Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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It’s a long weekend here on the Gold Coast so the news will take a break tomorrow and be back on Monday.

Happy news in today’s top story where a return to historical farming methods has seen a massive boost in wildlife to the land. In other news, scientists say fish populations can flourish even with increasing temperatures if we would manage fisheries better; a community in Egypt is being moved on because of sea level rise; the benefits of mining landfill for resources; and 70% of Americans value the environment over the economy. In Australian news, a warning that bushfire risk is now a year round threat; an explainer on the myth that renewables can’t generate reliable energy; the latest on the fight around the Murray-Darling water; and, while focussing on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), lessons on institutional failure to address water can be applied to the driest inhabited continent on Earth.

Top Story

Return of strip-field farming creates haven for rare species in south Wales | The Guardian
UK – A pioneering farming project using field management techniques dating back to the 13th century has transformed a stretch of coast into a haven for endangered animals, birds, insects and wildflowers. The experimental return to “strip-field farming” close to the spectacular Rhossili Bay on the Gower peninsula in south Wales is being credited with a threefold increase in the number of species of wildflowers and the appearance of rare birds such as the hen harrier and grasshopper warbler.


A flock of linnets feeds on linseed left after harvest at the Vile. Photograph: National Trust

A flock of linnets feeds on linseed left after harvest at the Vile. Photograph: National Trust

Climate Change

Bushfire threat now a year-round situation in Australia, expert warns | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – One of the country’s leading bushfire experts warns Australia needs to prepare for the threat of year-round bushfires. Drought is crippling New South Wales and large parts of Queensland, setting the stage for a bad fire season in Australia with blazes already burning large tracts of land in recent weeks. Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre CEO Richard Thornton said with the devastating drought expected to continue, Australia was heading into uncharted territory for bushfire threat.

Houses claimed by the canal: life on Egypt’s climate change frontline | The Guardian
EGYPT – In Alexandria’s ‘Little Venice’, a poor fishing community faces the demolition of its homes and loss of its livelihood thanks to rising seas – and a local government keen to clear its slums

The rubble left after demolition of houses on the waterfront at El Max, near Alexandria, where homes are regularly flooded. All photographs by Sima Diab for the Guardian

The rubble left after demolition of houses on the waterfront at El Max, near Alexandria, where homes are regularly flooded. All photographs by Sima Diab for the Guardian

Environment and Biodiversity

Fish populations could rise even with extreme climate change, study shows | The Guardian
Better management of fishing rights around the world would increase catches even if climate change takes hold, new research has found, ahead of key negotiations on fishing at the UN next week. Even if temperatures rise by as much as 4C above pre-industrial levels – in the upper range of current forecasts – the damaging effects on fishing can be contained through improving how stocks are fished and managed. The finding is crucial because more than 1 billion people globally rely on fish, particularly key species such as tuna and mackerel, as their main source of protein.

‘Like nicotine’: Bees develop preference for pesticides, study shows | The Guardian
Bumblebees acquire a taste for pesticide-laced food that can be compared to nicotine addiction in smokers, say scientists. The more of the nicotine-like chemicals they consume, the more they appear to want, a study has shown. The findings suggest that the risk of potentially harmful pesticide-contaminated nectar entering bee colonies is higher than was previously thought.

Fires and haze return to Indonesia as peat protection bid falls short | Mongabay
Fires on peatlands on Indonesia’s Borneo and Sumatra islands have flared up again this year after relatively fire-free dry seasons in 2016 and 2017. The government has enacted wide-ranging policies to restore peatland following the disastrous fires of 2015 that razed an area four times the size of Grand Canyon National Park. However, the fires this year have sprung up in regions that have been prioritized for peat restoration, suggesting the government’s policies have had little impact.


Water Management in Fragile Systems: Building Resilience to Shocks and Protracted Crises in the Middle East and North Africa | World Bank (Discussion Paper)
Water scarcity is pervasive throughout the Middle East and North Africa and getting worse. Even before the recent political turmoil, several countries in the Middle East and North Africa were struggling to manage their water resources sustainably and to expand water supply and sanitation services efficiently. Now conflict has combined with weak institutional performance and contributed to an intensification of water challenges and a deterioration of water services. A new World Bank-FAO joint discussion paper finds that institutional failures to address water-related challenges can act as risk multipliers, compounding existing situations of fragility. But improving water management can contribute to building resilience in the face of protracted crises.

Federal agency pushes back at Barnaby Joyce’s environmental water grab | SMH
AUSTRALIA – The body in charge of environmental water purchases rejects calls by special drought envoy Barnaby Joyce to divert flows to assist graziers.

