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

Australia seeks public view on climate target
THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT is inviting views from the public on what the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction target should be post-2020, before it announces the goal by the middle of this year. As countries prepare for a crucial UN climate meeting in Paris later this year, Australia said it was determined to reduce emissions — but not via a carbon tax such as that imposed on industry by the previous Labor government. “We’re inviting the public to contribute to the discussion of what our targets should be,” Environment Minister Greg Hunt said.

The issues paper is seeking submissions by April 24.

Australia ‘risks climate credibility’ with coal-friendly target
Australia risks failing “the most important test of climate credibility this decade”, a leading think-tank has warned.On Friday, Canberra published an “issues paper” on the country’s post-2020 target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.Given it is still considering the options, prime minister Tony Abbott’s government is set to miss the 31 March deadline for developed countries to submit their intended contribution to a global climate deal.And the Climate Institute pointed out the government is basing its discussion on a scenario that will lead to 3.6C of warming.

UQ tests solar limits with opening of Queensland’s biggest solar array
In the context of global developments in large scale solar, a 3.275MW array may not amount to much. But in Australia it’s a major development, and in Queensland, the Sunshine State, it is actually the biggest solar photovoltaic installation to date. The Gatton solar research facility – at the Gatton campus of the University of Queensland on the western slopes – is being hailed as the largest and most significant research facility in Australia, and indeed in the southern Hemisphere.

Govt releases new areas for oil and gas exploration
NEW ZEALAND – Delegates filing into a petroleum summit in Auckland were greeted by activists holding montages of what they say is damage caused by oil drilling as new areas of the country have been opened up for exploration. Two onshore areas in the West Coast Basin and one in Taranaki have been offered in the 2015 Block Offer. There are four offshore areas in the Reigna-Northland Basin, Taranaki Basin, Pegasus Basin and Great South-Canterbury Basin. The total acreage included in the tender is 429,298 square kilometres – with just over 4000 square kilometres onshore. The government is hoping more big overseas explorers will be attracted to the country. Since 2012 the government has granted 35 exploration permits throughout the country.

Fossil fuels must stay in ground – but be realistic, Chris Smith says
Significant quantities of known coal and tar sands reserves will need to be kept in the ground to avoid the worst climate change impacts, the former chief of the UK Environment Agency has said.  But he said that lower carbon fuels such as gas would need to be extracted and burned while the world economy moves away from fossil fuels.  Chris (now Lord) Smith, a former Labour MP and minister, said: “We will have to leave carbon in the ground, but leaving all fossil fuels in the ground is for the fairies.”

Fossil Fuel Divestment

The fossil fuel divestment campaign is inherently flawed
The fossil fuel protest leadership is well aware of the flaws in divestment as an investment strategy, but marches on hoping to gain public awareness and political currency. At best, the complete closure of every listed fossil fuel business on the planet would impact less than 70% of the world’s combustible carbon reserves, most of which are held by state owned companies in largely single commodity countries. At worst, even nominal success would result in greater ownership of listed fossil fuel businesses with people and institutions that have less interest in protecting the environment, further gridlocking the ability to make changes within these businesses.

Anglican church must divest fossil fuels to cope with climate crisis, bishops say
An influential group of bishops have called on Anglican churches to remove their investments from the fossil fuel companies that are driving climate change. In a declaration and set of requests aimed at focusing the church’s attention on the “unprecedented climate crisis”, the 17 bishops and archbishops said investments in fossil fuel companies were incompatible with a just and sustainable future. “We call for a review of our churches’ investment practices with a view to supporting environmental sustainability and justice by divesting from industries involved primarily in the extraction or distribution of fossil fuels,” they said.

Environment and Biodiversity

Percentage targets for planned burning are blunt tools that don’t work
Fire profoundly influences human health, the economy and wildlife. In Victoria, for instance, bushfires have burned more than one million hectares since 2009, claiming 178 lives and more than 2,300 homes, and causing more than  A$4 billion in social, economic and environmental costs. Reducing fire risk is a global issue, as highlighted by recent devastating fires in the United States and South Africa, as well as in other Australian states.

To reduce fire risk, the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission recommended that the Victorian Government aim to burn at least 5% of public land as an annual rolling target. The Inspector-General for Emergency Management is currently reviewing this simple percentage target against a new risk-based approach to bushfire management. Is a state-wide percentage target the best way to reduce risk to human life and property and maintain our globally significant biodiversity? We think not.

DOC trap trial proves successful
An island off Stewart Island is now rat-free thanks to self-setting trap technology.  Native Island which lies only 30 metres of Stewart Island has been the subject of a Department of Conservation (DOC) trial to test self-setting traps from Wellington-based company Goodnature.  In 2013 the trial began with DOC staff and volunteers deploying Goodnature A24 traps over the 64 hectare island where Norway rats and ship rats were prolific.  A year later rats had reached an undetectable level, DOC said.

Native Island off Stewart Island.

Native Island off Stewart Island.

