Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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When you go to the shops today and worry about whether the product in your hand contains palm oil, think of today’s top story reporting a record number of land activists killed in 2017 while fighting for rights to their land and generally in opposition to businesses coming in to develop a mine or farm, maybe for palm oil. Supply chains are complex and lack of transparency hides many secrets. The World Bank discusses another aspect of supply chains, the important of logistics in ensuring supply chains are as efficient as possible to minimise costs, including carbon emissions. There’s so much valuable news today that I can’t even summarise the rest of it… take a look and enjoy.

Top Story

Almost 4 land activists killed per week in deadliest year on record – campaigners | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Nearly four land and environmental activists were killed each week last year, murdered for opposing large-scale agriculture and mining projects in the deadliest year on record, a campaign group said on Tuesday. In 22 countries surveyed by U.K.-based Global Witness, at least 207 activists were killed, making 2017 the deadliest year since 2002 when the human rights organization started collecting data.

Indigenous people from the Munduruku tribe attend a demonstration in front of the Justice Palace, requesting demarcation of indigenous lands in the Amazon rainforest, in Brasilia, Brazil November 29, 2016. REUTERS/Adriano Machado/File

Indigenous people from the Munduruku tribe attend a demonstration in front of the Justice Palace, requesting demarcation of indigenous lands in the Amazon rainforest, in Brasilia, Brazil November 29, 2016. REUTERS/Adriano Machado/File

Climate Change and Energy

Electricity plan would all but hit emissions goal before it starts | SMH
AUSTRALIA – The Turnbull government’s National Energy Guarantee – the centrepiece of its climate change and electricity policy – would help cut an average household’s power bills by $50 in its first year but do little to cut carbon emissions over the decade to 2030. The final design report, produced by the Energy Security Board and sent to state governments this week, projects an emissions target that would be 97 per cent fulfilled before the NEG policy starts in 2021, leaving it with little work to do.

See also: Revealed: NEG “decisions” document confirms fears of critics | RenewEconomy

Why is Europe going through a heatwave? | The Guardian
Partly, it’s just the luck of the weather. The jet stream – the west-to-east winds that play a big role in determining Europe’s weather – has been further north than usual for about two months. A stationary high-pressure weather system has left the UK and much of continental Europe sweltering. Iceland, by contrast, has been hit with clouds and storms that would normally come further south.


Environment and Biodiversity

Wildlife winners and losers in Britain’s summer heatwave | The Conversation
UK – The biggest stress that the exceptional weather has placed on wildlife this summer is the drought. Only 6mm of rain fell in England during the first half of July and the UK received only 48% of the average rainfall it usually has in June. Although difficult to predict due to the complex web of interactions that make up ecology, this dry spell is likely to leave its share of winners and losers among British wildlife.

Donald Trump’s border wall could cause great ecological damage, scientists warn US government | ABC News
USA – Scientists in the US are warning of the potential for serious ecological consequences if Donald Trump’s proposed border wall between the US and Mexico goes ahead. The wall, which would span the majority of the border from the North Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, will impede animal migration, shrink animal habitat and split populations of species into smaller, less viable groups, according to the 18 researchers who published their findings today in BioScience.

Economy and Business

Working four-day weeks for five days’ pay? Research shows it pays off | The Conversation
Employees at a New Zealand company behind an innovative trial of a four-day working week have declared it a resounding success, with 78% saying they were better able to manage their work-life balance.

Finance leaders push for a sustainable finance roadmap | The Fifth Estate
More than 300 finance sector organisations with $10 trillion in assets have released a joint statement calling for the development of sustainable finance roadmaps for Australia and New Zealand. It calls on organisations in the finance sector to support the development of sustainable finance roadmaps, which include a set of recommendations across policy, regulation and finance practices to help the sector contribute to a more sustainable and resilient economy.

Super fund REST being sued for not having a plan for climate change | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – The risk that your super could take a hit to its bottom line because of climate change could soon be something your fund is legally obliged to act on. That’s because 23-year-old Mark McVeigh is suing a $50 billion super fund — and if he wins, the industry will likely never be the same. Experts say the case could force super funds to do more to protect people’s savings from the impacts of climate change.

