Sustainable Development News

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Top Story

How companies make us forget we need to consume less to stop climate change
Recycle more, opt for “sustainable” products, offset your flights. In short, do anything, just please don’t stop buying our product. Companies know that most of us have a basic instinct to protect the environment. Some also know that our doing so could well be a serious threat to their business model. Why? Because a determined attempt to stave off climate change and resource depletion would require radical changes, not only to what we consume, but also – crucially – to how much we consume.  Here are four ways companies frame their marketing messages to make sure we keep buying their products despite our green instincts.

Energy and Climate Change

Thirty years of consecutive warmth: the heat really is on
Back in February 1985, The Heat Is On by US rock legend Glenn Frey was near the top of the music charts and unwittingly becoming something of an anthem for the global climate ever since. Last month capped 30 years in which average monthly temperatures worldwide have been warmer than the average for the 20th century. That’s 360 consecutive months. And that warming trend, which scientists say is mostly the result of a build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, remains strong – although there are finally signs that carbon emissions may be peaking.

Climate change brings disasters on steroids
Australia’s $5 million contribution to address the devastating impacts of Cyclone Pam is a much-needed and welcome act.  But remedial responses like this are not enough.  Governments must also develop more proactive tools to help mitigate the impacts of disasters in the first place, including the displacement of people from their homes. Climate change-related displacement is happening now.  It is not just a future phenomenon. Reportedly 45 per cent of Tuvalu’s population has been displaced by Cyclone Pam. More frequent and more intense extreme weather events are consistent with climate change: disasters become disasters on steroids.

Cyclone Pam: Is it time for a category-6 cyclone rating?
According to the New Zealand’s MetService, satellites indicate Cyclone Pam reached mean wind speeds of 270 km/h, with gusts even higher as it passed over the Pacific island nation. Low pressure at the eye of the storm, rated a category-5 “super cyclone”, dipped as low as 890 hectopascals (hPa), said Emma Blades, a meteorologist with the service. Cyclone Pam was “certainly one of the biggest storms to occur in the South Pacific”, Kevin Walsh, an associate professor at Melbourne University, said. “It’s extremely rare for us to get tropical cyclones with central pressures in the South Pacific less than 900 hPa.

How the internet of things is making a business of slashing energy costs
“The Internet of things – which is really about the connecting of devices and the acquisition of data – ultimately creates much more visibility: the visibility of the performance of the grid, visibility of where we lose energy, and where the savings potential really is,” says Gerd Kortuem, professor of ubiquitous computing at the Open University and energy leader for Milton Keynes’ smart city initiative. Smart grids, which run using the Internet of things, allow energy distribution to be managed in real time based on immediate data rather than historic patterns of energy use. Together with smart meters, they open the door to energy services and payment tariffs that could dramatically reduce business energy costs and boost their sustainability credentials.

Hawaii Faces Massive Logjam of Solar Permit Applications
The state with the highest penetration of residential photovoltaics is Hawaii, where 51,000 homes – 12 percent of residences – are PV-powered. (The U.S. average is about 0.50 percent). The impetus for Hawaii’s love affair with PV is two-fold: high electricity prices from the local utility (37 cents per kilowatt-hour – three times the national average) and plummeting solar PV prices (an 80 percent decline since 2008). For clean energy proponents, Hawaii’s embrace of solar power should be nothing but good news. But something troubling – and infuriating to would-be PV customers – has been happening in Hawaii over the past couple of years.

Fossil Fuel Divestment

Ed Davey backs divestment from ‘very risky’ coal assets
Pension and insurance funds should consider urgent divestment from “very risky” coal assets and then gradually retreat from oil and gas, Ed Davey, the UK energy and climate change secretary, has warned. Davey said it was not up to an energy minister to tell fund managers how to run their businesses, but added that it was vital to introduce regulatory transparency that would drive investors from fossil fuels to renewables. “If you invest in a lot of coal assets you may be over-exposed but it is up to you to make that decision and for government to ensure the information is available. The [CTI’s] 82%… is quite a number. It seems to me to be relatively realistic,” he argued.

Home loan divestment movement launched
A mortgage broking company offering home loans with fossil free banks and credit unions has been launched by Simon Sheikh and former Australian Ethical manager Adam Verwey. Called Future Home Loans, the service expects to move hundreds of millions of dollars in home loans from concerned citizens away from the major banks, who last week confirmed the extension of a $1.4 billion debt facility to Whitehaven Coal.

Students occupy Oxford university building in fossil fuel divestment protest
Students occupied an administrative building at Oxford university on Monday in protest at the university’s decision to defer a decision on whether to dump its shares in fossil fuels… No attempt was made to remove the protesters and the security staff made no attempt to block the protesters from entering the building just as it closed for the day… John Clements, who was Oxford’s director of finance until 2004, joined the sit in. He said: “We are bitterly disappointed about the university’s failure to come to a decision. Oxford should be leading the move away from investment in all world-destroying fossil fuel companies to more sustainable forms of energy.”

Environment and Biodiversity

EU one of the largest importers of illegal deforestation products
EU imports have been linked to driving illegal deforestation in a report from campaign group Fern. The UK is among the largest consumers of the good highlighted in the study. The report – Stolen Goods: The EU’s complicity in illegal tropical deforestation – estimated that in 2012 the EU imported €6 billion (£4.3bn) of soy, beef, leather and palm oil that were grown or reared on land illegally cleared of forest in the tropics, representing almost a quarter of the total world trade.

