Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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Paris 2015: COP21

Paris, COP21: Ministers move in, as do the climate deniers
[Ed: Entertaining summary of Day 8] Nearly 200 ministers have arrived in Paris to bargain and negotiate over the final 20 pages of text, and the 290 or so brackets that remain – the outcome of which will decide whether this agreement will fulfil its ambitions, or be full of empty rhetoric…

Paris climate talks, Africa’s renewable energy drive, and reinforcing laws of war
As the Paris talks enter their final week, there is increased focus on the impact of climate change in the world’s poorest nations. Representing least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small island developing states, Gyan Chandra Acharya calls on leaders to make the most vulnerable countries the top priority. “It is a sad reality that while the world’s most vulnerable countries have contributed the least to climate change, they are most at risk from its negative effects and the least equipped to withstand and adapt to it,” Acharya writes.

Saleemul Huq: if climate talks were democratic, vulnerable countries ‘would have won already’ (Interview)
Saleemul Huq, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Environment and Development, is an expert on how climate change affects poorer nations. With many “climate-vulnerable” nations calling on the Paris climate summit (COP21) to adopt a global warming limit of 1.5℃ rather than 2℃, will these concerns be acted upon? And if not, how much help will they get to cope with the consequences?

Saudi Arabia accused of trying to wreck Paris climate deal
Saudi Arabia stood accused on Tuesday of trying to wreck the Paris climate summit in order to protect its future as one of the world’s largest oil producers. As the talks entered the home stretch, developing country negotiators and campaigners became increasingly vocal in their complaints that the kingdom was getting in the way of a deal.

Sydney shows way on climate change: mayor
SYDNEY Lord Mayor Clover Moore is calling for federal and state governments to work with Australian cities to battle climate change.  WITH around 80 per cent of carbon emissions produced in cities, Ms Moore believes Sydney plays a critical role in tackling global warming and wasn’t willing to wait for the federal government to get on board.

How Australia can lead on climate in the final week at Paris
Given there is virtually no chance of Australia meaningfully changing it’s 26-28% reduction target at this late stage, the Future Business Council has compiled three simple yet significant actions Australia could announce instead. These actions would boost our credibility, play to our economy’s natural advantages and prepare our business community for future growth.

Pressure grows on NZ to back 1.5C limit
The Government is being urged to back a more ambitious international goal of restricting global warming to 1.5C, following promising indications from other developed nations… Pacific nations, particularly threatened by rising seas, have called for a 1.5C goal to be included in the new Paris agreement – something which has been backed by France, Germany and more than 100 other countries [more than half of the countries present in Paris]. Canada caused surprise by supporting the move, while Australia has gone as far as signalling it would support a UN review.

Energy and Climate Change

Growth in fossil fuel emissions slowed in 2015, so have we finally reached the peak?
Despite robust global economic growth over the past two years, worldwide carbon emissions from fossil fuels grew very little in 2014, and might even fall this year. A report released today by the Global Carbon Project has found that fossil fuel emissions of carbon dioxide grew by only 0.6% in 2014, breaking with the fast emissions growth of 2-3% per year since early 2000s. Even more unexpectedly, emissions are projected to decline slightly in 2015 with continuation of global economic growth above 3% in Gross Domestic Product… In a separate paper published today in Nature Climate Change, we look in more detail at the possibility of reaching global peak emissions.

Removing CO2 from the atmosphere won’t save us: we have to cut emissions now
For a reasonable chance of keeping warming under 2℃ we can emit a further 865 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2). The climate commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 2030 are a first step, but recent analyses show they are not enough… out of 116 scenarios consistent with 2℃ published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 101 scenarios require the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere during the second half of this century. That’s on top of the large emission reductions required. So how do we remove carbon from the atmosphere?