From Parts to Products: Why Trade Logistics Matter | The World Bank
Take a close look at your smart phone for a moment. What do you see? A glass screen. A button equipped with fingerprint recognition. A camera lens, flashlight, microphone, and speaker. Each of these components, and others – including chips, processors, batteries – are independently sourced from companies located all over the world and assembled into a finished product at factories, often in China. Any smart phone you purchase, and its components, has likely passed through customs several times, landed on multiple countries and continents, and been touched by countless workers.

CEO pay is more about white male entitlement than value for money | The Conversation
What a week it was for the CEO class. On the Monday, July 16, the Bloomberg Billionaires Index announced that Amazon chief Jeff Bezos had amassed a personal net worth of over US$150 billion. He’s the richest person in modern history. On Tuesday, the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors published a report showing that total pay for Australian corporate bosses hit a 17-year high in 2017. Topping the list was Domino’s Pizzas chief Don Meij who received a hefty annual income of A$36.8 million.

The gulf between what Domino’s CEO Don Meij earned in 2017, A$36.8 million, and those who deliver the pizzas is extraordinary, so is the CEO worth that much? Paul Miller/AAP

The gulf between what Domino’s CEO Don Meij earned in 2017, A$36.8 million, and those who deliver the pizzas is extraordinary, so is the CEO worth that much? Paul Miller/AAP

Waste and the Circular Economy

How to turn the waste crisis into a design opportunity | The Conversation
You might never have heard of expanded polystyrene, but you’ve definitely used it. It’s the lightweight white foam used for everything from packing peanuts to holding boxes of veggies at the supermarket. Expanded polystyrene (EPS) is versatile, waterproof, and surprisingly strong. Unfortunately, it’s also a nightmare to dispose of. It fragments easily into many small, light pieces which can be easily carried away by the wind, and is difficult to process.

‘Titanic fatberg problem’ caused by oils and fats is blocking Brisbane sewers almost every day | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – Large fatbergs formed from discarded oil, fats and waste products are being blamed for hundreds of blockages across Brisbane sewers. Fatbergs are caused when cooking oils and fats are tipped down the drain and clog up with other products. Queensland Urban Utilities spokesperson Sally Prosser said it was a big problem across the network, with one in four people pouring cooking oils down the sink.

PFAS inquiry told situation is ‘a national disgrace’ and residents are in a ‘living hell’ | ABC News
Residents living on properties contaminated by PFAS chemicals have told a parliamentary inquiry they have been betrayed by their Government. Several speakers have told the inquiry sitting in Newcastle they are in a “living hell”, unable to sell their properties or drink their water, and in constant fear for their health.

PHOTO: Somewhere between one and one and a half tonnes of organic matter is diverted from landfill to be composted and then planted.

PHOTO: Somewhere between one and one and a half tonnes of organic matter is diverted from landfill to be composted and then planted.

Farmers joining forces with cafes to put the waste from your brunch to work | ABC News
AUSTRALIA – These farmers say it shouldn’t be a strange thought — that today’s latte might be helping to make that vegetable bagel a few months later. ‘Closed loop’ growers are part of a movement working to make that happen, partnering with cafes and restaurants to use their waste to make rich, healthy compost to grow their next harvest.

Local Focus: Ohakune café leading the way to zero waste | NZ Herald
NEW ZEALAND – The Ruapehu District Council has issued a zero-waste challenge. The challenge has been embraced by entrepreneur Andrew Stubbing, who has a café in Ohakune, gateway to the Turoa skifield. The Lane Elemento is a lot more than just another coffee joint. It is a zero-waste business where zero means zero – all consumables are composted or fed to worms on site.

