Sustainable Development News

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

Circular economy inspires young people to change the world
“So many of my classmates and other friends say ‘I want to change the world’. The amazing thing is that most of us believe we can.” Max Hornick, a 26-year-old student at Western Michigan University, is reflecting on how the circular economy is inspiring young people to work for the social good. Together with a team of four other students at WMU, Hornick recently won the 2015 Wege Prize for sustainable thinking with Local Loop Farms, an aquaponics food production concept that has since evolved into a community agricultural start-up.

Energy and Climate Change

What does the Dutch court ruling on climate targets mean for Australia?
In a landmark ruling, The Hague District Court has ordered the Netherlands government to take more action to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The verdict is a victory for Urgenda, the non-profit that brought the case against the government. The decision will see Dutch emissions fall by at least 25% by 2020 relative to 1990 levels, rather than the previous 14-17% target. This is the first successful climate change action founded in tort law and the first time a court has determined the appropriate emissions-reduction target for a state, based on the duty of care owed to its people. Could such a case be brought in Australia? And what are the broader implications for Australia in how it positions itself on climate change?

Unprecedented alliance of peak bodies pressures PM over climate change
Some of the nation’s peak business and lobby organisations are calling on the Abbott government to dramatically ramp up Australia’s emissions reduction commitments from 2020 onwards, warning against “piecemeal” policies and arguing that avoiding dangerous warming and reconfiguring the economy requires tougher and more urgent action than politicians have allowed. In a development designed to obliterate right-left and business-environmental divides, an unprecedented alliance of industry bodies, energy suppliers, climate activists, and the welfare lobby has formed, hoping to overcome Australia’s polarised political stand-off on climate.

New analysis: Australia can halve emissions by 2030
Australia can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 50% below 2005 levels by 2030, according to analysis by ClimateWorks. The federal government is currently considering what Australia’s post-2020 emissions target should be, and is expected to announce its decision in the coming weeks. Many other countries have already announced their pledges, and various groups in Australia have called on the government to commit to a strong target. Building on our Pathways to Deep Decarbonisation in 2050 project, our analysis shows that we can strongly reduce emissions using existing technology and while still growing the economy.

US supreme court strikes down Obama’s EPA limits on air pollution
The US supreme court struck down new rules for America’s biggest air polluters on Monday, dealing a blow to the Obama administration’s efforts to set limits on the amount of mercury, arsenic and other toxins coal-fired power plants can spew into the air, lakes and rivers… But the EPA pointed out that most plants had already either complied or made plans to comply with the ruling.

Economy and Business

A seven step guide to net positive
Here’s what we learned about the ambitious sustainability concept when experts joined us to take your questions

The carbon tax wasn’t a ‘slug’ to the economy and Direct Action may be a waste of money
Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt, writing in the Fairfax opinion pages, has said that the now abolished carbon tax was a far more expensive way to reduce Australia’s carbon emissions than the Direct Action policy that replaced it. He writes: The carbon tax was a A$15.4 billion slug on the Australian economy – that works out at a cost of just over $1,300 a tonne for the emissions reduced… Measuring the cost of a tax on overall economic activity is not the same as measuring how much revenue was collected — not least because the revenue raised could be used elsewhere in the economy to provide infrastructure or mitigate against climate change.

Waiting for the waters to recede
NEW ZEALAND – It’s a waiting game for farmers who still have hundreds of hectares of pasture languishing under receding floodwater. The contract milkers on a dairy farm west of Palmerston North still have no access to the farm’s back paddocks and one whole side of the farm is still under water. Owner Bryan Hockley’s farm is a low-lying area called the Tanui Basin near the Oroua River. It received 165mm of rain in two days and three days later he still had 70 hectares of his 160ha farm under about one metre of water.

Veges in Manawatu-Horowhenua take a hammering from rain
Horowhenua and Manawatu vegetable growers have been hammered by bad weather for the second month in a row. Many crops have been completely wiped out and it will take time before they can be replanted in fields which are still under water. Woodhaven Garden grower John Clarke, based in Levin, said it was “pretty messy”. “A lot of the top soil has been washed away and a lot of crops have been badly affected by silt. You would have thought a river runs through the property even though it doesn’t,” Clarke said.

Politics and Society

Climate change? Yeah, nah
New Zealand has one of the highest rates of climate change scepticism in the developed world, a study has revealed. Surprisingly, we have more sceptics per capita than in the US, where large numbers of right-wing media and politicians refuse to accept climate change is man-made. A new paper from the University of Tasmania, called Scepticism in a changing climate: a cross-national study, found 13 per cent of New Zealanders were climate change sceptics. It was third only to Norway (15 per cent) and Australia (17 per cent). The United States came in at 12 per cent.

Climate marchers gather to show strong support for Pope
When Pope Francis appeared on the balcony of the Apostolic Palace, where he delivers an address each Sunday, he was met by the usual cheers and by an unusual forest of bright green oversized paper leaves. Had he been able to read what was written on the leaves – which he couldn’t because he was too far away – the pope would have found quotes from “Laudato Si’,” or “Praise be to You,” his encyclical on the environment published this month. The leaves were among the colourful props accompanying a hodgepodge of organisations – mostly religious or environmental – that marched to the Vatican on Sunday to thank the pope for his forceful message on climate change, and to demand that world leaders heed his call for environmental justice and climate action.

Obama to Attenborough: ‘We’re not moving fast enough on climate change’
US President Barack Obama has admitted to Sir David Attenborough that the US is “not moving as fast as we need to” in its efforts to tackle climate change.  In a TV interview aired on Sunday night, broadcaster and naturalist Attenborough questioned Obama’s environmental record after six and a half years in office, suggesting the US should attack climate change with the same zeal as it attacked putting a man on the moon.

Built Environment

If everyone lived in an ‘ecovillage’, the Earth would still be in trouble
We are used to hearing that if everyone lived in the same way as North Americans or Australians, we would need four or five planet Earths to sustain us. This sort of analysis is known as the “ecological footprint” and shows that even the so-called “green” western European nations, with their more progressive approaches to renewable energy, energy efficiency and public transport, would require more than three planets. How can we live within the means of our planet? When we delve seriously into this question it becomes clear that almost all environmental literature grossly underestimates what is needed for our civilisation to become sustainable. Only the brave should read on.


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