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Monday 31 October 2016

Sustainable Development News

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

World’s largest marine protected area declared in Antarctica
Delegates from 24 countries and the European Union have agreed that the Ross Sea in Antarctica will become the world’s largest marine protected area (MPA).  Some 1.57m sq km (600,000 sq miles) of the Southern Ocean will gain protection from commercial fishing for 35 years. Environmentalists have welcomed the move to protect what’s said to be the Earth’s most pristine marine ecosystem. They hope it will be the first of many such zones in international waters.

Energy and Climate Change

Hazelwood’s closure won’t affect power prices as much as you might think
AUSTRALIA – The ongoing uncertainty over the future of the Hazelwood power station in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley has raised the prospect that the ageing generator will be shut down in the near future… So if Hazelwood departs the market, as one of the cheapest generators in the NEM, it seems logical that electricity prices will increase. The extent of that increase will depend on what takes up the slack. So what can we expect to happen?

Pledging to reduce emissions while expanding its power grid, Indonesia walks a fine line
On October 19, Indonesia’s parliament ratified the Paris Agreement. During the Paris climate conference, Indonesian President Joko Widodo pledged to reduce emissions to 29 percent below the “business as usual” baseline by 2030. Indonesia aims to add 35,000 megawatts of power to its existing national grid by 2019, a plan that calls for building 117 new coal-fired power plants.

Tesla boss Elon Musk unveils solar roof tiles
The Tesla chief executive, Elon Musk, has unveiled new energy products aimed at illustrating the benefits of combining his firm, which makes electric cars and batteries, with solar installer SolarCity The billionaire entrepreneur showed off solar roof tiles that eliminate the need for traditional panels and a longer-lasting home battery, which Tesla calls the Powerwall, aimed at realising his vision of selling a fossil fuel-free lifestyle to consumers.

Rising sea levels, stronger waves speeding up Victorian coastal erosion, CSIRO says
AUSTRALIA – Rising sea levels and more frequent storms are increasing the rate of erosion across Australia’s southern coastline, the CSIRO has said, while locals at one Victorian beach are concerned it is not safe for summer holidaymakers.

Environment and Biodiversity

Record of ancient atmospheric carbon levels can tell us about climate change impacts to come
An international team of scientists led by researchers at the University of California, Davis used fossilized leaves and soil-formed minerals to construct a high-resolution record of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels for 16 million years of the late Palaeozoic Era (about 330 to 260 million years ago). Climate change not only impacts plants, but plants’ responses to the climate can in turn impact climate change, as well, amplifying its impacts and in many cases making those impacts more unpredictable, according to Isabel Montañez, the lead author of the Nature Geoscience study and a professor at UC Davis’ Department of Earth and Planetary Science.

Shark detection buoys set for trial in New South Wales
A new shark detection technology named “clever buoy” will be trialled off the coast of Port Stephens, 200km north of Sydney, in the hope it will give insight into the spate of recent attacks on the New South Wales north coast. The collaboration with Australian company Shark Mitigation Systems will use sonar technology to detect the distinctive movement patterns made by sharks and transmit the information to local beach authorities via SMS messages.

Three endangered birds you’ve probably never heard of
AUSTRALIA – You’ll often hear about well-known and charismatic birds like the kiwi, kea and kakapo in the news, but New Zealand is a land of birds and with that comes many lesser-known species like the bittern, kaki and wrybill. As Forest & Bird’s annual Bird of the Year competition comes to an end, spare a thought (and your vote) for these ‘underbirds’ who most New Zealanders have probably never heard of.

10 Beautiful Photos That Will Make You Love Spiders
Although many people suffer from at least mild arachnophobia, scientists are divided over the precise cause… Fortunately, arachnophobia is treatable. One study found that subliminal exposure to photographs of spiders could reduce people’s apprehension. Perhaps it also wouldn’t hurt to appreciate the astonishing beauty of these creatures—which you can now do in this photo gallery—just in time for Halloween.

From swimming sloths to lions in Botswana, this is Planet Earth II
A decade after the groundbreaking Planet Earth, the BBC’s six-part sequel looks set to be even more spectacular. Here are some of its stars.

The idea of being in the middle of a swarm of a billion flying locusts might bring most people out in a cold sweat, but not cameraman Rob Drewett. He and the team were able to put themselves in the flight path of this super-swarm in south-west Madagascar. Rob was then able to use the latest in hand-held, gyro-stabilised camera technology to get shots that flew alongside the locusts, as if part of the swarm.  Photograph: Ed Charles/BBC NHU

The idea of being in the middle of a swarm of a billion flying locusts might bring most people out in a cold sweat, but not cameraman Rob Drewett. He and the team were able to put themselves in the flight path of this super-swarm in south-west Madagascar. Rob was then able to use the latest in hand-held, gyro-stabilised camera technology to get shots that flew alongside the locusts, as if part of the swarm. Photograph: Ed Charles/BBC NHU

Small oil palm plantations are having big impacts on Peru rainforest
A closer look at a deforestation “hotspot” in central Peru finds oil palm expansion to be the primary driver of forest loss. That’s according to a recent report by Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP), which analyzed high-resolution satellite imagery in one of several patches of deforestation spattering the central Peruvian Amazon.

Economy and Business

As You Sow: Unleash your hidden shareholder powers (Book Excerpt)
Corporate sustainability professionals are the most highly trained group of people to deeply understand the impact and power of corporate policy and action. Therefore they have enormous leverage from within companies to improve environmental, social and governance issues. Outside shareholders are their best and most vocal allies and the book shows how this relationship can flourish and improve corporate brand and overall stakeholder value.