Economy and Business

Alternative economy: the rise of social innovation in Berlin
Survey the ubiquitous litter of cigarette butts and wall-to-wall graffiti and Berlin reeks of urban decay. With the exception of its exemplary Bauhaus architecture, the city’s atmosphere is grey and drab, often reinforced by the curtness of its residents. Enter one of the many co-working spaces that Berlin boasts, however, and you’re hit with a breath of fresh air. Behind the facade of disparate and dilapidated apartments are areas flooded with light and lined with Post-it notes. Here is something Berlin offers in cheap abundance: open space.

BBP hits halfway point in emissions reduction target
The Better Buildings Partnership, made up of top Sydney commercial office landlords, has reached the halfway point in its mission to reduce carbon emissions by 70 per cent by 2030. Latest figures show the partnership, which covers more than half of Sydney CBD’s commercial floor space, has reduced emissions by 35 per cent based on 2006 levels. Lord Mayor Clover Moore said BBP members had cut energy bills by $30 million a year since the partnership was established and last year cut 113,000 tonnes of carbon emissions. “This year’s results exceeded the BBP’s emissions reduction target again and sets a terrific example to others on just how much can be achieved when we all work together,” she said.

Volvo Bests Carbon Reduction Goal by 10M Tons
Volvo last year reduced the total lifetime carbon dioxide emissions of its products by 40 million tons against a 2008 baseline, besting its goal by 10 million tons, according to the company’s 2014 sustainability report. The automaker also surpassed its target to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from its production plants by 0.2 million tons (12 percent), compared to 2008, instead achieving a 20 percent reduction (0.4 million ton) by the end of last year.

The Roadmap Series, Phase III: From Personality to Process
Almost every company I have known to start down a formal path of sustainable business strategy has had the benefit of a passionate advocate for change. Sometime it’s a visionary CEO such as Ray Anderson at Interface; other times it’s been charismatic internal leaders such as Betsy Blaisdell at Timberland, Auden Schendler at Aspen Skiing Company or Ben Packard at Starbucks (to name three of many, many friends and colleagues in this category). In fact, there are so many examples that it’s common to associate responsible companies with this style of leadership. Although the charismatic phase is responsible for a lot of progress, in order to move up the matrix and deliver far bigger benefits, sooner or later the personality-driven approach has to give way to a process-driven program. That shift identifies Stage III.

Politics and Society

Website dishes up environmental facts
A Christchurch chemical engineer has just launched a website giving consumers easy-to-read science advice on the environmental footprint of household products.  Markus Benter-Lynch created – a portmanteau of environment and information – because he knew consumers wanted green facts about products but could spend hours searching the internet and often found nothing or propaganda.  Benter-Lynch sources scientific papers and technical reports from around the world and summarises them in plain language. He adds a brief commentary advising how readers can reduce their environmental impact from using that particular product or service.

Is Sustainability Dead?
Is “sustainability” dead? Is “eco” dead? Is “green” dead? Will changing the words kill the concept? If so, what’s next? Being at the helm of a marketing agency dedicated to environmental businesses, I get these questions all the time… Do we even need a new term? … Simply, yes, we do. I propose we start looking at the world in terms of what’s happening: acceptance. Like most people, I’m tired of the guilt trip. I’m tired of environmentalism being a political label, and I’m tired of the finger-pointing and promises of a fiery apocalypse. I’m ready for what’s real and true — a new starting line. The mass ostracizing isn’t serving anyone.

Personality may be down to where you come from – but this doesn’t mean we can’t change
How exactly do we become the people we are? A study published earlier this week found that there are vast regional differences in personality within the UK. Londoners are more extroverted, for example, while people in north England and areas of east Scotland are quieter and more introverted. Scots have highly agreeable personalities, while those in London and areas of east England have low levels of agreeableness, described in the study as “uncooperative, quarrelsome, and irritable.”…  The research was reported by the BBC with the suggestion that people with specific personality traits might be better suited to certain locations around the country. But implicit within this suggestion is the notion that personality is fixed – and this is by no means the case.

Built Environment

Green Roofs Get Lift as France Makes Them Chic
France, long the world’s arbiter of haute couture, is taking aesthetics to a loftier level: the rooftop. As it spruces up its green portfolio ahead of global climate talks in December, France approved a law last week that requires the roofs of new commercial buildings be covered—at least in part—by either solar panels or plants. Green roofs have gained popularity in recent years as more cities worldwide promote their use as a way to save energy. Some, including Canada’s Toronto or Switzerland’s Basel, even mandate rooftop vegetation in building bylaws.

Stand up for pedestrians – the forgotten travellers
Almost all of us walk somewhere every day of our lives. According to the UK’s most recent National Travel Survey 22% of all trips are undertaken on foot – and walking continues to be the second-most important form of transport for all journeys after travel by car or van. For short trips of less than a mile, walking is totally dominant accounting for over 78% of all such travel. One third of all trips less than five miles in length are also on foot. By contrast, cycling accounts for just 1.5% of all journeys. Even if we only look at all trips under five miles, cycling still makes up less than 2% of journeys.


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