Sustainable Development News

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

‘Huge wake up call’: Third of central, northern Great Barrier Reef corals dead
More than one-third of the coral reefs of the central and northern regions of the Great Barrier Reef have died in the huge bleaching event earlier this year, Queensland researchers said. Corals to the north of Cairns – covering about two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef – were found to have an average mortality rate of 35 per cent, rising to more than half in areas around Cooktown.  The study, of 84 reefs along the reef, found corals south of Cairns had escaped the worst of the bleaching and were now largely recovering any colour that had been lost.

Energy and Climate Change

We’ve Only Got Five Years Before Our 1.5°C Carbon Budget Is Blown
In its most recent synthesis report, published in early 2014, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) laid out estimates of how much CO2 we can emit and still keep global average temperature rise to no more than 1.5C, 2C or 3C above pre-industrial levels.

Climate Carbon Budget remaining

Rules For U.N. Climate Pact May Take Two Years
A first United Nations meeting on implementing a 2015 global agreement to combat climate change showed it could take two years to work out a detailed rule book for a sweeping shift from fossil fuels, delegates said. The May 16-26 talks marked a return to technical work and the end of a “honeymoon period” since the Paris Agreement was worked out by almost 200 nations in December to cut greenhouse gas emissions and limit rising temperatures.
Related: COP22 climate summit a chance to “action” Paris Agreement

Environment and Biodiversity

‘Sad truth’: Great Barrier Reef may never rebound to previous health: scientists
The Great Barrier Reef is unlikely to recover fully from the huge bleaching event that has killed off more than half its corals in some northern reefs as temperatures rise, scientists say. Research, including by Tracy Ainsworth from James Cook University, has found that corals have natural mechanisms helping them to acclimatise to rising sea-level temperatures and avoid bleaching. However, the ability to cope with heat stress will be overwhelmed by the expected increase in frequency and temperature extremes, according to research published last month in the journal Science by a team led by Dr Ainsworth.

The Great Barrier Reef: What’s been going on?
Let’s take a look at some of the recent news on the Great Barrier Reef as it becomes the subject of a major federal election funding announcement.

Restoring the Everglades will benefit both humans and nature
USA – Everglades National Park (ENP) is our only national wetland park, and one of the largest aquascapes in the world… The park and the wider Everglades ecosystem have suffered immense ecological damage from years of overdrainage to prevent flooding and promote development. In 2000 Congress approved the largest ecological restoration project in the world – the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, which is expected to take more than 35 years to complete and cost at least US$10.5 billion. In addition to repairing some of the damage to this unique ecosystem, the restoration is designed to ensure reliable clean drinking water supplies for South Florida cities and protect developed areas from flooding.

New Cambodian protected forest offers hope for endangered wildlife
A new protected area in northern Cambodia has raised hopes for the future of five critically endangered bird species. About 65,000 hectares of the Western Siem Pang protected forest, long-recognized as an important biodiversity hotspot, was granted legal protection on May 9 under a prime ministerial sub-decree. In January 2014, the northern half of the biodiversity area was also transformed into a wildlife sanctuary, meaning that now the area under protection covers more than 132,000 hectares

Economy and Business

How can your bank help reduce climate change risks to your home?
Australia is a land of extreme weather… Many homes are built in high-risk locations including floodplains, coastlines and bushfire-prone land. The Climate Institute has today released a report detailing the critical role Australian housing plays in the economy, and the risks housing faces with a changing climate. It also sets out the role of banks and insurers in promoting risk reduction and climate adaptation for Australian housing.
See also: Banks told to look at climate risks in mortgages

Ken Henry on advancing Australia’s Natural Capital
Former head of Treasury Ken Henry on Friday called for Australia to adopt a radical approach to natural capital if it wants to safeguard economic and social prosperity. In a powerful speech at the Sustainable Business Australia’s Fiona Wain Oration on Friday, Dr Henry, now chairman of NAB, called on decision makers from all all sectors of the economy to shift the thinking from natural capital as a cost or need for repair of the environment after the event to one of positive action that contributed to prosperity.

