Sustainable Development News

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

Cutting greenhouse gas emissions won’t slow global economic growth — report
As the world works out how to avoid catastrophic climate change, one of the biggest questions remaining is whether we can continue to grow economically without also increasing greenhouse gas emissions. New research released this week at Climate Week NYC offers more hope that the answer might be yes. Prepared for green thinktank Heinrich Böll by DIW Econ, a German institute for economic research, the study found that, as a whole, countries that belong to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) have already decoupled their economic growth from emissions.

Energy and Climate Change

Brazil pledges to cut carbon emissions 37% by 2025
Brazil on Sunday became the first major developing country to pledge an absolute reduction in greenhouse gas emissions for an envisioned global pact against climate change. The world’s seventh biggest greenhouse gas polluter said it would cut its emissions by 37% by 2025 from 2005 levels by reducing deforestation and boosting the share of renewable sources in its energy mix. It also indicated an “intended reduction” of 43% by 2030. “Our goals are just as ambitious, if not more so, than those set by developed countries,” President Dilma Rousseff said as she announced the targets at the UN in New York.

Scientists worried about cold ‘blob’ in the North Atlantic Ocean
It is, for our home planet, an extremely warm year. Indeed, last week we learned from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that the first eight months of 2015 were the hottest such stretch yet recorded for the globe’s surface land and oceans, based on temperature records going to 1880. It’s just the latest evidence that we are, indeed, on course for a record-breaking warm year in 2015. Yet, if you look closely, there’s one part of the planet that is bucking the trend. In the North Atlantic Ocean south of Greenland and Iceland, the ocean surface has seen very cold temperatures for the past eight months. What’s up with that?

Climate change to bring catastrophic consequences
Climate change is predicted to bring us higher sea levels, more extreme weather and a world of other catastrophic consequences – but when it comes making people act, the answer may lie in accentuating the positive rather than the negative. In a comprehensive study published today in major journal Nature Climate Change, 28 researchers from around the world examined which factors were most likely to result in people taking action… The team found that co-benefits were a powerful motivator for people, even for those unconcerned or unconvinced about climate change.

How to take the pressure off the cost of our water supply
For most people in the developed world, getting access to clean drinking water is as simple as turning on a tap. Would that paying for water were so simple. But when we think about the water we consume, few of us realise that as much as 80% of its cost is associated with electricity use – a figure that’s as high in Britain as in drought-prone California. It is surprising, then, that the energy argument rarely features in discussions about preserving water. Yes, water is itself a valuable and vulnerable resource. But when we wash our clothes, have a shower or simply rinse a mug, we should also keep in mind that energy is going down the drain. Let’s talk about our water future alongside our energy future.

West Australian dairy farm uses solar panels to cut power bill
Solar panels installed on a West Australian dairy farm have helped cut energy costs by 40 per cent in peak periods and saved thousands of dollars. Greg Norton is the manager at Capel Farms, approximately 200 kilometres south of Perth, where his vegetable business runs alongside the family dairy and cattle farm. Mr Norton said power bills on the farm had risen by 65 per cent since 2008. He said he decided to install a 30 kilowatt solar system as a means of reducing his energy costs… Mr Norton said the panel installation cost between $55,000 to $60,000.  But he said that was the major expense of the project and he expected the installation to “pay for itself” in energy cost savings within the next five years.

New heating and hot water energy label rules could boost renewables market
All new hot water, heating systems and storage tanks will now be required to have energy efficiency labels, in a move that could drive investment in renewable heat technologies such as solar thermal panels. The new EU legislation, which came into force on Saturday, requires newly installed heating and hot water systems to display a label to rate each system from A+++ to G, with G being the least energy efficient. The new rule aims to ensure people looking to install a new system can easily access information on how energy efficient the options are. The scheme follows other energy efficiency labels for washing machines, fridges and air conditioning.

Environment and Biodiversity

Sanctuary for ocean jewels
The waters around the Kermadec Islands to the north of New Zealand will become one of the largest ocean sanctuaries in the world, Prime Minister John Key announced at the United Nations early today. The decision will be celebrated by organisations and individuals who have campaigned for years for such a sanctuary. The Kermadec Islands have had a marine reserve around them since 1990 but this decision will extend it from 12 nautical miles to the 200 nautical miles of New Zealand’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

This year’s Great Kereru Count most successful yet
Kiwis have counted nearly 20,000 native wood pigeons to make this year’s Great Kereru Count the most successful yet. As the week-long nationwide survey closed last night, a total 8,743 observations had been recorded, topping last year’s total 7,101. The joint effort encouraged people to spend time watching out for kereru, then reporting how many – if any – they observed to the survey website.

