Sustainable Development News

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

Was there ever a time when so few people controlled so much wealth?
Oxfam’s latest report claims that income inequality has reached a new global extreme, exceeding even its predictions from the previous year. The figures behind this claim are striking – just 62 individuals now hold the same wealth as the bottom half of humanity, compared to 80 in 2014 and 388 in 2010. It appears not only has the financial crisis been weathered by the global elite, but that their fortunes have collectively improved.

Energy and Climate Change

The science for climate change only feeds the denial: how do you beat that?
As the scientific consensus for climate change has strengthened over the past decade, the arguments against the science of climate change have been on the increase. That’s the surprise finding of a study, published in the journal Global Environmental Change last month, which analysed and identified the key themes in more than 16,000 publications about climate change by conservative organisations.

Australian bushfires may accelerate push to solar + storage for homes
The latest bushfire season in Australia has highlighted the risks associated with Australia’s elongated grid: Not only are the wooden poles and wires that connect homes and communities to centralised power stations vulnerable to fire, wind and storms, they are also responsible for causing much of the damage when uninsulated wires are blown over on high risk days and create devastating fires… Authorities are responding with proposals to put some power lines underground, and provide insulation for others. But a new study suggests that they are overlooking a much cheaper option – installing solar and battery storage in at risk areas can virtually eliminate the risk at just one tenth of the price.

Djibouti aiming for 100% renewable energy
Djibouti will develop a new large-scale solar power project as the East African country aims to source 100 per cent of its energy from renewables. Swiss project developer Green Enesys will construct the 300 megawatts solar power plant, according to a statement from the government. The project will be among the largest in Africa and Green Enesys will invest about €360 million on the installation.

Environment and Biodiversity

Australia sinks on ‘most credible’ environmental index in the world
Australia’s global ranking has dived on an international survey that Environment Minister Greg Hunt had described as “the most credible, scientifically based” analysis in the world. The 2016 Environmental Performance Index, released every two years by Yale University in the US, has dropped Australia’s ranking by 10 places to 13th out of 180 nations in its latest update.

Western Australia’s coral reefs are in trouble: we mustn’t ignore them
Last year’s record-breaking temperatures are having a devastating impact on the world’s coral reefs. For only the third time in recorded history, coral reefs are experiencing a global “bleaching” event (where corals turn white; some ultimately die). Australia’s reefs are feeling the impact, too. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is in charge of producing global bleaching forecasts. Surprisingly, it isn’t the Great Barrier Reef facing the greatest threat this year, but Western Australia’s less well-known coral reefs.

Why you should stop feeding native birds at your house
By welcoming king parrots, rosellas or lorikeets to your house for feeding, you are serving up a diet of junk food, and reducing their ability to forage for food, authorities warn. Part of the enjoyment of living in a regional area with garden space is creating a habitat for our native animals in the backyard. But while birdbaths and frog ponds provide a useful service for native species, a bird feeder full of seed does not.

World heritage forests burn as global tragedy unfolds in Tasmania
A global tragedy is unfolding in Tasmania. World heritage forests are burning; 1,000-year-old trees and the hoary peat beneath are reduced to char… Unlike Australia’s eucalyptus forests, which use fire to regenerate, these plants have not evolved to live within the natural cycle of conflagration and renewal. If burned, they die.

WA-designed shark detection system ‘Clever buoy’ to be trialled in NSW
AUSTRALIA – A WA-designed shark detection system, the “Clever Buoy”, will be trialled at Sydney’s Bondi beach following a spate of attacks in NSW, but the WA Government remains unconvinced by the new technology. The buoys’ sonar beams can detect any marine animal over two metres long, according to Perth-based developers, Shark Attack Mitigation Systems.

The planner’s new best friend: we can now track land-use changes on a scale of centimetres
Cities and mine sites are complex spaces, which frequently change at a fine scale. This makes them hard to monitor. It is now possible, though, to adapt digital aerial photography to monitor changes as small as 10-20cm in both land use and vegetation in three dimensions. Interested? Wondering whether that’s feasible? Here’s how you can do it cost-effectively.

Nearly 500 complaints about stock in waterways, no prosecutions
NEW ZEALAND – Not one Canterbury land owner has been prosecuted for allowing stock to roam in waterways, despite nearly 500 complaints being lodged with the regional council (ECan) about the issue. ECan staff visited a North Canterbury farm owned by Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias on Wednesday, following a complaint by holidaymaker Allan Brown, who photographed cattle from the farm wading in Lake Taylor north of Hawarden. It is the third complaint since 2012 filed against The Lakes station, which Elias owns with her husband, businessman Hugh Fletcher.


Economy and Business

Corporate Funding For Wind Sector Hits $15.4 Billion In 2015
Mercom Capital Group, one of several leading clean energy consulting firms, released its report for 2015’s funding and merger & acquisition activity in the wind sector this week, revealing that the total global corporate funding in the wind sector — which includes venture capital/private equity (VC), debt financing, and public market financing — raised by public companies reached a record $15.4 billion, up from $11.8 billion in 2014.

