Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Energy and Climate Change

No Globe, by Dorothy. Photograph: Do The Green Thing

No Globe, by Dorothy. Photograph: Do The Green Thing

Earth Hour: Lights on landmarks around the world switch off for climate change campaign
The Empire State Building dimmed its lights and the Eiffel Tower went dark Saturday as iconic landmarks across the world observed Earth Hour, the global climate change awareness campaign. The usually glittering night-time majesty of the Empire State Building was set to “faint sparkle” in New York, while theatres on Broadway also toned down the neon.  In Paris, the Eiffel Tower went black for only five minutes — due to security reasons — while nearly 300 other monuments in the City of Light also switched off their lights. This year’s Earth Hour comes as the French capital prepares to host a crucial UN climate conference in December that will bring together the international community to discuss efforts to limit global warming.

Artists get creative against climate change for Earth HourAhead of [last] weekend’s Earth Hour, Do The Green Thing has asked artists and designers to take everyday objects and turn them into messages to live more sustainably.“There’s something very serene about the picture perfect scenes and tiny worlds encased in traditional snow globes. On closer inspection the No Globe with its brightly lit village fed by the neighbouring coal-fired power station belching out carbon dioxide and pollutants presents an unsettling, almost apocalyptic view of this idyll. When you reach for that light switch remember, the future isn’t necessarily bright.”

Federal government commits to global accord on climate
The Abbott government has committed Australia to joining the next big global climate pact. The global accord is to be agreed in Paris in December. Countries are announcing their carbon targets to take effect from 2020, with the US pledge expected next week. “A strong and effective global agreement, that addresses carbon leakage and delivers environmental benefit, is in Australia’s national interest,” states an issues paper to be published today by the Prime Minister’s Department. The paper sets to rest the fear among environmentalists that the Abbott government would be overrun by climate sceptics and refuse to consider further cuts to carbon output. It says Australia will announce its post-2020 targets by midyear.  However, the paper makes no explicit mention of the international commitment to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.

Norway delivers climate pledge to UN ahead of Paris summit
Norway has submitted its pledge to cut greenhouse gas levels 40% on 1990 levels by 2030 to the UN, ahead of a proposed global agreement scheduled to be signed off in December. The official commitment, published on the UN climate body’s website, was agreed by lawmakers in Norway’s parliament earlier this week, together with plans for a climate law by 2017.

Mexico pledges 25% cut in greenhouse gas emissions
Mexico became the first developing nation to formally promise to cut its global-warming pollution, a potential milestone in efforts to reach a worldwide agreement on tackling climate change. Mexico’s greenhouse-gas emissions will peak in 2026 and fall thereafter, Environment Minister Juan Jose Guerra Abud said at a news conference in Mexico City Friday. The nation has pledged to curb the growth of emissions 25 per cent from its current trajectory by 2030.

Solar panels on your roof for free
NEW ZEALAND – The equation for going solar is getting simpler. Meridian’s unilateral decision to cut the amount it pays customers for power going back into the grid may seem a disincentive for local renewable energy. But it’s a new calculation when the solar firms own and maintain the equipment and the customer buys the power cheaper than they could get it from the grid.  That’s the deal Nelson-headquartered solarcity is pushing into the Auckland market as its solarZero package, and other firms are looking at similar offerings It’s a model that has worked with great success for the other Solar City, the United States business with over 40,000 customers.

Antarctic ice shelves thinning more rapidly than scientists thought, research published in Science shows
New research shows Antarctic ice shelves thinned rapidly in the last decade and much faster than scientists had thought. The study, published in the journal Science, looked at satellite data dating back to 1994 and found that some Antarctic ice shelves had melted by almost 20 per cent. Scientists said it was important long-term research that further confirmed the erosion of the West Antarctic shelves. One of study’s authors, Laurence Padman, a senior scientist at Earth and Space Research in Oregon, said the data was gathered from satellites operated by the European Space Agency.

Fossil Fuel Divestment

Rockefeller Brothers Fund: it is our moral duty to divest from fossil fuels
On a perfect summer day in June 2014, on the grounds of a stately home overlooking the Hudson river, a handful of the descendants of America’s most enduring business dynasty made a fateful decision: they would cut their ties to fossil fuels in order to fight climate change. The ironies were inescapable. About half of those gathered for the board meeting were direct descendants of John D Rockefeller – founder of the oil empire that eventually became ExxonMobil – and here they were, gathered in the estate he built at Pocantico Hills, New York, surrounded by a collection of antique gas guzzlers and limousines, preparing to take a highly symbolic stand against fossil fuels.

