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Sustainable Development News, Wed 28 May 2014

Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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Energy and Climate Change

Winter heatwaves are nice … as extreme weather events go
Heatwaves, defined as sustained periods of unusually warm weather, can obviously occur during the cooler months as well as the hotter ones. Winter heatwaves – also called warm spells – are not as widely appreciated as summer ones, partly because their impacts on humans, animals and infrastructure is minimal.  Indeed, winter warm spells can be quite enjoyable. They might mean not needing to turn your heater on at home, or not wearing a coat on your way home from work, or even spending some time soaking up the sunshine on your lunch break.  But because of their attractiveness, warm spells often fly under the radar of most people’s perception of climate change.

UK weather: floods expected in Midlands and Yorkshire as heavy rain forecast
The Met Office has issued yellow warnings for rain in the East Midlands, east of England and Yorkshire and the Humber on Tuesday, meaning that people must be aware of the potential for disruption.  The alert says that localised flooding may particularly cause disruption for people intending to travel. As much as 40mm of rain is expected in some areas in just 24 hours.  The Environment Agency has also warned of the flood risk in the east, advising that the rising waters could cause some damage to property.

Europe’s utilities should embrace role in ICT and smart infrastructure
The value of Europe’s top 20 utilities has halved in the past six years and their credit ratings have been downgraded, despite a recent upward trend.  The situation is most stark in Germany where the utilities, the traditional suppliers of power largely through their fossil-fuelled plants, were caught out by the surprise phase out of nuclear power, the sharp decrease in the cost of solar and the rise of renewable generation capacity. Earlier this month, Germany generated two thirds of its power from wind and solar. German utility CEO, Peter Terium, recently declared the situation the “worst structural crisis in the history of energy supply”.

Environment

Orica applies to ship stockpile of toxic waste to France for incineration
The Australian chemicals company Orica said on Tuesday it had applied to ship a vast stockpile of toxic waste to France to end a long-running saga over how to dispose of it.  The company has 15,000 tonnes of hexachlorobenzene (HCB) – a byproduct and suspected human carcinogen of solvent manufacturing – stored at Botany in Sydney’s south it has been trying to get rid of for years.

Man-made flood begins in northern Victoria
One of the largest man-made floods in Murray River history has begun today in northern Victoria.  Authorities have spent around $15 million to better control the release of water to flood the Gunbower forest.  Over the next six months, nearly 200 gigalitres will flow through the forest, with 70 per cent returning to the river.

Economy and Business

How Natural Capital Accounting Can Become Your Newest Communications Tool (Recommended)
Natural capital accounting is growing in popularity. Trucost has worked with more than 50 clients on how natural capital valuation can help them become more sustainable businesses. And more companies are going public about the benefits they are achieving, with Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk recently publishing its environmental profit and loss account (EP&L), and studies in Brazil by Monsanto and Natura, coordinated by Conservation International, demonstrating the value of natural capital accounting in driving sustainable agriculture.

In Conversation with Robert Litterman: divestment is a blunt weapon in the climate fight
Divestment from fossil fuels, advocated by climate action campaigners such as Bill McKibben, is a blunt instrument for reducing carbon emissions, according to climate risk analyst Robert Litterman in an interview for The Conversation. Responding to climate risk, he argues, will depend on global action to reduce emissions.  Litterman worked for 23 years at Goldman Sachs, and retired in 2009 from head of risk analysis. He is now Chairman of the Risk Committee at global asset managers Kepos Capital LP. He is also a Director at the Asset Owners Disclosure Project. Recently in Australia, he was interviewed by climate economics expert Hugh Saddler at the Australian National University. Saddler also sits on the board at The Climate Institute.

Best Practice Guidance for Policymakers and Stock Exchanges on Sustainability Reporting Initiatives
Today the world faces a number of critical development challenges, from chronic poverty and economic instability to climate change and harmful emissions. The United Nations is working to identify and address some of the world’s greatest challenges through the formulation and then implementation of sustainable development goals. As part of the United Nations post-2015 agenda, the sustainable development goals will play a crucial role in catalysing efforts to address the urgent challenges of the twenty-first century. Every institution, in every sector, will have a moral imperative to contribute to these goals. This is our common challenge, to secure our common future.

Politics and Society

Australia ‘flip-flopping’ behind in low-carbon race
Speaking at Sustainable Business Australia’s inaugural Fiona Wain Oration – an event created in honour of the former SBA head, who died in October 2012 as a result of cancer – ARENA chair Greg Bourne warned that Australia’s natural capital was being mismanaged, using a “model of irrational development leading to unsustainable growth.  We can no longer rely on a neo-classical economic theory that espouses that unfettered development will permeate wealth throughout an economy and that regulation will minimize the most harmful effects of damage to the environment,” Bourne said on Tuesday, arguing that we should approach the environment and sustainability in the same way we do large capital projects.

Leadership: what it is (and isn’t)
Despite our familiarity with – and craving for – leadership, its precise meaning is often elusive and resistant to consensual definition. Partly because of this, actions that are adjudged as exemplary leadership by some are damned as failures of leadership by others.   There are many formal definitions of leadership and countless opinions, and we are loath to add another to the collection. It is salutary, however, to be reminded of what leadership is so that we may better find our bearings in these volatile, uncertain times.

New interactive map shows that the goal of all Africans accessing clean water by 2030 “realistic and achievable”
A new interactive map(1), published by the international development charity WaterAid (www.wateraid.org), has been launched online showing that 14 African governments are on course or within touching distance of reaching the historic mark of everyone in their countries having access to clean drinking water by 2030(2).

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