Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Top news today highlights the big job ahead of the companies producing our meat. The production of greenhouse gases from this industry are the trickiest of all to reduce but there is a lot of research into how we might minimise the burping and farting. Meanwhile, you can help them out with their emissions by eating less meat. A couple of themes today with momentum in renewables industries and on challenges in conservation in the face of introduced predators.

Top Story

Meat and fish multinationals ‘jeopardising Paris climate goals’ | The Guardian
Meat and fish companies may be “putting the implementation of the Paris agreement in jeopardy” by failing to properly report their climate emissions, according to a groundbreaking index launched today. Three out of four (72%) of the world’s biggest meat and fish companies provided little or no evidence to show that they were measuring or reporting their emissions, despite the fact that, as the report points out, livestock production represents 14.5% of all greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate Change and Energy

The World Is Moving On Since Trump Announced Intent to Withdraw From the Paris Agreement on Climate Change | World Resources Institute
Since the president’s announcement, this landmark pact aimed at tackling climate change has only gained traction. No other country is signaling it will follow the United States’ lead in withdrawing. Meanwhile, thousands of American businesses, cities, states and organizations are ramping up efforts in an attempt to help fill the gap.

Renewables smash records in 2017, but 2018/19 will be bigger | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – The Clean Energy Council has detailed a year of remarkable deal-making and record-smashing project activity in Australia’s large-scale solar and wind sectors in its latest annual snapshot of the national clean energy market.

Oil and car companies are suddenly investing in electric vehicles – why? | RenewEconomy
Game-changing advances in batteries are happening so fast that, this week, oil giant BP announced it would invest $20 million in an Israeli company that could allow an electric car to be charged in five minutes. On Wednesday, German battery maker Sonnen announced $71 million in new investments from Shell Ventures (the oil major’s venture capital fund) and others…

Related: Toyota preparing for a 10-fold increase in sales of fuel cell electric vehicles | Climate Action Programme

Wind and solar are thriving in Europe — without any subsidies | Vox
The French electric utility Engie announced last week that it’s going to develop 300 megawatts of wind energy across nine wind farms in Spain, backed by $350 million (€300 million) in investment. Here’s the key: It’s doing all this without government support. And it’s far from the only European energy company willing to make a bet like this.

Canadian Government under fire for buying troubled oil pipeline | Climate Action Programme
The Canadian Government has reached an agreement to buy the assets of the Trans Mountain oil pipeline. Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the C$4.5 billion ($3.4bn) deal with Texas-based company Kinder Morgan was “an investment in Canada’s future” and would protect thousands of jobs threatened by the project’s closure.

Environment and Biodiversity

Crowdfunded campaigns are conserving the Earth’s environment | The Conversation
While the health of the environment continues to decline globally, in most regions government funding falls short of what is required to stem the losses. Crowdfunding plays an important and under-appreciated role for biodiversity conservation. Our new research presents a global analysis of how crowdfunding, still a relatively novel and minor financial mechanism in the conservation community, is contributing to conservation around the world.

Taranaki’s bold bid to be first predator-free region | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – Taranaki is making a play to be the first region to rid itself of pest predators, with an unprecedented effort that’s just received an $11.7m kick-start. Conservation Minister Eugenie was this morning at Pukeiti gardens, at the foot of Mt Taranaki, to announce the new funding from Government-owned company Predator Free 2050. The cash boost will help launch Taranaki Taku Tūranga, a collaboration between Taranaki Regional Council (TRC) and rural landowners, that aims to empty all local native habitats of pest predators.

Read more: Govt commits $11.7m to make Taranaki first predator-free region |

Taranaki will be divided into pizza-slice shaped sections with pests eradicated from each section in turn. Photo: Andy Jackson/Stuff

Taranaki will be divided into pizza-slice shaped sections with pests eradicated from each section in turn. Photo: Andy Jackson/Stuff

Feral pigs decimating cassowary numbers in world heritage-listed Daintree Rainforest, filmmaker says | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – A filmmaker says feral pig numbers in the world-heritage listed Daintree Rainforest in far north Queensland are out of control. University of New South Wales doctoral student Dan Hunter has spent the past nine months filming cassowaries in the Cooper Creek area, north of Cairns, in what is thought to be the world’s oldest surviving rainforest. Cassowaries are listed as endangered, with as few as 2,500 believed to remain in the wild, and Mr Hunter said he can see why.

