Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Today’s top story makes me want to go and live in Copenhagen, or at least go to check out Resource Rows, new homes made of materials recycled from homes abandoned in rural areas as people move to the city, and they have an amazing recycling centre.  This story is part of a focus on cities as the IPCC meets to discuss their role in meeting Paris Agreement targets.  Also related is an excellent explainer on the circular economy in the Waste and Circular Economy section, along with some advice on good choices in swimwear.  There is also an abundance of (three) articles on litigation relating to the environment in Australia.

Top Story

This Danish city is rebuilding itself out of recycled rubble | World Economic Forum
DENMARK – Sustainable architects Lendager are wholesale devotees of the circular economy. Its flagship Resource Rows development began by asking a question: as Denmark’s population urbanizes at a clip – Copenhagen alone is expected to see a 15% population growth in the next 10 years – why are only people and not their buildings moving to cities?

Resource Rows uses walls from abandoned rural dwellings.  Image: Lendager Group

Resource Rows uses walls from abandoned rural dwellings. Image: Lendager Group

Climate Change and Energy

Biggest joke about NEG? It addresses just 2 seconds of outages | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – A damning new report from Australia’s Climate Council has suggested that the Energy Security Board has completely misdiagnosed problems at the heart of Australia’s electricity grid, and the proposed National Energy Guarantee will address issues that cause just two seconds of outages a year.

Clean energy can provide 100% of a city’s electricity. Here’s how | World Economic Forum
Cities around the world are increasingly shifting to renewable electricity. This is a hugely important trend given that cities are responsible for 70% of energy-related CO2 emissions. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) meets in Edmonton this month to discuss the role of cities in tackling climate change, it’s clear cities are critical to the Paris Agreement. As Director of Cities at global environmental impact non-profit CDP, I believe there is immense potential for cities to lead on building a sustainable economy.

Brazil should support ambition in the climate deal of the year | Climate Home News
BRAZIL – In 2018, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has an important economic and environmental decision to make. In London, in April, it will set a level of ambition for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in shipping. Many consider this to be “the climate deal of the year”. Without further action, shipping emissions are expected to grow 50%-250% by 2050. Changing this trend is key.
See also: Brazil fights emissions cap for shipping, citing cost concerns | Climate Home News

Environment and Biodiversity

Leopards in a city park in India may help lower human injuries and deaths from stray dog bites | The Conversation
INDIA – A fleeting glimpse of the black spots and gold fur of a leopard is not an uncommon sight at Sanjay Gandhi National Park in the Indian city of Mumbai. Leopards are often thought of as a threat to humans, but rather than being a problem in Mumbai, they may actually be helping their human neighbours – even saving their lives – as we argue in our paper published today in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.

Te Waikoropupu Springs campaigners fear council will grant consents |
NEW ZEALAND – A campaigner fears irrigation consents will be rushed through before an order to protect one of the country’s clearest freshwater springs is complete. The process to protect the aquifer that feeds Te Waikoropupū Springs in Golden Bay with a Water Conservation Order (WCO) is under way.  However, a campaigner for Save Our Springs, Kevin Moran, said he was worried the Tasman District Council (TDC) was planning to grant water consents to dairy farmers before the order was complete.

Economy and Business

Crowdsourcing the First Water Management Database—With a Little Help from Companies | World Resources Institute
When it comes to examining and improving water management in countries and cities, there’s little data to be found. Most information focuses on physical attributes, such as quantity and quality. Though there is extensive data on global scarcity, there is limited data on water management practices. On the other hand, companies operating in watersheds around the world already track local management practices. Crowdsourcing data through companies already tracking this information offers an opportunity to create the world’s first geodatabase of water management practices — a resource that will help keep water flowing for all users.

Waste and the Circular Economy

The circular economy could save life on Earth – starting with cities | World Economic Forum
Imagine a future where human prosperity does not translate into sacrificing nature.  A world with no wastes, no pollution, where animals and plants on land and in the oceans prosper from the existence of humans as much as we do from the biology and geophysics of the Earth.  Is this impossible? Or must life on Earth be a zero-sum game between humanity and other species?

