Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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A (mostly) nice pictorial article for our top news story today with scientist discovering a healthy coral system off the Sicilian coast. In other news, Eastern Quolls are breeding on the Australian mainland for the first time in 50 years, while the Vaquita is down to extinction numbers; confirmation that cheap housing products are driving the use of ozone depleting CFC-11 in China; and a shop selling food waste for donations opens in Melbourne, as another article outlines why food waste is so bad.

Top Story

Stunning coral forests discovered around Sicily’s deep sea volcanoes – in pictures | The Guardian
ITALY – Scientists find a spectacular forest of bamboo coral, rare carnivorous sponges, and species never before seen in the region.

At intermediate depths, black corals full of shark eggs were filmed, as well as red coral and yellow tree corals, both of which are threatened in the Mediterranean. Seen here is red gorgonian ( Paramuricea clavata). Photograph: Juan Cuetos/Courtesy of Oceana Europe

At intermediate depths, black corals full of shark eggs were filmed, as well as red coral and yellow tree corals, both of which are threatened in the Mediterranean. Seen here is red gorgonian ( Paramuricea clavata). Photograph: Juan Cuetos/Courtesy of Oceana Europe

Climate Change and Energy

ARENA, Victoria lead new work on household battery storage standards | RenewEconomy
AUSTRALIA – The Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Victoria government are leading a new program to establish standards for household and commercial battery storage to make it easier for residential and business customers to compare different storage options. The Planned Australian Battery Performance Standard will be finance by ARENA and Victoria, but the consortium doing the work will be led by DNV GL – the world leader on certification – along with the Smart Energy Council, Deakin University and the CSIRO.

Electric cars: Charge points could be requirement in new build homes | BBC News
New homes in suburban England would need to be fitted with electric car charging points under a government proposal to cut emissions. Ministers also want new street lights to come with charge points wherever there’s on-street parking. Details of a sales ban on new conventional petrol and diesel cars by 2040 are also expected to be set out.


Europe’s Mayors call for zero-emissions target by 2050 | Climate Action Programme
Some of the Europe’s leading city politicians are calling on the EU to take a stronger stance on limiting global temperatures. 10 Mayors from around Europe, including Paris, London, and Barcelona, have written an open letter to the European Commission on its long-term climate strategy “We urge the European Commission to set the 1.5°C and net-zero emissions goals of the Paris Agreement as objectives of this strategy to be achieved by 2050,” the statement reads.

Environment and Biodiversity

Investigation reveals illegal trade cartels decimating vaquita porpoises | Mongabay
MEXICO – A new investigation sheds light on an illegal trade that endangers the world’s smallest and most endangered cetacean species, the vaquita porpoise (Phocoena sinus). The report released July 7 by the wildlife crime investigation organization Elephant Action League (EAL) details what its investigators unearthed about cartels trading illegally in the totoaba fish’s swim bladders. Vaquitas are a small porpoise found only in Mexico’s Gulf of California. Official estimates recently placed the population at 30 or less individuals, but advocacy groups maintained in early March of this year that there may be 12 or fewer left.
[Ed: Only a few years ago the population was estimated at 50 individuals ☹)

Ice-free passage for ships through the Arctic could cause problems for marine mammals | Mongabay
A new study suggests that increased ship traffic in the Arctic, as ice there melts due to climate change, could disturb marine mammal species. In their assessment of 80 subpopulations living along the Northwest Passage and Russia’s Northern Sea Route, 42 are likely to be affected by a greater number of commercial ships, researchers found. The team suggests that mitigation measures, such as those employed in other parts of the world to protect North Atlantic right whales, could be effective.

Tale of two lakes: Lake Illawarra clean-up stifled while Lake Macquarie is ‘cleaner than ever’ | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – If you live or holiday near a large coastal lake, you may have noticed a change in management has delivered improvements. On the other hand, you may hold concerns for the lake’s health. There are growing community concerns Lake Illawarra, 8 kilometres south of Wollongong on the New South Wales south coast, falls into the latter category. The Lake Illawarra Estuary Management Committee has been working since 2015 to set up a certified plan to tackle ongoing problems such as sediment run-off from new housing developments, dwindling fish stocks, dying sea grass beds, and blocked stormwater drains.

Roadkill app lets Tasmanians locate hotspots, improve mitigation | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – It is estimated that up to 500,000 native animals are killed on the state’s roads each year. The free Roadkill Tas app lets users record where they see dead native animals on the road. The information logged by road users through the app will assist with management and mitigation techniques to try to reduce the amount of roadkill on Tasmanian roads and protect threatened species. Sam Fox from Save the Tasmanian Devil Program said the data would help identify hotspots where virtual fencing can be used.

