Sustainable Development News

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

Top Story

Volkswagen slumps to first quarterly loss in at least 15 years after rigging diesel emissions tests
German auto giant Volkswagen has posted its first quarterly loss in 15 years in the wake of the global pollution-cheating scandal which also forced it to lower its full-year forecasts. Volkswagen said provisions related to its admission that it fitted 11 million diesel vehicles worldwide with sophisticated software to skew emissions tests pushed it deeply into the red in the period from July to September.

Paris 2015: UN Conference on Climate Change

World leaders to attend Paris climate summit
For the opening day on 30 November, “we have already received 80 confirmations, including from the presidents of the United States and China, and the Indian prime minister,” French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, told journalists in Paris on Tuesday… “Together with president Francois Hollande, we decided to invite heads of state to attend the first day and not the end as in Copenhagen,” said Fabius. This had been partly to blame for the [Copenhagen] failure, he said, “as the negotiators were waiting for heads of state to negotiate, and the heads of state failed to resolve anything.”

Environment and Biodiversity

Why we need to change our philosophical attitude towards poo
It’s a logical result of extinction, so one wonders why no one bothered to do the sum before: what happened to the world when it lost the cumulative billions of tonnes of faeces produced by mammoths, sloths and whales? A new study from the University of Vermont has shown that the planet has suffered twofold from the removal of this biomass. Not only from the lack of diversity created by the extinctions of ancient megafauna and modern, human-induced depletions of many species – from seabirds to elephants, and whales – but from what they once did for our planet by spreading their poo around, redistributing nutrients and fertilising new growth.

Hong Kong ‘Open-Minded’ to Banning its Ivory Trade
Hong Kong—the world’s largest retail market for elephant ivory—says it may now consider banning its ivory trade. Hong Kong is also a major transit hub for illegal ivory, much of it bound for mainland China, the world’s largest consumer of smuggled ivory. With some 30,000 African elephants being killed every year for their ivory, a decision by Hong Kong to shut down its domestic trade would be significant.

Neonicotinoids: new warning on pesticide harm to bees
There is a strong scientific consensus that bees are exposed to neonicotinoid pesticides in fields and suffer harm from the doses received, according to a new analysis of the all the scientific evidence to date. But almost no data exists so far on whether this harm ultimately leads to falls in overall bee populations, the scientists found. They said one “gold standard” field study from Sweden had shown that the insecticides, the most widely used in the world, do significantly damage bumblebee populations. But it found no effect for honeybees, although the study design meant it could only rule out losses greater than 20%.

Climate Change Threatens an Iconic Desert Tree
Close your eyes and imagine a species living in a harsh environment threatened by climate change. If you conjured up a polar bear, Cameron Barrows has a suggestion: Consider, instead, the Joshua tree—the gnarly icon of the Southwest’s Mojave Desert that looks like it sprang from a Dr. Seuss book.

Farmers and blue gum plantation companies donate land to Gondwana Link conservation project
Western Australian farmers and plantation companies in the state’s Great Southern region have been donating land to the Gondwana Link, a major conservation project. The Gondwana Link is a 1000km corridor of intact land providing a safe wildlife passage which has been created over the past 13 years.  The link stretches from Margaret River in the south-west of Western Australia, into the central Wheatbelt, the Great Western Woodlands and further east towards Ravensthorpe.

New colonies of Leadbeater’s possum discovered in logging forests
The politically sensitive and critically endangered Leadbeater’s possum, which is also happens to be Victoria’s animal emblem, is again proving a challenge with the discovery of dozens of new colonies in forests on Melbourne’s northern doorstep that are open to logging. In recent months government and community surveys have found 71 new colonies of Leadbeater’s possum in the central highland forests. That has prompted dozens of new 200-metre logging exclusion zones to be established across the patches of forest in the state’s central highlands where the possum populations are being discovered.

Tiny Island Nation’s Massive New Ocean Reserve is Official
An island nation in the Pacific Ocean that’s smaller than New York City has created an ocean reserve that’s bigger than California. The president of Palau signed legislation Wednesday designating a reserve that’s about 193,000 square miles (500,000 square kilometers) in size. This makes it one of the five largest fully protected marine areas in the world.

Economy and Business

Emissions tax touted for farmers
NEW ZEALAND – Farmers might have to pay for their emissions like everyone else under a revision of the Government’s main climate change policy. The Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), which puts a price on greenhouse gas emissions, is being reviewed this year. A briefing paper produced for the Government by the Ministry for the Environment said it expected the review to consider agriculture’s entry into the scheme.

