Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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The Australian government under Tony Abbott introduced the Direct Action climate policy. Experts doubted its ability to bring about meaningful emissions reductions. Now, our top story tells how the concurrent lifting of bush clearing restrictions has basically wiped out any emissions savings. In other news, business continues to forge ahead in renewables with a massive investment of 1.3GW planned, while businesses are making a significant impact with their purchase of renewable energy. The microbiome is in the news again, as scientists continue to study the amazing human ecosystem and how it affects our health. I try to relate this to the larger ecosystems like the Great Barrier Reef, which has survived five ‘near death’ experiences in the past 30,000 years but the pace of climate change looks fatal. Another negative climate feedback loop is discovered on the surface of the ocean. And take a look inside the beautiful and low emission timber building going up in Brisbane.

Top Story

Land-clearing wipes out $1bn taxpayer-funded emissions gains | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – More than $1bn of public money being spent on cutting greenhouse gas emissions by planting trees and restoring habitat under the Coalition’s Direct Action climate policy will have effectively been wiped out by little more than two years of forest-clearing elsewhere in the country, official government data suggests.

Emissions projections data estimates more than 60.3m tonnes will be emitted this year – equivalent to more than 10% of national emissions.

Emissions projections data estimates more than 60.3m tonnes will be emitted this year – equivalent to more than 10% of national emissions.

Climate Change and Energy

CWP brings in Partners for 1,300MW of wind, solar and batteries | RenewEconomy
Australian renewable energy developer CWP Renewables has joined forces with global private markets investment manager Partners Group to build a total of 1,300MW of wind, solar and battery projects that they say will beat coal power on price and reliability. The commitment from Partners Group will see the 135MW Crudine Ridge project south of Mudgee begin construction soon, but Partners will inject a total of $700 million to ensure CWP’s entire 1,300MW portfolio of wind, solar and batteries goes ahead.

Corporates procure enough renewable energy to power France | The Fifth Estate
Businesses around the world have procured enough renewable energy to power France, new data from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has found. Its latest report, Corporate Sourcing of Renewables: Market and Industry Trends, revealed that the corporate sector collectively sourced 465 terawatt-hours of electricity in 2017 – enough to cover the electricity demand of France, or power Australia’s National Electricity Market more than two times over.

Environment and Biodiversity

Postbiotics and smart toilets: new era of harnessing our microbial chemicals to keep us slim and healthy | The Conversation
Microbiome research has now become one of the hottest topics in science as multiple conditions, including heart diseases, obesity and appetite and mood changes, appear to be linked to the microbes inside our gut.

Great Barrier Reef survived five climate change ‘death events’ but may not bounce back this time | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – The Great Barrier Reef survived five “death events” over the past 30,000 years, but might not be resilient enough to bounce back from current climate pressures, according to a new study. By drilling into and extracting fossilised coral at the edge of the continental shelf, a team of scientists reconstructed how the reef shifted and evolved over the past 30,000 years. In the journal Nature Geoscience today, they report that the reef migrated out to sea and landward again as sea levels rose and fell with changes in glaciation. Today, though, with a faster changing climate, the Great Barrier Reef simply might not be able to keep up.
See also: Great Barrier Reef’s five near-death experiences revealed in new paper

Invisible scum on sea cuts CO2 exchange with air ‘by up to 50%’ | The Guardian
An invisible layer of scum on the sea surface can reduce carbon dioxide exchange between the atmosphere and the oceans by up to 50%, scientists have discovered… Teams from the Natural Environment Research Council, the Leverhulme Trust and the European Space Agency developed a system that compares “the surfactant effect” between different seawaters in real time. They found surfactants can reduce carbon dioxide exchange by up to 50%. Dr Ryan Pereira, a Lyell research fellow at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, said: “As surface temperatures rise, so too do surfactants, which is why this is such a critical finding.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Company mining e-waste gets Govt grant from landfill levy |
NEW ZEALAND – The Government has made its first financial commitment towards finding a solution to recycle old technology. Auckland company Mint Innovation has created a way to extract valuable metals like gold from mobile phones and computers, and has received $80,000 from the Government to calculate the value of rolling out its solution. Its study was funded from the Waste Minimisation Fund – the pool of money created by the $10 per tonne fee charged at landfills.

Politics and Society

Dutch government appeals against court ruling over emissions cuts | The Guardian
NETHERLANDS – The Dutch government has launched a bid to overturn a landmark climate ruling, arguing that judges in The Hague “sidelined democracy” when they ordered a 25% cut in carbon emissions by 2020. Government plans for a lesser 17% cut in CO2 pollution were deemed unlawful three years ago, in the first successful lawsuit against a government’s climate policy.

Pruitt ‘Secret Science’ Rule: Public Gets More Time for Say as Criticism Grows | InsideClimate News
USA – The Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday expanded the opportunity for vocal critics to object to a controversial proposal that would restrict the types of scientific research the agency can draw on when writing regulations. In a concession to scientists, environmentalists and lawmakers, the agency announced it would extend a public comment period on the proposed rule until mid-August and hold a public hearing in July.

Phil Goff’s ‘build-it’ budget contains $26 billion to fix Auckland | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – Auckland Mayor Phil Goff is seeking final approval for a “build-it” budget to deliver the city’s biggest ever investment to tackle traffic congestion and protect the environment. After months of stitching together his first 10-year budget and consulting Aucklanders, Goff has stuck with earlier plans and added a few last-minute surprises, including extra money to address the challenges of climate change and a contestable fund for sport. Extreme weather events have led to a proposal to establish a $40 million climate change response fund and $90m to protect coastal assets.

Built Environment

Paris is building the eco-community of the future right now. Here’s how. | Ensia
FRANCE – Every so often an environmentally friendly building gives us a glimpse of the low-carbon future so many climate plans envision. With the development of Clichy-Batignolles, the city of Paris has created a groundbreaking eco-village filled with such buildings. Begun in 2002, the massive redevelopment project is about 30 percent complete and is slated to be finished in 2020.

First look inside Australia’s tallest timber tower | The Fifth Estate
AUSTRALIA – Lendlease has released images of the inside of its engineered timber office building under construction at 25 King Street Brisbane, which is set to become Australia’s tallest engineered timber building when complete. The 45-metre, nine-story building – constructed with cross-laminated timber (CLT) floors and walls, and glulam structural beams and columns – is also set to have the largest gross floor area for an engineered timber office building in the world – for now. Global competition is fierce as the benefits of the technology become better understood.