Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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With the world continuing with fossil fuelled business as usual after the IPCC report, today’s top story argues we need to do something drastic to stop new fossil fuel investment in developed countries. In other news, video of a freaky hail storm and flooding in Rome after sweltering weather; how improving soil with fungus can be good for plant growth but we mustn’t make the mistake of a ‘one size fits all’ solution, ecosystems are more complex than that; and microplastics (lots of it and lots of different kinds) are shown to be present in the human gut.

Top Story

We need a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty – and we need it now | The Guardian (Opinion)
How did government respond to the recent scientific conclusion that only “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” can deliver the globally agreed target for stopping climate breakdown? In the UK, fracking for fossil fuels was given the green light, plans were announced for a huge new road in the south-east, incentives for electric vehicles withered, the expansion of Heathrow airport is still going ahead and Gatwick airport is trying to expand too by bringing a back-up runway into use. It’s like seeing a sign that says “Danger: vertical cliff drop” and pulling on your best running shoes to take a flying leap.

Brown coal power plant in North Rhine-Westphalia. ‘Currently global demand for coal, oil and gas are all growing, with fossil fuels accounting for 81% of energy use.’ Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Brown coal power plant in North Rhine-Westphalia. ‘Currently global demand for coal, oil and gas are all growing, with fossil fuels accounting for 81% of energy use.’ Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Climate Change

Why NZ vineyards are resting on climate change laurels | Newsroom
NEW ZEALAND – Like many other industries, New Zealand’s $1.6 billion wine industry is starting to see the effects of climate change on its products. However, Victoria University of Wellington research shows that most wineries can’t – or won’t – do anything to mitigate the effects.

Severe thunderstorm covers Rome in hail and floods | The Guardian (Video 0:58)
ITALY – A severe hailstorm hit Rome on Sunday evening, bringing a dramatic end to a long spell of hot weather and covering the streets of the Italian capital in hail and floodwaters. An area of low pressure moving south from northern Europe to Italy over the weekend brought disruption to most of the country, with other Italian cities – such as Milan and Palermo – experiencing floods as well.

Environment and Biodiversity

‘Soil probiotics’ promise bigger, healthier crops, but there’s a downside | The Conversation
More than half the world’s plant-derived energy intake comes from just three crops: rice, wheat and maize. These crops, like most land plants, live in an evolutionarily ancient partnership with a certain type of fungus, called arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. These fungi penetrate plants’ roots, even entering the root cells themselves. In a win-win relationship, the fungi provide the plants with crucial nutrients and the plant provides the fungi with sugar.

We must look past short-term drought solutions and improve the land itself | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – With drought ravaging Australia’s eastern states, much attention has been given to the need to provide short-term solutions through drought relief. But long-term resilience is a vital issue, particularly as climate change adds further pressure to farmers and farmland. Our research has found that helping farmers improve the rivers, dams, native vegetation and trees on their land increases productivity, the resilience of the land to drought, and through this the health and well-being of farmers.

Campaign continues for marine protection in Southern Ocean | RNZ News
The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, known as CCAMLR, has begun its annual meeting in Hobart, Tasmania. The 25-member organisation – which was established with the objective of conserving Antarctic marine life – has been at a seven-year stalemate which has held up the designation of a marine protected area in East Antarctica.

Economy and Business

Study: Nearly 90 per cent of pension savings not accounting for climate risks | Business Green
Up to £7.5tr of savings managed by the world’s largest pension funds are potentially exposed to climate-related risks and have yet to undergo any formal climate risk assessment, a new analysis released today reveals.

Survey: Scottish firms fear escalating climate risks | Business Green
UK – The overwhelming majority of large companies operating in Scotland believe climate change poses a risk to their business, according to a new survey commissioned by WWF Scotland. The survey of 300 Scottish businesses was conducted by Censuswide, with 150 businesses with over 250 employees and 150 smaller businesses providing responses.

Follow the Money: Climate and Development Should Be Financed Together | World Resources Institute (Podcast 20:24)
Climate change is hitting the poorest and most vulnerable first and hardest. To address escalating climate impacts, the world needs to drastically step up ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as designate money specifically for adapting to climate change.

Trudeau to unveil carbon tax plan Tuesday for provinces that don’t comply | CBC News
CANADA – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will unveil Tuesday the federal government’s plan for wayward provinces that do not comply with the national climate plan. That plan, brokered with most provinces roughly two years ago, includes a carbon tax on greenhouse gas emissions as part of a larger effort to tackle climate change. Trudeau has said the federal government will implement the carbon tax in provinces that do not have a tax of their own, or a cap-and-trade system.

Waste and the Circular Economy

Microplastics found in human stools for the first time | The Guardian
Microplastics have been found in human stools for the first time, according to a study suggesting the tiny particles may be widespread in the human food chain. The small study examined eight participants from Europe, Japan and Russia. All of their stool samples were found to contain microplastic particles. Up to nine different plastics were found out of 10 varieties tested for, in particles of sizes ranging from 50 to 500 micrometres. Polypropylene and polyethylene terephthalate were the plastics most commonly found.

