Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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Please note, due to the Easter public holidays, the next issue of sustainable development news will be on Tuesday 22 April.

Energy and Climate Change

We all need to pay for climate change mitigation
While the latest IPCC report on mitigation doesn’t recommend any particular strategy for reducing carbon emissions, it suggests changing energy consumption is a key mitigation strategy.  For the best chance to keep global warming under the internationally-agreed 2oC guardrail, greenhouse gas concentrations (measured relative to CO2) need to be limited to 450 parts per million by 2100.  In Australia, two mitigation strategies are competing for favour: a carbon price and emissions trading scheme, and Direct Action. The government has vowed to dissolve the carbon price from July, to be replaced with Direct Action. Is Direct Action a better policy for changing our energy consumption? Long-standing ecological and economic theory would suggest not.

Bio-energy to reduce emissions
Technologies that suck greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere, surveyed this week in a major report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, could play a significant role in cutting Australia’s emissions by 2050, according to local modelling.  The work, commissioned by the Climate Institute, studied the potential for carbon removal technologies to be used in Australia, and found one of them – bio-energy with carbon capture and storage – could alone remove and displace 63 million tonnes of emissions a year by 2050.  Those savings equate to about one-and-a-half times the emissions from all Australian cars.

Queensland landholders claim secrecy over experimental coal gasification plant
Landholders on Queensland’s Darling Downs say they are being kept in the dark about the nature of serious environmental harm allegedly caused by an experimental coal gasification plant.  Last week the Queensland Government filed four criminal charges of irreversible or “high impact” harm relating to the plant against resources company Linc Energy.  It emerged the state’s environment department began investigating suspected environmental breaches nine months ago, but landholders told the ABC that the first they had heard of it was last Friday. 

Researchers make step towards solar power generating windows
Windows that generate solar power could be a step closer to reality, thanks to research on quantum dots.  Researchers from Italy and the US found that the superior light-emitting properties of quantum dots – ultra-small bits of semiconductor matter – could be applied to solar energy production by helping more efficiently harvest sunlight.  A luminescent solar concentrator, a slab of transparent material containing quantum dots, would absorb sunlight and guide it towards a solar cell at the edge of the material.


How do you govern the seabed?
Managing the “Global Commons” – the earth’s shared resources, which go beyond national boundaries – is emerging as a key challenge of the 21st century. Existing governance structures are no longer able to address the growing complexity of public and private interests in these domains. One of the most important global commons is our high seas, now under threat from commercial mining. So, with the growing likelihood of large-scale mining operations under our oceans, what measures can be taken to ensure that it is done sustainably?

Economy and Business

The EU law on non-financial reporting – how we got there
A historic law finally passed in the European Parliament yesterday, under which major businesses across our continent will be required to report on social, environmental and human rights impact in their annual company report.  I first proposed this change to EU accounting directives in a European Parliament report as long ago as 1999. The long journey of the campaign provides a case study in how to win the argument for sustainability against business association lobbyists who have remained steadfast in their opposition until today.

Ryman Eco: The World’s Most Sustainable Font?
“It isn’t just what you write that can make a difference, it’s how you write it,” declares the ad for Ryman Eco, a new font by stationary brand Ryman and ad agency Grey London.  Ryman claims that its new font, which is available for free download, uses a third less ink and toner than standard fonts such as Arial, Times New Roman, Georgia and Verdana. The company believes that if everyone used the new font, it would save over 490 million ink cartridges and could help lower CO2 emissions by over 6.5 million tons, the equivalent of 15 million barrels of oil every year.

British Airways announces green fuel plant in Essex
A delayed project to supply British Airways with jet fuel from converted waste is a step closer after it was announced a location has been found for the GreenSky fuel plant, in Thurrock, Essex.  The GreenSky project will see BA commit to buy all 50,000 tonnes of jet fuel produced at the processing facility for at least 11 years. The plant, operated by Solena Fuels, is to be built by 2017 on the site of the former Coryton oil refinery, creating 150 permanent jobs.

adidas Details Progress on Supplier Audits, Sustainable Materials Use in 2013
In 2013, adidas issued 66 warning letters to suppliers across 14 countries, and terminated nine manufacturing agreements for social and environmental non-compliance, according to the footwear company’s 2013 Sustainability Progress Report, Fair Play, an annual overview of achievements and challenges as well as a progress update on its 2015 sustainability targets.

Politics and Society

Pope Francis urged to back fossil fuel divestment campaign
Religious groups have urged Pope Francis to back a campaign to encourage millions of people, organisations and investors to pull their money out of the fossil fuel industry.  Multi-faith groups in Australia and North America have sent a letter to the pope saying it is “immoral” to profit from fossil fuels.

TMW, another ranking system: Cities index ranks London, Tokyo and New York as most sustainable
To help cities develop more effective solutions, we created an index that captures the dimensions in a single indicator and ranks 135 cities around the world. The IESE Cities in Motion Index looks at 10 key dimensions that define a city: governance, public management, urban planning, technology, the environment, international outreach, social cohesion, human capital and the economy. The ranking analyses the dimensions, which encompass a wide and integrated vision of how well a city is performing overall, and identifies strong and weak aspects.

Built Environment

Aussie rating tools embrace life cycle assessment
Life cycle assessment is ramping up in Australian building sustainability rating tools, with the Urban Development Institute of Australia announcing LCA as part of its EnviroDevelopment tool, and the Green Building Council of Australia releasing stakeholder feedback on draft LCA credits that will now form an integral part of the new Green Star Design & As Built rating tool.  Last year the Green Building Council of Australia announced LCA could be used for Green Star as part of its Green Star 2014 program, with up to eight draft credits currently available to be claimed for material lifecycle impacts and environmental product declarations.

Food Systems

First Health Star Ratings hit the shelves
The first Health Star Ratings are hitting the shelves today as local company Monster Health Food Co begins the rollout of the new front-of-pack labelling scheme on their muesli range.  The Health Star Rating Scheme is a voluntary front-of-pack nutrition labelling scheme developed over the past two years by consumer, health and industry groups in a government-led process. It combines a star rating of between ½ and five stars with details about key nutrients like saturated fat, sugar and sodium, as well as energy, to give consumers at-a-glance information.

Conventional farmers drop their plows in favor of conservation
The primary innovation that Michael and Adam Crowell have adopted is to simply stop plowing their fields. They grow a mix of grasses for the cows in the winter, then cut that hay and plant corn directly into the sod in the summer. When I asked the Crowells what had convinced them to experiment with these newfangled conservation techniques, Michael gave me a one-word answer: “economics.”


Liquid Light Wins Grand Challenge Grant for Carbon-Conversion Technology
New Jersey-based Liquid Light has received a CAD$500,000 seed grant in the first round of Alberta’s Grand Challenge, organized by the Climate Change and Emission Management Corporation (CCEMC). The purpose of the CCEMC Grand Challenge is to identify new technologies that will lead to the creation of new products and markets, while providing a one million ton net reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  Liquid Light develops and licenses processes to make major chemicals from carbon dioxide (CO2). Its technologies help companies reduce production costs through the harnessing of waste streams, their dependence on petroleum feedstocks, and their carbon footprint. The company’s first process is for the production of ethylene glycol (MEG), which has a $27 billion annual market and is used to make a wide range of consumer products such as plastic bottles, antifreeze and polyester clothing.


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