Sustainable Development News

Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world. If you like what you see, you are welcome to sign up (on the right) for free sustainable development news delivered direct to your inbox each weekday morning. 

Energy and Climate Change

Climate denial is immoral, says head of US Episcopal church
The highest ranking woman in the Anglican communion has said climate denial is a “blind” and immoral position which rejects God’s gift of knowledge. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal church and one of the most powerful women in Christianity, said that climate change was a moral imperative akin to that of the civil rights movement. She said it was already a threat to the livelihoods and survival of people in the developing world. “It is in that sense much like the civil rights movement in this country where we are attending to the rights of all people and the rights of the earth to continue to be a flourishing place,” Bishop Jefferts Schori said in an interview with the Guardian. “It is certainly a moral issue in terms of the impacts on the poorest and most vulnerable around the world already.”

Carbon price should increase up to 200% to avoid tipping point, says study
In order to avoid dangerous levels of climate change and crossing irreversible tipping points in the future, the price of carbon should be increased by up to 200%, according to a new study. Researchers from the Universities of Exeter, Zurich, Stanford and Chicago have urged policymakers not to discount the damages from future climate tipping points. The study, which has been published the journal Nature Climate Change, argues that the prospect of future tipping points should greatly increase the amount we are willing to pay now to limit climate change.

Solar energy ‘could provide 4% of UK electricity by 2020’
Solar power could provide up to 4% of the UK’s electricity by the end of the decade, the government has said. The plummeting cost of solar panels has caused the government to revise upwards its forecast for solar energy use, Energy Secretary Ed Davey said.  This had contributed to the government decision to end most subsidies for large-scale solar this month, he added. But the solar industry said the cuts were a mistake and would prevent it from competing with fossil fuels.

Scotland advised to take strong action after missing emissions target again
Scottish politicians should consider congestion charges, reducing speed limits and rethink plans to cut air passenger duty after Scotland again missed its climate targets, an influential advisory committee has said. The committee on climate change, the Scottish government’s official advisers, said far-reaching action was needed to reduce CO2 emissions after the reduction targets were missed for the third time by some 4.5%. While the figures for 2012 showed Scotland’s emissions were better overall than the UK’s and it has been faster on installing renewables, the CCC said it needed to do far more on cutting transport emissions – which are not falling – tackling home fuel use, and that it would require deeper cuts from the wider public sector.

Fossil Fuel Divestment

UN climate chief joins alumni calling on Swarthmore to divest from fossil fuels
The United Nations climate chief appealed to her alma mater, Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, to withdraw from fossil fuels, in an important symbolic show of support for the campus divestment campaign. A group of protesters occupied Swarthmore’s administrative office last week to demand the university return to negotiations on fossil fuel divestment. The administrative board have since agreed to put divestment on the agenda their May meeting. In a letter to Swarthmore’s administration and students, Christiana Figueres, who heads the UN agency guiding the international climate negotiations, called on the university to rid its endowment of fossil fuels.

The Guardian’s fossil fuel divestment campaign could do more harm than good
The Guardian’s Leave It In the Ground campaign names and shames the Wellcome Trust and the Gates Foundation for not divesting their holdings in fossil fuel companies. Editor Alan Rusbridger launched the project by declaring the case for the divestment of fossil fuel investment is overwhelming both on moral and financial grounds. While this campaign and those against Harvard, Oxford, Sydney and other universities are great at generating publicity – the Wellcome Trust announced it had already sold off its £94m investment in ExxonMobil – they may be doing more harm than good.

Environment and Biodiversity

Coal mining banned in India’s Mahan forest
The indigenous communities of a forest in central India have reason to celebrate this spring. No more will they have to live with the fear of being booted out their land that faced the threat of being swallowed by a giant coal mine.The tribal residents of Mahan forest in Madhya Pradesh can now look forward to gathering mahua fruits falling off trees and sell them to make a living. They stand vindicated, as Mahan will be not mined — for the time being.After internal wrangling, the Ministry of Coal has given way to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. The Mahan coal block will not be auctioned, it confirmed in response to a Right to Information request from Greenpeace.

