Sustainable Development News

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

Cute, colourful and not that tasty – but the cleaner fish could save salmon farmers millions
Sea lice are small crustacean parasites that live on salmon, damaging their scales, reducing growth and helping diseases spread. The industry in Scotland is spending more than £30m per year on mitigation with approved veterinary medicines being a core element of parasite control. There is a better way. My research group, in collaboration with leading salmon farming companies, has focused on an alternative “greener” approach – the use of cleaner fish, especially ballan wrasse.

[Ed: A perfect example of ecosystem services, the cleaner fish provide their de-licing services for free but have the potential to save the Scottish industry alone $30m, so their value is at least worth that.  Wouldn’t it be great to utilise the ecosystem like this more often?!]

Energy and Climate Change

A matter of degrees: why 2C warming is officially unsafe
The goal of international climate negotiations is “to avoid dangerous atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases”. In 2010, Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change formally recognised the “long term goal” of the convention was to hold the increase in global average warming to below 2C above pre-industrial levels. Is 2C therefore the safe limit above which climate change becomes “dangerous”? A UN expert dialogue of more than 70 scientists, experts, and climate negotiators recently released a final report concluding that 2C is “inadequate” as a safe limit. The report will feed into a review of the 2C limit, including discussions on a tougher 1.5C warming limit in the new climate agreement expected in Paris in December. So, what does the evidence say?

Tomorrow’s battery technologies that could power your home
The recent announcement by Tesla of Powerwall, its new lithium-ion (Li-ion) based residential battery storage system, has caused quite a stir. It even raises the possibility of going off-the-grid, relying upon solar panels to generate electricity, and storing it with their own battery and using it on demand. Yet the lithium-ion technology used by Tesla isn’t the only one on offer. In fact, each of the various battery technologies has its own strengths and weaknesses, and some might even be superior to lithium-ion for home installations. Here is a quick survey of current battery technologies, and some that are in development.

Community-owned solar to be installed on Edinburgh council roofs
Edinburgh Council has revealed plans to install community-owned solar panels on buildings across the Scottish capital. The Council will work in partnership with the Edinburgh Community Solar Co-operative (ECSC) – supported by Energy4All – to deliver the initiative, which is believed to be the largest community-owned urban renewable energy project in the UK. Public buildings such as schools, leisure and community centres will be chosen to host the solar technology, which project chiefs say will deliver significant environmental and social benefits.

US coal shares tumble to record lows after job cuts, restructuring speculation
US coal stocks were among the biggest losers in New York on Tuesday after the protracted slump in demand for the fossil fuel led to a rash of layoffs last week. Alpha Natural Resources Inc. fell to a record low after announcing plans Friday to idle a West Virginia mine and fire 439 workers. Peabody Energy Corp. also slid to an all-time low. The industry is confronting its worst depression in decades amid stiff competition from cheap natural gas, tougher emissions standards and slowing demand from China, the world’s largest consumer of the coal used in steelmaking.

Why India is captured by carbon | David Rose (Long read)
India’s leaders are determined to restore economic growth and lift the country’s 1.3 billion citizens out of poverty. But rapid development will require India to double or triple its production of coal – and make it the world’s second largest carbon emitter. Is there any alternative?

Canada’s climate target is a smokescreen and full of loopholes
This month Canada’s federal government revealed the contribution that Canada intends to make towards a new global climate deal – 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. On first glance, the target appears to be stronger than most observers of Canadian climate policy would have expected. Prime Minister Stephen Harper had earlier declared that Canada’s contribution would be “of similar levels of ambition to other major industrialised countries”. However, closer scrutiny reveals that the target has major flaws. It is very unlikely that Canada will see a 30% reduction of domestic greenhouse gas emissions as a result of the pledge.

Religious leaders call on Abbott government and Labor to pledge deep carbon cuts
AUSTRALI A – Leading religious figures have called on the Abbott government and Labor to commit to deep cuts in greenhouse gases after the current goal expires in 2020. In letters to Prime Minister Tony Abbott, the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change representing Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist groups called on Australia to pledge a 40 per cent cut in carbon emissions from 1990 levels by 2025. By 2030, the reduction should increase to 80 per cent, the group said. “Australia has the technological and economic capacity to deliver on these policies,” the letter said, adding there is a “moral imperative” to keep temperature increases to less than 2 degrees of pre-industrial levels.

Nick Stern: Shell is asking us to bet against the world on climate change
Shell is asking investors to bet against the world taking action on climate change or in renewables displacing fossil fuels, says influential economist Nick Stern. Speaking at a Guardian debate on divestment last night, Lord Stern said Shell and other hydrocarbon companies were getting it wrong on the potential of renewables technology and that people will insist on policies to hold global warming to 2C of global warming. “They do not believe the world will be wise enough to follow policies that can hold the world to 2C and are asking us to bet against the world … telling us that we won’t do what we’ve set out to do and that it is a safe bet to bet that we won’t.

