Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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America spends over $20bn per year on fossil fuel subsidies. Abolish them | Dana Nuccitelli | The Guardian
USA – Imagine that instead of taxing cigarettes, America subsidized the tobacco industry in order to make each pack of smokes cheaper. At a time when we need to transition away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible, the federal and state governments are giving the industry tens of billions of dollars to make the production of their dirty, dangerous products more profitable.

Climate Change and Energy

China Reaffirms Paris Commitments Ahead of Global Climate Action Summit | World Resources Institute
China will adhere to its commitments under the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and is on track to exceed key targets early, despite the U.S. administration’s intention to withdraw from the historic climate pact, a senior Chinese climate expert said.

The National Energy Guarantee is a flagship policy. So why hasn’t the modelling been made public? | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – The Energy Security Board has put numbers at the centre of its NEG proposal, but the basis of these numbers is not clear. With 22 colleagues in 10 other Australian Universities, we are calling for state and territory ministers to ensure that the ESB’s modelling is available for proper scrutiny. I explain here why I support this request.

Major solar, wind projects stumble in front of new grid hurdles | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – The 100MW Numurkah solar farm might be one of the lucky ones. Located in Shepparton, in a part of Victoria with a relatively strong network, construction on the state’s biggest solar farm to date begins this week and the project owners, Neoen, are confident that no major hurdles will be put in place. But that’s not the case for many other wind and solar projects in Victoria and elsewhere. Some, including those that have gotten as far as signing power purchase agreements, are having to go back to the drawing board because of connection requirements the developers either ignored, or didn’t know about.

Wind farm featuring 200m-tall turbines proposed for Kaimai Ranges |
NEW ZEALAND – A consent application has been filed for a 24-turbine wind farm proposed for the northern end of the Kaimai Ranges. The turbines would be at Tirohia, near Paeroa, and the largest would be 207 metres high – with the blade tip standing upright. The country’s next biggest are those at Te Uku, which stand 130m tall to the tip. Kaimai Wind Farm Limited is behind the bid and has applied for resource consent through Hauraki District Council and Waikato Regional Council

Environment and Biodiversity

Starving koalas on Victoria’s Raymond Island a sign of significant food shortage, overpopulation | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Growing numbers of starving koalas are being handed in to wildlife carers on a small island in Victoria’s east. Raymond Island, in the Gippsland Lakes, is home to 250 koalas, but too many koalas, dry conditions and more people living on the island are putting pressure on food availability. Raymond Island Koala and Wildlife Shelter founder Susie Pulis said emaciated koalas were being handed in to her for care on a daily basis, and most died within 24 hours.

Big Butterfly Count 2018 – your best pictures | The Guardian
UK – Naturalists including Sir David Attenborough have been encouraging the public to take part in the largest count of its kind. We asked to see some of the images you took while doing so.

Butterfly by the sea at Broadstairs, Kent. After one of the wettest summers in the last 100 years in 2017, extreme heat in the UK this year means experts are predicting quite different results through participants’ online logs. Photograph: Ailsa McGilp

Butterfly by the sea at Broadstairs, Kent. After one of the wettest summers in the last 100 years in 2017, extreme heat in the UK this year means experts are predicting quite different results through participants’ online logs. Photograph: Ailsa McGilp

Economy and Business

What if the companies that profit from your data had to pay you? | The Conversation
When it comes to digital privacy, there are plenty of organisations making money out of using your data – Google and Facebook are just two examples. But what if you were the one making the money? What if those organisations profiting from your data had to pay you a share of that earning? This idea – raised in a recent article in Quartz – is gaining ground.

Government called on to buy green | newsroom
NEW ZEALAND – The New Zealand Ecolabelling Trust has called on the Government to swiftly develop a state-sector procurement strategy to ensure that products bought by the Government meet minimum sustainability standards. That’s big news from the independent trust that was itself set up by the Government in 2002 and charged with administering the Environmental Choice New Zealand label, which appears on many sustainably-sourced products.

