Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
If you like what you see, you are welcome to sign up (on the right) for free sustainable development news delivered direct to your inbox each weekday morning.

Top Story

Oil crash can’t halt clean energy’s rise, top asset manager says
Oil’s slump shouldn’t scare off renewable investors or give a false sense of security about the future of fossil fuels, according to one of the world’s biggest money managers. Governments, investors and businesses alike are committing to a decline in oil and coal use as worries about climate change rise, and that means long-term opportunities for other energy sources, Frederic Samama of Amundi SA, the Paris based company that manages $US1 trillion ($1.42 trillion) in assets, said in an interview Wednesday in New York.

Energy and Climate Change

Alinta launches renewables tender in sign investment drought may be breaking
In an early sign that 2016 could see an end Australia’s investment drought in large scale renewable energy, privately owned generation company Alinta Energy has launched an advertising campaign calling for expressions of interest for large-scale generation certificates and energy.

Hasta la vista El Niño – but don’t hold out for ‘normal’ weather just yet
Australia’s rainfall is perhaps the most variable of any continent on Earth. When averaged across the country, rainfall in 2015 was only slightly below normal. However, there were large areas of both extreme dry and relative wet across Australia and throughout the year. Last year’s weather was dominated by one of the strongest El Niño events on record, contributing to high temperatures, reduced rainfall and devastating bushfires in Australia. Observations from the Pacific show that El Niño has likely peaked, with models predicting its demise over the coming months. So does this mean the weather will return to “normal”?


South Australian families turn to bottled water as drought intensifies
A major supermarket is attributing increased sales of bottled water at a store in south-east South Australia to drought in the region. Assistant manager at Woolworths’ Narracorte store, Dean Cazzalato, said there has been a 30 per cent increase in water sales this summer, compared with the previous summer. He puts the increased sales down to local dry conditions.

UN, World Bank launch new panel on clean water and sanitation
The United Nations and the World Bank Group have announced a new panel to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goal for water and sanitation. Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of the UN and Dr Jim Yong Kim, the President of the World Bank, announced the initiative this week to support SDG6.

Environment and Biodiversity

Intelligent design without a creator? Why evolution may be smarter than we thought
I don’t think invoking a supernatural creator can ever be a scientifically useful explanation. But what about intelligence that isn’t supernatural? Our new results, based on computer modelling, link evolutionary processes to the principles of learning and intelligent problem solving – without involving any higher powers. This suggests that, although evolution may have started off blind, with a couple of billion years of experience it has got smarter.

Ancient ‘dead seas’ offer a stark warning for our own near future
For billions of years, life on Earth remained relatively simple. Only single-celled organisms that could live with little or no oxygen were able to survive in the seas. Eventually, the rise of oxygen led to a proliferation of diverse, multicellular life. However the oceans have not remained unchanged since that chemical and biological revolution. At several times in geological history, they have partially reverted back to their original bacterially-dominated, oxygen-free state – and they could do so again.

Today rising CO2 levels are making the oceans warmer and more acidic. Deforestation and intensive farming are causing soils and nutrients to be flushed into the sea. And increasingly, the oceans are being stripped of oxygen, leaving large “dead zones” in the Gulf of Mexico, the Baltic Sea and the Atlantic off West Africa.

Soil productivity cut by climate change, making societies more marginal: studies
The health of the world’s soils hinges on the abundance and diversity of the microbes and fungi they contain, and environmental changes including from global warming will undermine their ability to support humans and other species, according to two new studies.

Logging suspended in Victoria’s east after reported discovery of rare ‘clumsy possums’
Victoria’s logging agency has halted the practice on the Errinundra Plateau in East Gippsland after the discovery of a colony of rare greater gliders. The Goongerah Environment Centre conducted a night time citizen survey on Monday and found 15 of the rare possums in two areas earmarked for logging.

Damselfish in distress as long periods of heat on Great Barrier Reef stunt their growth
Queensland’s long hot summers are taking their toll on Damselfish, one of the Great Barrier Reef’s more common inhabitants. Damselfish are struggling to make it to adulthood as long periods of heat stunt growth rates. For the past 13 years James Cook University researchers have taken samples of the species at Lizard Island, in the northern part of the Great Barrier Reef.