Monitors waiting to be recycled in Guangdong, China.  Image: Reuters/Aly Song

Monitors waiting to be recycled in Guangdong, China. Image: Reuters/Aly Song

Sustainable shopping: how to stop your bathers flooding the oceans with plastic | The Conversation
If there is one item of clothing that bridges the gap between land and ocean, it’s swimwear. Most of our clothes release tiny plastic fibres into the water every time they are washed. But while some washing machines and waste-water treatments can filter out a large percentage of the plastic, what happens when we wear our bathers, a microfibre bomb, to the beach?

Politics and Society

Alleged Barwon-Darling water thieves to be prosecuted after ABC investigation – ABC News
AUSTRALIA – The NSW Government will prosecute several people over alleged water theft on the Barwon-Darling, eight months after Four Corners investigated the issue. WaterNSW has named the people it is taking to the Land and Environment Court over alleged breaches of water management rules.
See also: WaterNSW reveals ‘cynical legal action as critical water report lands | SMH

VicForests charged over alleged illegal logging in Gippsland forest | SMH
AUSTRALIA – Victoria’s state-owned forestry corporation has been charged with illegal logging of a rainforest in East Gippsland after a near two-year investigation. The Andrews government’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning is pursuing VicForests over alleged destruction of a protected section of native forest near Cann River in the state’s far east. VicForests will defend the charges in court next month.

Landmark case challenges land clearing based on climate change impact | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – A landmark court case in the Northern Territory is set to consider a challenge to a massive land-clearing approval based on its impacts on climate change. The case, brought by the Environment Centre NT, is believed to be the first of its kind in Australia, using the consideration of greenhouse gas emissions from clearing as a lever to seek to have an approval overturned.

Grattan on Friday: Bill Shorten is buffeted by the politics of Adani | Michelle Grattan | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – On present indications, you wouldn’t be betting on the Queensland Adani Carmichael mine going ahead. Yet this problematic project, that may fall over for lack of private sector finance, is causing a heap of trouble for Labor leader Bill Shorten. Adani is being seen as a test of Shorten’s commitment to policy integrity versus his willingness to say and do whatever is politically expedient.

Brian Fallow: Putting NZ on the path to zero carbon | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – The most economically significant legislation Parliament will consider in the current term will be the Zero Carbon Act. Reversing the trajectory from relentlessly rising emissions of greenhouse gases, to one which puts New Zealand on track to carbon-neutrality within the lifetimes of most of the people already here, will affect the country’s economic life across a very broad front, as the forthcoming Productivity Commission report is likely to make plain.

Waiheke Island boys devoted to helping sick birds |
Helping feed sick and injured birds has become a big part of the day for three Waiheke Island boys. Brothers Jude (12) and Flyn Chambers (9) and friend Liam Harrington (13) spend about three hours every afternoon catching fish to feed the seabirds at Waiheke Native Bird Rescue.  The Chambers brothers started out catching crickets for a kingfisher that was being looked after at the bird rescue centre.

Built Environment

Tesla Semi trucks its first all-electric load … of Tesla batteries | RenewEconomy
Just under four months after unveiling its all-electric truck concept, the Tesla Semi has reportedly made its first production cargo trip, ferrying – you guessed it – Tesla battery packs.

Sustainability takes a battering as Perth deals with vacancy crisis | The Fifth Estate
Commercial office vacancy rates of 20 per cent have hammered the appetite for sustainability among Perth’s landlords and tenants, according to property industry insiders. Patrick Jeannerat The only real traction is happening around solar PV and the “bling” aspects of wellbeing amenities, according to Colliers’ Perth sustainability manager Patrick Jeannerat.

Food Systems

Bees too hot to make honey as they swelter in NZ summer |
NEW ZEALAND – It’s been so hot bees have stopped making honey so they can gather water to cool their hives down. The hottest summer on record in many parts of the country has presented another challenging season for beekeepers, particularly in the south. Variable weather conditions over the last few months have interrupted the honey flow and beekeepers are expecting an average or slightly below average honey harvest for 2017-18, according to Karin Kos, chief executive of Apiculture New Zealand.


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