9 reasons why your chicken died
When chickens fall sick and/or die, the small flock poultry keeper often puts it down to one of three things: if it has faeces-stained vent feathers, it’s worms; if the bird was lame, it’s Marek’s disease; if it was a sudden death, it’s because they can! Without a post mortem, sending samples to a laboratory, and/or investigation by a poultry specialist the cause of deaths in your poultry are probably due to a far greater range of disease organisms than the average poultry keeper with a few birds could imagine. The following common diseases cause a lot of the unexplained deaths you will see in your flock.

Economy and Business

UK green economy hit £122bn in 2013
The UK low carbon economy was worth £122bn in 2013 and has been growing at seven per cent a year, according to government figures. A low carbon investment report published today by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) says the sector supports over 460,000 jobs, which equates to around 1.5 of every 100 UK jobs. In a foreword to the report, Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said these jobs were benefiting the whole of the country. “The great thing about green energy investment and jobs is that they are not confined to London and the South East,” he says. “Clean energy projects are booming in every region and country of the UK.”

In Focus: Pavan Sukhdev & Valuing Externalities – Blog
SustainAbility is pleased to shine a spotlight on the work of environmental economist Pavan Sukhdev, CEO of GIST Advisory, an environmental consulting firm focused on enabling governments and corporations to measure and manage their impacts on natural and human capital. At the end of 2014 he joined our Engaging Stakeholders workshops to share his knowledge on the importance of, and emerging methodologies in, valuing externalities, including social, environmental and financial impacts.

Green Investment Bank to go global with £200m climate finance pilot
The government has given the UK Green Investment Bank an extra £200m to set up a dedicated team to invest in green energy projects in Africa and India. Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey confirmed today that the government as set up a joint venture with the bank to expand its reach overseas as a way of boosting climate finance. The Green Investment Bank (GIB) was established in 2012 with £3.8bn funding from the Treasury to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in the UK. It has also been working with officials from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the Department for International Development (DfID) since last summer, to explore how it could help the UK invest its £3.87bn International Climate Fund (ICF).

Waste and the Circular Economy

Gold in faeces ‘worth millions’
US researchers are investigating ways to extract the gold and precious metals from human faeces. The group identified gold in waste from American sewage treatment plants at levels which if found in rock could be worth mining. Details were outlined at the 249th national meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Denver. Extracting metals from the waste could also help curb the release of toxic substances into the environment. “The gold we found was at the level of a minimal mineral deposit,” said co-author Dr Kathleen Smith, from the US Geological Survey (USGS).

Mushrooms to the Rescue in the Ecuadorian Amazon
I’m not sure if you’d have any luck selling Hollywood on the idea of a superhero that happens to be a mushroom, but the idea would, at least, have a factual basis. We should be grateful for mushrooms. Not just because they are delicious on pizza and in stir-frys, but because they also go around behind us, quietly cleaning up our messes, a little bit like Mom does. Mom, as in Mother Earth, it would seem. The Sucumbíos province of northeast Ecuador is home to nearly a thousand toxic waste pits. And it is here that a group called the Amazon Defense Coalition has recruited specialized fungi with an appetite for toxic waste.

Can big brands catch up on sustainable fashion?
Imagine a pair of trousers you could throw on the compost. After years of use, they could decompose among the eggshells and tea bags to leave behind nothing but some fertile soil to help grow new raw materials. It takes the circular economy to a whole new level. This is the idea behind F-ABRIC, a range of materials developed by Swiss company Freitag. Until recently, Freitag’s only line of business was making bags out of old truck tarpaulins.

Politics and Society

Embracing Awkwardness – Blog
From economists to politicians, from consumers to scientists, plenty of people agree that the current approach of many businesses is not sustainable.  We’ve talked about the sheer obviousness of this point, as have many other thinkers and doers working on this challenge. But when it comes to discussing this with people responsible for key decision within these companies, it is frankly a bit awkward. Even for consultants like us who are engaged specifically to talk about this stuff, it doesn’t always feel okay to come right out and say it.

Food Systems

NZ’s $872 million food secret
The Waste Management Institute of NZ (WasteMINZ) is aiming to reduce avoidable food with the release of the Love Food Hate Waste campaign. The programme, which arose out of a UK Government-funded organisation, attempts to highlight the importance of planning food purchases and meals, being smart about food storage and being creative with leftovers. Over the last year and a half, WasteMINZ, who are coordinating the campaign, undertook research with 43 councils and looked into into more than 1400 household bins to come to terms with the issue. What they found was shocking.


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