Westpac announces $10K waterway boost
NEW ZEALAND – Westpac’s investment in the Million Metres Streams project, SBN’s non-profit, crowd-funded project which aims to plant a million metres of waterways, is part of Westpac’s corporate social responsibility measures. The announcement was made at the Central Districts Field Days on 12th March and outlined the partial funding of a 500m project in Manawatu’s Waituna West. Some 2,500 trees are set to be planted beside a stream weaving through the 275-hectare Ewanrigg farm, owned by Curwen and Marija Hare. The environmentally savvy farm is already involved in possum trapping, has fenced off and retired 12 per cent of the land – including all the permanently flowing streams. Their efforts were recognised in 2013 when the couple won the Ballance Farm Environment Supreme Award.

Two Vampire Crab Species Found, Are Already Popular Pets
Vampire crabs, so named because of their glowing yellow eyes, have become popular as pets, but the origin of some of these spooky-looking crustaceans has been cloaked in mystery.  Now researchers have traced the freshwater crabs back to their wild source in Southeast Asia—and report that the two most sought-after species are new to science. The newly described species, Geosesarma dennerle and Geosesarma hagen, were found in separate river valleys on the Indonesian island of Java. “These crabs are kind of special because they’ve been around in the pet trade for ten years, but no one knew where they come from,” said study co-author and professional aquarist Christian Lukhaup of Waiblingen, Germany. The two new vampire crab species are probably each confined to a single watershed, making them particularly vulnerable to collectors, the study team warned.

Ecological engineering: a breath of life for marine ecosystems
Oxygen is essential for many life forms. But we don’t often give it the attention it deserves because we assume that it is always there. While oxygen is ubiquitous in our atmosphere, it is not necessarily the case for many bodies of water like rivers, lakes or even oceans. Here a lack of oxygen can result in significant impacts on the ecosystem like the killing of fish that subsequently float to the surface. But artificially oxygenating water can breathe new life, as we found recently while working with a fjord in Sweden.

Economy and Business

Finance for Resilience: New ideas chosen by jury to boost clean energy & climate finance
An independent panel of energy and finance experts has pre-selected eight new ideas with significant potential to accelerate investment in clean energy and climate finance worldwide. Finance for Resilience (FiRe) is a non-profit initiative run alongside the Bloomberg New Energy Finance Summit. It has the aim of identifying promising interventions, based on scale and feasibility.  The panel convened on 11 March to choose eight finalists from the top 24 proposals that had already passed the initial screening. The finalists are proposing cutting-edge financial tools and approaches for tackling barriers to the financing of clean energy and climate projects. The shortlist includes opportunities in energy efficiency, distributed systems, risk management and securitisation.

Levi’s Has Saved 1B Liters of Water Through Its Water<Less Process — Now It’s Asking You to Wash Less
Levi Strauss and Co. today announced it has saved one billion liters of water since 2011 through its Water<Less™ process, which reduces the water used in garment finishing by up to 96 percent. This announcement coincides with the release of LS&Co.’s new Product Lifecycle Assessment (LCA), an update on the company’s groundbreaking 2007 study on the environmental impact of its products. The new study analyzed the complete product lifecycle, probing deeper into the environmental impacts of cotton in key growing regions, apparel production and distribution in a range of locations, and consumer washing and drying habits in key markets.

Politics and Society

Occupy Amazonia? Indigenous activists are taking direct action – and it’s working
The native peoples of Loreto, in Peru’s Amazon basin, have just ended a month long occupation of 14 oil wells belonging to the Argentine company Pluspetrol. Negotiations are still underway between the oil company and various other communities, represented by the indigenous association Feconaco. This is not the first time Feconaco has occupied Pluspetrol’s operations. Such actions on the part of indigenous groups are relatively common. Amazonian people don’t appear to have learned direct action from the occupy movement or from Euro-American protest traditions, despite the similar tactics. In the absence of functioning state protection, native people have always had to stand up for themselves.

Dumping Abbot Point dredge spoil on land won’t save the reef
Queensland Labor’s new plan to dump Abbot Point dredge spoil on land announced last week, and not at sea or in sensitive wetlands as under previous proposals, is a welcome one, but it will do little to stem the flow of damage to the Great Barrier Reef. Meanwhile the federal government continues to make efforts to keep the Great Barrier Reef off the World Heritage In Danger list, on Monday announcing laws to ban dredging within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, excluding maintenance dredging at established ports. However of the nearly 6.4 million cubic metres of spoil dumped since 2010, around 84% has been dumped outside the Marine Park but in the World Heritage Area. A ban from the World Heritage Area would be more meaningful.

Real Estate Agents Help to Reduce Homelessness
Real estate agents in the Macarthur region of Sydney, Australia, are helping to prevent tenants in crisis from becoming homeless, and in two years they have saved 57 tenancies. It has become an operating practice because the social outcome is aligned with commercial returns.

Built Environment

Adjust Your Volume: Formula E’s New (Whiny) Era of Racing
If the future of automotives has a sound … well, that sound might drive you to plug your ears. The Formula E cars aren’t exactly silent, as anyone who’s driven a Toyota Prius or other battery-powered car might expect. Fans have likened the whir of motors on the raceway to vacuums, toys, and Pink Floyd’s Syd Barrett playing slide guitar while on LSD. Auditory experience aside, Formula E’s objective is to make the world more sustainable by promoting electric vehicles. A cousin of Formula 1 run by the same governing body, the new championship features teams with high-profile backers, including actor Leonardo DiCaprio and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson.


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