United Reformed Church of Scotland divests from fossil fuels
The United Reformed Church (URC) of Scotland has committed to pull out its investments in fossil fuel companies.  The resolution was passed with “overwhelming support” on Saturday at a meeting of their General Synod at the Scottish Police College in Fife. The synod contains 50 churches and is one of 13 synods representing 60,000 members in the URC in Great Britain.

Environment and Biodiversity

Study vindicates the benefits of no-fishing zones on the Great Barrier Reef
Fishing is a major threat to the future health of the Great Barrier Reef, with many species of fish and other wildlife suffering substantial depletion. One solution is closing parts of the marine park to fishing: so-called “no take zones”. But there’s debate around whether these really work. However research published today in Current Biology suggests these areas, implemented just over a decade ago, really do help to conserve fish species.

National Parks Act as Living Laboratories
BERKELEY, California—The national parks weren’t established with science in mind. When the National Park Service was founded in 1916, it was charged with the mission to “conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife … in such a way as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” But some scientists—notably Berkeley biologists Joseph Grinnell and Tracy Storer—realized early on that preserving the parks “unimpaired” required understanding them. “Without a scientific investigation,” they wrote in an article in Science in 1916, “no thorough understanding of the conditions or of the practical problems they involve is possible.”

Global coral reef survey highlights climate threat
A crack team of marine scientists is turning its attention to the Maldives in the most ambitious ever global survey of coral reefs. The Catlin Seaview Survey will provide a baseline against which to measure the impact of climate change on these diverse and sensitive ecosystems. For the low-lying Maldives, the reefs form a critical natural barrier against storm surges and a draw for tourists, an important source of income.

Kokako chasers head into Marsden Valley hills
NEW ZEALAND – A surveillance exercise starting next week will try to find out if the elusive South Island kokako, the “Grey Ghost”, might have survived in the Marsden Valley hills. The shy orange-wattled bird was thought to be extinct for many years but in 2012 after reported sightings near Reefton in 2007 were investigated it was reclassified as “data deficient”. The last accepted sighting before that was in 1967. Then last year a Nelson businessman came forward to say he’d got a long look at a strange, long-tailed, “bluey-grey” bird in Marsden Valley, behind the Nelson suburb of Stoke, while out walking his dog.

Economy and Business

Wouldn’t it be better to say that your business has purpose?
Grappling with the burning environmental issues of climate change, resource scarcity, poverty and population growth, it’s easy to feel powerless. However, one approach gaining popularity in the world of sustainability is systems thinking. This looks at systems in their entirety and seeks holistic remedies, rather than concentrating on discrete problems. It is an approach that businesses are beginning to embrace as they look to transform their organisations and embed environmental and ethical practices into their everyday activities. It requires businesses to change their corporate purpose. But where do they start?

#BusinessCase: SABMiller, UPS Among Companies Scoring Triple Advantages from Socially Responsible Supply Chains
A new report from the World Economic Forum identifies 31 proven practices to help companies achieve a triple advantage of increased revenue, a reduction in supply chain cost and added brand value. The practices also help companies shrink their carbon footprint and contribute to local development, including the health, welfare and working conditions of the communities in which they operate. The report, written in collaboration with Accenture, outlines 31 practices that can help companies realize the “triple supply chain advantages” identified through interviews with 25 corporations — including Nestlé, SABMiller, Unilever and UPS — non-government organizations and other sustainability experts.

