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Tuesday 6 March 2018

Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Today in the news, the Dutch Prime Minister joins Swedish and French ministers in calling for greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets of 55% below 1990 levels.  For comparison, Australia’s emissions reduction target is 26-28% below 2005 levels and NZ 30% below 2005 levels.  This equates to 1% below – 3% above 1990 levels for Australia and 11-24% below 1990 levels for NZ.

Top Story

Dutch PM calls for more ambitious 2030 EU climate target | Climate Home News
The Dutch prime minister has urged the EU to “raise the bar” on climate action by adopting a new emissions reduction target for 2030 of 55% below 1990 levels. The high-profile intervention comes shortly after calls by Swedish and French ministers on the European Commission to commit to deeper, faster emissions cuts. The EU’s current goal of a 40% cut on 1990 levels by 2030 was “too low to keep warming below 2C, let alone 1.5C”, said Mark Rutte in a speech in Berlin on Friday.

Environment and Biodiversity

Amazon forest to savannah tipping point could be far closer than thought | Mongabay (Commentary)
In the 1970s, scientists recognized that the Amazon makes half of its own rainfall via evaporation and transpiration from vegetation. Researchers also recognized that escalating deforestation would reduce this rainfall producing effect. A 2007 study estimated that with 40 percent Amazon deforestation a tipping point could be reached, with large swathes of Amazonia switching from forest to savannah. Two newly considered factors in a 2016 study – climate change and fires – have now reduced that estimated tipping point to 20-25 percent. Current deforestation is at 17 percent, with an unknown amount of degraded forest adding less moisture.

Cutting pollution in the Chesapeake Bay has helped underwater grasses rebound
USA – Seagrasses are the “coastal canaries” of oceans and bays. Seagrasses are critical to a healthy Chesapeake Bay. They provide habitat for fish and shellfish, stabilize sediments and help clarify the water. The bay’s grasses declined sharply in the 1970s, as pollution and development degraded its water quality. States around the bay have been working together since 2010 on a sweeping plan to clean it up and restore its ecosystems. In a new study, we provide conclusive evidence that reducing discharges of nitrogen, phosphorus and other pollutants into the bay has produced the largest resurgence of underwater grasses ever recorded anywhere. This success shows that coastal ecosystems are resilient and that concerted efforts to reduce nutrient pollution can result in substantial improvements.

Australia has 1,800 threatened species but has not listed critical habitat in 10 years | The Guardian
Australia has not listed any critical habitat for the protection of threatened species on the federal critical habitat register for more than a decade. And only five places have been registered on the database since Australia’s national environmental laws – the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act – were enacted.

Tree loss pushing beetles to the brink | BBC News
The loss of trees across Europe is pushing beetles to the brink of extinction, according to a new report. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature assessed the status of 700 European beetles that live in old and hollowed wood. Almost a fifth (18%) are at risk of extinction due to the decline of ancient trees, the European Red List of Saproxylic Beetles report found.

Economy and Business

Ecotourism payments for more wildlife sightings linked to conservation benefits in Laos | Mongabay
Making ecotourism pay for local communities while also protecting wildlife has proven a challenge in many parts of the world. Often, the boost in a local economy doesn’t always convince everyone to put conservation first. But a recent research project in Laos, carried out with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Foundations of Success (FOS), demonstrates that linking cash payments with results, such as the number of animals seen, could be enough to discourage hunting and other practices detrimental to wildlife numbers.

Leading companies are responding to the Mahindra challenge | We Mean Business Coalition
More and more companies are responding to the challenge laid down by Anand Mahindra, chairman of the Mahindra Group, in January to commit to set a science-based target before the Global Climate Action Summit in September. Mahindra laid down the challenge at the World Economic Forum in Davos, whilst committing to set science-based targets for all the companies in the $19 billion Indian conglomerate.

Waste and the Circular Economy

This Kenyan farmer is modernizing — and maintaining a circular mindset | Ensia
“I’m using everything now,” says Samuel Gachau Kimani, showing off the biogas digester on his farm in Kirura, Kenya, north of Nairobi. Kimani bought the system about a year ago from Sistema Biobolsa, a start-up that is committed to creating value from waste. The cow dung he puts into the digester produces gas for home cooking, and the remaining slurry becomes fertilizer for his coffee plants, which produce prize-winning beans that are processed by a local cooperative, bought by coffee roasters, and sipped by latte lovers in coffee bars on the other side of the world.

Politics and Society

Ban Ki-moon: US has caused serious damage to Paris climate efforts | The Guardian
Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the Paris agreement has created serious problems for global efforts to tackle climate change, Ban Ki-moon has said. The former UN secretary general said Trump’s move was politically damaging to international action to limit carbon emissions and had created difficulties in delivering financial aid from richer to poorer countries to help the latter cope with a warming world.

Illicit financial flows threaten SDGs in West Africa | Devex
Illicit financial flows in the form of corruption, human trafficking, illegal fishing, commodity smuggling, and trade invoicing errors cost Africa $50 billion per year, more than the continent receives in overall official development assistance and representing a threat to the Sustainable Development Goals, a new report has revealed. Launched by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, “The Economy of Illicit Trade in West Africa” highlights 13 focus areas which require an increase in policy dialogue, mutual review, and effective governance, along with a comprehensive response composed of shared responsibilities.

Revealed: the extent of job-swapping between public servants and fossil fuel lobbyists | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – Last month Australia slipped further down the rankings in the international corruption index. Among a wide range of factors cited by Transparency International was Australia’s “inappropriate industry lobbying in large-scale projects such as mining”, as well as “revolving doors and a culture of mateship”. As several high-profile cases have recently revealed, the close ties that continue to exist between senior politicians, former political staffers, and the big end of town have had a real and lasting impact on the perception of political transparency in Australia.

Waverley Council loses patience with bike share trash in Sydney’s eastern suburbs | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – A Sydney council has impounded dozens of abandoned share bikes, after losing patience with operators it says need to “clean up their act”. Waverley Council, the municipal authority for a large chunk of Sydney’s eastern suburbs, impounded more than 50 bikes today after dozens of complaints from ratepayers. Undocked, app-based share bikes like oBike, ReddyGo and ofo have become a common sight around Sydney, particularly in tourist hotspots like Bondi Beach, which is on Waverly’s turf.

In eastern Indonesia, a forest tribe pushes back against miners and loggers | Mongabay
INDONESIA – The Forest Tobelo, an indigenous tribe in Indonesia’s North Maluku province, faces constant threat from illegal loggers and the expansion of mining leases. More than one third of the province’s total area has been allocated for mining leases. The community has chosen to fight back by drawing up its own maps of the land to which it has long laid claim, and by reporting illegal incursions into its forests.

Tycoon who ate Thai black leopard plans to build highway through ‘pristine’ habitat in Myanmar | ABC News
A Thai businessman caught poaching a rare black leopard plans to build a highway through a pristine forest in Myanmar that is home to endangered leopards and connects two tiger sanctuaries. Conservationists, residents, and an armed ethnic group have all expressed concerns about the project.

Food Systems

Why what we eat is crucial to the climate change question | The Guardian
Did you know that what’s on your plate plays a larger role in contributing to climate change than the car you drive? When most wealthy people think about their carbon footprint, or their contributions to climate change, they’ll think about where their electricity and heat come from or what they drive. They’ll think about fossil fuels and miles per gallon, about LED lights and mass transit – but not so much about combine harvesters or processed meals or food waste. Few consider the impacts of the food they eat, despite the fact that globally, food systems account for roughly one quarter of all manmade greenhouse gas emissions.

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