Peer-to-peer power? Finance tech comes to solar energy
If you have used Venmo to pay a friend back or Apple Pay to make a purchase at the store, you likely are familiar with the rise of financial technology (also known as fintech). Increasingly, however, this disruption is not only playing out with traditional retail banking activities. It’s also becoming a new way for businesses to finance solar projects. As banks grapple with this disruption, likely one of their biggest concerns is the growth of Peer-to-Peer (P2P), or marketplace lending, including companies such as Lending Club and Prosper.

How the IoT is Pivoting Manufacturers into Service Providers
With the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), manufacturers will need to be involved in the entire lifecycle of a product, not just its birth. Are they up to the challenge?

Waste and the Circular Economy

Oslo waste incinerator launches experiment to capture CO2 from burning rubbish
Oslo’s main waste incineration plant, Klemetsrud, has this week embarked on a major new experiment to capture the carbon dioxide emitted from burning rubbish. The five-month project, run by Norwegian oil services company Aker Solutions, began on Monday. It marks the first time anywhere in the world that carbon dioxide will be captured from a waste-to-energy plant.

Politics and Society

Doomsday Clock stuck near midnight due to climate change and nuclear war
The Doomsday Clock, the symbolic countdown to humanity’s end, remained stuck on the brink of the apocalypse for a second year on Tuesday, because of the continued existential threats posed by nuclear war and climate change.

Maths study shows conspiracies ‘prone to unravelling’
It’s difficult to keep a conspiracy under wraps, scientists say, because sooner or later, one of the conspirators will blow its cover. A study has examined how long alleged conspiracies could “survive” before being revealed – deliberately or unwittingly – to the public at large. Dr David Grimes, from Oxford University, devised an equation to express this, and then applied it to four famous collusions. The work appears in Plos One journal.

Brexit would damage UK environment, say experts
Leaving the EU would be damaging for the UK’s environment and quality of life, a group of academics and former high-ranking government officials has said. “The case is clear: we will be better able to protect the quality of Britain’s environment if we stay in Europe,” said the group, which includes past heads of the RSPB, the National Trust, the Environment Agency and Natural England, in a letter to the environment secretary, Liz Truss.

What Training is Most Valuable if You Want a Career in Solar?
We say it all the time: It pays to go solar. Usually we’re referring to the return in utility bill savings and rebates on a new residential solar installation. But of course there’s another, more literal, way that solar energy can pay you — with a job in photovoltaics. As residential solar adoption rates have continued apace (reaching a record 135,000 installs in the first half of 2015), the industry behind those installations has ballooned in tandem. In fact, while other businesses were still licking their recessional wounds, solar energy saw a rate of growth nearly 20 times that of the U.S. economy at large.

Promoted to manager? Here are three things you should never forget
Researchers at the London School of Economics have for many years been tracking the performance of managers, as rated by the people they manage. And the results are poor, particularly for managers in the UK, France and Australia.

Built Environment

The ethical city: an idea whose time has come
Globally, there is intense discussion about the future of urban life through the World Urban Campaign. The central proposition is that “… the battle for a more sustainable future will be won or lost in cities.” Presumably, this is predicated on the fact that 54% of the world’s people live in cities, where 70% of global GDP is generated. By 2050 the urban population will have risen to 66%. In parallel, following the Paris climate agreement, major cities are committing to measures designed to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions… It is clear 2016 will be the “urban year” as the global community prepares for the Habitat III summit in Quito, Ecuador, this October.

Solar and the city: Two Melbourne CBD landmarks make the switch
Two iconic buildings in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD have made the switch to solar in record-setting fashion, installing the largest solar system ever retrofitted to a Melbourne apartment block and the highest commercial solar system in Australia… “This solar installation is a continuation of the long term strategy of Eureka Funds Management to reduce the carbon footprint of the assets we manage on behalf of our investors,” said Eureka’s Brett Dillonin a statement on Wednesday. “Since 2008, base building energy use at 101 Collins Street has reduced from 12,000,000 kWh/annum to just 6,700,000 kWh/annum – a drop of 44 per cent”.”

$22m electric vehicle project approved in California
A $22 million electric vehicle programme has been approved in California and the state is aiming to have 1.5 million “zero-emissions” vehicles on the roads by 2025. Southern California Edison received approval from the California Public Utilities Commission to go ahead with the charging station pilot project, according to recent reports.

New smart window cuts energy and wipes out cleaning
A biomimetic smart window based on the eyes of moths could cut HVAC energy use by 40 per cent, slash cleaning costs and reduce glare in tall buildings, according to researchers from University College London. The glass proposed for the windows features pyramid-like nanostructure engravings reminiscent of a moth’s eye.

Trending: Biomimetic, Phase-Changing Materials Could Hold Keys to Climate-Resistant Surfaces
Whether the presidential candidates pay attention to it or not, climate change is a looming threat. Failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation was considered to be the greatest global risk in the World Economic Forum’s newly-released 2016 Global Risks Report. Luckily, researchers are making progress on mitigation and adaptation solutions to combat the changing temperatures, thanks to beetles and adaptive building materials.

Food Systems

Fonterra scores fair animal welfare global ranking
Fonterra has received a passable ranking for its animal welfare policies by an international benchmarking report, but the dairy giant says it is not an accurate reflection of its commitment to the issue… It is the first time a New Zealand company has been listed on the global Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare report.


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