American Electric Power quits Alec as it helps states move to clean power
American Electric Power (AEP), one of the largest electricity utilities in the US, is to ditch its membership of the American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec), a rightwing organisation that has consistently opposed the deployment of renewable energy and action on climate change. A spokeswoman for AEP told the Guardian that the decision was made as the company attempts to help implement the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration’s strategy to curb carbon dioxide pollution from the nation’s power plants.

Environment and Biodiversity

The perfect Xmas gift of poo-dining dung beetles tickle the fancy of Trade Me buyers
NEW ZEALAND – A colony of poo-loving dung beetles is being promoted as a gift for the farmer who has everything. Dung beetles are listed on a Trade Me auction with organisers planning to use the proceeds to turn children onto science. The beetles feast on the deposits of livestock and help to clean up an estimated 700,000 hectares deposited at any one time in animal faeces in New Zealand. A series of 24 bids had increased to $1000 by mid afternoon on Tuesday.
See here for information on Dung Beetles in New Zealand.

Get involved and get engaged on environmental issues (Opinion)
I was in Wellington last week participating in the DairyNZ Environment Leaders’ forum. This is the second year I’ve been involved, and it gives me a chance to connect with members of Parliament, policy makers, other industry leaders and most importantly farmers, who are making the biggest contribution to the environment and economy. The forum’s vision is to support, develop and empower farmers to lead positive change, while helping shape a sustainable future for our communities and New Zealand economy.

$15m to prevent more fish deaths in WA’s South West
AUSTRALIA – More than 30 projects costing nearly $15 million will get underway to improve water quality issues in a South West water catchment, plagued by several massive fish kills. About 10,000 fish were killed in the Vasse-Wonnerup Estuary last year by a toxic algae bloom, after the same number died the previous year. The projects include installing an oxygenation planter, which will increase oxygen in the water, and working with local farmers to reduce nutrient run-off.

Famed Lions Poisoned in Kenya Wildlife Reserve
First, it was Cecil the lion. Now, there’s news that more famous lions have been killed—this time with poison rather than a gun. The victims come from the Marsh Pride, a family of lions living in the Masai Mara National Reserve in southwest Kenya. They were the stars of the long-running and hugely popular BBC series called Big Cat Diary. They even have their own Facebook page, where the poisoning was confirmed. On Saturday night, they ate a cow carcass laced with poison.

China Pledges To Do More—But Is It Enough To Stop Elephant Poaching?
Last weekend’s sixth Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC)—a high-level trade summit held in Johannesburg, South Africa—marks the first time that the illegal trade in ivory was high on the agenda at a FOCAC conference. Ivory poaching and trafficking has not only decimated the continent’s elephants, according to a working group, but has also “threatened the economic livelihood of rural communities and posed serious security challenges.”

Economy and Business

Economists Say Climate Impacts Will Be Worse Than Previously Believed
Experts on the economics of climate change have revealed concerns that damages from climate change impacts will be larger and more immediate than previously estimated, according to a new survey from The Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University School of Law. The survey’s respondents were limited to those who have published an article about food production, climate adaptation, energy economics and other topics related to climate change in a highly ranked, peer-reviewed economics journal since 1994. The report, Expert Consensus on the Economics of Climate Change, says climate change will begin to have a net negative impact on the global economy very soon. The median estimate was “by 2025,” with 41 percent saying that climate change is already negatively affecting the economy.

Renewable technology embraced by Narromine farmer with solar farm installation
Narromine farmer Andrew Gill has installed 400 solar panels, replacing his diesel engine, to run his irrigation bore… With his brothers and parents he runs livestock, winter crops and in the summer, cotton. It is an expensive business. Cotton needs a huge amount of water and at the moment, Mr Gill draws it up using a large diesel engine that once came from a truck. “We’ve got a very big diesel bill. Depending on the seasons, we buy into the hundreds of thousands of litres a year,” he said. That means hundreds of thousands of dollars. So after years of intensive research, he has decided to try something new: A 400-panel, 100-kilowatt solar plant to run the pump.

