Thursday 29 January 2015
Sustainable Development News
Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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Energy and Climate Change
Yes, we can live well and avoid climate disaster, says UK government
The world can enjoy higher standards of living and more travel, while drastically cutting emissions to avoid dangerous climate change – but only with sweeping changes to our infrastructure, the natural world and agriculture, a new analysis has found. The UK government analysis also assumes that billions of people will remain in dire poverty at mid-century, despite efforts to lift them to greater prosperity, as the population rises to an estimated nine billion people. Dealing with greenhouse gas emissions will require a transformation of electricity generation, including an expansion of renewable energy and nuclear power, as well as more public transport and changes to the built environment, according to the key findings of the Global Calculator, an online software tool developed by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc), with partners.
BNEF top 10 predictions for clean energy in 2015
For the last two years, I have drawn on Russian imagery to illustrate the state of the clean energy industry. In 2013, it was the battle of Borodino: the clean energy sector had suffered a bruising time, but it had survived and was poised to regain ground. In 2014, it was the River Neva in St Petersburg which provided the analogy for an energy industry frozen for aeons, but about to undergo profound and rapid phase change. This year I want you to go back in time, over 66m years. Dinosaurs roam the earth – in fact they dominate it. They are magnificent creatures, honed by 135m years of competition, huge and fearsome. The very earth trembles as they walk. It is time for me to try to don my pith helmet, venture out into Jurassic Park, and present my 10 predictions for the year. In doing so, I have drawn on help from Bloomberg New Energy Finance chief editor Angus McCrone, as well as our teams of specialist analysts covering all aspects of the transition to a cleaner energy system.
What will it take to get businesses to support the EPA’s pollution rules?
As the US political fight over climate change moves from Washington DC to 50 state capitals, companies that are serious about sustainability need to support the EPA’s proposed rules to curb carbon pollution from existing power plants… It’s hard to overstate the importance of the proposed power plant rules, which are the cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s climate agenda. Power plants account for nearly 40% of all US greenhouse gas emissions. The EPA is asking each state to develop a plan to meet federally mandated carbon limits. But 29 of 50 states are now led by Republican governors, most of whom are likely to oppose the new rules. If the EPA effort falls flat, there’s no way the US can lead the way to a global climate agreement.
Citi: Battery storage to hasten demise of fossil fuels
Investment bank says wide deployment of battery storage will hasten the demise of fossil fuels and utilities that remain focused on centralised generation. It tips rapid fall in costs and a $400bn storage market by 2030. Investment bank Citigroup predicts that the wide deployment of battery storage technologies will hasten the demise of fossil fuels across the globe in the coming decade, including oil, coal and gas. And it also warns that the battery phenomenom will be even more profound than the solar revolution currently sweeping the globe, and will sweep aside any traditional utilities that remain focused on centralised generation. The predictions of Citigroup analysts are a reprise of predictions it made in August last year, when it predicted that battery storage costs could fall to around $230/kWh by 2020, and eventually be as low as $150/kWh. The global market for battery storage could be worth more than $400 billion by 2030.
Environment and Biodiversity
England’s beavers allowed to stay in the wild
The first beavers to live in the wild in England for 300 years are to be allowed to continue to swim free in a Devon river as long as it can be proven they are free of disease and of Eurasian origin. Initially the government announced plans to trap the beavers, which are roaming wild in the River Otter, and confine them to a zoo or wildlife park, arguing they were an invasive species and could be carrying a disease. But environmental campaigners – and many people who live and work along the river – launched a passionate campaign arguing the beavers were defined as non-native only because man hunted them to extinction.
Everything Originates in Outer Space—Even Our Skin (Book Talk)
Astrophysics and medical pathology don’t, at first sight, appear to have much in common. What do sunspots have to do with liver spots? How does the big bang connect with cystic fibrosis? Astrophysicist Karel Schrijver, a senior fellow at the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory, and his wife, Iris Schrijver, professor of pathology at Stanford University, have joined the dots in a new book, Living With the Stars: How the Human Body Is Connected to the Life Cycles of the Earth, the Planets, and the Stars. Talking from their home in Palo Alto, California, they explain how everything in us originated in cosmic explosions billions of years ago, how our bodies are in a constant state of decay and regeneration, and why singer Joni Mitchell was right.
Economy and Business
Are collaborative projects just a marriage of convenience?
Last year, a partnership between Hewlett-Packard (HP) and East African Compliant Recycling was marked out at the Guardian Sustainable Business awards. HP is a global brand with 302,000 employees, operating in 170 countries and headquartered in Palo Alto, California; the East African Compliant Recycling is a small enterprise with just a few dozen employees based 9,600 miles away in Machakos, Kenya. However, their work is intimately linked: HP makes computers, while its partner carefully dismantles and recycles their parts creating maximum return for the resale of components with minimum harm to workers.
A Sustainable Supply Chain “Race to the Top”
Levi Strauss is hoping that, by incentivizing its worldwide web of suppliers to operate more responsibly, it can create what it is calling a sustainability “race to the top” in its supply chain. The program, which the world’s most-recognized jeans maker and the World Bank jointly unveiled last November, is startling simple. In exchange for improving their performance across a number of sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) metrics, Levi Strauss’s suppliers will be able to access a sliding-scale of lower-cost financing arranged by the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC).
Graphene – six ways wonder material could improve world sustainability
Graphene, the “wonder material”, continues to capture the imagination. A honeycomb of carbon atoms so thin it is considered two-dimensional, graphene is stronger than diamond, more electrically conductive than copper and more bendable than rubber. In the decade since its discovery at the University of Manchester, tens of millions of pounds have been ploughed into researching the material. But efforts to put it to widespread use have been hampered by the expense of producing it at scale and its weaknesses, such as radial cracking. Yet recently there have been signs that the graphene revolution is entering a new phase. Various scientists, including Shou-En Zhu and Catharina Paukner, are claiming to have discovered methods to bulk manufacture the material. Others are formulating hybrid graphene spin-offs – new substances with special properties of their own.