More weather-related EQC claims closer to the coast | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – Researchers have highlighted some of the big costs that have come with weather-related events. They found that those who were wealthier and who lived within a few kilometres of the coast were more likely to lodge claims with the Earthquake Commission (EQC). Their study, published today by Wellington’s Motu Economic and Public Policy Research, analysed more than 25,000 weather-related claims – totalling close to $300m – paid out by the public insurer since the turn of the century

Waste and the Circular Economy

Is technology the secret to cleaning up the oceans? | World Economic Forum
Our oceans are threatened by three major challenges: climate change, overfishing and pollution. Plastic pollution is of growing concern, and has gained international attention from governments, media and large sections of the public, partly fuelled by last year’s BBC documentary Blue Planet II and its images of sperm whales and seabirds entangled or ingesting plastic debris. Despite the attention plastic pollution has received, some scientists think this is the least important of the major marine threats, and that climate change and fisheries need more urgent attention.

Plastic bag sales in England down 86% since 2015 | Climate Action Programme
UK – The sale of plastic bags in England continues its downward trend since the introduction of a 5p charge. New data released on Friday by the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs, shows a decrease of 289 million plastic bags since last reporting in 2016/2017

PFAS levels up to 20 times higher in aviation firefighters, documents reveal | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Aviation firefighters across Australia have been found to have up to 20 times the normal level of toxic chemicals in their blood in testing conducted by Airservices Australia, the ABC can reveal. The test results from 2013 have emerged in documents obtained from the Federal Government under freedom of information (FOI) laws.

Politics and Society

Why school kids need more exposure to the world of work | The Conversation
All students need to experience the world of work, particularly work of the future, long before they leave school, according to a new report out today. The latest Mitchell Institute report, Connecting the worlds of learning and work, says collaborating with industry and the community is vital to better prepare children and young people for future work and life. And governments need to play a leading role to ensure this happens.

Using Data to Address Climate Challenges: 5 Takeaways from Sierra Leone and Tanzania | World Resources Institute
Sierra Leone and Tanzania, two low-income countries vulnerable to extreme weather, shifting rainfall patterns, warming temperatures, sea level rise and deforestation, face difficult choices about how much to spend on data about climate change. The 2017 Cape Town Global Action Plan for Sustainable Development Data says resource allocation should be conducted through multi-stakeholder partnerships that include government, business and civil society. And the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s ambition to “leave no one behind” calls for data generation that reflects the needs and concerns of those it is supposed to help. Ideally, this information should be open: free to access, use and distribute, and in formats that are interoperable and comparable.

Built Environment

Toyota planning smarter, cleaner vehicles for Tokyo 2020 Olympics | Climate Action Programme
JAPAN – Toyota is planning to use the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo to showcase the future of transportation. A range of cleaner and smarter electric vehicles will be unveiled at the event to accommodate an estimated 15 million visitors coming to Japan’s huge capital city. Toyota is working with the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee to make the event what they hope is the most innovative and sustainable in Olympic history.

A concept design for the new e-Palette. The fully automated, electric vehicle will be in use during the games.

A concept design for the new e-Palette. The fully automated, electric vehicle will be in use during the games.

Food Systems

Extreme weather could push UK food prices up this year, say farmers | The Guardian
UK – Staple foods from bread to potatoes, onions, milk and meat may be in shorter supply than usual this year and prices to consumers may have to rise, farmers have said, as they count the cost of the two-month drought and heatwave across the UK.

‘This one has heat stress’: the shocking reality of live animal exports | The Guardian
The global demand for meat means more animals are moved around the world than ever before. Activists say the conditions they endure are intolerable – and we are all turning a blind eye.

Explainer: The rules for raising chickens |
NEW ZEALAND – Kiwis love chicken. According to the Poultry Industry Association, we eat an average of 37.5 kilograms of chicken meat each every year – the equivalent of about 20 birds per person. So when animal rights group Direct Animal Action released video shot inside a Helensville poultry farm this week, it left a bad taste in more than a few mouths. It didn’t look right. But what does poultry farming in New Zealand look like if welfare standards are met?

Related: Video inside Tegel chicken farm a ‘shock and horror’ – opponent | RNZ News