Quest to pinpoint every kiwi sighting
New Zealanders are being called upon to help save our national icon by reporting kiwi sightings to conservationists. The launch of the major citizen science project comes as the first kiwi hatched under the Operation Nest Egg programme was released yesterday, and just in time for October’s Save Kiwi Month. Dubbed Quest for Kiwi, the new programme aims to pinpoint where kiwi are present and where not, providing a better understanding of where conservation efforts are most needed to ensure the endangered species is preserved for future generations.

World’s smallest snail discovered in China
Snails small enough to fit almost 10 times into the eye of a needle have been discovered in Guangxi province, Southern China. With their shells measuring 0.86mm in height, the researchers believe they are the smallest land snails ever found.  The Angustopila dominikae snail – named after the wife of one of the authors of the study published in the journal ZooKeys – is just visible to the naked eye but very difficult to spot.

Economy and Business

What if we’ve reached peak globalisation?
World trade has fallen by its largest amount since the financial crisis of 2008. The crash itself produced a significant shrinking of global trade – the sharpest since the Great Depression. At the time it was possible to believe that this was a temporary wobble. Ongoing technological change, from containerisation of freight transport to today’s ubiquitous digital communications, would lock the economy into a path of deeper and deeper “globalisation”, with international flows of goods, services and money overwhelming states and transforming societies. The rapid recovery in global trade in the first years after the crash kindled a hope that the forward march of globalisation would continue. This now looks excessively optimistic.

Report: Investors Should Manage Climate Risks As ‘Forceful Stewards’
Climate risks  currently aren’t top-of-mind for most mainstream investors, but the potential value at risk for investment portfolios is significant, according to a new report by Preventable Surprises, a business risk think tank. Investors, Climate Risk and Forceful Stewardship: An Agenda For Action  says the context of the physical impacts, and market and regulatory shifts associated with climate change put portfolios at risk of major losses and investors should prepare portfolio companies for a transition to a low-carbon economy.

Shell has frozen its Arctic oil drilling – but it’s still hungry for fossil fuels
Shell’s decision to put its Arctic oil exploration plans in deep freeze will have several knock-on effects for global oil exploration, environmental protests and the future of the company itself. The broader Arctic retreat by energy firms once bullish about polar prospects has now left just two working operations in the region: BP’s Prudhoe Bay field, which feeds the Trans-Alaskan pipeline, and Gazprom’s largely symbolic Prirazlomnoye platform in the Pechora Sea. Publicly, Shell blames disappointing exploratory results, high operating costs and strict US environmental regulations for its decision to quit Alaska’s Berger field after about $7bn (£4.6bn) of investment. But company sources also accept that Arctic oil polarised debate in a way that damaged the firm. “We were acutely aware of the reputational element to this programme,” one said.

#BusinessCase: Sustainability Initiatives Have Saved PepsiCo Over $375M Since 2010
The water, energy, packaging and waste-reduction initiatives have been tallied up, and PepsiCo, Inc. asserts that its environmental sustainability initiatives have saved the company more than $375 million since its goals were established in 2010. The company proudly announced this week that it also delivered double-digit net revenue and operating profit growth during the same time period, demonstrating a solid business case.

TUI plans to ‘step lightly’ with aviation emissions
The world’s largest travel and tourism business has embarked upon an ambitious new sustainability strategy with a particular focus on next-generation fuel development to slash airline emissions.  TUI Group, which owns 136 aircrafts under six brands including Thomson and TUIfly, has today (28 September) pledged to reduce the carbon intensity of its air, cruise and ground operations by 10% by 2020, following on from a 10% reduction already achieved since 2008.

Why Nike and MIT see textiles as material to climate change
Nike has just come out of the starting gate with some new initiatives aimed at taming its corporate and supply-chain footprint, and as usual it has hit the ground running. Its latest sprint includes a collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a Materials Challenge seeking “revolutionary new ideas” on innovative and low-impact fabrics and textiles, a commitment to fully power its company-owned and operated facilities with renewable energy within a decade. Oh, and an updated app so that your company can follow in Nike’s footsteps.

Waste and the Circular Economy

adidas to develop sportswear goods that are never thrown away
Global sports brand adidas plans to develop a technique that could see people wearing items made with material that was once warn by footballer Lionel Messi. adidas plans to develop a range of sporting goods in which every gram of material will be broken down and remoulded again in a waste-free, adhesive-free process that gives consumers more scope for personalisation than ever before.

Making money from CO2
Imagine if waste carbon dioxide in the air could be turned into useful products such as fuels, building materials or even baking powder. At a stroke it would help get rid of a greenhouse gas, slow down climate change and make money from a major pollutant. If that sounds like cloud cuckooland, the technology is already being used and companies are turning waste CO2 into commercially viable products.

Major global manufacturers invest in US recycling infrastructure
Some of the world’s biggest manufacturers have made three investments in US recycling infrastructure. Companies including 3M, Coca-Cola, Colgate-Palmolive, Goldman Sachs, Johnson & Johnson, Keurig Green Mountain, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Unilever and Walmart formed the Closed Loop Fund in April 2014. It plans to invest $100 million (£65 million) in US recycling infrastructure by 2020.

