioration is harming the economy, an independent advisory group has told the government. The Natural Capital Committee says pressures will rise with population growth and has called for a 25-year investment plan. Its report said measures like investing in improved air quality and greener cities would bring economic benefits. Defra said it had set “long-term goals” to halt “decades of decline”. The committee also advised that creating hundreds of thousands of hectares of woodland and wetlands would lead to multi-million pound benefits, including avoiding flooding and improving health.

Why is so little attention paid to Madagascar’s incredible wildlife?
Type “Madagascar” into any internet search engine and you are more likely to get reviews of the latest DreamWorks cartoon franchise followed by depressing snippets of news on poverty, disease, and economic hardship than any positive information on the country’s truly amazing natural resources. To conservationists such as myself, who have been working in the world’s fourth largest island to preserve the country’s forests and wildlife, many of which evolved uniquely and are found nowhere else, the limited awareness of Madagascar’s natural riches leaves us scratching our heads. In these ‘green times’, when conservation and wildlife stories are prominent, eco-tourists roam the globe, and public interest in all things ecological continues to grow steadily, why is so little attention paid to a country that houses a staggering 5% of global biodiversity while occupying a mere 0.4% of the global landmass?

Collaboration needed on nature and wellbeing links
Scientists need to capitalise on a growing body of evidence showing a link between biodiversity and human wellbeing, a US review has suggested. It said rapid progress could be made if there was better communication and collaboration between researchers and public health and land-use officials. A global research project was recently launched to examine the impact of urban policies on human health and wellbeing. The findings have been published in the journal Ecosystem Services.

Dow, TNC Building Tool to Help Companies Better Understand Value of Natural Capital
Dow and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) have designed a new tool to help companies estimate the business value from nature on and adjacent to their sites, as well as the public value from lands on-site, according to a new progress report. The Ecosystem Services Identification & Inventory (ESII) Tool will provide baseline data to help build a better understanding of the value of nature to the business and surrounding community. The third of three scheduled pilots, the ESII tool shifts from researching potential links between business and nature to showing how the value of nature can be integrated across an organization.

Sawfish study: Scientists prepare for Kimberley campout in bid to save threatened fish
Scientists will be camped out on remote riverbanks in the WA Kimberley this dry season, as part of an international push to preserve one of the last remaining populations of sawfish. Some of the last remaining populations are found in the Fitzroy River system. The fish, with their distinctive long, flat nose, are at risk of extinction, with habitat loss and overfishing eliminating them from more than 80 per cent of the waters they once inhabited. Murdoch University has launched a three-year project to better understand Kimberley sawfish.

Fight on to halt rapid march of the wildings
Almost 50 years after he helped plant contorta pines to control erosion, retired forestry scientist Nick Ledgard is back in the South Island high country leading the fight to stop their alarming spread. The fast-growing – but commercially useless – pine variety is marching across landscapes from Otago to Waikato and is high on the list of pest species of many regional councils… DOC says wildings – 95 per cent contorta, as well as mountain pine and douglas fir – are now probably the most significant threat to biodiversity and infrastructure in the 60,000ha of public and privately owned lands in the upper Waimakariri Basin.

Economy and Business

WRI Guide Helps Companies Report Emissions From Low-Carbon Electricity Purchases
The World Resources Institute (WRI) has unveiled new guidance for companies to measure emissions from purchased electricity. The first major update to the GHG Protocol Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard responds to the rapid growth of renewable energy and other major shifts in the electricity market, WRI says. The GHG Protocol Scope 2 Guidance provides a consistent, transparent way for companies to show how different types of electricity purchases count toward their emissions targets, and will inform corporate decisions on what kind of energy should power their business.

What happened when Greenpeace went to Davos? (John Sauven, Director, Greenpeace)
As someone who has campaigned to protect and restore forests across the world for decades, it is heartening to see a turnaround in the behaviour of some of the very companies that not so long ago were the villains. Last week, on my first visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos, it was surprising to see so many global corporations – many that we at Greenpeace have campaigned against – speak passionately about the need to protect indigenous communities, work with smallholders and remove deforestation from the supply chain. While WEF is mostly a club of the very rich (not the 1% but the .01%), listening to CEOs of major corporations commit to end deforestation while also supporting smallholders, women (who make up 65% of agricultural employment) and indigenous communities was a positive experience and a sea change in attitudes from only a few years ago.

Waste and the Circular Economy

We could end up with ‘as much plastic in our oceans as fish’
A failure to address the mountains of waste in the developing world will result in as much plastic in our oceans as fish, the head of Ocean Conservancy has warned. Andreas Merkl, CEO of the Washington-based environmental NGO, said the combination in the developing world of a burgeoning middle class and low recycling rates will lead to an exponential rise in the amount of plastic washed out to sea… There are currently estimated to be around 800m tonnes of fish in the oceans and 100m to 150m tonnes of plastic. This is increasing by around 20m tonnes a year, but that growth is expected to accelerate as far greater numbers of people are able to afford to buy products that are made with, or packaged in, plastic.

Project MainStream Launches 3 Programs to Help Scale Circular Economy
Project MainStream, part of the World Economic Forum’s Circular Economy initiative, has launched three new programs focused on developing ways of scaling the circular economy through materials management, information technology and business model innovation, among others. Focusing on plastic packaging, paper and paperboard and asset tracking, Project MainStream aims to advance collaboration across these major supply chains in 2015 to address current bottlenecks and leakages that result in loss of material value. These three new programs usher in the first stage of MainStream’s implementation, which involves over thirty global companies working together to help redesign materials flows across the economy.

Politics and Society

Sharks aren’t criminals, but our fear makes us talk as if they are
Sharks have been making news yet again, after a spate of sightings in Newcastle, New South Wales, prompted days of beach closures and reports of oceangoers allegedly being “stalked” by “monster” specimens. Similarly, when West Australian teenager Jay Muscat was killed by a shark on December 29 last year at Cheyne’s Beach, near Albany, the state’s media understandably covered the incident in detail, with an ABC television report claiming that a shark had been seen “stalking” the area for about week before the tragedy. “Stalking” and “menacing” are graphic, emotive words, typically reserved for criminal behaviour on a serious scale. Petty thieves don’t stalk; rapists and assassins do. Armed robbers are menacing; shoplifters not so much.

Queensland election 2015: Great Barrier Reef election scorecard awaits LNP’s new policies
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has released a reef policy scorecard ahead of voters heading to the polls this weekend, despite no new polices on the future of the Great Barrier Reef from the LNP. The group originally presented a scorecard on January 24, which did not include LNP’s policies. The new scorecard uses the LNP’s exisiting policies after no response was received. National manager of fresh water for WWF Nick Heath told 612 ABC’s Brisbane Steve Austin that time was running out for the Premier to commit to a firm policy for the reef. “All of the parities responded except the LNP, so we have assessed them on their public record to date,” he said. “We gave all parties a deadline, all parties were able to meet that except the LNP; we gave them an extension but they unfortunately were not able to meet it.”

Life after Africa: Hobart volunteer finds it hard to readjust to life back home
After working in east Africa with humanitarian organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), Hobart’s Paul Yarnall said it can be difficult to readjust to society. Mr Yarnall has been a field worker with MSF, also known as Doctors Without Borders, for the last two years, spending much of 2013 in South Sudan and his most recent work was spent in Kenya working as a logistician. “You have to come back and bunker down for a couple of weeks while you remember how real life works in the western world,” Mr Yarnall told Ryk Goddard on 936 ABC Hobart. Feelings of difficult readjustment and total contrasting worlds are common for returning volunteers according to Mr Yarnall, but even knowing that did not seem to make it easier.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.