Sustainable Development News

Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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Energy and Climate Change

Poor nations go for solar, wind at twice the rate of rich ones
Emerging markets are installing renewable energy projects at almost twice the rate of developed nations, a report concluded. A study of 55 nations — including China, Brazil, South Africa, Uruguay and Kenya — found that they’ve installed a combined 142 gigawatts from 2008 to 2013. The 143 per cent growth in renewables in those markets compares with an 84 per cent rate in wealthier nations, which installed 213 megawatts, according to a report released today by Climatescope. The boom in renewables is often made for economic reasons, Ethan Zindler, a Washington-based Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst, said in an interview.

EU on Track to Meet 2020 Climate Goals
European Union greenhouse gas emissions fell almost 2 percent between 2012 and 2013, putting the EU very close to its 2020 reduction target, according to analysis from the European Environment Agency. The EU is also on track to meet two other targets to boost renewable energy and energy efficiency by 2020.

Report: Climate Change Increasing Conflict Risk in 32 Countries
Climate change vulnerability and food insecurity is increasing the risks of conflict and civil unrest in 32 countries, including the emerging markets of Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria and the Philippines, according to a report by global risk analytics company Maplecroft. These risks in a country have the potential to destabilize regional security, hurt national economies and impact the operations and supply chains of business.

Environment and Biodiversity

Bird Embryos Can Discern Between Calls—a First in Nature
We’re not the only species that can recognize voices in the womb: Inside the egg, tiny songbirds called superb fairy wrens can discriminate sounds from different birds of their own species, a new study reveals. The embryos pay attention to surrounding noises and can tell if they are listening to calls from a fairy wren they haven’t heard before, according to the study published October 28 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The findings represent the first time a species other than humans has been shown to distinguish between individuals in utero. This remarkable ability allows growing embryos to learn a “password” from their mother, which they then use to beg for food upon hatching.

Giant tortoise makes ‘miraculous’ stable recovery
Where once there were 15, now more than 1,000 giant tortoises lumber around Espanola, one of the Galapagos Islands. After 40 years’ work reintroducing captive animals, a detailed study of the island’s ecosystem has confirmed it has a stable, breeding population. Numbers had dwindled drastically by the 1960s, but now the danger of extinction on Espanola appears to have passed. Galapagos tortoises, of which there are 11 remaining subspecies, weigh up to 250kg and live longer than 100 years. The study, based on decades of observations of the variety found on Espanola, was published in the journal Plos One.

Having a whale of a time (Video)
Three orca whales seem to be trying to rid the species of the “killer whale” tag by frolicking playfully with a pod of dolphins. Orcas are known by their killer name because they often devour dolphins – despite being a species of dolphins themselves. However, one female orca and her two calves were spotted in Akaroa, near Christchurch [New Zealand], yesterday playing with a pod of Hector’s dolphins. The action was caught on camera by a person on a Black Cat Cruise. Cruise skipper Julian Yates said it was rare to see orcas in the same water as a pod of Hector’s dolphins, let alone playing with them.

The plan to save the Great Barrier Reef is destined to fail unless…
The Great Barrier Reef is in trouble, and a draft government plan to ensure its survival does not go far enough. A number of submissions including those from the Australian Academy of Science and Environmental Defender’s Office argue that the Australian and Queensland governments’ Reef 2050 Long-term Sustainability Plan fails to provide the necessary long-term protection of the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). Earlier this year a report from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority found that, since 2009, the outlook for the Great Barrier Reef is poor, has worsened over the past five years, and is expected to further deteriorate in the future. Here’s ten ways the draft plan needs to be improved, to ensure the long-term survival of the Great Barrier Reef.

Abbot Point: study on dumping of spoil in wetlands not required, Hunt says
The federal government has waived the need for a full environmental impact study into the dumping of dredging spoil onto sensitive wetlands under the plan to expand the Abbot Point coal port in Queensland. The federal environment minister, Greg Hunt, has agreed to a request by Queensland’s deputy premier, Jeff Seeney, to assess the controversial project using only paperwork from a discredited original plan to dump spoil in Great Barrier Reef waters. The Australian Greens and environmental groups accused Hunt of bowing to pressure to fast-track the project while ignoring its effect on the internationally significant Caley Valley wetlands.