Waste and the Circular Economy

‘Hollow words’: why there’ll be a fight over EU’s plans to deal with our waste
Last week, the European commission published its long awaited plan for promoting the circular economy.  With 54 separate initiatives ranging from “action on false green claims” to a revised fertilisers regulation, the roadmap may be one of the most wide-ranging pieces of legislation the EU has ever proposed. It plans to radically expand the eco-design directive from its current remit of energy efficiency, to include a product’s “durability, reparability, recyclability and upgradeability”.  On top of this, four other European directives will be substantially amended to include legally binding targets for 2030 (the waste framework directive, and those on packaging-waste, landfill waste and electrical waste).

Fully Recyclable Biopolymer Could Transform Bioplastics
Colorado State University chemists Miao Hong and Eugene Chen have successfully created a fully recyclable biopolymer, using a monomer Gamma-buytrolactone, also known as GBL.

Trending: UK Retailers Fighting Food Waste Through Investment, Redistribution
The United Kingdom wastes more food than any other European country; a 2014 House of Lords report estimated 15 million tonnes of food per year are wasted in the UK, at a cost of £5 billion, and the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) has estimated the average UK household with children spends £700 per year on food that could be eaten but is thrown away. Now it seems it’s all hands on deck to try and tackle the issue.

Protein drinks and baby formula could offset Greek yogurt’s dark side
Dairy lovers around the world were introduced to an alarming fact a few years ago. Greek yoghurt, a $2bn-a-year industry, had a dark side. Some headlines even declared it was “destroying our planet”. Typically, for every three to four ounces of milk, you produce one ounce of Greek yoghurt – the rest is acid whey. This byproduct is a thin, watery substance that can have devastating effects when it seeps into waterways.

Politics and Society

Finland Makes Plans for Citizen’s Income
The government of Finland has announced plans to replace means-tested benefits with a universal basic income of 800 Euros to all citizens… The proposal, planned by Finnish Social Insurance Institution (KELA) is designed to address the country’s high unemployment levels of 9.53%. This is based on the theory that a citizen’s income for all enables people to take lower-paid jobs without personal cost.

Government at last turns focus to energy productivity, and the plan looks good
AUSTRALIA – Increasing National Construction Code standards, expanding the Commercial Building Disclosure program and considering a national mandatory disclosure scheme for residential have been announced as key measures to reach Australia’s energy productivity improvement target of 40 per cent by 2030. The COAG Energy Council’s National Energy Productivity Plan 2015-2030, a framework for how Australia can work towards its 40 per cent energy productivity goal, details 34 measures the states and Commonwealth will implement to better coordinate “energy efficiency, energy market reform and climate policy”.

Gareth Morgan: Key boasts while our emissions credibility burns (Opinion)
John Key has responded to more than 35,000 climate action marchers by smugly claiming that because 80 per cent of our electricity comes from renewable sources, we’re respectable. Such a boast is irrelevant to the task at hand – reducing carbon emissions to zero (and beyond). We’re still one of the highest carbon emitters per capita and have to stop it.

Former councillor sets up fundraising page for Sarah Thomson who’s suing Govt over climate change
NEW ZEALAND – A donations page has been set up for a student who is suing the government over its lack of action on climate change. A Givealittle page has been set up to assist Hamilton law student Sarah Thomson, who’s taking a case against the government to Wellington’s High Court, claiming it failed to set appropriate targets for emissions reductions.

Built Environment

ElectriCity Electric Bus Plays Christmas Music, Decked In Christmas Lights
The ongoing ElectriCity electric bus pilot program in Gothenburg, Sweden, has turned some of its buses into Christmas decorations/celebrations of a sort, going by a recent press release. As one can see, the light decorations are quite obvious, but there’s actually more to it — the bus also plays Christmas music…  The new promotional idea follows on the wildly successful on-board acoustic concert promotion used earlier this year by ElectriCity… “The previous ‘Silent Bus Sessions’ campaign highlighted one of the major benefits of electric buses — how quiet they are.


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