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The U.S. central bank takes climate change risk into its assessments of financial stability

Severe weather carries economic and financial stability risks and major central banks have already made climate change an explicit part of their financial stability remits. Despite the fact that President Donald Trump’s administration still denies climate change exist, the U.S. central bank now also consider taking climate change risk into its assessments of financial stability, and may even take it into account when setting monetary policy.

It seems the reality of the climate crisis is too much for the Federal Reserve to ignore anymore. Scientists all over the world are in broad agreement that carbon dioxide from cars, power plants and other human sources are behind the climate change that’s already making powerful hurricanes, severe drought, and other weather extremes more frequent.

“To fulfill our core responsibilities, it will be important for the Federal Reserve to study the implications of climate change for the economy and the financial system and to adapt our work accordingly,” Fed Governor Lael Brainard said in remarks released at the start of the Fed’s first-ever conference on climate change and economics in San Francisco, Reuters reports.

The Fed, she said, will need to look at how to keep banks and the financial system resilient amid risks from extreme weather, higher temperatures, rising sea levels and other effects of the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

The attention for the San Francisco conference was so big that it was oversubscribed. Due to this a webcast was created to meet demand. Papers presented at the conference showed how climate change has crimped growth and presented ideas on how policy, including monetary policy, can be used to mitigate harm.

Ms. Brainard said the central bank now discuss how it might participate in a network of about 40 global central banks that was created in 2017 to promote climate-related financial and macroeconomic issues. The goal of becoming more active with the Central Banks and Supervisors Network for Greening the Financial System, she said, would be to “learn from our international colleagues’ approaches to measuring and managing climate risks in the financial system.”

As social norms have shifted, the Fed has talked about inequality more openly and regularly without a backlash. A similar evolution seems to be underway when it comes to the climate.

“Climate change is an issue we can’t afford to ignore,” San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly said at the start of the conference. “This is not a hypothetical risk of the future...the risks are here, we have to deal with them.”

Scientists Have Discovered How To Turn Seawater Into Fuel

With hydrogen fuel there are no carbon emissions. The only down side is that it uses water that we could be drinking instead. But now scientists have figured out a way to skip this costly water purification part of the process and convert seawater into usable hydrogen. This research is published in the journal PNAS.

The electrodes in water make it possible for the chemical reaction in which hydrogen is formed. When electricity is run through water it splits the hydrogen and oxygen, giving you a pure and zero-emission fuel source.

Seawater contains a positive electrode that attracts chloride, quickly decaying the metal. To tackle this problem, the scientists added a new metal coating so the electrode can last longer. The team was able to use 10 times more electricity with its device, generating hydrogen even faster than before. As a bonus, they made their design environmentally friendly, energy-efficient and powered it with solar cells.

The good thing about fuel cells is that it could store more energy than batteries while avoiding some of their environmental challenges.

"Hydrogen is the next generation of power because the energy density is higher than batteries, meaning that you can drive for a longer distance, or power heavier devices." explains Hongjie Dai, a chemistry professor at Stanford University.

  • Hydrogen-powered cars are already on the roads around the world
  • A hydrogen-powered train is now running in Germany
  • A hydrogen-powered ferry is coming to San Francisco this year
  • Hydrogen-powered cargo ships are currently being designed in Norway
  • The first regional hydrogen-electric airplane is being developed by a startup in Singapore

 

In the future, ships running on hydrogen fuel cells will be able to make their own fuel directly from the ocean with the help of renewable energy such as solar panels or wind turbines.

South Korea to build three cities powered by hydrogen before 2022

South Korea is trying to win the race to create the first hydrogen-powered society. It wants to build three hydrogen-powered cities by 2022 as it positions itself as a leader in the green technology. The plan will see the cities use hydrogen as the fuel for cooling, heating, electricity and transportation. Consultation on where the three cities will be located is under way.

The test cities will use a hydrogen-powered transportation system, including buses and personal cars. Hydrogen charging stations will be available in bus stations and parking spaces. The strategy is part of a wider vision to power 10% of the country's cities, counties and towns by hydrogen by 2030, growing to 30% by 2040.

This includes drastic increases in the numbers of hydrogen-powered vehicles and charging points in the next three years. The government has earmarked money to subsidize these vehicles and charging infrastructure.

Countries including Germany, Japan and China are also looking to a future hydrogen society, with a number of Asian car manufacturers including Hyundai, Toyota and Honda sinking resources into creating a range of hydrogen powered cars.

With fuel cell vehicles – or FCVs – generally offering greater range and faster refueling times than electric vehicles, there is great hope that they will accelerate the transition to cleaner vehicles.