Politics and Society

Is socialism the answer to the climate catastrophe? | Jeff Sparrow | The Guardian (Opinion)
A spectre (or, if you prefer the earlier translation, a “frightful hobgoblin”) is haunting Europe – and, indeed, much of the world. This new, socialistic bogey has been shaking its chains at pollsters for some years now. In 2016 a survey revealed that, on balance, British people rather disliked capitalism – and more of them regarded socialism favourably than negatively. That year, a Harvard study found that a majority of Americans aged between 18 and 29 did not support capitalism. A survey early in 2018 suggested that about a third of US millennials actually self-identified as some form of socialist.

One Year On: Govt exceeds some social housing promises – fails on others | RNZ News
NEW ZEALAND – In the lead up to the 2017 election, Labour campaigned heavily on ending homelessness, re-orienting Housing New Zealand’s focus towards people over profit, and raising standards to ensure homes are warm and dry. It’s been a year since the formation of the coalition government and as part of an RNZ special, One Year On, we look at whether these promises have been met and what’s still to come. Since the election, community housing groups say the government has exceeded some of its promises but failed to live up to others.


Australia’s “largest” solar microgrid set to slash power costs in Victoria coal hub | One Step Off The Grid
AUSTRALIA – Victoria’s coal power hub, the Latrobe Valley, is set to host Australia’s “largest” renewable energy microgrid, after a $15 million solar and battery storage project proposed by a consortium of local companies was announced as the winner of a $3 million state government grant.

Coalition could indemnify new coal projects against potential carbon price | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – The energy minister, Angus Taylor, has signalled the Australian government could indemnify new power generation projects against the future risk of a carbon price, and says it could also support the retrofitting of existing coal plants.


Built Environment

Fast charge for EVs opens up the highway Melbourne to Sydney | The Fifth Estate
AUSTRALIA – Interstate road trippers will soon be able to drive electric vehicles between Australia’s major cities worry-free, with Australian start up Chargefox rolling out the nation’s first “ultra-rapid” charging network for EVs. The new network of 21 charging stations on interstate highways received $6 million from Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and a grant from the Victorian government.

ACT urges local governments to join bulk-buy for electric vehicle fleets | The Driven
AUSTRALIA – The Australia Capital Territory – already Australia’s most welcoming territory for electric vehicles – is launching an electric vehicle bulk-buy program aimed at turning government fleets totally electric. At a summit of climate action councils last week, ACT Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability Shane Rattenbury encouraged local councils to consider joining the ACT to coordinate possible bulk buy purchase of electric vehicles for government fleets.

NABERS’ new tool is looking at you tenants | The Fifth Estate
AUSTRALIA – NABERS ratings have been phenomenally successful for offices: they’ve penetrated 80 per cent of the office space market and saved a mountain in energy costs for landlords. Now there’s a new tool… flagged as a bright solution to an age-old conundrum: how to address the energy footprint created by tenants, which is about half of the total building consumption. While building owners have been diligently cutting back their energy consumption and streamlining their energy efficiency, the same cannot always be said for tenants. Many have enjoyed the high environmental ratings of their landlords for the base building, but done little about their own tenancy.

Food Systems

Supermarkets are not milking dairy farmers dry: the myth that obscures the real problem | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – Australia’s federal agriculture minister, David Littleproud, has called for a boycott of supermarket-branded milk. He is angry about lack of support for a “milk levy” of 10 cents a litre wanted by the dairy industry to support drought-stricken farmers. Fellow National Party colleagues have called for nothing less than a royal commission into the supermarkets’ support for farmers. Nationals leader, and deputy prime minister, Michael McCormack, has said he is open to the idea. Amid intense price competition across many supermarket categories, the price of milk stirs passions like nothing else. But calls to boycott supermarket-branded milk are misguided; and a royal commission would not be money well-spent.

Court action possible over ‘blood phosphate’ purchased by New Zealand companies |
New Zealand fertiliser companies buying “blood phosphate” from Western Sahara may face court action. Ballance Agri-Nutrients and Ravensdown have come under pressure in recent months for their $30 million importation of phosphate from the long-disputed African territory. Kamal Fadel​, a representative of Western Sahara liberation movement Polisario Front, says a legal case against the companies is being considered.

Dreaming of a green Christmas: Iceland debuts palm oil-free festive range | Business Green
It may still be over two months away, but for the UK’s retailers planning for Christmas has been underway for months. As such, supermarket Iceland has this week announced it is to offer customers the chance for some guilt-free Christmas dining, confirming that its festive range of products will contain no palm oil.

Supermarket to offer range of mince pies and desserts that avoid palm oil, as it closes in on goal of eliminating the controversial ingredient from its own-brand ranges by April next year

Supermarket to offer range of mince pies and desserts that avoid palm oil, as it closes in on goal of eliminating the controversial ingredient from its own-brand ranges by April next year