Sustainable Development News

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

England’s set to swelter through a rash of record hot years
Last year was probably the hottest on record worldwide. On regional and local scales, 2014 also broke many records. Across Europe as a whole, and in 19 individual European countries, it was the warmest year recorded. The Central England Temperature series – the longest instrumental temperature record in the world, extending all the way back to 1659 – also experienced its warmest year last year. In a study published today in Environmental Research Letters, my colleagues and I examined this record-breaking year in central England to try and answer the question: has human-induced climate change altered the likelihood of very warm years in that region?

Paris climate summit: Carbon pledges to fall short of warming goal, Stern warns
This year’s Paris climate summit will leave the world on course for dangerous climate change unless nations offer much deeper carbon emissions cuts than already pledged or signalled, according to researchers including the UK’s Lord Nicholas Stern. Based on commitments made by the European Union, the US and China – which together account for almost half of global emissions – the December summit will end limiting annual pollution to 55-57 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030, a study by Lord Stern and other analysts found. That total, while an improvement on the current trajectory of about 70GT, would still be far higher than the 40-42GT level the world needs to reach by 2030 to have a half to two-thirds chance of limiting global warming to 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels, according to UN estimates.

Rethink 2C climate goal, urge world’s most vulnerable
A score of developing nations reeling from an overheating planet have urged the UN’s climate change body to lower the ceiling by which the world can warm. Members of the Climate Vulnerable Forum meeting in the Philippines last Thursday called on a tightening of the temperature goal, currently agreed at 2C rise on pre-industrial levels. Beyond the 2C threshold, scientists warn of increasingly drastic effects including rising sea levels and increased risk of extreme weather. But studies show even a 1.5C rise will have significant impacts on some parts of the world.

Brown coal extends rebound, pushing up power sector emissions: Pitt & Sherry
AUSTRALIA – Brown coal’s share of the main national electricity grid has surged to its highest level since September 2012, increasing the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions, energy consultants Pitt & Sherry say. The fresh data came as climate change ministers from around the country met in Adelaide on Monday to discuss how state governments might co-operate on emissions. Coal-fired power plants accounted for just under 75 per cent of the supply to the National Electricity Market (NEM) in April, and brown coal – with its higher emissions – accounted for almost 24 percentage points of that total.

Renewable Energy Target resolution needed to improve regional investment opportunities says AWU
AUSTRLAIA – The Australian Workers Union (AWU) says Portland’s future will hang in the balance, as long as the Renewable Energy Target (RET) remains unresolved. Wannon MP Dan Tehan has broken ranks, calling on the Government to accept a higher RET in the interests of jobs. The Government wants to reduce the original 41,000 gigawatt hour target because of lower electricity demand and has repeatedly stated its offer of 32,000 gigawatt hours is “final”. Labor wants a target of 33,500. Portland-based wind tower maker Keppel Prince announced 85 redundancies late last year, citing uncertainty over the target.

Saudi Arabia’s oil price manipulation – let’s get rich while we still can!
The oil industry and oil producers have a long history of market manipulation, writes Karl Grossman, and we see it going on right now with the low oil price that’s squeezing fracking and getting America back onto gas-guzzling SUV’s. But longer term, solar power is going to win out, and even Saudi Arabia knows it. Its game? To make out big, while the going’s good.

Environment and Biodiversity

35 years on, is the deal to protect Antarctica’s oceans working?
Thirty-five years since the birth of the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, the agreement that aims to keep the ecosystem in the seas around Antarctica safe from harm, member nations are this week meeting in Santiago, Chile, to assess their responsibilities… There are plenty of issues to talk about, from pirate fishing vessels, to the resurgence in interest in krill fishing, and the impacts on the ocean from the thinning of the Antarctic ice sheet and ocean acidification.

Climate drives ‘new era’ in Arctic Ocean
Changes in the Arctic Ocean are so profound that the region is entering what amounts to “a new era”, according to Norwegian scientists. A switch from a permanent cover of thick ice to a new state where thinner ice vanishes in the summer will have far-reaching implications, they say. The Norwegian Polar Institute has been mounting an expedition to the Arctic Ocean during the year’s coldest months.

