Sustainable Development News

Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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Top Story

$2.5tn shortfall for sustainable development in developing countries
A step change is needed in the amount of private finance available for sustainable development. The bad news is the financial sector is still headed in the wrong direction. At the level of international agenda-setting for the rest of the century, 2015 is shaping up to be a big year. Possibly the defining one. That is why this month’s UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) World Investment Forum was so important, because it addressed the fundamental questions “what would it cost to become sustainable?”, “do we have the money?” and “how can we mobilise it?”

Energy and Climate Change

Power storage group Alevo plan 1bn US battery plant
Could a long-vacant cigarette factory in North Carolina build the rechargeable battery that will unlock the future of the clean energy economy? The Swiss-based Alevo Group launched the new battery technology on Tuesday. After spending $68.5m (£42.5m) for the factory, the group said it would spend up to $1bn to develop a system that would get rid of waste on the grid and expand the use of wind and solar power. The project, a joint venture with state-owned China-ZK International Energy Investment Co, aims to ship its first GridBank, its patented battery array, to Guangdong Province this year, going into production on a commercial scale in mid-2015.

Germany’s renewable energy incentives and regulations attracting Australian companies
An Australian company which invented a renewable energy electricity generator says it was forced to move its operation to Germany because of a lack of opportunities in Australia. Ceramic Fuel Cells, a Melbourne-based CSIRO spin-off company, said its generator could cut electricity bills by up to 50 per cent for households and small businesses. But the company moved its operations to Germany two years ago to benefit from generous German government subsidies not on offer in Australia.

Environment and Biodiversity

Great British Bee Count: allotments better than parks for bees
Findings of the Great British Bee Count revealed that allotments, more than gardens, school grounds and parks provide the best habitat for declining bees, honey bees and bumblebees. The initiative organised by Friends of the Earth, Buglife and B&Q aims to involve the public in monitoring pollinators to help conservationists. From June to August, more than 23,000 people spotted 832,000 bees. After reviewing findings, the organisers revealed that allotments hosted the highest number of bees per count, while parks and roadsides, the lowest.

Can farmers make it rain by building humus in the soil?
Can farmers make it rain? It’s a tantalising question that one farmer has been researching and scientists have been exploring.  Glenn Morris is passionate about humus and believes what you do to the soil on your farm, can affect the rain. “The humus is the home for the biology, and recent scientific reports coming out of the United States are saying that the biology actually increases up to 160 per cent in the first five minutes following rain, so it’s actually an ice-nucleating agent for forming rain,” he said.  “We’re basically talking about biological cloud seeding.”

Economy and Business

World’s First Commercial-Scale Carbon Capture and Utilization Facility Opens
Skyonic Corporation has opened the world’s first commercial-scale carbon capture and utilization facility in San Antonio, TX. Located at Capitol Aggregates, an existing cement plant, the $125 million Capitol SkyMine will have a total carbon impact of 300,000 tons annually, through the direct capture of 75,000 tons of carbon dioxide and transformation into solid, usable products, like baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), bleach and hydrochloric acid (HCl).

US banks vow not to fund Great Barrier Reef coal port, say activists
US banking giants Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and JPMorgan Chase have become the latest big financiers to rule out funding a major coal port expansion in Queensland, environmentalists say. Rainforest Action Network, a US environment group, said it had received written commitments from each of the banks to not back the development of the Abbot Point port, which is adjacent to world heritage site the Great Barrier Reef. The project is being overseen by Indian mining giant Adani, which has government approval to build a new port terminal in order to export coal it will extract in central Queensland, taken to the port via rail.

Politics and Society

New tool aims to help companies measure social impact of products
As consumers, we are accustomed to seeing ‘eco-labels’ on products and services. These are typically based on life cycle assessments (LCAs) that quantify the environmental impact of a product. These LCAs are being used to address issues such as climate change or water usage, and are based on a scientific approach, calculation models, and defined measurement units. In contrast to the range of methodologies used to assess a product’s environmental impact, there is still a scarcity of tools and metrics to estimate the social impact of these products.

Compensation action shadows government proposal to cut renewable energy target: law report
Lowering the renewable energy target is likely to undermine existing investments while freezing new ones, and open the federal government to demands for compensation, a leading law firm has said in a report. International law group Baker & McKenzie, which has provided legal services to clean energy projects such as wind farms, said any reduction in the goal would increase the cost of capital “to make many existing and future projects financially unviable”.

Global overpopulation would ‘withstand war, disasters and disease’
The pace of population growth is so quick that even draconian restrictions of childbirth, pandemics or a third world war would still leave the world with too many people for the planet to sustain, according to a study. Rather than reducing the number of people, cutting the consumption of natural resources and enhanced recycling would have a better chance of achieving effective sustainability gains in the next 85 years, said the report published in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

We subsidise road and rail commuters – why not bikes too?
Australian governments heavily subsidise car, bus and train commuting, but not cycling. Yet a new survey shows many workers would consider riding to work if they got paid for it, and most would even support it if they didn’t participate, because of the wider benefits for cutting road congestion.

Built Environment

More Buildings Reaching Carbon Reduction Targets
There has been a 200 percent increase over 2012 in the number of building design projects that meet the American Institute of Architects’ 60 percent carbon reduction target, according to a report released by AIA earlier this month. The AIA’s 2030 Commitment Program, introduced in 2009, is a voluntary initiative for architecture firms and others in the building industry to commit to the AIA’s goal of carbon neutral buildings by 2030.

Food Systems

Supermarkets’ struggle for economic survival must not come at expense of human rights
“What is 60 dirhams [£4 a day] going to do for your livelihood?” asks Lahcen, a tomato picker in Morocco. His response is clear: “it’s nothing”. Yet, that is all he is reported to earn a day working in hazardous conditions in tomato fields. He relies on credit to buy groceries for his family and other necessities like medicine are an out of reach luxury. Lahcen’s story is one of many that serve as a reminder of the hidden costs of the food we eat. While agriculture can lift communities out of poverty, many agricultural workers live on scarce incomes. There is a bitter irony in the vulnerability of the people who produce our food not being able to afford their own.


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