Friday 31 October 2014
Sustainable Development News
Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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IPCC preparing ‘most important’ document on climate change Scientists and officials are meeting in Denmark to edit what’s been termed the “most important document” on climate change. The IPCC Synthesis Report will summarise the causes and impacts of – and solutions to – rising temperatures. It will be the bedrock of talks on a new global climate deal. But there are concerns that political battles could neuter the final summary. Over the past 13 months, the IPCC has released three major reports on the physical science, the impacts and the potential methods of dealing with climate change. On Sunday they will release the Synthesis Report. This new study is meant to take the most important elements of all three and blend them into something new. It is not meant to be a cut-and-paste exercise.
Energy and Climate Change
Why uncontrolled climate change may be an ultimate limit to growth
“But who do you think’s right, Prof? The optimists or the pessimists?” At the end of my sustainability economics course in 2007, students were challenging me to end 20 years of professional fence-sitting. My whiteboard showed two graphs with contradictory messages about the long-run, environmental sustainability of global industrial development, the big question that’s nagged me ever since teenage exposure to Paul Ehrlich’s Population-Bomb eco-doomsterism. After much wrestling with the contradictions, I and my colleague Paul Burke have come up with a qualified answer: sustainability is possible over the next century, but only if we control climate change. The results were published this month in Ecological Economics.
27% target for energy efficiency isn’t just unambitious; it’s unhelpful (Opinion)
As I put back my clocks last weekend I couldn’t help wishing it were always that easy to turn back time. If it were, I’d be rewinding to the beginning of last week, before political leaders agreed their disappointingly low 27% target for energy efficiency improvements. As a business leader I understand how to create markets and demand, which is why Kingfisher has been lobbying hard for that energy efficiency target to be binding and at least 40%.
Environment and Biodiversity
Friends of Grasslands celebrate 20 years of protecting and restoring remnants of the grassy ecosystem that once dominated the Canberra region
It is hard to imagine now but much of south eastern Australia was once covered in a carpet of native grasses and colourful wildflowers where insects buzzed and tiny animals sheltered. Friends of Grasslands is a volunteer community group established in the ACT in 1994 to protect and restore the small, isolated patches remaining and to spread the message about the importance of these areas. “In this region there’s probably something like 600 native species that occur in grasslands,” said president Sarah Sharp, standing amidst the native grasses at Yarramundi Reach near Lake Burley Griffin. “So it’s [an] extremely rich community.”
Koala chlamydia vaccine trial raises hope
Australian scientists say they have successfully tested a vaccine aimed at protecting wild koalas from chlamydia. The disease has ravaged the native marsupial, which is under increasing threat. Microbiologists in Queensland now hope to protect some of the remaining population after successfully trialling a vaccine developed over five years. Koala numbers have plummeted in recent years and there are believed to be as few as 43,000 left in the wild. In some areas, numbers have dropped by as much as 80% in the past 10 years.
Seagull is NZ’s latest endangered species
Seagull numbers in New Zealand are falling so quickly the birds now appear on threatened species lists, alongside the kiwi and the kakapo. A Department of Conservation report on bird numbers has classified the black-billed gull “nationally critical”, the most serious category, usually reserved for our rarest birds, because of the rate of expected decline. Numbers were predicted to drop by more than 70 per cent over the next 30 years. There were an estimated 180,000 to 200,000 of the birds in 1977. There are now thought to be 60,000 to 70,000.
Economy and Business
New Patagonia Video Highlights Painful Truth Behind Conventional Down
Call it the veal-calf concern of this decade: The down in many winter coats and other apparel is obtained through oppressive animal-welfare practices, and Patagonia has taken the lead in trying to right that wrong with the introduction of its Traceable Down Standard — and an explanatory video to boot. Set to the tune of Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” the online video, “What the Pluck?,” depicts the awful and sometimes painful fate of the geese that yield conventionally harvested down. Many are “live-plucked,” often repeatedly, and many are force-fed for the foie gras industry on farms, mainly in eastern Europe and China.
Levi’s, M&S Among Latest Brands Proving Deforestation Is Out of Style
Most rayon, viscose, modal, lyocell and other trademarked cellulosic fabrics start their journey as trees. Canopy’s research has found that ancient and endangered forests are increasingly making their way into clothing. The continued expansion of the dissolving pulp industry, estimated to double global production in the next decade, has captured the attention of the fashion industry. The dawning realization that certain materials used to produce shirts, skirts, t-shirts and suit jacket linings are contributing to the loss of endangered species habitat, as well as carbon-storing soils and trees that help stabilize our climate has galvanized the fashion sector into action.
Waste and the Circular Economy
Five countries moving ahead of the pack on circular economy legislation
Last month, the European Commission adopted a zero-waste programme, establishing a legal framework for an EU-wide circular economy. According to the Commission, the framework will boost recycling and prevent the loss of valuable materials; create jobs, economic growth and new business models; and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Among its goals are to recycle 70% of municipal waste and 80% of packaging materials by 2030. The Commission estimates that the circular economy can save EU businesses €600bn. And perhaps unsurprisingly, some of its member states are far ahead of the EU in adopting circular economy legislation.
Why are major beverage companies refusing to use recycled cans?
Imagine an infinitely recyclable product that performs as well as the alternative, costs less to make, and is unquestionably better for the environment. You would bet on its success, wouldn’t you? Novelis, the world’s largest recycler of aluminum, has made that bet. Since 2012 the Atlanta, Georgia-based company has invested half a billion dollars in recycling by building, among other things, the world’s biggest aluminum recycling plant. This $260m high-tech marvel officially opened earlier this month in Nachterstedt, Germany.
(Ed: This well written article describes a company supplying a more sustainable product hindered by the issues arising with consumer behaviour, highlighting the complexity of supply and demand]
Better Buildings Partnership turns the spotlight to waste
The Better Buildings Partnership’s Operational Waste Guidelines may still be at draft stage, with closing date for submissions on 7 November, but that hasn’t stopped members implementing some of the elements. According to BBP partnership manager Esther Bailey there’s growing demand for better understanding around waste. The guidelines, developed after extensive consultation with waste industry operators, contractors and BBP members, aim to tackle some of the key issues around waste from “first principles”.
Politics and Society
Activists Dressed as Bees Protest at Lowe’s Stores in Philadelphia & Brooklyn
Today, activists from SumOfUs.org, joined by concerned citizens in cities around the country are rallying outside Lowe’s Stores in an effort to build awareness of the company’s lack of action to eliminate bee-killing pesticides — known as neonics — from it stores and supply chains. Two protests in Brooklyn and Philadelphia will feature activists dressed as bees, distributing information on neonic pesticides and their impact on critical bee populations. More than 750,000 people in the United States and around world have joined with SumOfUs.org to call on Lowe’s shareholder and executive leadership to stop selling the pesticides. In conjunction with the rallies, activists around the country plan to create a “swarm” on Twitter, pressuring Lowe’s to take action.
Palmer deal gives green light to Direct Action – experts react
The federal government’s Direct Action climate policy, a A$2.5 billion scheme aimed at paying polluters to cut their greenhouse emissions, is set to be approved in the Senate after a deal between environment minister Greg Hunt and Palmer United Party leader Clive Palmer. Below, experts react to the new developments.
Direct Action passes the Senate with support of Palmer United Party
The Federal Government’s $2.5 billion climate change policy has passed the Senate. The Government’s climate change policy provides financial incentives to businesses to reduce their emissions. The bill was passed with the support of the Palmer United Party (PUP) and independent senators Nick Xenophon and John Madigan 31 votes to 29.