UN urges salt-damage solution to reduce threat to crops
About 2,000 hectares of fertile land are lost each day due to damage caused by salt, according to a UN analysis. The total area now affected is equivalent to the size of France – 62 million hectares – which has increased from 45 million 20 years ago. Salt degrAdation occurs in areas of dry irrigated land with little rainfall and where there is no natural drainage. The report is published in UN journal Natural Resources Forum. It suggests tree planting, deep ploughing and the production of salt-tolerant crops. It also proposes digging drains or ditches around the affected land.

Illegal Med fishing claims up to two tons of swordfish per boat per day
A rampant lack of controls is allowing fishing boats in the Mediterranean to illegally pluck huge quantities of swordfish from waters off the Italian coast, according to an internal report by EU fishery inspectors. One boat can catch up to two tons of swordfish per day. The detailed investigation, conducted in March last year and obtained under a freedom of information request, found poor enforcement of fishing season closures by local authorities in southern Italy, with very few landing inspections of the active fleet.

All aboard ocean warrior ship
Environmental group Sea Shepherd is heading to the Southern Ocean to combat toothfish piracy. But first it’s offering people a free tour of its boat at Princes Wharf [New Zealand]. The Sam Simon will be at the wharf until November 10 while its crew prepares for this year’s campaign and does a bit of publicity work. The first part of the group’s trip will involve monitoring Japanese ships to make sure they abide by the International Court of Justice ruling, New Zealand director Michael Lawry said. The group will then focus on the main purpose for its voyage – Operation Icefish. “It will target the six or seven vessels believed to be illegally catching the Patagonian and Antarctic toothfish in the area,” Lawry said.

Economy and Business

Australia divestment war shows investment is now the main climate change battleground
In response to the fossil fuel free divestment campaign, the pride of the Australian education system, the Australian National University (ANU), finally caved to pressure and decided to engage the services of a socially responsible investment analyst firm to look at climate change issues.  As a result of this analysis, ANU declared that it was divesting in a few carbon exposed companies. Nothing new in this, many organisations have done the same, but what quickly ensued was an extraordinary series of high-powered public clashes that could be a taste of things to come in other countries’ backyards.

Less CO2, More Profit? Absolutely!
I find it difficult to believe that even in this day and age that companies still need to be provided with incentives to ensure that they are operating in a carbon-friendly manner. If your moral compass isn’t guiding you, then the driver should at least be to ensure your organizations’ business continuity and profitability.

Bank of England raises climate change concerns with insurers
The Bank of England has written to 30 large insurers to raise concerns and ask the companies whether climate change poses a material risk to the sector and how the phenomenon could affect their business models. The letter, which has been seen by the Financial Times, asks insurers if they knew when the effects of climate change, such as rising temperatures and more extreme weather event, could start affecting “the viability of your business model”.

10 sustainable innovations: from solar-powered suitcases to floating classrooms
The 2014 Sustainia Awards, chaired by Arnold Schwarzenegger, attracted more than 900 submissions for projects and technologies representing 10 different sectors from food, fashion and, city development to transportation and healthcare. Collectively, these projects are deployed in more than 84 countries. The runners up for the award are showcased here and the winner will be announced in Copenhagen on Thursday 30 October.

BBC, ITV and Sky get green kick up the arts with new sustainability mark
While it might be tricky for audiences to grasp the impact of media production, one study estimated that the combined carbon footprint of the information, communication and technology sector – of which TV and film is a part – at 2% of global emissions, the same as the heavily-criticised aviation industry. Time for a green kick up the arts? A production with an albert+ logo has addressed mandatory challenges: programme teams must divert waste from landfill, engage senior leaders and address energy efficiency.

Politics and Society

Direct Action: Clive Palmer and crossbenchers reach deal with Greg Hunt
Tony Abbott has left open the possibility of a return to emissions trading in a trade-off for the Palmer United Party’s support for his controversial Direct Action climate policy. A deal was struck late on Wednesday afternoon after protracted negotiations and represents a major symbolic concession by the Prime Minister, who once swore a blood oath to repeal the carbon tax and never again have a price on carbon. Under the agreement, the government has backflipped on a promise to abolish the Climate Change Authority and will instead fund the body to undertake an 18 month inquiry into the effectiveness of emissions trading programs around the world.

Built Environment

Wells Fargo Launches $10M Clean Tech Startup Fund
Wells Fargo has launched a $10 million environmental grant for clean technology startups. The Innovation Incubator (IN2) program, funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation and co-administered by the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, aims to foster the development of early stage clean technologies for commercial buildings. Wells Fargo says the program is the first of its kind within the banking industry.


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