Sustainable Development News

Sustainable development news from around the world with a focus on Australia and New Zealand.
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I won’t express my disappointment in Australia’s rising emissions as my words may not be appropriate for this newsletter.  I have however, added three articles on the topic in today’s top news.  In other news, we can look to California, or even Lloyds bank, for better leadership on emissions reduction; insurance companies are looking to insure climate protection structures such as mangroves and reefs, but only if they can be economically quantified (hello, triple bottom line economics); and another article to make you think how you can make a difference through the personal care products you use.

Top Story

It’s no surprise emissions keep going up. There’s no price on carbon | The Guardian
Late last Friday, the government quietly released the latest data on greenhouse gas emissions and, as has been the case since the ending of the carbon price, they show emissions are increasing. But the figures also highlight that the government’s current plan to focus almost exclusively on electricity, through its National Energy Guarantee, means Australia will be unable to meet its commitment to reduce economy-wide emissions by 28% below 2005 levels by 2030.

Chart: Greg Jericho  • Source: Dept of Environment, Table 1C, derived • Get the data  • Created with Datawrapper   Total annual greenhouse gas emissions (excluding Land Use, Land Use Change, and Forestry (LULUCF))

Chart: Greg Jericho • Source: Dept of Environment, Table 1C, derived • Get the data • Created with Datawrapper
Total annual greenhouse gas emissions (excluding Land Use, Land Use Change, and Forestry (LULUCF))

‘Glaring inconsistency’: National emissions jump may be underestimated | SMH
Australia’s greenhouse gases rose for a third consecutive year in 2017, led by emissions from the gas and transport sectors, according to federal government data. Environmental groups, however, say the true emissions figure may be under – estimated because large-scale land clearing – particularly in Queensland and lately in NSW – is not being accurately represented. The National Greenhouse Gas inventory for last year, released without fanfare at the end of last week, showed emissions were up 1.5 per cent compared with 2016 to 533.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent.

Australia emissions rise for 3rd year in row, despite fall in electricity | RenewEconomy
The federal government’s latest tally of Australia’s carbon emissions reveals yet another increase in the nation’s contribution to climate changing greenhouse gases, even without the contributions of Victoria’s now-closed Hazelwood coal plant… This should not be surprising. The current government’s numerous critics point out that the country has no emissions reduction mechanisms to reach its modest target of a 26-28 per cent cut in emissions from 2005 levels by 2030.

Climate Change and Energy 

California, battered by global warming’s weather whiplash, is fighting to stop it | Dana Nuccitelli | The Guardian
USA – In 1988 – the same year Nasa’s James Hansen warned Congress about the threats posed by human-caused global warming – water expert Peter Gleick wrote about the wet and dry extremes that it would create for California: “California will get the worst of all possible worlds – more flooding in the winter, less available water in the summer.” Three decades later, California has been ravaged by just this sort of weather whiplash. The state experienced its worst drought in over a millennium from 2012 to 2016, followed immediately by its wettest year on record in 2017. The consequences have been similarly extreme, including hellish record wildfires, narrowly-avoided catastrophic flooding at Oroville Dam, and deadly mudslides.

California greenhouse gas emissions, population, and GDP. Illustration: California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment

California greenhouse gas emissions, population, and GDP. Illustration: California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment

Victoria “Community Grid” grows, in bid to cut network costs by $30m | One Step Off The Grid
AUSTRALIA – A Community Grid Project in Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula region that is expected to save network operator United Energy tens of millions of dollars in avoided grid upgrades, has added a key new solar and storage system to its collection of behind the meter resources. The five-year pilot project has been one to watch, not least because it features a traditional network company leveraging non-network solutions to fix an age-old problem that used to mean only one thing: more poles and wires.

Almost half of Australian big business moving to renewables | The Guardian
AUSTRALIA – Almost half of Australia’s large businesses are actively transitioning to cheaper renewable energy, including many going off the grid by building their own generators and battery storage, as power bills threaten their bottom line. A new report by the Climate Council details the increased speed of a business-led transition to renewables as power bills have increased.

Environment and Biodiversity 

Plant ‘thugs’ crowd roadside flowers | BBC News
UK – Wild flowers are being driven off Britain’s roadside verges by air pollution and poor management​, the charity Plantlife claims. It says emissions from vehicle exhausts are acting as a fertiliser for a group of nitrogen-loving plants like nettles, which outcompete traditional flowers. ​The group reports an almost 20% loss in the diversity of plants. And this has led to a decline in the insects that depend on many of these plants, the charity says.

