Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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Energy and Climate Change

Australia trounced Kyoto climate target, new report reveals After a week of mostly bad news on climate change, new figures reveal that Australia easily beat its first internationally-agreed climate target, with nearly 131 million tonnes of emissions to spare. That’s the equivalent of shutting down three-quarters of Australia’s power stations for a year.

Taking stock of the opportunities and risks with landscape carbon While more dense in carbon, the forests of southern Australia represent a mere 10% of Australia’s total land carbon stores.  The arid and semi-arid shrublands and woodlands of inland Australia, while sparsely vegetated, store 70% of Australia’s land carbon. Much of this is underground.  Small changes to these vast stores of carbon could have a significant impact on Australia’s efforts to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

Will the wind in Spain blow slower on the plain? Since the time of Don Quixote, the winds have blown strongly across the Spanish plains.  But these days, Cervantes’ deluded hero would be more likely to go tilting at turbines rather than mills.  This is because sunny Spain has established itself as a European superpower in wind energy as well as in solar.  But just as it establishes its position as a global leader in the sector, the government is threatening to pull the rug from under the industry’s feet.

U.S. GHG Emissions at Lowest Level in 20 Years U.S. greenhouse gas emissions declined 3.4 percent in 2012 from 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday. Those emissions are down 10 percent from what they were in 2005, the EPA said, and are at their lowest levels since 1994.  Most of the decline came from reductions in energy consumption, increased fuel efficiency of cars and other types of transportation, and a shift to natural gas from coal in fueling power plants, the EPA said in a statement.


Great Barrier Reef safer with success of starfish cull The government has said it is making good progress in culling coral-eating starfish that have been blamed for munching through much of the Great Barrier Reef.  Greg Hunt, the environment minister, said 250,000 crown-of-thorns starfish had been killed by a new culling method over the past 21 months, a four-fold increase on the previous rate of removal.  The new method, developed by James Cook University, involves a single injection into the starfish; previously the multi-armed creatures needed to be injected about 20 times.

Huge marine park in Cook Islands on track for 2015 Plans to set up one of the world’s largest marine reserves in the south of Cook Islands by next year are well under way.  The proposed 1.1 million square kilometre marine park, or Marae Moana, is a first for Cook Islands and will cover a range of rich, biodiverse coral habitats and pristine ecosystems.  The creation of the marine park was first announced in 2012 and the Cook Islands Government says plans to finish the reserve by 2015 are on track.

Earth Day 2014: How It Became a Global Environmental Event More than a billion people around the world will celebrate Earth Day on April 22, 2014—the 44th anniversary of the annual day of action.  Earth Day began in 1970, when 20 million people across the United States—that’s one in ten—rallied for increased protection of the environment.

Economy and Business

Apple Aims to Shrink Its Carbon Footprint With New Data Centers …when it comes to the environment, Apple consciously carves out an exception to its standard opacity. Part of the motive, of course, is generating a halo effect from good works. But Apple also hopes to inspire other companies and organizations to embark on similar ecologically helpful enterprises. Though it may not have always been the case, Apple has a good Earth Day story to tell.  Here’s that story: Apple is close to its goal of powering all its facilities 100 percent by renewable energy. Its corporate campuses and data centers are now at 94 percent renewable and rising. (In 2010 it was 35 percent.) The next step is to extend the efforts to its retail stores.

Politics and Society

Clive Palmer threatens to block carbon and mining taxes over Abbott government’s direct action policy Clive Palmer has threatened to block the repeal of the carbon and mining taxes if the Abbott government links passage of its “direct action” policy to the federal budget. Mr Palmer declared on Monday that the “direct action” policy was “dead” and told Fairfax Media that his senators would not be supporting the “hopeless” policy.  But Environment Minister Greg Hunt remained confident on Tuesday that the policy would survive as its funds were tied the budget, which he said would pass as a matter of course.

Clive Palmer and Ross Garnaut debate carbon tax ahead of WA Senate election re-run (Video) Federal MP Clive Palmer and economist Ross Garnaut have gone head to head in a debate over the carbon tax, with the mining magnate saying the tax will “definitely” go when the new Senate takes over in July.  The pair debated the issue on Lateline ahead of Saturday’s WA Senate election re-run, after the Prime Minister put the carbon tax front and centre as he campaigned in the west this week.

More disputes over environment decisions likely The federal government is braced for a flood of court cases challenging decisions made under its environmental laws.  Internal Environment Department documents highlight a “marked increase” in cases brought against it since 2011-12 and warn of worse to come.  The department says litigation against high-profile environmental decisions made under the controversial Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act, is one of the biggest risks facing the department.

Can you put a price on the beauty of the natural world? When the [UK] environment secretary, Owen Paterson, first began talking about biodiversity offsetting – replacing habitats you trash with new ones created elsewhere – his officials made it clear that it would not apply to ancient woodland. But in January Paterson said he was prepared to drop this restriction as long as more trees were planted than destroyed.


Did This Governor Reject New Science Standards Because He’s Skeptical Of Climate Change? In early March, Gov. Matthew Mead approved a budget that prohibited the state from spending funds to review or adopt the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), a set of new education standards that have been adopted by 11 states in an effort to make sure students are being taught rigorous, up-to-date information.   The standards have proved controversial in some states because they treat climate change and evolution as fact. Wyoming is no exception to this controversy.

Urban Planning

Which transport is the fairest of them all? How did you get to where you need to be today? Car, bike, public transport, or perhaps walking?  Transport is one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, globally and in Australia. The latest IPCC report finds transport accounted for around 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2010. The latest figures in Australia show transport contributed to 17% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2013.  The good news is that by altering our behaviour, we can choose modes of transport that emit less greenhouse gases.


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