Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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An interesting viewpoint in today’s top story asks us to think about business, development and environmental issues from a social or human aspect, which appeals to our human centricity while ensuring the sustainability of the planet that supports us. Other stories on how a small business is incentivising cycling to work by actually paying employees to do it; an unbelievable story of the outback culture and mentality around land clearing; and how an iwi (tribe) is offering to pay for health insurance for all its members.

Top Story

Looking through the human end of the telescope | GreenBiz
This may sound as though I’m splitting hairs (yes, I do that), but I contend this subtlety matters. Rather than asking “How can I save the planet in a way that is also good for humans?” I contend we should be asking instead “How can I help people in a way that also protects our ecosystem?” We must not just put a human lens on environmental efforts. We must turn the telescope around and look through the human end.

Climate Change and Energy

Researchers Unveil Several Ways To Limit Global Warming To 1.5°C By 2100 | CleanTechnica
A group of researchers led by International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis has used new modelling scenarios to showcase several ways with which to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C by 2100. According to their research published in the journal Nature Climate Change, there are in fact several ways to limit global warming to the Paris Agreement’s goal of 1.5°C by 2100, but their modelling shows that the right circumstances are necessary. The research represents one of the first times that scientists investigating limiting global warming to 1.5°C by 2100 have also looked at how socioeconomic conditions such as inequalities, energy demand, and international cooperation would contribute to the feasibility of achieving those goals.

Making climate models open source makes them even more useful | The Conversation
Designing climate experiments is all but impossible in the real world. We can’t, for instance, study the effects of clouds by taking away all the clouds for a set period of time and seeing what happens.  Instead, we have to design our experiments virtually, by developing computer models. Now, a new open-source set of climate models has allowed this research to become more collaborative, efficient and reliable.

A 2GW solar farm – for farmers: India launches “world’s largest” solar park | RenewEconomy
Last week, the chief minister of the Indian state of Karnataka inaugurated the first 600MW of what is being dubbed the largest single solar farm in the world – the 2GW Pavagada Solar Park. But it is not the size of the project – all 2GW of which is expected to be completed by the end of this year – that makes it so interesting. The innovative project, which has been co-financed by the Indian government’s Union Ministry of New Renewable Energy (MNRE) and the state government, aims to use the solar farm both as an economic lifeline to struggling local farmers, and as a massive clean energy injection to the state’s struggling grid.

Australian homes, business installed 6.5 solar panels per minute in 2017 | One Step Off The Grid
We know that Australian homes and businesses were installing rooftop solar at a record-breaking clip in 2017, but the latest data from the Clean Energy Regulator makes that official – and how. According to the CER’s latest update on the Small-Scale Renewable Energy Scheme, solar panels were installed on rooftops at a mind-bending rate of 6.5 per minute in 2017, adding a total of 1057MW new capacity for the year.

Environment and Biodiversity

Thousands of starfish have washed up dead after the ‘Beast from the East’ – here’s why | The Conversation
UK – Many Europeans have been assessing the damage from the recent wintery weather dramatically nicknamed the “Beast from the East”. But people visiting certain parts of the English coast found a particularly unwelcome surprise. Thousands of dead starfish and other sea creatures were washed up along the shores in Kent and East Yorkshire, creating surreal scenes reminiscent of post-apocalyptic horror movies. So how did a blizzard cause such marine destruction?


Thousands of starfish were washed up on Kent beaches. Lara Maiklem/London Mudlark

Thousands of starfish were washed up on Kent beaches. Lara Maiklem/London Mudlark

5 Tips for Greener Landscaping This Spring | Blue & Green Tomorrow
You might assume that all landscaping is intrinsically “green,” but this isn’t true. Plenty of homeowners are actually using inefficient and unhealthy processes and materials. Switching to a more eco-friendly approach can yield tremendous benefits for those who are willing to take the time to learn new strategies.