These Companies Want to Make Your Smartphone Truly Smart
Most of the more than 1.8 billion mobile phones sold worldwide in 2013 replaced devices that were less than two years old. Nearly a billion of these devices were smartphones… But what if you could actually “upgrade” a phone — adding or replacing components to improve the device without needing to dispose of the entire unit? That is the aim of the Puzzlephone, a new modular Android device with three parts that can easily be customized, replaced or upgraded. It features a “brain” with the main electronics, a “heart” with the battery and a “spine” with an LCD screen. If, say, the battery or camera stops working — or you want to upgrade to a better operating system — you can switch in a new part rather than buying an entirely new phone. The phone is designed to last 10 years and have a significantly reduced life cycle and environmental footprint.
Politics and Society
Shale fail: David Cameron has not gone ‘all out’ for fracking
David Cameron might have been forced into accepting several restrictions on fracking to avoid a Commons defeat, but one thing that has never appeared in doubt is the Conservative party leadership’s commitment to the practice. A year ago, the prime minister famously declared: “We’re going all out for shale. It will mean more jobs and opportunities for people, and economic security for our country.” Chancellor George Osborne also wrote a detailed letter to ministers asking them to make policy implementation a “personal priority”. Yet the government has not gone all out for shale. It is part of a loose coalition of organisations which, “on average”, is tentatively pro-fracking.
Block on fracking in Scotland announced by minister
The Scottish government has announced a block on planned fracking operations, pending further inquiries. Ministers will carry out new work on the environmental and health implications of the controversial gas drilling technique. Full control over fracking is due to be devolved to Scotland after May’s general election. In the meantime, consent for unconventional oil and gas developments will be refused on planning grounds.
Low carbon projects get £25m boost ahead of crucial contracts auction
Support for offshore wind and other less established low carbon technologies has been increased by £25m, the government announced today. The pot of funding set aside to bring forward projects has been increased “following high levels of demand for contracts” the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said in a statement. As part of its Contracts for Difference (CfD) support scheme, the government has already awarded early funding to eight projects and is now offering £65m for established technologies, such as onshore wind and solar farms, and £260m for less established technologies, including offshore wind and biomass with combined heat and power (CHP).
Pollution is the Leading Cause of Death in Developing World
It was only after Seynabou Mbengue saw five of her 10 children die that she realized the culprit: her job extracting lead from used batteries by hand. The Senegalese mother watched as her five youngest children, all born after she started her toxic recycling job, began to have seizures and convulsions until they finally passed away before their second birthdays. Unfortunately, the tragic deaths of Mbengue’s children are not uncommon. Pollution is the leading cause of death in low- and middle-income countries, according to a report from the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP), an organization whose members include the World Bank, Columbia University’s Earth Institute, and various United Nations’ bodies and national governments.
Boris Johnson gives green light to London’s cycling superhighway
So it seems London will get its segregated bike lanes after all, admittedly with the caveat that a couple of vested interests are still trying to derail the schemes. On Tuesday, Boris Johnson, the city’s mayor, announced that two ambitious planned cycle routes would be built much as planned. As the centrepiece of a wider £900m project to boost cycling in the capital, one will go north to south, while the longer and far more contentious one snakes east to west. Extensive consultation found a big majority of respondents were in favour of the scheme.
Case study: the Tuhoe Building – NZ’s first Living Building Challenge contender
Tuhoe Te Uru Taumatua in the Bay of Plenty is the first New Zealand project designed and constructed to Living Building Challenge specifications. Completed in 2014, the Tuhoe building has been designed by JASMAX to be a net-zero user of energy and water, and was constructed using materials free of any Red List chemicals. The choice of the LBC design guidelines was made in order for the project to reflect the commitment the Tuhoe people have to the wellbeing of the land, and also so the building would align to their inherent connection to it.
The Defit Blog – Plasterboard recycling: returning used gypsum board to the productive economy
One major stream of defit waste is plasterboard (gypsum board), which due to its density represents a significant portion of waste by weight. Being a popular means of surfacing internal walls it is extremely common in almost all office defits (and refits) occurring in the Sydney CBD. In the recent defit at Governor Macquarie Tower, all plasterboard removed was disposed of at Regyp in Kurnell, a plasterboard recycling facility in Sydney. This facility effectively closes the loop in the plasterboard lifecycle, preventing the sourcing of virgin material to make new plasterboard and also preventing its disposal to landfill. Plasterboard is made from a number of highly recyclable constituents, primarily gypsum.
Closed-Loop, Organic Shrimp Farm Could Create Sea Change for Domestic Shrimp Industry
San Diego company Net Zero Aqualife says it has beat its crowdfunding deadline and now has the funds to begin production of high-quality organic shrimp at low cost. The farm is expected to produce 100 percent organic, non-GMO, self-sustained shrimp, without emitting any waste or pollution, or consuming any water or energy, through a closed-loop system. The company hopes to provide a sustainable method of producing the popular shellfish domestically; currently, the US imports a whopping 91 percent of its shrimp. According to the company’s website, the closed-loop system hopes to improve quality and reduce the contamination associated with traditional shrimp farming through combined organic seafood production with water treatment systems, biomass solutions and solar farms solutions. The farm’s “carbon neutral/negative” cluster model is self-sustaining from an energy and water consumption perspective, and all bio-organic waste will be recycled for energy production.