We Compost and Innocent Packing put composting onto Auckland’s streets | Sustainable Business Network
NEW ZEALAND – Plant-based packaging company Innocent Packaging and compost collection service We Compost have come together to bring composting into the mainstream. It’s the first city-wide compost collection of its kind. It collects public food waste and compostable packaging from cardboard sorting bins placed across Auckland Central.

Politics and Society

How the Paris Agreement can take on fossil fuel supply | Climate home News
The idea governments and industry need to limit the extraction of fossil fuels to avoid dangerous global warming is starting to move from the fringe to the mainstream of climate change policy-making. Over the past year, the governments of France, New Zealand, and Denmark all put in place moratoria on new oil and gas exploration in the name of climate protection. They join the ranks of Belize and Costa Rica, who have limited offshore oil extraction in the interests of marine protection.

Mary Robinson launches new feminist fight against climate change | The Guardian
Women around the world who are leading the fight against climate damage are to be highlighted by Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and UN high commissioner, in the hopes of building a new global movement that will create “a feminist solution for climate change”. Perhaps more revolutionary still, the new initiative is light-hearted in tone, optimistic in outlook and presents positive stories in what the originators hope will be seen as a fun way… “Climate change is not gender-neutral – it affects women far more. So this is not about climate change, it is about climate justice.”

Republican lawmaker pitches carbon tax in defiance of party stance | The Guardian
USA – A Republican lawmaker has proposed that the US introduce a tax on carbon dioxide emissions, in a departure from the party’s decade-long hostility toward any measure aimed at addressing climate change. Carlos Curbelo of Florida, considered a moderate GOP member of Congress, said a carbon tax would avoid “saddling young Americans with a crushing environmental debt” and expressed his belief that “this bill or legislation similar to it” will become law one day.

Built Environment

Gardening improves the health of social housing residents and provides a sense of purpose | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – Studies indicate spending time in nature brings physical, mental and social benefits. These include stress reduction, improved mood, accelerated healing, attention restoration, productivity and heightened imagination and creativity… A gardening program for disadvantaged groups, running in New South Wales since 1999, has aimed to overcome the inequity in access to green spaces. Called Community Greening, the program has reached almost 100,000 participants and established 627 community and youth-led gardens across the state.

Suburb “Cool Scores” key to solving Sydney’s heatwave woes | The Fifth Estate
AUSTRALIA – Relief from the blistering summer heat has been flagged as a top priority in a new plan aimed at shoring up Sydney’s resilience to a range of threats such as climate change, congestion and housing affordability. The “Resilience Sydney: a strategy for city resilience” plan, announced by Lord Mayor Clover Moore on Tuesday, is targeting a temperature drop of 2°C in urban areas.

Victorians call for better energy standards for rental property as some people choose between heat and food | The Fifth Estate
AUSTRALIA – Thousands of Victorian renters have joined a campaign pushing for minimum energy efficiency standards to be set, ahead of a tight state election. This week, Environment Victoria (EV) said more than 15,000 renters had signed its petition to introduce efficiency standards, which could help renters save up to $850 a year on energy bills. On Monday EV handed the petition to the government, which is expected to introduce changes to the Residential Tenancies Act, as part of its Fairer Safer Housing review, in a matter of weeks.

Solar cabin: Off-grid mobile office hailed as ‘world first’ for construction industry | Business Green
An off-grid mobile office cabin powered entirely by its own rooftop solar panels and battery storage has been hailed as a “world first” by project developer the Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC). The cabin meets both day and night energy demands and maintains a room temperature of 25C, catering for either daytime office workers or those needing overnight accommodation, the construction firm said.

Cabin designed for use on construction sites in hot regions is 100 per cent powered by rooftop solar PV panels coupled with battery storage

Cabin designed for use on construction sites in hot regions is 100 per cent powered by rooftop solar PV panels coupled with battery storage

‘The US government has checked out on renewables’: can cities fill the gap? | The Guardian
USA – Burlington in Vermont has already given the world Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and provided the political launchpad for Bernie Sanders. Now the city’s successful switch to 100% renewable electricity is spurring US mayors to fill the gaping void on climate change action left by the Trump administration.