Graphene light bulb set for shops
A light bulb made with graphene – said by its UK developers to be the first commercially viable consumer product using the super-strong carbon – is to go on sale later this year. The dimmable bulb contains a filament-shaped LED coated in graphene. It was designed at Manchester University, where the material was discovered. It is said to cut energy use by 10% and last longer owing to its conductivity. The National Graphene Institute at the university was opened this month. The light bulb was developed by a Canadian-financed company called Graphene Lighting – one of whose directors is Prof Colin Bailey, deputy vice-chancellor at the University of Manchester. It is expected to be priced lower than some LED bulbs, which can cost about £15 each.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Hobart woman gives new life to old leather by recycling items into handbags
A Hobart woman is breathing new life into leather items dumped at tip shops, by making a range of unique recycled handbags. Kate Louise has been recycling leather objects for four years in creative ways that involve using items such as leather jackets, footballs, speedometers, belts and even couches. Ms Louise told 936 ABC Hobart’s Helen Shield that her day job involved looking at a screen all day, with the recycled handbags very much an enjoyable hobby. “I’ve recycled quite a lot of jackets – motorcycle jackets, dress jackets, and so that was my preparation for this [next] challenge,” Ms Louise said.

Zero waste: is it desirable or achievable?
What is the holy grail of sustainability? With the circular economy on the tip of everyone’s tongue, from local authorities to research groups and business, is the ultimate ambition sending nothing to landfill? A variety of businesses have managed to do it. Unilever announced in January that it had achieved zero non-hazardous waste to landfill across its global factory network and Dupont’s Business Innovations unit went from sending 36,700 tonnes of waste to landfill annually to zero. It’s something being discussed in the fashion industry and there a regular awards for companies who have reached the milestone.  But is it a realistic target to shoot for?  Join [The Guardian] on 1 April from 1-2pm BST for a discussion on whether zero waste targets are achievable and/or desirable.

Politics and Society

‘Freedom Seal’ Certifies Companies Committed to a World Free from Slavery
We have covered many ethical certifications here at TriplePundit, but one that should especially resonate with businesses and consumers is the Freedom Seal. Launched on Wednesday by the anti-human trafficking and slavery NGO Tronie Foundation, the Freedom Seal is the culmination of the organization’s 15-year quest to stop slavery while advocating for survivors of human trafficking across the world. Rani Hong, who was sold as a slave in India at the age of 7, heads the Tronie Foundation, which she co-founded with her husband, Trong Hong, who himself was recruited as a child soldier in Vietnam when he was 9 years old. By eliminating the demand for goods and services produced with slave labor, the Tronie Foundation aims to end slave trade, which continues to fester on all of the world’s continents.

The U.S. Cities With The Biggest Gaps Between Rich And Poor
The most unequal places in America continue to be the biggest, most successful cities. And not surprisingly. There’s inevitability to inequality in New York and Boston, where people go to make large amounts of money. But what’s worrisome is how the gaps are growing. Between 2007 and 2013, the rich-poor gulf widened in 21 of America’s largest 50 cities, according to a Brookings Institution analysis.

Food Systems

The chocolate companies on the hunt for a sustainable Easter egg
For the ethical shopper, hunting for chocolate Easter eggs has always been a challenge. But thanks to new labelling laws and a dramatic sea change in manufacturers’ attitudes, palm oil may be one area where life is now much easier for anyone after conscientious confectionery. From 13 December last year, new EU laws made it mandatory for palm oil to be declared on product labelling and not hidden as generic vegetable oils, meaning those keen to avoid it no longer need to play detective. But with certified palm oil now the norm in the majority of UK chocolate, that wariness may no longer be warranted.

Humble home garden, local producers celebrated at Canberra’s seventh annual Harvest Festival
The humble fruit and veggie garden — complete with compost heap and chook run — is currently seeing a resurgence in popularity in Canberra, according to the organisers of the annual Harvest Festival. Harvest Festival’s Bess Kenway said the event had grown from small beginnings. It now encompasses everything from fresh fruit juice and mead to homemade cheese and workshops on how to establishing your own suburban chook run, and Ms Kenway said it was also a celebration of community. “I think it’s really important … we’re a bit alienated from food production. We don’t really know where it’s come from, how long it’s been stored and how it’s been grown,” she said.

Organic milk push ‘worth wait’
A South Taranaki organic farmer is welcoming Fonterra’s decision to expand its organic milk business. The dairy giant has just announced it’s committed to long-term development of its organic milk supply to meet rising demand. “It’s been frustrating waiting for the outcome, but it was worth the wait,” said Janet Fleming who, with husband Stephen, milks 530 cross-bred cows on two certified organic dairy farms comprising 184 hectares (effective) in the Pihama-Oeo area. Taranaki has 14 organic farmers and she expects a surge in conversions following the announcement of an incentive payment towards certification costs.


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