Energy industry calls for new emissions targets to aid low-carbon growth
World governments must sign a clear new agreement on greenhouse gas emissions at a crunch conference in Paris this December, leaders of the world’s energy industry have urged. The World Energy Council (WEC) said policy uncertainty, and the lack of clear long-term goals on the climate, had hampered the industry’s ability to invest in low-carbon growth. The organisation, representing major energy companies around the world, including those dependent on fossil fuels, said that $48tn (£31tn) to $53tn of investment would be needed, and could be delivered, if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change.

Fossil Fuel Divestment

Edinburgh University to divest from major fossil fuel companies
University of Edinburgh has revealed plans to dump its shares in three of the world’s largest fossil fuel producers within the next six months, despite voting against plans to shift around £9m of investments away from oil, gas and coal into cleaner energy sources. Earlier this month, the university decided against divestment, deciding that it would prefer to work with the companies it invests in to tackle climate change. Professor Charlie Jeffery, the university’s senior vice-principal, said at the time that there were more options than ‘no change’ or ‘pull out of all investments’.

Environment and Biodiversity

Most glaciers in Mount Everest area will disappear with climate change – study
Most of the glaciers in the Mount Everest region will disappear or drastically retreat as temperatures increase with climate change over the next century, according to a group of international researchers. The estimated 5,500 glaciers in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan (HKH) region – site of Mount Everest and many of the world’s tallest peaks – could reduce their volume by 70%-99% by 2100, with dire consequences for farming and hydropower generation downstream, they said.

Laws protecting the Great Barrier Reef to be introduced next week, Queensland Premier says
Laws protecting the Great Barrier Reef will be introduced into Queensland Parliament next week. Unesco’s World Heritage Committee is threatening to list the reef as being in danger, and a draft decision is due to be handed down Friday night. It is expected to give a two-year reprieve from the listing despite the reef facing serious threats. They include coastal development, agricultural run-off and climate change which has resulted in 50 per cent of the reef’s coral cover disappearing in the past 30 years.

Expedition Launched to Save Africa’s Largest Wetland
A multinational team of,scientists, filmmakers, and journalists arrived in a remote corner of Angola last week to begin an unprecedented, 1,000-mile-long expedition supported by the National Geographic Society… This journey of discovery will take members of the Okavango Wilderness Project down the entire length of the river system that is the lifeblood of Botswana’s Okavango Delta, recognized by UNESCO last June as the 1,000th World Heritage Site. Here’s the catch, or one of them: Although the delta itself is protected, its vital headwaters, which begin in the highlands of Angola and converge on the border between and Angola and Namibia, are not.

Thieves steal £700,000 of ivory and rhino horn from Mozambique police
Thieves have raided a police storeroom holding Mozambique’s largest ever haul of confiscated rhino horn and ivory, making off with 12 horns valued at around £700,000. A police spokesman told the investigative journalism group Oxpecker that the horns had disappeared from the police headquarters in the capital, Maputo, early on Friday morning and had not been recovered. Four state officials who were guarding the store were arrested on suspicion of aiding the theft. A further two suspects were arrested for producing bull horn replicas to switch with the stolen horns. The suspects were due in court in Maputo on Wednesday.

Koalas fears at Tweed development approval
AUSTRALIA – There are fears the Tweed’s koala population will be wiped out with the Commonwealth’s approval to clear koala habitat for the Kings Forest development near Kingscliff. The Federal Environment Department has given approval to Leda Developments to clear almost 15 hectares of koala habitat during construction of the large housing development. Team Koala President, Jenny Hayes believes it’s the death knell for the coastal colony.

Commonwealth water agencies tell Estimates they’re unconcerned by lack of future funding in Budget 2015
AUSTRALIA – Commonwealth water agencies say they are not concerned about their government funding into the future, even though the budget allocates almost nothing for their operational costs beyond 2017. The budget papers show a sharp drop off in funding for the Murray-Darling Basin Authority and the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder after the 2016-17 financial year. The National Irrigators Council’s Tom Chesson was critical, saying the lack of forward funding “sends a very poor message” to Murray-Darling communities about the Federal Government’s commitment to the Basin Plan.

Economy and Business

‘The True Cost’ Brings Fashion’s Dark Secrets to the Big Screen (Documentary)
The consequences of a surge in cheap clothing and the fashion industry’s exploitation of its workers was brought to light two years ago after the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, which took the lives of 1,138 factory workers and injured thousands more. The tragedy — which has spawned consumer-awareness and activism campaigns such as Fashion Revolution Day and hard-hitting web series Thread and Sweatshop, among other efforts — also snapped filmmaker Andrew Morgan into digging deep for more answers. The result: The True Cost, a Kickstarter-funded documentary that brings the harrowing truth of what really goes into the making of our clothes to light — a delivery that’s hard to ignore upon viewing. In addition to providing an insider’s view of some of the industry’s grimmest manufacturing hubs, Morgan captures interviews with some key fashion activists and force-changers, including Stella McCartney, Tim Kasser and Livia Firth.

