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The world’s sustainability to-do list
Meet the Kiwi championing sustainable development with creativity.
Kia ora, welcome to Future Proof. I’m Ellen, thanks for joining me this week.
Bridget Williams is the founder and CEO of the SDG-focused social enterprise, Bead and Proceed.
Last week, governments from across the globe recommitted to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a set of 17 overarching goals and 169 targets with a 2030 deadline, that together make up a blueprint for ensuring a sustainable world.
Now at the halfway mark, the world is unfortunately not on track to achieve any of the 17 SDGs, according to a scientific analysis. Drilling down to assess progress towards a selection of 36 targets, the report shows we’re making decent headway on only two: increasing internet and mobile access. We’re even moving backward in some target areas, including greenhouse gas emissions.
As a country, New Zealand’s progress leaves a lot unchecked on the to-do list too. Plus, we’ve been slipping down the global rankings for the last few years, from 11th to 27th, lagging behind other countries who are picking up the SDG slack.
At a quick glance, New Zealand’s SDG progress doesn’t look great (red and orange = bad). Screenshot from the SDG Index, which draws on publicly available information.
But there is hope yet, scientists say, with signs that the goals are having some impact on governments’ policies and actions. And I found hope recently in a conversation with sustainable development advocate Bridget Williams, who is shifting the needle on the SDGs through creativity, right here in Aotearoa.
Each of the 17 SDGs is represented by a distinctive bright colour.
Williams is the founder and CEO of social enterprise Bead and Proceed. Their offering is simple: you learn about the SDGs, and how they match with your own personal passions and strengths, while painting five brightly coloured beads in hues that match your favourite goals.
But why should these lofty UN goals matter to people not in government? Williams sees the SDGs as “an effective framework” that gives people “a sense of direction for where and how they want to make an impact.” The SDGs cover sustainability in all its forms – economic, social and environmental – meaning there is something for everyone. Plus, they “speak an international language,” says Williams. “They encourage us to lift our gaze and to see, how does this local action apply globally?”
The name Bead and Proceed is a more positive spin on the old “Stitch ‘n Bitch” knitting group concept. While she’s now known as “the bead lady”, Williams emphasises that the beads – in a style inspired by a DIY necklace project on Pinterest – are more than a fun gimmick. “It was a very conscious decision to use creativity as a tool. The action of painting is distraction therapy,” she says. “It gets people into a mindset where it's not intimidating to open up about what you care about and why you’ve chosen your goals.” People’s SDG choices are tallied up into a report, giving organisations a snapshot of what their people care about.
Businesses can use the SDG framework for environmental, social and governance reporting. They can use it to articulate how they’re already having positive impacts, and as a source of ideas to grow their impact further, or in new ways. “It could be as simple as finally implementing an organics bin,” says Williams. That’s SDG12 – Responsible Consumption and Production.
“I think goals are a really powerful tool for us to come together as a collective. History has shown that when we do this, sometimes the most impossible things can be possible.”
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The climate election heats up
National wants to create a new policy statement on renewables, and the Greens want an oceans commission: Shanti Mathias rounds up climate and environmental policies from major parties in this explainer, part of the “policy in two minutes” series.
Since the explainer went live, Labour has released a climate manifesto. Newsroom’s Marc Daalder has the details. New policies include creating a Minister for Just Transitions to oversee an equitable shift to a low-carbon economy, and “exploring” 2.1 million hectares of native reforestation over the next decade.
Both Labour and National face multi-billion-dollar holes in their climate costings, RNZ’s Eloise Gibson reports, stemming from the need to purchase offshore carbon credits to meet our international climate obligations.
Both Chrises stumbled in the leaders’ debate last week when asked about their personal actions to reduce emissions. Like many Kiwis, they offered up “recycling” as a climate action they take personally. But recycling isn’t that effective emissions-wise, as we’ve discussed previously in Future Proof. Climate scientist Dr Kevin Trenberth offers more evidence-based climate action advice on The Detail podcast.
Māori, Pacific leaders support legal personhood for whales
Among the SDG discussion at recent UN gatherings, a contingent of Māori and Pacific leaders – including King Tūheitia – have collaborated on a resolution for the adoption of the whale as ocean ambassador to the United Nations. The resolution seeks to protect the legal personhood of whales in shared waters, particularly along their Pacific migratory routes through seasonal protected blue corridors.
Melbourne city’s carbon neutral apartment building
On When the Facts Change this week, Bernard Hickey learns about a new carbon neutral apartment building in Melbourne. He’s joined by Liam Wallis, the founder of a design agency that helped design, fund and build the innovative project.
It’s whitebait season, but there’s still a lot scientists don’t know about these native freshwater fish, writes Shanti Mathias.
Car makers spend much more money promoting gas-guzzling utes than electric or smaller vehicles, RNZ’s Kirsty Johnston finds.
In other car news, Nissan has committed to selling only electric vehicles in Europe from 2030.
The EU’s new battery regulations could supercharge EV battery recycling.
Could eradicating possums help fight global warming? New research comparing the carbon-sucking abilities of pest-free forests to unmanaged forests aims to find out.
A new draft policy statement on natural hazards suggests new development could be barred in areas exposed to high climate risk.
Full-time working from home cuts emissions by 54% compared to working in the office, a US study finds.
“Trying to put out an inferno with a leaking hose”: the Climate Ambition Summit wasn’t very ambitious.
Image credit: Department of Conservation.
To finish this issue, the toroa are back! The first northern royal albatross began to arrive for a new breeding season on Friday last week. Their touchdown at Taiaroa Head near Dunedin, after nine months at sea, prompted the customary ringing of bells across the city to announce their arrival. GBK (banded Green, Blue, blacK) on the right is a 20-year-old male and YKG (banded Yellow, blacK, Green) on the left is a 30-year-old female. Haere mai, seafarers! Wishing the couples a successful breeding season.
Soaring through the week,
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