Dedicated to finding a path to sustainable development

Tuesday 31 October 2017

Sustainable Development News

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

New data gives hope for meeting the Paris climate targets
Over the past half-century, growth in the global economy and carbon pollution have been tied together. When the global economy has been strong, we’ve consumed more energy, which has translated into burning more fossil fuels and releasing more carbon pollution. But over the past four years, economic growth and carbon dioxide emissions have been decoupled.

Climate Change and Energy

Gupta-owned Zen Energy plans 1GW solar and storage in South Australia
UK billionaire Sanjeev Gupta has moved quickly to leverage his new investment in Australian renewable energy and storage company Zen Energy, announcing plans for 1GW of “dispatchable” renewable generation in South Australia.

Record surge in atmospheric CO2 seen in 2016
Concentrations of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere surged to a record high in 2016, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).  Last year’s increase was 50% higher than the average of the past 10 years.  Researchers say a combination of human activities and the El Niño weather phenomenon drove CO2 to a level not seen in 800,000 years.
See also: Global atmospheric CO2 levels hit record high 

We Are Still In coalition outlines its COP23 plans
USA – The We Are Still movement is a coalition that was set up days after US President Trump announced his decision to pull the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement and at that time it comprised of approximately 1,300 Mayors, Governors, State Attorneys, businesses, investors and other prominent climate actors. Now, the coalition has doubled in size as it has collected more than 2,500 signatories representing $6.2 trillion of the US economy and more than 130 million Americans, i.e. approximately 40 percent of the US population.

NZ climate change policy to align with Pacific aspirations
New Zealand’s climate change minister James Shaw says he believes planned legislation will lower New Zealand’s emissions to support targets sought by Pacific Island countries… Mr Shaw said the new New Zealand government intended to pass a so-called Zero-Carbon Act to help curb global warming. “In relation to the Pacific’s goal of a one-and-a-half degree limit to temperature rises, we believe by New Zealand becoming carbon neutral by 2050 is a goal that is consistent with the Pacific’s ambitions,” said Mr Shaw.

Canadian province Manitoba publishes its Climate and Green Plan
On Friday, Manitoba’s Government published its proposed Climate and Green Plan outlining its 2018-2022 strategy to fight climate change, including a contentious carbon pricing policy at $25 per tonne.

Environment and Biodiversity

Eight reasons not to be spooked by spiders this Halloween
Spiders are a traditional part of a Halloween scare and for some people they have been a source of fear for years. But in reality, spiders deserve to instil a sense of amazement, not fear.  Spiders have amazing survival strategies, beautiful colour displays, complex social interactions, and play important roles in our ecosystems.  Here are eight reasons (one for each leg… or eye!) to love, not hate spiders.

Jumping spiders are particularly good at catching large pests like flies. Jim Mclean, Author provided

Jumping spiders are particularly good at catching large pests like flies. Jim Mclean, Author provided

Galapagos species are threatened by the very tourists who flock to see them
Native species are particularly vulnerable on islands, because when invaders such as rats arrive, the native species have nowhere else to go and may lack the ability to fend them off. The main characteristic of an island is its isolation… However, islands, despite being geographically isolated, are now part of a network. They are globally connected to the outside world by planes, boats and people. Their isolation has been breached, offering a pathway for introduced species to invade. The Galapagos Islands, 1,000km off the coast of Ecuador, provide a great example… More than 1,500 introduced species have been recorded on the Galapagos Islands, and most have arrived since the archipelago’s tourism industry was expanded in the 1970s.

Group wants Taupo pest free by 2050
NEW ZEALAND – Taupō residents are being armed and trained in the war against rats, stoats and possums. A new group called Predator Free Taupō is turning ordinary households into rat catchers as it pursues its goal of making the area free of exotic predators by 2050. The group aims to get every household in the greater Taupō area trapping things like rats, mustelids and possums.

Orange-bellied parrot survival boosted with arrival of second wild female
An early call has been made that the endangered orange-bellied parrot’s future is secure for another year. A second wild female bird has been found at Melaleuca in Tasmania’s wild south-west, taking the total to 12 males and two females. The birds migrate from Victoria and South Australia to the Tasmanian breeding ground each year.