Economy and Business 

Insurance turns to coral reefs and mangroves as ocean risks surge | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Warmer sea temperatures have led to more intense storms in the Atlantic Ocean, contributing to $320 billion in disaster losses from weather and climate-related events last year, according to the World Meteorological Organization. Only about a quarter of these were insured. But despite high payouts, industry experts speaking at the Ocean Risk Summit in reinsurance hub Bermuda said so-called “ocean risk” – which encompasses storms and hurricanes as well as marine diseases and declines in fish stocks – can present opportunities for insurers if the risks are modelled correctly.

Lloyds launches £2bn Clean Growth Finance scheme | Edie
UK – The bank’s new Clean Growth Finance scheme incentivises businesses to cut their carbon emissions, switch to renewable electricity and implement energy efficiency measures by offering a discounted lending rate. With the money saved through this rate, businesses can then invest in reducing their environmental impact.

Waste and the Circular Economy 

Your shampoo, hair spray and skin lotion may be polluting the air | The Conversation
Millions of Americans apply personal care products every morning before heading to work or school. But these products don’t stick to our bodies permanently. Over the course of the day, compounds in deodorants, lotions, hair gels and perfumes evaporate from our skin and eventually make their way outdoors. Now there’s new evidence to suggest that these products are major sources of air pollution in urban areas.

Queenstown woman collects 10,000 cigarette butts and pushes for smoking ban |
NEW ZEALAND – A Queenstown woman who collected 10,000 stinky cigarette butts from Queenstown beaches is pushing for a smoking ban. Over 30 days Liz Smith collected 10,527 cigarette butts from Queenstown Bay and Frankton Beach and photographed the result to make a “visual statement”. She posted her final photo on popular Facebook page Queenstown Trading on the weekend and asked for “yes” responses to show support. By Monday afternoon more than 3,700 people had responded. So on Tuesday morning Smith is joining with health groups to present to the Queenstown Lakes District Council and call for a ban on smoking at the town’s beaches

Queenstown woman Liz Smith collected over 10,000 cigarette butts from the own's beaches during 30 days and now wants to see smoking banned in the public areas.

Queenstown woman Liz Smith collected over 10,000 cigarette butts from the own’s beaches during 30 days and now wants to see smoking banned in the public areas.

If we can’t recycle it, why not turn our waste plastic into fuel? | The Conversation
AUSTRALIA – Plastic is made from refined crude oil. Its price and production are dictated by the petrochemical industry and the availability of oil. As oil is a finite natural resource, the most sustainable option would be to reduce crude-oil consumption by recycling the plastic and recovering as much of the raw material as possible.  There are two types of recycling: mechanical and chemical. Mechanical recycling involves sorting, cleaning and shredding plastic to make pellets, which can then be fashioned into other products. This approach works very well if plastic wastes are sorted according to their chemical composition. Chemical recycling, in contrast, turns the plastic into an energy carrier or feedstock for fuels. There are two different processes by which this can be done: gasification and pyrolysis.

These companies can recycle nearly anything, from cigarette butts to fax machines | World Economic Forum
Human beings are filling the world with waste. Every year, we dump 2.1 billion tons of rubbish into the ecosystem. Eight million tons of that slips quietly into our oceans. Despite the statistics, change is agonizingly slow. We’re consuming more than ever. But we haven’t yet invented the protocols for dealing with waste. However, a few hardy companies are turning this tide of garbage into something reusable. TerraCycle is a “global leader in recycling typically hard-to-recycle waste”.

Politics and Society 

Why Iceland is set to resume whaling despite international opposition | The Conversation
ICELAND – After a two-year pause in the fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) hunt, Icelandic whaling company Hvalur hf. will resume whaling this summer, with a government-issued quota.  Two factors help explain why Iceland and other countries are determined to hunt whales in defiance of international disapproval. The first is demand for the product; the second is Iceland’s interpretation of international law on whaling.

Built Environment

Reports: China EV sales move into the fast lane | BusinessGreen
CHINA – Sales of electric and hybrid cars in China more than doubled in April compared to the same time last year, as the promise of tax rebates and new models lured buyers towards cleaner vehicles. According to the government-backed China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM), electric vehicle (EV) sales in China hit 225,310 during the first four months of this year, up 149 per cent compared to the same period a year earlier and accounting for around half of all EV sales worldwide.


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