Baby eastern quolls born on Australian mainland in landmark win for reintroduction program | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Twenty eastern quolls bred in a wildlife park in Tasmania were released into the Booderee National Park on the NSW South Coast in March. At first there were serious concerns the repopulation program would not succeed as a number of the cute carnivorous marsupials became road kill, or fell prey to hungry foxes. But pouch checks on the remaining females revealed that three were carrying five babies each.

Economy and Business

Church of England votes for oil and gas divestment push | BusinessGreen
UK – The Church of England has become the latest religious body to flesh out its fossil fuel divestment plans, confirming it will sell shares in oil and gas firms that fail to develop decarbonisation strategies in line with the Paris Agreement.

How your flip-flops reveal the dark side of globalisation | The Conversation
As you pack for your holidays, don’t forget to pack your flip-flops – and treat them with respect, they may have travelled more than you and witnessed things you cannot see. Flip flops may look simple and cheap, but they are part of a bigger and more complicated story.

Waste and the Circular Economy

All in to tackle plastics in coffee takeouts | The Fifth Estate
Although many environmentally conscious coffee consumers are now in the habit of bringing their reusable cups, emerging solutions to Australia’s coffee cup waste problem may take the pressure off coffee drinkers to change their behaviour. This includes innovations by providers of containers that can quickly decompose and some landords turning to lease clauses for retail food tenants to encourage a transition.

Ozone hole mystery: China insulating chemical said to be source of rise | BBC News
CHINA – Cut-price Chinese home insulation is being blamed for a massive rise in emissions of a gas, highly damaging to the Earth’s protective ozone layer. The Environmental Investigations Agency (EIA) found widespread use of CFC-11 in China, even though the chemical was fully banned back in 2010. Scientists have been extremely puzzled by the mysterious rise in emissions. But this report suggests the key source is China’s home construction industry.

Politics and Society

A growing mistrust in democracy is causing extremism and strongman politics to flourish | The Conversation
Nearly every indicator of a healthy Western democracy is failing globally. Public trust and voter engagement have declined over the past decade in established, core democracies around the world, including in the US, Europe and Australia… As democracy’s popularity decreases, support for alternatives, such as polarised and extreme politics and “strongman” governance, continues to rise.

How imagery and media coverage influence our empathy for strangers | The Conversation
Footage of 12 boys trapped in a cave system in Thailand has inundated our screens in recent days. An international rescue effort is under way, which includes a team of specialists sent by the Australian government to assist with the safe recovery of the young soccer team. Highlighting the gravity of the situation, a former Thai Navy diver has died after running out of oxygen during rescue efforts. This is without doubt a frightening situation for the boys and their families. It’s no surprise the situation has received global media attention. Though it does raise some interesting questions about how we extend empathy and concern to people we don’t know.

Israel moves closer to phasing out Australian live sheep and cattle imports | The Conversation
The controversial live sheep trade has been dealt a fresh blow with the Israeli government giving support to a bill that would phase out the importation of animals from Australia and Europe for slaughter.

Decision scientists in the policy arena | CEED
Theses strategies, adapted from Pannell and Roberts (2009) and Gibbons et al. (2008), are provided as food for thought for decision scientists. These strategies are not in order of priority and they shouldn’t be considered as a prescriptive recipe. Rather, think of them more as ingredients. It depends on how you combine them as to what type of cake you create.

Food Systems

‘Free’ supermarket opens in Melbourne to cut food waste | ABC News
Food wastage in Australia may be a multi-billion dollar a year problem, but one not-for-profit grocery store in Melbourne’s inner north is doing its bit to prevent produce from going to landfill. The Inconvenience Store, located in Thornbury, is the latest incarnation from the team behind the not-for-profit restaurant Lentil As Anything. Just like the restaurant, the Inconvenience Store is stocked with donated produce that would otherwise be thrown away.

Photo: Shoppers check out food in the store, which opened on Sunday. (ABC News: James Oaten)

Photo: Shoppers check out food in the store, which opened on Sunday. (ABC News: James Oaten)

We’ve Woken Up to Plastic Waste. Is Food Waste Next? | World Resources Institute
In the past week, I’ve dined at a restaurant that served only paper straws, shopped at a store that encouraged reusable bags, and talked with more than one friend about how they are limiting their plastic waste at home. It seems the world has finally woken up to the reality that the plastic we throw away has consequences. What’s incredible is just how quickly people have changed their attitudes on plastic waste, and how fast their behavior is also changing. What if we could mimic this rapid transition and create a watershed moment for another equally urgent waste issue—that of food?