Clear call for action on wilding invasion
NEW ZEALAND – Much of Otago is under threat from the spread of conifers, and the Otago Regional Council has been given a clear message from residents that it should take a more active role in controlling the problem.  The wilding conifer invasion, especially in inland parts of the province, poses a significant threat to the tourism industry regionally and nationally. Experts estimate more than 300,000 hectares of land in the region have some wilding infestation and that figure is likely to triple to 900,000 hectares in the next 20 years if nothing is done.

Scientists study blue whales near Farewell Spit
NEW ZEALAND – A foraging ground for a population of pygmy blue whales congregating 40km north of Farewell Spit in the South Taranaki Bight is the subject of a study being conducted until mid-February. The project is funded by National Geographic and is made up of an international research team of scientists and in collaboration with the Department of Conservation. The project is led by marine mammal expert Professor Leigh Torres of Oregon State University.

Economy and Business

China raises $4.3 billion in first domestic sale of green bonds
Shanghai Pudong Development Bank Co. raised 20 billion yuan ($4.3 billion) in China’s first domestic green bond offer tied to support for clean energy and environmental protection. The bank will pay 2.95 per cent interest annually on its three-year bonds, vice president Pan Weidong at a press conference in Beijing on Wednesday. The sale attracted orders that were twice the size of the offer, Pan said.

Australian coalmines are one of riskiest investments in the world – report
Australian thermal coalmines are some of the riskiest in the world for investors because of their exposure to environmental dangers, according to a report from Oxford University. The report – which was supported by Norges Bank Investment Management, managers of Norway’s government pension fund, the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund – also found that Australian, Chinese and US coal-fired power stations were the most vulnerable to environmental risks.

French energy minister calls for higher carbon pricing
The French Minister for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, Segolene Royal, has called for higher carbon pricing to promote clean technology at a United Nations meeting of investors. Royal addressed participants at the meeting including former US Vice President Al Gore and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg saying: “We need a carbon price, to give companies the ability to manage the long term cost (of climate change) and give them an incentive to invest.”

The best thing a business could do for the environment is shut down
… of course, they’re not going to do that. So how do managers balance their climate change fears and the reality of the business world?  In our book, Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations, Daniel Nyberg and I explore how businesses and the managers who run them are responding to the climate crisis. A key finding of our research is that climate change poses a fundamental challenge to business as usual. While corporations frame climate change through the optimistic prism of innovation, technology and “green” products and services, the unpleasant reality is that our existing economic system fundamentally undermines a habitable climate.

Keeping the world below 2 degrees is a $12.1 trillion investment opportunity, BNEF report says
LONDON: Keeping the world below the 2 degrees Celsius pathway presents a US$12.1 trillion investment opportunity over the next 25 years, a new analysis states. The report Mapping the Gap: The Road From Paris, presented today by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) at the 2016 Investor Summit on Climate Risk hosted by Ceres, shows the opportunities and challenges of filling the ‘gap’ between the business-as-usual (BAU) investment in renewable energy and what is needed to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

Four key economic trends shaping society
The year is off to a turbulent start; both in the UK, and around the world. January saw oil prices plummeting, while Chinese growth slowed, spooking investors (but surprising none). But amid the turmoil and confusion of global stock markets, there are a few economic trends which look set to hold sway throughout 2016.

CDP: Companies Blind to Climate Risks in Half of Their Supply Chains
The largest ever study of climate data from suppliers and their corporate customers, the CDP’s Global Supply Chain Report 2016, found that less than half of suppliers have set a target to reduce their emissions and only one third have lowered their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the past reporting year.

The 2-degree business plan: How investors can cut climate risk
The time has come for forceful stewardship. Investors should use shareholder resolutions to require companies to publish 2-degree transition plans. Once the key companies in any sector have done this, so containing first mover disadvantage risks, investors should encourage implementation of these plans at a sectoral level.

Marketers: Stop Selling ‘Green,’ Start Selling Products That Match Our Values
Brands need to reassure consumers that sustainable products are of good value, mainstream, part of a larger solution and match their values. Many have already worked hard to address the cost and value issues but still need to do more to show consumers that ethically sourced and produced products are right for people like them.

NZ: Sustainable procurement tool released
A new Smart Procurement Assessment Tool developed by New Zealand’s Sustainable Business Network will help major firms use their purchasing power to have a positive impact across the entire business community, according to Julia Jackson, SBN’s transformation lead for community.
Download the Smart Procurement Assessment Tool.