Politics and Society

The risk of UN’s Sustainable Development Goals: too many goals, too little focus
Setting global goals can be crucial to galvanizing action. But an agenda centered on 17 SDGs runs the danger of being too general. A more targeted approach would provide clearer guidance and make it easier to oversee implementation of the goals and adjust efforts as needs change in the future. Also, settings high-level goals is only a first step – the hard work around governance starts now as countries move forward with implementing the SDGs. Making progress on these broad goals will require a level of focus and coordination between governments and other actors in society that we have yet to see.

Corbyn public ownership push reflects what is happening all round the world
UK – Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership victory has helped to push state ownership back to the forefront of public policy debate in the UK. His belief in public ownership in the banking sector has stoked the question of whether it could play a vital role in funding infrastructure projects and innovation in the manufacturing sector.

Coalition dumps chief climate denier Newman, Hunt still hamstrung
AUSTRALIA – In one of the surest signs yet that the Malcolm Turnbull-led Coalition is making a departure from the climate denying, anti-renewable energy thinking that has guided the party’s policy-making from the top down, Maurice Newman will not be reappointed as chairman of the prime minister’s business advisory council. Newman, a far-right conservative and outspoken denier of climate change, was appointed to the role by Tony Abbott in one of his first acts after becoming Prime Minister in 2013, and has been a key influence on Abbott’s policy direction since then. His controversial views on climate change – essentially that it is not happening, and rather it’s global cooling we should be worried about – have been given a regular airing in a weekly column Newman writes for The Australian.

Built Environment

Paris bans cars for the day – video
Cars are banned from large parts of Paris on Sunday as the city goes car-free for the first time. The eight lanes of vehicles on the Champs Elysées are replaced with bikes, scooters, skateboards and people on foot between 11am and 6pm. Exceptions are made for taxis, buses and residents’ vehicles. The initiative was launched by Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo as the city prepares to host this year’s climate change conference.

Urban policy: could the federal government finally ‘get’ cities?
AUSTRALIA – The appointment of a federal minister for cities and the built environment is a signal moment in urban policy in Australia. It is a much-needed portfolio for an overwhelmingly urban nation but will need new policy capacity if the government’s urban goals are to be realised. Australian cities are among the fastest-growing in the developed world. They face problems of poor housing affordability, growing inequality, inadequate and inefficient infrastructure, unsustainable environmental demand and uneven employment distribution and productivity.

Eco-friendly examples set by Auckland and Christchurch
NEW ZEALAND – Cities are living organisms. There is constant movement. They breathe, or choke. They take in energy, water, food, building materials, and excrete waste. They have systems for reproduction, in the form of education and training, construction, planning and development. But are they healthy or natural? More than half the world’s population now live in cities, and that’s projected to rise to two thirds by 2050. So can urban environments be eco-friendly and, if so, how do we make them that way?

Planning changes endanger Blue Mountains World Heritage
AUSTRALIA – In a move that would homogenise towns and encourage dense and high-rise development with total disregard for the surrounding natural environment, the NSW Government is threatening to impose a generic development plan on the Blue Mountains Local Government Area. The City of Blue Mountains is surrounded by the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. Once, the attainment of World Heritage status would garner respect and be revered by local communities and tourists. Today this no longer appears to be the case with more and more valuable tracts of fragile land being put at risk as a result of development. A saddening truth pervades – one that bears little sensitivity or understanding of the critical importance of our remaining wild areas.

Food Systems

Permaculture being taught to Timorese coffee farmers and in national education curriculum
The coffee country of Timor Leste is a world away from the birthplace of permaculture in northern Tasmania but it’s taking off there in a big way. The Timor-based NGO Permatil is working with the Timorese Government to train coffee bean farmers in permaculture, a self-sufficient and sustainable farming system. Permatil is also raising funds to update its Permaculture Guide Book to suit farmers in developing countries growing produce in a tropical climate.

Plastic, Other Man-Made Fibers Found in a Quarter of Fish Sold at Markets
Researchers found that roughly a quarter of the fish sampled from fish markets in California and Indonesia contained man-made plastic or fibrous material in their guts. The new study is from the University of California, Davis and Hasanuddin University in Indonesia and was published on Thursday.

Revolutionizing lunchboxes, giving to schools
NEW ZEALAND – It isn’t easy to get the kids out the door in the morning, let alone with healthy meals in their lunchboxes. The Big Lunchbox Revolution is making healthy food easier while raising money for schools, kindergartens and play centres. Parents can shop online in the company’s “pantry”, order from a variety of products including dried apricots, organic coconut and organic popping corn, have the food delivered to the address of their choosing, and the company will donate 10% of each sale back to their school of choice. Visit for more information.


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