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Sustainable Development News, Tuesday 29 April 2014

Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world. Sign up to our newsletter if you would like your copy delivered direct to your inbox each weekday morning.

Energy and Climate Change

Direct Action policy still leaves loopholes open for big polluters
The long-awaited White Paper on the A$2.55 billion Emissions Reduction Fund answers some questions about how the Abbott government’s Direct Action climate plan will work. But it looks like the policy will let the relatively few companies that produce the most pollution off the hook.

CSIRO project could open up brown coal export
A collaboration between the CSIRO and Brown Coal Innovation Australia could see the country’s vast resources of cheap brown coal exported overseas.  While the technology aims to reduce brown coal emissions by up to 50 per cent, it could also see Victoria’s 430 billion tonnes of brown coal reserves – a quarter of the world’s brown coal resources – become open to export, with the liquid slurry being able to be shipped much like oil.

Darwin growth spurt fuelled by LNG
High rents, high-vis clothing and high-rise buildings are now synonymous with living in Darwin.   It hasn’t always been the case, though.  Not so long ago, this now bustling capital city was described as a small country town, on the edge of the coastal outback.   But now, the strong demand for a cleaner source of energy in Asia is bringing great prosperity to the Northern Territory, through major liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects.  LNG processing plants have become the preferred option for companies wanting to sell their gas to customers who are located far from the actual gas field.

Environment

If the damage being done to deep seas happened on land, there would be uproar
It’s often argued that we know more about the surface of the moon than we do about the bottom of the ocean, and the New York society ladies perfectly reflect the issue – what’s out of sight is out of mind. Does it matter that we know so little about the largest areas on our planet? Does the deep sea do anything for society? Is it important?

Will Newer Wind Turbines Mean Fewer Bird Deaths?
Since the 1960s, Altamont Pass has been a proving ground for wind power. Now it’s a test bed for solutions to one of the industry’s biggest downsides: Turbines kill thousands of birds and bats annually.  The question of how to protect winged wildlife is becoming more pressing as deaths rise with the growth of wind power. Wind generation in the United States, for example, is up dramatically, but so are deaths of birds such as the federally protected golden eagle.

Kenya to deploy drones in all national parks in bid to tackle poaching
Kenya is to deploy drones in all of its 52 national parks and reserves in a bid to monitor and stop the poaching of elephants and rhinos.  The move by the government follows a successful pilot project in major protected wildlife area, that saw drones reduce poaching by up to 96%.  Kenya has lost more than 435 elephants and around 400 rhinos to poachers since 2012, driven by demand for illegal wildlife products in Asia and elsewhere. Poachers have killed 18 rhinos and 51 elephants in 2014 so far.

Economy and Business

Fossil fuels face $30 trillion losses from climate, renewables
The global fossil fuel industry faces a loss of $US28 trillion ($A30.2 trillion) in revenues over the next two decades, if the world takes action to address climate change, cleans up pollution and moves to decarbonise the global energy system.  The assessment, made by leading European broking house Kepler Chevreux, underlines what’s at stake for the fossil fuel industry from a push to cleaner fuels and concerted efforts to reduce emissions, and helps explain the enormous push back from the oil and coal industries in particular against such policies.

Giant rainforest buffer zone planned to protect Indonesian wildlife
Asian Pulp and Paper, one of the world’s biggest paper companies, is to support the conservation of 1m hectares of rainforest in Indonesia, as a way of reducing its impact on the habitats of endangered species such as orangutan, elephants and tigers.

Politics and Society

Bathurst Burr: Bruce Pascoe – an ordinary man, but not
May I name an unsung hero, someone who may do more than many to sustain Australia?  An Aboriginal man, Bruce Pascoe, writes adult and kids fiction (and won the 2013 Prime Minister’s award) as well as history, and he’s got that wondrous thing – a curious and courageous mind.  Pascoe’s new book, Dark Emu, meticulously examines explorer diaries as few modern historians have done.

Engineers Australia: innovation key to Australian sustainability
The announcement of a senate inquiry into Australia’s innovation system is an opportunity to insist the Federal Government put sustainability front and centre, according to Australia’s peak engineering body.

Australian banks financing companies accused of land grabs, illegal logging and child labour: Oxfam
Leading Australian banks are financing companies accused of land grabbing, child labour and illegal logging, according to an Oxfam report released today.  The report, Banking on Shaky Ground, identifies four cases in Cambodia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Brazil where Australia’s biggest banks have funded – directly or indirectly – companies accused of improperly or illegally acquiring land from local people.

Exiled environmental activist speaks of ‘impossibility’ of protest in Russia
Criticising Russian state projects and the destruction of the environment leads to police intimidation, trumped up criminal charges and prison, says a green activist forced to seek political asylum in western Europe after protesting against a luxurious mansion being allegedly built for Vladimir Putin and the destruction of protected wilderness for the winter Olympic games in Sochi.

Food Systems

New guidelines for north Australian graziers
New guidelines have been developed to help north Australian pastoralists manage their grazing operations more effectively.   The recommendations are based on a review of existing Australian and international studies, covering factors such as stocking rate, pasture resting, prescribed fire and paddock size.   CSIRO researcher Leigh Hunt says while cattle producers should consider multiple factors in their grazing management, stocking rate is the most significant.   “They really need to stock at around the long-term carrying capacity of the land,” he said.

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