The carbon bubble: why investors can no longer ignore climate risks
The financial risks posed by climate change and bad investments could make an ugly dent in your retirement savings, a new report warns.

Shipping industry criticised for failure to reach carbon emissions deal
The world’s leading shipping organisation has been condemned by environmental campaigners and MEPs for its failure to urgently tackle the industry’s impact on climate change, after it agreed only to a partial reduction in harmful emissions from ships.

3 trends propelling the spread of sustainable business
An evolution has taken place in the sustainable business sector over the past year. How are businesses embedding sustainability initiatives that are good for both business and society? In theory, 2016 is not so different from last year. But in 2015, the question of whether investing in sustainability was a good business move still hung heavily in the air. This year, the conversation at a recent event was about implementation and lessons learned from companies well along in their journeys. Bloomberg BNA’s second annual Sustainable Business Summit, held in New York in October, set out to discuss why the mood is different. Given the ratification of the U.N.’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, COP21, the collapse of oil prices and a sharp escalation in the number and severity of environmental and social crises, the drumbeat for change is louder and more insistent.

Waste and the Circular Economy

The faces of South Australia’s cash for cans
Next year, New South Wales will introduce a cash for containers scheme, as South Australia celebrates 40 years of a similar program. Story Hunters’ Melanie Garrick spent a day in Adelaide meeting the humans of can and bottle recycling.

Politics and Society

Climate change is invisible, insidious and urgent. Can the arts help us see it?
Soaring mercury, sinking cities, mass extinctions. It is easy to catastrophise climate change: faced with the sheer enormity of the climate challenge, people can tend towards despair and nihilism. For others, its seeming distance (both chronologically and, for many of us in the global north in particular, geographically) can seduce us with the easy denial that it is someone else’s problem to fix.  The technology and resources to move towards a post-carbon society are essentially all there. What we lack is a broad, civic movement to get behind the urgency – and significant opportunities – of this transition.

Turnbull wants to change Australia’s environment act – here’s what we stand to lose
AUSTRALIA – Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is seeking changes to Australia’s national environment act to stop conservation groups from challenging ministerial decisions on major resource developments and other matters of environmental importance.

Why the attack on ‘foreign-funded’ environment groups stinks of hypocrisy
AUSTRALIA – You might have noticed that all of a sudden, Australians are supposed to be appalled by foreign interests getting in the way of us digging up as much coal as we want, thanks very much. Last weekend the Australian newspaper started running stories based on a “revelation” from the inbox of John Podesta, the chairman of Democratic nominee for president Hillary Clinton’s election campaign.

Why Hollywood, environmentalists and Native Americans have converged on North Dakota
Why are celebrities like actor Mark Ruffalo, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, liberal television anchor Amy Goodman and scores of Native Americans from the Standing Rock Sioux tribe all converging on a isolated spot along the Missouri river of North Dakota?  To block the construction of an oil pipeline. But there’s much more to it than that. On Thursday, the group was met by scores of police wearing riot gear and riding in military-style armored vehicles. By the end of the day, after firing tear gas, dismantling teepees and seeking to disperse the crowd, police said they had arrested 141 people, according to news reports.

Food Systems

Indian farmers fight against climate change using trees as a weapon
In 19 years, Ramu Gaviti’s six acres of land have gone from barren, dry and sparsely vegetated to fertile, moist and thick with biomass. Peacocks, wild pigs and rabbits have reappeared and in rejuvenated rivers, boys trap fish in baskets. Gaviti once scratched $29 (£23) worth of millet and grass per acre per year. In bad years he left his smallholding in Jawhar, in the hills to the north-east of Mumbai, and went to mine sand at the coast for construction. “Sometimes you feel as if you can go in the river and drown,” said the farmer, who has heard of 50 men who never returned. Now he has more than 1,000 fruit, nut and forest trees, paddy rice, a tractor, a brick house, and an income the equivalent of $1,200 (£975) a year.

Farmer Ramu Gaviti. Photograph: World Agroforestry Centre

Farmer Ramu Gaviti. Photograph: World Agroforestry Centre

Is it time to resurrect the wartime ‘Grow Your Own’ campaign?
AUSTRALIA – Climate change and resource depletion present more slow-burning challenges, but the fact remains that urban food policy is at risk of complacency. Gardening is certainly good for you, but does it have a role to play in increasing urban food security and resilience? Perhaps history can tell us the answer.

The eco guide to self-provisioning
If the good life is still your dream, lists UK communities that are looking for members. These communities are outstanding examples of permaculture – sustainable, self-sufficient agricultural ecosystems – and provide inspiration for those of us who don’t subscribe to the hard labour of the full downshift but do fancy trying “self-provisioning”, usually defined as growing part of your diet yourself.

RSPO loses key backer in Australia: ‘We just can’t trust them anymore’
The cachet of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil has taken a hit with the withdrawal of support for the organization by an Australian watchdog that had pushed some of the country’s biggest firms into the RSPO’s fold. The group, Palm Oil Investigations (POI), had played a key role in pressuring companies like Snack Brands Australia and Arnott’s to join the RSPO and to only buy oil the roundtable had certified as ethically produced. The RSPO is a global organization whose members include firms up and down the palm oil supply chain as well as NGOs and banks.

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