Rat traps set to save ‘modern day dinosaur’ frogs | Radio New Zealand News
NEW ZEALAND – A network of self-resetting rat traps are being laid out in the Whareorino Forest in western King Country to help protect the Archey’s frog. Goodnature A24 traps are a new tool in the toolbox for rat control. About 1300 of the gas-powered traps are being deployed to double the protected area of 600ha in the northern area of Whareorino. Goodnature technical expert Sam Gibson said the traps reset themselves up to 24 times before needing to be reloaded by a human, while traditional traps needed to be checked every two weeks.

Economy and Business

Why are the world’s climate funds ignoring coral reefs? | Climate Home News
With the Ocean Summit in Mexico 7-9 March, and with 2018 dubbed the International Year of the Reef, the world’s coral reefs are getting extra attention. Yet E3G research has found that virtually no climate finance is going towards saving coral reefs, on which half a billion people rely on for food and coastal protection. Coral reefs are vitally important for the planet, being home to a quarter of all fish species, and with an economic value of around $9.9 trillion globally.

£555bn pension funds questioned over climate risk ‘misunderstandings’ | Edie
UK – The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has today (5 March) called on the UK’s top 25 pension funds, including the Universities Superannuation Scheme, the BT Pension Scheme and the Barclays Bank UK Retirement Fund, to disclose information on how they view and manage climate-related risks against pension savings. A letter was sent from the EAC following an admission from the Department for Work and Pensions that there is little understanding amongst trustees on the scale of fiduciary duties that are related to climate and environmental risks.

Ikea boosts sustainable products and renewable energy sourcing | Edie
The world’s biggest furniture retailer has made strides in its mission to deliver sustainable products and transition to renewable energy, Ikea’s latest global sustainability report has shown.

This small Christchurch business offers employees up to $10 a day to bike to work |
NEW ZEALAND – Fitness, yes. Less pollution, yes. Travel zen, absolutely. But cash? A small Christchurch business has come up with a unique reward to get their employees biking to work. Employees of Make Collective, a creative and advertising agency, receive $5 every time they bike to and from work, but if they bike more than half their annual work days, the amount will double.

Politics and Society

Iwi to provide free private health insurance to members | Radio New Zealand News
NEW ZEALAND – Auckland iwi Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei is taking the health of its people into its own hands by providing free universal private health insurance for its members. The iwi, which has a commercial portfolio of more than $1 billion, wants to lift Māori health statistics by improving the wellbeing of its people. Joining the scheme is free for registered members of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei who live in New Zealand – and all of their insurance premiums and any payable excess will be paid for by the iwi.

Trump White House quietly issues report vindicating Obama regulations | Vox
USA – The report was released late on a Friday, with Congress out of session and multiple Trump scandals dominating the headlines. A cynical observer might conclude that the administration wanted the report to go unnoticed.  Why might that be? Well, in a nutshell, it shows that the GOP is wrong about regulations as a general matter and wrong about Obama’s regulations specifically. Those regulations had benefits far in excess of their costs, and they had no discernible effect on jobs or economic growth.

Built Environment

City of Sydney pushes for a net zero office sector | Fifth Estate
AUSTRALIA – Increased building standards, mandatory disclosure of NABERS tenancy ratings and increased amounts of renewables are being pushed by the City of Sydney in a bid to get office buildings to net zero by 2050. The just-released draft Sustainable Office Building Plan contains strategies to be implemented by a range of stakeholders – including building owners, developers, tenants, employees, building managers and government agencies – in order to meet the city’s goals of reducing carbon emissions by 70 per cent by 2030, and to become net zero by 2050.

Food Systems

Scorched country: the destruction of Australia’s native landscape | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – Kate (not her real name) and her husband have run cattle grazing properties in central Queensland for more than 30 years. On remote and isolated properties like that, communities are close-knit and neighbours rely on each other to survive. But Kate says her neighbours hate her family. Their crime? Not cutting down enough trees.

Why I’m obsessed with making the most sustainable burger possible | The Conversation
In the lead up to barbecue season, I have become obsessed with making the most sustainable burger possible. This started when I decided to calculate the environmental impacts of a burger for a sustainable lunch I was hosting. I research this sort of thing for a living yet even I found it eye-opening to realise just how much the emissions that ultimately went into a burger patty could differ, depending on the ingredients used.


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