Photo: Male cassowaries make "amazing fathers" and even teach their chicks how to swim. (Supplied: Dan Hunter/The Natural History Unit)

Photo: Male cassowaries make “amazing fathers” and even teach their chicks how to swim. (Supplied: Dan Hunter/The Natural History Unit)

The future is fenced for Australian animals | The Conversation
Many of Australia’s mammals spend their entire lives imprisoned, glimpsing the outside world through tall chain-link fences and high-voltage wires. There are dozens of these enclosures across Australia. Many are remote, standing alone in the endless expanse of inland Australia, but others are on the outskirts of our largest cities – Melbourne, Perth, Canberra. Every year there are more of them, the imprisoned population growing, while the wild populations outside dwindle. These are Australia’s conservation fences.

Can the world’s largest rewilding project restore Patagonia’s beauty? | The Guardian
Purchasing huge tracts of land in Chile and Argentina, former clothing tycoons Doug and Kristine Tompkins have led a quarter century-long effort to reintroduce threatened and locally extinct species to the wilds of South America.

Economy and Business

RBS pulls support for coal and Arctic oil | BusinessGreen
UK – The Royal Bank of Scotland will no longer provide project financing for new coal-fired power stations, thermal coal mines, oil sands or Arctic oil projects, in an overhaul of its investment rules yesterday. Keen to be seen as a leader in the low-carbon transition, RBS also unveiled tighter restrictions on its general lending to coal companies.
See also: Say hello to Justin Trudeau, the world’s newest oil executive | Bill McKibben | The Guardian

Waste and the Circular Economy

Melbourne Airport confirms toxic PFAS chemical spread in water beyond site boundaries | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Melbourne Airport has confirmed contamination caused by toxic chemicals, historically used in firefighting foams at the site, has spread beyond the airport boundaries. In a statement to the ABC, airport spokesman Grant Smith said The Melbourne Airport Authority (MAA) was contacting a group of landholders to inform them of the contamination. The MAA will also ask residents and landholders whether they use the surface water flowing through local waterways on their properties.

Politics and Society

Guide to the classics: Darwin’s On the Origin of Species | The Conversation
Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (originally published in 1859) shares a deplorable fate with many other classics: it is known to everyone, yet rarely read. This is a shame, not only because there is much more to Darwin’s theory than the familiar principles of mutation, variation, natural selection, and evolution that have entered popular knowledge as Darwinian buzzwords. The book also gives unique insight into the intellectual milieu in which he developed his theory and his struggles to convince his peers of its veracity. Indeed in this age of the counter-factual and pseudo-factual, acquaintance with the foundations of our scientific tradition — and insights into the struggles of their creation — seems a matter of some urgency.

‘Sea, ice, snow, it’s all changing’: Inuit culture struggles with warming world | The Guardian
Every aspect of the indigenous Inuit culture grows from the land – but the unpredictable seasons are forcing the community to adjust their traditions.
Martin Shiwak is navigating his snowmobile along the frozen shoreline when his eight-year-old son Dane, who is riding on the back, points at a wall of stunted spruce trees. Shiwak cuts the engine, hops off the machine and quietly pulls out a .12 gauge shotgun. He hands the weapon to Dane, and the pair crouch behind their snowmobile. Dane fires two quick shots. Two white partridges, almost invisible in the tree line, drop dead.

Food Systems

Are avocados toast? California farmers bet on what we’ll be eating in 2050 | The Guardian
USA – Chris Sayer pushed his way through avocado branches and grasped a denuded limb. It was stained black, as if someone had ladled tar over its bark. In February, the temperature had dropped below freezing for three hours, killing the limb. The thick leaves had shriveled and fallen away, exposing the green avocados, which then burned in the sun. Sayer estimated he’d lost one out of every 20 avocados on his farm in Ventura, just 50 miles north of Los Angeles, but he counts himself lucky.

“What’s going on with your orchard? Is that a cover crop?” Hip-high cover crops. Photograph: Nathaneal Johnson/Grist

“What’s going on with your orchard? Is that a cover crop?” Hip-high cover crops. Photograph: Nathaneal Johnson/Grist