Related: Murray-Darling High Court challenge dropped; commission won’t cross-examine federal bureaucrats | ABC News

Economy and Business

A glimpse into the future of social protection | World Bank
Your neighbor drives for a ride-sharing company. Your nephew just joined his third start-up. Your daughter lands a job as a freelance journalist. Your street vendor who sells flowers down the street has been absent due to an illness. The changing nature of work is upending traditional employment… Most social protection systems in rich countries were developed at a time of “jobs for life,” with social insurance based on mandatory contributions and payroll (labor) taxes on formal wage employment. But around the globe, this traditional, payroll-based insurance system is increasingly challenged by working arrangements outside standard employment contracts.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Why we’re hunting for treasure – in old landfill sites | The Conversation
Old landfills do have valuable waste, the most obvious being processed metals, glass and electronics. Indeed, junk electronic goods such as old TVs or computers typically have higher concentrations of gold and rare earth elements per tonne than are found naturally in ore. A 2014 United Nations University report stated that each year more than 300 tonnes of processed gold are dumped in landfills – that’s 10% of the total amount mined worldwide.

Politics and Society

Survey reveals 70% of Americans favour the environment over economic growth | Climate Action Programme
USA – A survey, produced by Yale, has revealed that Americans are interested in the protection of the environment. The climate opinion map, published earlier this month, depicts estimates of the percentage of Americans, aged 25 and over, who have particular beliefs, attitudes and policy preferences on global warming. The information comes from a large national survey dataset of 22,000 people which was collected between 2008 and 2018. Notably, it reports that 70 per cent of Americans think the protection of the environment is more important than economic growth.

Will Daniel Andrews and Matthew Guy seize the opportunity to act on climate? | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – Victoria will go to the polls in less than three months. The outcome of the 2018 state election will have big implications for tackling climate change and rolling out renewable energy. Given that pundits are saying it will be a “knife edge” election, every vote matters. And the policies Labor and the Coalition take to the election on climate change could decide who forms government.


Myths of baseload and intermittent energy: It’s not what you think | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – Over the next few months, with the right wing shift in the federal Coalition government, and state and federal elections afoot, expect to hear a lot about “baseload” and “intermittent” generation. It will be the core of the conservative push for more fossil fuel generation, particularly coal. They argue that because “coal” is “baseload”, it must therefore be “reliable”. And wind and solar are intermittent, so they cannot be relied upon to keep the lights on. It’s political rhetoric that belies the reality of the electricity system, the biggest and most complex machine in the country. Australia’s grid has challenges, but they are not necessarily ones that can be solved just by having more “baseload”.

New solar cells offer you the chance to print out solar panels and stick them on your roof | The Conversation
Australia’s first commercial installation of printed solar cells, made using specialised semiconducting inks and printed using a conventional reel-to-reel printer, has been installed on a factory roof in Newcastle. The 200 square metre array was installed in just one day by a team of five people. No other energy solution is as lightweight, as quick to manufacture, or as easy to install on this scale.

This roof in Newcastle has become the first in Australia to be covered with specially printed solar cells. University of Newcastle, Author provided

This roof in Newcastle has become the first in Australia to be covered with specially printed solar cells. University of Newcastle, Author provided

California moves towards 100% carbon-free electricity after landmark vote | The Guardian
USA – California has given fossil fuel-derived energy a hefty shove towards obsolescence after legislators voted to require that 100% of the state’s electricity come from carbon-free sources. The bill, which will need to be approved by the state senate and Governor Jerry Brown, will require a complete shift to clean energy such as solar and wind by 2045.

US oil giant Exxon looks to renewable energy in Texas | One Step Off The Grid
USA – ExxonMobil, one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies, is reportedly looking to buy renewable energy for delivery in Texas. According to Bloomberg citing “people familiar with the matter” ExxonMobil sent out a request for proposals earlier this year with a June 8 deadline, inviting solar and wind power suppliers to pitch Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) contracts ranging from 12, 15, or 20 years.

Built Environment

Our new PM wants to ‘bust congestion’ – here are four ways he could do that | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – Road congestion is costing Australia more than an avoidable A$16 billion every year. This is set to almost double to A$30 billion by 2030. That’s why we have a new minister for cities and urban infrastructure, Alan Tudge, who says he’s looking forward to “congestion busting”… Building more roads is not a long-term solution to solving congestion. Most new roads, and the temporary de-congestion they may bring, simply lure more people into their cars. Eventually congestion increases, except now with more cars on the road, further exacerbating the original problem. Here are four alternative measures to “bust” congestion and improve our overall quality of life.

Food Systems

Climate change making drought worse, farmers’ federation chief says | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – The president of the National Farmers’ Federation, Fiona Simson, has declared that climate change is making drought worse in Australia and says tiptoeing around the subject does not do regional communities any good. “It is the effect of climate change we need to be aware of that makes the impacts of a drought even worse,” she told the National Press Club. “As a community, we want to talk about it and the more discussions we have about and the more open people are in talking about it, then the less uncomfortable it becomes.