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Sustainable Development News, Thursday 24 April 2014

Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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Please note, due to the ANZAC Day public holiday in Australia, the next issue of sustainable development news will be issued on Monday 28 April.

Energy and Climate Change

Apple: climate change is real and it’s a real problem Climate change is real and a real problem for the world, Apple said on Monday, announcing its progress on environment targets ahead of Earth day.  The technology company, publishing a video narrated by CEO Tim Cook on its green initiatives and updated environment web pages, claimed that 94% of its corporate facilities and 100% of its data centres are now powered by renewable energy sources such as solar power.

Energy-smart appliances cut Australian power bills by billions The latest review of Australia’s energy-saving appliance scheme has delivered a rare trifecta: a good news story for the economy, the community and the environment.  According to my estimates from data in the Department of Industry review, the value of energy saved in Australia last year alone was around A$3.2 billion. Of this, some A$2.7 billion was saved by households.  The Equipment Energy Efficiency (E3) program aims to reduce energy use by household and business appliances, through the use of energy labels and enforceable standards for energy use.

Climate change is the fight of our lives – yet we can hardly bear to look at it (Book extract) This is a story about bad timing.  The migration patterns of many songbird species, for instance, have evolved over millennia so that eggs hatch precisely when food sources such as caterpillars are at their most abundant, providing parents with ample nourishment for their hungry young. But because spring now often arrives early, the caterpillars are hatching earlier too, which means that in some areas they are less plentiful when the chicks hatch, with a number of possible long-term impacts on survival.

Want to Stop Climate Change? Take the Fossil Fuel Industry to Court Since global warming is a uniquely international problem, environmental lawyers are crafting strategies that take advantage of legal traditions in countries that allow for climate-based challenges. Obscure corners of the law are being researched and brought to bear. One precedent that’s being used is the case of the Federated States of Micronesia, which in 2009 filed a request with the Czech Republic for a “transboundary environmental impact assessment.” The Czechs were about to rubber-stamp an extension of the outdated Prunerov coal-fired power plant. By then, Micronesia had already seen record high tides wipe out food crops, power plants and homes—not to mention two small islands.

Environment

From Earth Day to every day: 4 TED-Ed Lessons to help you save the world Earth Week is a fantastic opportunity to rethink our environmental impact, both on the individual level and on a larger scale. Do we really need to keep the water running while brushing our teeth? Why not compost? How do we get renewable energy to be both a priority and a reality?  At times it may seem unfathomable that one individual can have any impact on the Earth’s environment (for good or bad), but the science proves otherwise. We’ve put together a playlist of TED-Ed Lessons that will get you thinking about the things you can do as an individual to keep our planet happy and healthy.

WA shark cull: Environmental Protection Authority to assess impact of policy Western Australia’s proposed three-year shark cull program, which is due to begin in November, is to be assessed by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).  It follows an earlier decision by the EPA not to assess a three-month trial of the scheme, which ends on April 30, despite receiving 23,000 submissions during a public consultation.

Scientists study seaweed solution to reef threat The humble seaweed is already used in various ways including for human consumption, livestock feed and in everyday household products.  Scientists at the James Cook University say seaweed can also be used to clean up waste water as the weed thrives on nitrogen and phosphorus.  “Seaweeds pick up nitrogen and phosphorus to reasonably high levels and they clean the water,” says Rocky de Nys from the JCU’s School of Marine and Tropical Biology.   “That removes the nitrogen and phosphorous so the water can be released and it also provides a product so the seaweed has some value,” he said.

Mining in Mongolia: rural and city living (Video 4min) A quarter of the population of Mongolia are nomads, dependent on raising horses and goats to earn a living and put food on the table. But climate change and overgrazing threaten the traditional patterns of herding life, and the country’s burgeoning mining wealth is not raising living standards in the cities. Herders and city dwellers tell Tania Branigan about the effects of mining on their lives.

Economy and Business

How can your industry contribute to the circular economy? (Interactive) We asked 28 experts what role their industry has in accelerating the circular economy. Journey through our interactive to explore each industry category and click on the words and phrases to learn how innovation is taking hold.