Rum Jungle uranium mine in NT polluting environment 45 years after closure
Traditional owner Kathy Mills finds every visit to site of the old Rum Jungle uranium mine upsetting. The site, 100 kilometres south of Darwin, is overrun with scrubby weeds, there are two abandoned mining pits, large mounds of waste rock and the water in a diverted channel of the Finniss River is tinged orange and brown from contamination. But the great-grandmother wants to show people around in the hope it will help her family’s long battle to have the site rehabilitated.

Photo: Contamination in the Finniss River can turn the water green. (Supplied: Department of Mines and Energy)

Photo: Contamination in the Finniss River can turn the water green. (Supplied: Department of Mines and Energy)

Politics and Society

Kenya’s new front in poaching battle: ‘the future is in the hands of our communities’
In a country hit by a devastating poaching surge for rhino horn and elephant ivory, local people are turning the tide – but the wider problems of demand, corruption and organised crime remain

Ten years on: how Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth made its mark
Ten years ago, An Inconvenient Truth opened in cinemas in the United States. Starring former US vice president Al Gore, the documentary about the threat of climate change has undoubtedly made a mark. It won two Academy Awards, and Gore won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to communicate human-induced climate change…  But has the film achieved what it set out to do – raise public awareness and change people’s behaviour in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Social workers go to marae for help
Social agencies desperate to help their clients have joined the queues of people turning up at a south Auckland marae that opened its doors to the homeless. Te Puea Marae in Mangere started taking in the homeless last week and so far has found homes for four of the 45 families who have sought help.

“Whatever happened to the old Malcolm Turnbull on climate change?”
AUSTRALIA – “Malcolm, whatever happened to the old Malcolm Turnbull on climate change? You were so impressive when you were leading on climate change. Now you are just implementing Tony Abbott’s policies.” And with that, Opposition leader Bill Shorten posed the question in the leaders’ debate to which all Australians would like an answer, or at least those who had been hoping that the Turnbull administration might represent a shift from the hardline policies of the Abbott era.
See also: Turnbull repeats incorrect global action formula, ALP needs to do more for reef

Great Barrier Reef: Shorten pledges $500m as surveys reveal mass coral die-offs
AUSTRALIA – Bill Shorten says a Labor government would create a $500 million fund to help protect the Great Barrier Reef through better research, co-ordination and environmental programs… Labor would spend $100 million on research by the CSIRO, universities and other institutes, $300 million on environmental programs to reduce nitrogen and sediment run-off and up to $100 million on better management of the reef.

Environment scorecard: Coalition agenda ‘woeful’, lags behind Labor and Greens
One of Australia’s leading environment groups has rated the government’s ecological credentials as “woeful” and lagging significantly behind Labor and the Greens. The Australian Conservation Foundation gave the Coalition an overall score of 11 per cent on its election agenda, encompassing policies on cutting pollution, pursuing clean energy and protecting the environment. That compared to scores of 53 per cent for Labor and 77 per cent for the Greens.

Built Environment

VicGov goes green on Fishermans Bend – to immense relief
AUSTRALIA – Immense relief has greeted the Victorian Government reworking of plans for the Fishermans Bend urban renewal site on the fringe of Melbourne’s CBD to incorporate significant notions of sustainability. The new plans for the 465 hectare site, Fishermans Bend Recast Vision, appear to be a response to intense criticisms from local councils, community and sustainability industry advocates of the total absence of sustainability in plans developed by the previous government.

Density done well is a delight – a view from Athens
AUSTRALIA – It was by coincidence that I read the piece (yet again) on the density debate from afar shortly after a pleasant experience of “density” in another city where there is no debate at all, people just live it:  Athens, Greece.

Bicycles Are Faster Than Cars And Transit
Vancouver just held its eighth annual Share the Road Challenge. There were 13 teams, each composed of someone driving a car, someone with a bike, and someone using transit. They started from different locations throughout Vancouver and North Vancouver, anywhere from 2.4 to 10.4 kilometers from the finish line at the downtown London Drugs. The distance did not matter, as long as each team started from the same point, because this was a race to see which form of transportation moved through rush hour traffic faster. This was the first year in which all the bicycles were faster than cars and transit.

Food Systems

How nanotechnology can help us grow more food using less energy and water
Nanotechnology – designing ultrasmall particles – is now emerging as a promising way to promote plant growth and development. This idea is part of the evolving science of precision agriculture, in which farmers use technology to target their use of water, fertilizer and other inputs. Precision farming makes agriculture more sustainable because it reduces waste.


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