Baby Rhinos Signal Conservation Success in South Africa
At the end of 2014, the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal reported an exciting milestone: its black rhino population had grown to 500, up from 411 in 2004.  That news was a bright spot in an otherwise dark year. South Africa is home to more than 90% of the world’s approximately 20,000 white rhinos and 40% of the 5,000 black rhinos. But rhino poaching in the country has skyrocketed since 2008; in January 2015, South African officials announced that 1,215 rhinos were killed in poaching incidents during 2014—the highest number recorded in a decade.

Economy and Business

Renewable jobs growing 7 times faster than average
Jobs in the renewable energy sector are growing seven times faster than the UK national average, new analysis reveals. In total there are now over 112,000 people employed in the sector. According to the Renewable Energy Association (REA) employment in renewable energy increase by 9% across all sectors this year. This compares to the 1.2% average growth the Office of National Statistics reported for the whole of the UK over the same period. The East Midlands, North West England, London and Scotland saw particularly large increases in a number of renewable energy sectors, while the highest performing sector was biomass, which saw jobs increase by almost a fifth.

Making a Market Deep in the Rainforest
“To make a market is very difficult,” José Román Carrera told me as we walked the grounds of Forescom, a Rainforest Alliance and FSC-certified timber processing plant. No Joke. Román Carrera runs the Training, Extension, Enterprises and Sourcing (TREES program) in Latin America for Rainforest Alliance. His job is to save the rainforest by helping people who live in protected areas to collect, sort and sell timber and non-timber products. This is easier said than done since the people he works with often lack any formal education, and the products are things most Americans have never heard of. Yet, despite the odds, Rainforest Alliance — together with local partners — developed 182 collectives, each with their own registered “concession” or product. More than 100 of these collectives are in the Petén region of Guatemala, on the edge of the Maya Biosphere reserve.

Politics and Society

Bhutan Rising
Tucked between the Tibetan Plateau to the north and India to the south, west and east, Bhutan lies entirely within the Eastern Himalayas. It’s just half the size of Indiana. But 51% of its land is protected—the highest percentage of any nation in Asia. Equally striking, the Bhutanese constitution requires at least 60% of the country’s forest cover to be permanently maintained (the country is currently at more than 70%). Those percentages reflect the value of protected areas—and more broadly, nature—to multiple facets of Bhutanese society.

Mexico uses climate threat to justify slum clearance
Slums hem Mexico City’s margins blanketing the contours of Latin America’s biggest metropolis. The hillsides of Xochimilco, the third largest of the capital’s 16 delegaciones or boroughs, are a melee of densely packed dwellings stacked high by successive waves of migrants. But in staking out their patch in the valley mega-city, some residents live in the path of floods and mudslides. That risk is set to amplify as global warming pummels the country harder each decade. In an unprecedented move, the government has drawn up a strategy to clear slums at risk of climate change-induced natural disasters.

Food Systems

Flake is sustainable gummy shark, except when it’s not
AUSTRALIA – The week before last, I (John) had an appetite for fish and chips. But as I stood at the counter my desire for a sustainable lunch started to make things rather complicated. The names of the fish on the menu were all familiar, but the fillets on display looked nothing like their local namesakes. Except for one: flake. Dozens of species of shark have fallen under the umbrella term of flake. In this case, it was advertised as local gummy shark. There is a plethora of conflicting information about whether we should eat shark.

Australian fisheries are well managed and considered sustainable on the world stage. Meanwhile, conservation groups say to avoid flake, but local gummy shark fisheries have addressed many of their concerns. It makes you want to order a hamburger with the lot instead. In all seriousness, two very important issues stayed with me from this experience: the need to better understand the sustainability of local gummy shark, and the need for clearer labelling of cooked seafood.

[Ed: You see… John also lives a life of contradictions.]


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