Property industry set for clean energy boom after electricity market rule change The [Australian] property industry is set for a boom in embedded low carbon energy generation, following a National Electricity Market reform allowing for faster approvals, more certainty, lower costs and more rights for applicants.  The rule change means that businesses wanting to connect co/trigeneration plants and large renewable energy systems to the grid will be able to do so cheaper and faster.  The request was put forward by the Property Council of Australia, ClimateWorks and Seed Advisory, who were concerned that connection barriers were a major obstacle to cleaner energy in the built environment.

Bottled water is the marketing trick of the century Given the fact that UK tap water is widely considered to better for you than the bottled variety and subject to more stringent safety checks, why do we insist on purchasing something which is up to 300 times more expensive than what comes out of our taps?  According to Richard Wilk, professor of anthropology at Indiana University, bottled water is the most revealing substance for showing us how the global capitalist market works today.

New Arup chairman puts sustainability front and centre Global engineering, planning and design heavyweight Arup has appointed Australian Gregory Hodkinson as the firm’s new London-based chairman. He brings to the role over 40 years’ experience working on major projects in Australia, the UK, the USA and mainland Europe, and an unwavering commitment to sustainability.

BetterWorld’s ‘Phone for Phone’ Mobile Service Combines Affordable Plans, Social Impact Socially conscious mobile provider BetterWorld Wireless, in collaboration with Sprint, today launches its Phone for PhoneTM mobile service, which will provide digital access to people in need by donating a mobile device for every qualified new US mobile customer.

Oil recycler warns against rebate cuts A company that recycles waste oil in two [Australian] states has warned it may have to rethink its operations if the Federal Government cuts a rebate in next month’s budget.  Southern Oil has facilities at Gladstone in central Queensland and Wagga Wagga in southern New South Wales to re-refine industrial oil so it can be reused.  Chief executive Tim Rose says the Government is considering cutting a rebate for waste oil in half.

Politics and Society

Bhutan’s prime minister: business must take happiness seriously In an exclusive interview, Tshering Tobgay says his country is open for business but not at the expense of its gross national happiness principles.  For all westerners who have elevated Bhutan to a mythical status, the prime minister has a stark message; the tiny Himalayan kingdom is “not Shangri-La”.  The country, which has become renowned as a beacon of light for measuring its success according to Gross National Happiness (GNH), rather than solely gross domestic product, is facing many social and economic challenges as it seeks to modernise.

Eight major UK renewable energy projects receive government backing The UK government has agreed deals to financially support eight major new renewable energy projects that will power millions of homes.  Five of the schemes are offshore windfarms, which the Conservative party plans to back in its general election manifesto over cheaper but more controversial onshore wind power.  The projects will create 8,500 jobs and add 4.5GW of electricity capacity to the national grid, around 4% of the UK’s generating capacity, or enough to power more than 3 million homes. The projects were worth up to £12bn in private sector investment, the government said.

Why is there still no World Environment Organisation? It seems an anomaly that among the 15 autonomous, specialised agencies within the United Nations – such as the FAO, WMO, WHO, or UNESCO – there is no dedicated environmental organisation.  This secondary status and the subsequent lack of coherence in environmental matters harms global environmental governance. Wouldn’t having a World Environment Organisation (WEO) help to coordinate global environmental and climate change efforts?

Food Systems

Australian Beef Association slams global sustainability proposal The Australian Beef Association has voiced its disappointment at the Cattle Council of Australia for supporting a set of global sustainability guidelines.  The international rules are being set by the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB), which is being made up of environmental advocacy groups, major retailers, producers and the Cattle Council of Australia.  The GRSB is currently seeking public comment on its set of draft principals for sustainable beef production.

Making every drop count How do you remain financially viable with limited rainfall?  It’s a question that is often pondered by grain growers.  Bill Crabtree is an agricultural consultant and more recently has become a farmer based in the north of Western Australia.   He has been talking to farmers recently on the Eyre Peninsula about making every drop of rain count.

Built Environment 

Beyond efficiency: 5 key ingredients for a sustainable home (Opinion) Making a home highly energy efficient is an essential part of it being sustainability.  But it’s 2014, and a lot of smart people know a lot about what makes a home seriously sustainable.  Here’s a list of five ingredients I think matter, no doubt it’s incomplete.

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