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This Week in Sustainability News 17.03

Learn about the looming water crisis, the UK's net-zero failures, tree protection, and more, with our summary of this week's sustainability news.

This past week was filled with interesting sustainability and climate news, we’ve summarised the top stories below.

Global water crisis looms as demand set to surpass supply, says ground-breaking report

  • The Global Commission on the Economics of Water's ground-breaking report states that the world is on the brink of a water crisis, with an anticipated 40% increase in demand for fresh water by the end of this decade. This increase will surpass the available water supply.
  • The report suggests a seven-point call to collective action to avoid this and achieve a sustainable and just water future:
  • 1. Manage the global water cycle as a global common good, recognising the interconnectedness of communities and nations and the critical role of water in achieving the SDGs.
  • 2. Adopt an outcomes-focused, mission-driven approach to water that involves multiple stakeholders and investment in public-private partnerships.
  • 3. Cease under-pricing water and account for its non-economic value in decision-making.
  • 4. Phase out subsidies in agriculture and water, reduce leakages in water systems, and require disclosure of water footprints.
  • 5. Establish Just Water Partnerships to drive investment in water access, resilience, and sustainability in low- and middle-income countries.
  • 6. Focus on fortifying freshwater storage systems, developing the urban circular water economy, reducing water footprints in manufacturing, and shifting agriculture to precision irrigation and drought-resilient farming.
  • 7. Reshape multilateral governance of water through trade policy, capacity building, and empowerment of marginalised groups.

Learn more

Woodland Trust calls for creation of body to protect mature trees

  • The Woodland Trust is calling for the creation of an English Heritage-style body to protect mature trees, including those that contribute to the attractiveness of towns and cities.
  • This comes after over 100 trees were felled by the Plymouth city council despite significant local opposition and ongoing lobbying by the Woodland Trust. A council survey found that 68% of respondents did not support its redevelopment plan.
  • The Woodland Trust argues that mature trees provide vital habitat for wildlife and sequester carbon and that redevelopment plans should prioritise designing around existing nature.

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Experts criticize UK government's latest budget for lack of action on net-zero carbon goals

  • Green campaigners and experts have criticised the UK government's latest budget for doing little to achieve the country's net-zero carbon goals, missing opportunities to create a green economy, and potentially leading to high energy bills fuelled by fossil fuels.
  • While the chancellor of the exchequer mentioned boosting nuclear power and carbon capture and storage technology, there was no focus on home insulation or removing barriers to onshore windfarms.
  • Furthermore, the continued freeze on fuel duty would benefit drivers of fuel-guzzling SUVs and potentially leave the UK behind other countries in creating green jobs.
  • Experts have called for a long-term investment plan to accelerate the transition to sustainable growth.

Learn more

Extreme drought and rainfall increasing sharply, causing humanitarian crises and infrastructure damage

  • Extreme drought and rainfall have increased sharply over the past 20 years, leading to issues such as crop failure, infrastructure damage, and humanitarian crises, according to a study published in the journal Nature Water.
  • The study analysed data from a pair of satellites called GRACE, which monitor changes in Earth's water storage.
  • The data confirms that the frequency and intensity of rainfall and droughts are increasing due to human activity, such as burning fossil fuels that release greenhouse gases.
  • The researchers used a novel algorithm to identify where the land is much wetter or drier than normal and found that the most extreme events are occurring in sub-Saharan Africa and Brazil, as well as in North America and Australia.

Learn more

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