India’s Wildlife Trafficking Epidemic
INDIA – No sooner had India wrapped up celebrations of its annual “Wildlife Week” (October 2-8) — spotlighting the richness and diversity of its flora and fauna — than the sensational conviction of a notorious group of Indian wildlife traffickers grabbed headlines. The gang was involved in smuggling the body parts of 125 tigers and 1,200 leopards. But what had animal activists up in arms was the disproportionately small punishment (four years in jail) meted out to the criminals compared to the magnitude of the crime they had committed.

Economy and Business

Funding Sydney: Where’s the value capture?
AUSTRALIA – There is one missing ingredient that needs to be resolved before this new plan can be successfully implemented. That is a proper “value capture” mechanism to help finance the infrastructure we will need to ensure a city of eight million people is as liveable, if not more so, than the current city. While such a mechanism is alluded to in the GSC plan and clearly supported by it, it is not defined yet or agreed by the NSW government. The need for this mechanism is in our view urgent. Why?

Fiji issues first developing country sovereign green bond of $50 million for climate resilience
Fiji has become the first emerging market to issue a sovereign green bond after it raised 100 million Fijian dollars to finance climate mitigation and adaptation projects.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Looking for a Circular Packaging Solution? Meet RePack
Maybe you remember visiting a post office to pick up one of your online purchases and seeing the hundreds, even thousands, of packages going to other shoppers — to be used once and thrown away. Sure, online purchases need to be individually labelled and protected for transport, so some form of packaging is necessary. But shouldn’t we as environmentally conscious purchasers have a say in how our goods are packaged? And shouldn’t sustainably minded brands be able to offer their customers a choice in this matter? Because surely shoppers and brands would choose a returnable, recyclable package for transporting online purchases — especially if it made economic sense.

Politics and Society

Anti-Adani protesters target Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk
AUSTRALIA – Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says she wondered if an Adani protester was going to crash tackle her during a live television cross. The Labor Premier has again been targeted by opponents of Adani’s new mega coal mine in central Queensland, a day after they gatecrashed her opening election campaign address on Sunday.
Ed: This article implies environmental groups are the main opposition to the Carmichael coal mine.  I feel this is misrepresentative.  Although this is the article’s wording, if you feel the same I would encourage you, wherever you live, to write to the Queensland Premier and tell her that you are opposed to coal fired power generation as an individual, not as part of a green group. Too many times it’s easier to add your voice to a petition, you can have more impact by contacting the Premier here.

Is Sustainable Development Along the Mekong Possible?
The latest Greater Mekong Forum on Water, Food and Energy took place from October 25-27 in Yangon, Myanmar… Noticeably, however, the Forum is oriented toward dialogue, listening, and deliberation; no concrete, binding conclusions or recommendations regarding management of the Mekong River were expected as a result of the Forum. This situation demonstrates once again the impossibility of “hard” talk when it comes to the equal and responsible distribution of benefits from the Mekong River.

An AI professor explains: three concerns about granting citizenship to robot Sophia
I was surprised to hear that a robot named Sophia was granted citizenship by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia… One of the most honourable concepts for a human being, to be a citizen and all that brings with it, has been given to a machine. As a professor who works daily on making AI and autonomous systems more trustworthy, I don’t believe human society is ready yet for citizen robots.
Related: The ethics of human robots: Sam Jinks brings an artist’s perspective to the discourse

Built Environment

NZ’s growing population a concern for growers and farmers
NEW ZEALAND – Bayley’s Realty Group said in some areas the re-zoning of land from rural to country style living is tripling the value of land typically used for horticulture. This then questions the economics of using the land for food.

Electric cars could be subsidised in Canberra; free parking, tax breaks proposed
AUSTRALIA – A senior bureaucrat in the ACT has suggested offering free parking and use of transit lanes to drivers who make the switch to electric cars, in an attempt to bolster battery-powered autos. ACT Environment Commissioner Kate Auty co-authored a report proposing incentives for drivers looking to make the switch to electric.

Food Systems

Cows are loving, intelligent and kind – so should we still eat them?
Rosamund Young, farmer and author of The Secret Life of Cows, says she is really a ‘ghostwriter’ for her herd, with a mission to explain how they play games, babysit and even judge us. But that doesn’t mean she’s a vegetarian…

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