Waste and the Circular Economy

INCPEN produces guide to help minimise the product left behind in packaging
A guide has been produced by INCPEN to help retailers and manufacturers reduce the amount of product that gets caught in packaging. Following a request from Boots UK, INCPEN worked with WRAP to identify why product can get trapped in the packaging making it difficult for the consumer to get to.

Politics and Society

No need to tighten UK carbon budget in light of Paris deal, say climate advisers
Green campaigners disappointed by advice from the Climate Change Committee not to revise budget that is currently based on keeping global warming to 2C rather than the new target of 1.5C.

Independent Greenland ‘could not afford’ to sign up to Paris climate deal
Fossil fuel exploitation that would trigger a rise in carbon emissions is necessary to support the country financially in its break from Denmark, leaders say, despite it being one of the most climate-affected places in the world.

This Startup Hires Refugee Chefs To Cook You A Traditional Meal
If you live in New York and you’re tired of the offerings on Seamless, now there’s another option for lunch delivery: food you’ve probably never heard of before, prepared by a refugee chef. A mother from Nepal will make you dumplings called momos; an Iraqi mom will make you oroog, a tender, spicy beef patty. Eat Offbeat, a new meal delivery startup, finds the most talented cooks among new arrivals, hires them to work in a commercial kitchen, and then puts the most interesting food on the menu.

Nanomaterials and health: regulation playing catch-up with reality
Nanomaterials are increasingly being used in the industrial, built and consumer environments but concern is mounting over their potential negative environmental and health effects. As yet there is no international regulation of nanoproducts or the underlying nanotechnology, nor are there any internationally agreed definitions or terminology for nanotechnology. There are also no internationally agreed protocols for toxicity testing of nanoparticles, and no standardised protocols for evaluating the environmental impacts of nanoparticles. In such conditions, what chance do legislators have of protecting us and the wider environment?

Built Environment

Timber rising with National Construction Code changes on the way
AUSTRALIA – Changes to the National Construction Code mean it will now be much easier for developers to use timber to construct mid-rise buildings up to eight storeys high, a move industry says will increase both affordability and sustainability outcomes, and be a boon for the domestic building industry.

City Rail Link decision ‘a huge win for people power’
NEW ZEALAND – Organisations advocating Auckland’s City Rail Link are calling the Government’s decision to fund the project earlier than previously planned a victory for the public. Prime Minister John Key, who has consistently hesitated to make such commitments to the City Rail Link during his time in the role, announced the change in policy during his State of the Nation address on 27 January. The Government will bring its $2.5 billion funding package forward from 2020 to 2018.

Union laments ‘managed decline’ of rail network
NEW ZEALAND – The situation may gradually be looking up for Auckland’s suburban rail network, but the case in other parts of the country looks to be the complete opposite. KiwiRail has acknowledged it is so low on funding that it simply cannot afford to manage some lines in line with their current standard.

TfL tackles London’s air quality crisis with low-emission freight scheme
A new industry-led programme has been launched by Transport for London (TfL), offering increased availability of low-emission vans and lorries in an effort to reduce the emissions of the capital’s freight and fleet operators.

L.A. aims for the future of urban mobility with… Xerox?
The element that’s often missing in the so-called “urban mobility” rush is the ability to compare all of your options at a given moment. In a bid to fill that void, the city of Los Angeles and business services giant Xerox this week announced a new pilot project that roles public and private transportation options into one custom mobile app for the city, Go LA.

A snapshot of the new Go LA app, the result of a public-private pilot project by Xerox and the city of Los Angeles.

A snapshot of the new Go LA app, the result of a public-private pilot project by Xerox and the city of Los Angeles.

Food Systems

‘Sea the Possibilities’ Healthy Eating Challenge Not So Healthy for the Oceans
For Chicken of the Sea, the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans give the right recommendation: People should eat more seafood, and it should replace of other protein foods for two meals per week. In response, the company launched the “Sea the Possibilities Challenge,” a behavior change campaign that encourages consumers to lead “happier, healthier, and more adventurous” lives, in part by increasing their seafood consumption. The problem is that the seafood industry – and Chicken of the Sea in particular – is guilty of over-fishing and human rights abuses.


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.