UK opposition to farming emissions cuts ‘could cost thousands of lives’
An advisory paper sent to MEPs by the UK’s environment department and seen by the Guardian, recommends voting down proposals in Strasbourg today for legally binding curbs on emissions of ammonia, methane and particulates from the agricultural sector. Cumulatively, they are thought to be responsible for an annual 400,000 deaths in Europe.

Is a higher salary the only way business can boost staff loyalty?
Holding on to your rising talent is fast becoming one of the central human resources challenges for employers. Recent research published in the MIT Sloan Management Review shows young managers are increasingly quick to jump ship, seeing a new job as a chance to up their salary and increase their responsibilities.  Rather than upgrading a manager’s company car or increasing his or her bonus, a growing number of large employers are adopting a novel, socially beneficial method of boosting retention: sending employees out to volunteer.

Making home energy upgrades accessible, convenient, affordable
Imagine a world where you have a contractor in your home for a renovation to expand your kitchen and living room space. You plan to get conventional windows, lighting, and appliances because you expect the energy-efficient options will come at a higher upfront cost. But then your contractor starts inquiring about your comfort level in the home: Are there rooms where you’re much colder or warmer than others? Are some rooms noisier than others? After incorporating your answers and an assessment of your home into an app on a tablet or smartphone, the contractor notes that a more-comprehensive update is not just a possibility, but also the more financially sound decision for your renovation. This raises an eyebrow.

Politics and Society

The Priest who broke the law (for solar), and the village that bought back the grid
Schönau. Village of 2500 inhabitants in the Black Forest. A beautiful remote alpine village like any other, right? Wrong. This is arguably the global birthplace of the citizen energy movement and fittingly the first stop on my round the world journey. Their story has been told many times. SBS even did a segment on them. So did RenewEconomy. But I want to tell you a lesser known story about the local Priest.

FiT cuts would cripple 70% of the solar PV industry, survey finds
A new survey launched on the back of the Government’s controversial feed-in tariff (FiT) consultation has found that 70% of solar installers are concerned that the anticipated cuts to subsidies could ‘cripple’ their financial stability.  The survey, conducted by the NAPIT Trade Association, also found that almost three quarters of businesses (70%) would leave the solar PV sector if the FiT cuts go ahead, while 80% of participants believe that the subsidy changes would reduce annual installation capacity by up to 80%.

UK criticised for failure to defend European nature protection laws
An alliance of nine European governments, led by Germany and including France, Spain, Italy and Poland, have written to the European commission to warn it not to dismantle nature protection laws. But conservationists have questioned why Britain is not part of the effort to publicly defend the habitats and birds directives ahead of a review by the commission aimed at cutting red tape for business.

Fiji PM decries Australia’s ‘climate change deniers’ in Turnbull cabinet
Frank Bainimarama criticised Australia and New Zealand for failing to back Pacific island nations over climate change, claiming that the entire region risked being wiped out by rising sea levels, extreme weather and ruined agriculture.  “The Australian government, in particular, seems intent on putting its own immediate economic interests first,” Bainimarama said in a speech delivered in Nadi, Fiji. “The ‘lucky country’ determined to stay lucky, at least for the short term, at the expense of its unlucky island neighbours.”

Built Environment

Liveable cities: who decides what that means and how we achieve it?
Foundation essay: The Conversation has appointed a cities and policy editor to lead our coverage of the myriad issues affecting the urban centres where nine out of ten Australians live. This article sets the scene for exploring the many challenges facing cities today, as well as presenting solutions to the problems and highlighting the opportunities of life in the modern city.

Food Systems

Australia ranks number one with the most organically farmed land in the world
As the world population continues to grow, Australia could capitalise on organic export markets, says Bond University sustainability professor Tor Hundloe.  He has been investigating Australia’s role in feeding the world, with the global population predicted to hit 9.7 billion in 2050. Through his most recent research he discovered Australia had the most organically farmed land in the world: more than five times that of Argentina who came in second on the list.

Sorry, shoppers: ensuring happy hens is more complicated than just buying free-range
A good breakfast often features a couple of free-range local eggs. But what does “free range” really mean for the hens that laid them? Whatever it is, consumers want it. More than 69 million dozen free-range eggs were sold in Australian grocery stores last year, and the share of free-range label sales has steadily increased over the past five years. Sales of barn-laid eggs have also risen, but sales of cage eggs have plummeted. Retailers, alert to the changing consumer demand, have implemented cage egg phase-out policies, choosing alternatives that are seen as kinder to hens. But consumers’ ideas of what makes the happiest hens do not always match up with research findings about welfare.

Gardening; what to do this month
NEW ZEALAND – These are frantic months for growth in the garden. The days and nights are warmer, flowers and fruit trees are blooming. This is the time to get summer crops in the garden and growing.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.