Good or bad for wellbeing? Three ways to judge the impact of big brands
Many of us buy products such as Kit Kats and Coca-Cola, but don’t associate them with our separate concerns about poverty and wellbeing. Now a range of tools are available to help bridge that gap. From initiatives using consumer pressure to tackle complex social issues to tools that aim to encourage investors to put their money into companies with a positive social impact, these projects attempt to measure and benchmark companies’ impact.  But measuring issues such as women’s empowerment, land rights and community impacts is far from easy. What’s more, it’s hard to come up with standard, universal measurements. So how do these tools fare?

Carbon market value expands to $44 Billion as Korea signs up
The value of global carbon permits expanded to $US34 billion ($44 billion) in the past year, with gains led by South Korea, California and Quebec, the World Bank said. Permits aimed at reducing greenhouse gases were worth 6.3 per cent more than the $US32 billion a year earlier, the Washington-based lender said Tuesday in an e-mailed report compiled with Ecofys International BV. With taxes of $US14 billion, the total value of such carbon pricing programs is $US48 billion, the bank said. Markets now cover 12 per cent of global emissions, up from 4 per cent in 2005, when the European Union began what’s now the world’s biggest program.

Rise in fuel-efficient ships leaving other vessels ‘unmarketable’
Energy-efficient ships now carry a fifth of global shipped tonnage, with inefficient vessels increasingly becoming “unmarketable”, according to Sir Richard Branson’s Carbon War Room. The non-profit organisation says charterers representing 20 per cent of global shipped tonnage now have policies in place to avoid using the most inefficient ships based on the emissions ratings it established with maritime risk-management specialist RightShip. In the past two and a half years, usage of the GHG Emissions Rating and the A to G efficiency scale has increased by more than 450 per cent, from 350 million shipped tonnes when Cargill, Huntsman, and UNIPEC signed up to the scheme to 1.95 billion shipped tonnes today.

CFSI Helping Companies Comply with New EU Conflict Minerals Legislation
The Conflict-Free Sourcing Initiative (CFSI) today announced it is available to help companies navigate compliance with the pending conflict minerals legislation recently voted on by the European Parliament. In addition, the CFSI says it is adopting a risk-based approach to its audit program to bolster audits of smelters and refiners of tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold worldwide. The draft EU legislation on conflict minerals requires importers and processors of tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold to self-certify via independent, third-party due diligence audits of smelters and refiners that their products do not directly or indirectly finance conflict and serious human rights abuses.

MBA students must learn about sustainability, says Prince Charles
The Prince of Wales will today call on business schools to place a bigger emphasis on environmental sustainability in their syllabuses, arguing that the next generation of corporate leaders needs to be equipped with the skills to tackle climate change and resource scarcity. Speaking at the London Business School today, Prince Charles will also urge business students to ensure they understand the scale of the environmental challenges the world faces. “To all those current business school students – and to those who are deciding where to study – ask yourself: is your chosen business school really going to equip you to be the kind of leader that is  so badly needed for the next 50 years?” he will say. “Nothing less will do.”

Politics and Society

Want to help the environment? First fix your work-life balance
When it comes to climate change, do you practice what you preach? While many of us express strong concern about the issue, there tends to be a yawning gap between this concern and many people’s willingness to actually act on it by doing things like using less power or petrol. Why should we care about this “value-action gap”? Well for one thing, these practices can make a big difference: up to an estimated 20% of household emissions, according to one US study. Things like using housing insulation and public transport, if done on a wide enough scale, can seriously help the world avoid major climate change.

Where are the World’s Hungriest People? Take a Look
(New Map Charts Progress of 129 Nations as World Hunger Falls to 25-Year Low)

The number of hungry people in the world has steadily declined to a 25-year low, thanks largely to economic prosperity in China and other developing countries. A quarter century ago, more than 1 billion people trapped in poverty lacked access to enough food to live a healthy life. Today, the number of undernourished people stands at 795 million, according to the UN’s annual hunger report, released Wednesday, May 27. The number of underfed people has declined from 18.6 percent of the world’s population to 10.9 percent since 1990-92. Among developing nations, the improvement is even more dramatic: a drop from 23.3 percent in 1990-92 to 12.9 percent today.

As Animal Poaching Surges, Organized Crime Plays Bigger Role
Rhino horn and elephant ivory trafficking may be the soft underbelly of international criminal syndicates, says law enforcement veteran.

Concerns raised after Federal Government awards millions of dollars to old emissions reduction projects
AUSTRALIA – The Federal Government has awarded tens of millions of dollars worth of new contracts to companies for emissions reduction projects that have been running for years, raising concerns that some businesses are double-dipping and that climate targets will not be met. The centrepiece of the Coalition’s Direct Action plan is the reverse auction, in which companies with projects designed to abate emissions are awarded contracts through the Emissions Reduction Fund. Last month’s reverse auction awarded $660 million worth of contracts that will deliver about 5.4 million tonnes per year of abatement towards the 2020 emissions reduction target.


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