But challenges remain with the technology. Although some FCVs are now on the market, for many the cost remains prohibitive and they have some way to go before they become mainstream.

The output from hydrogen-powered cars is only water as a by-product. Producing the hydrogen itself is an energy-intensive process though, but as long as the production is powered by renewable sources the system is completely clean.

West Africa taking back control of its currency from France

Since 1945, the CFA franc has been the currency used by French colonies, and the usage of the currency continued after independence. President Patrice Talon of Benin revealed that the West African Monetary Union has unanimously agreed to take back control of its currency, withdrawing foreign reserves of the West African CFA from France. The move has been welcomed across the continent.

Benin Republic’s President Patrice Talon announced that the West African Monetary Union wanted to take back control of its currency. A unanimous agreement was reached by the eight African countries – whose foreign reserves are kept in France – to pull the reserves of their CFA franc from France. The countries which include Togo, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Niger and Guinea Bissau all use the French regulated francs.

The Franc which is used by 155 million people on the continent across 14 African countries is one of the colonial relics in many French colonised countries. This is the first time that a president has announced the withdrawal of the West African CFA Franc from France.

President Talon said, “we now unanimously agree that this model needs to end. The Central Bank of the West African Monetary Union will manage all of the currency reserves and will dispatch them to the different partner central banks across the world.”

The CFA franc was created in 1945 after the 1944 Brettons Wood Agreement which saw the world usher in a new global monetary system with the U.S dollar replacing the gold standard. The Brettons Wood agreement cemented America’s dominance as a world economic power. The CFA franc is tied to the Euro, and follows the fluctuation of the Euro. The creation of Eco, the newly proposed West African currency designed to replace the CFA franc by 2020 led to an official separation with the Euro.

Hyundai introduce a hydrogen-powered heavy duty truck

It is thought that hydrogen-powered vehicles could be an optional extra of an electric vehicle for heavy work such as towing but where they really come into force is as a heavy duty electric vehicle. Using an electric motor driven by a fuel cell powered by renewable hydrogen will be greenhouse emissions free. Refuelling is quick, the range is large but most importantly hydrogen provides a powerful fuel for heavy duty trucks, trains, planes and ships.

At the North American Commercial Vehicle Show, Hyundai unveiled the HDC-6 NEPTUNE, a hydrogen-powered Class 8 heavy duty truck, and also announced the launch of its new clean energy refrigerated concept trailer, the HT Nitro ThermoTech.

Labelled as “optimal” for transporting cold chain products, the HT Nitro ThermoTech is able to reduce temperatures faster than traditional refrigeration units and maintain precise temperature without being affected by outside temperatures. It reduces pollutants and emissions while providing reliable and effective cold chain food transportation without affecting the truck’s power supply.

Hyundais introduction of hydrogen powered heavy transports provide a glimpse into the future of transportation around the world.

“We are willing to work with other partners to pave the way to establish a hydrogen ecosystem for CV.” said  Edward Lee, Head of Hyundai Commercial Vehicle Business Division.

A cheap and pollution free electric car battery that takes you 1,500 miles without recharging

Trevor Jackson, the British engineer and former Royal Navy officer, has developed an inexpensive, lightweight battery, nine times more capacious than lithium-ion, made from affordable aluminum and with such a safe electrolyte that can be drunk.

Moreover, it is simpler and cheaper to make, as well as easier to recycle than conventional batteries currently used. The battery can reportedly sustain 1,500 miles of driving before needing to be charged.

It took almost 18 years of development and the investment of several million euros to start producing this large-scale battery. Austin Electric, an engineering firm based in Essex, will begin next year to integrate them into thousands of electric vehicles.

In 2001, Jackson began investigating the potential of a technology first developed in the 1960s. Researchers had discovered that dipping aluminum in an electrolyte stimulated a reaction between the metal and the oxygen that produced electricity. They were, in other words, batteries of the future. At the time, the method was not sustainable because it required 100% pure aluminum, and the electrolyte used was extremely toxic and caustic.

After years of trials and experiments, Jackson found a new formula of electrolyte capable of operating even with less valuable aluminum (including recycled drinks cans), and moreover, neither caustic nor polluting.

“I’ve drunk it when demonstrating it to investors, so I can attest to the fact that it’s harmless,” Jackson says. The formula, which is top secret, is the key to his invention.

Today, the automotive industry that aims at electric cars has invested heavily in lithium-ion battery technology. Yes, there are improvements in efficiency and recharge times, but recycling to recover lithium and cobalt is very expensive.

Technically, Jackson’s invention is more correctly called a fuel cell, not a battery. The device has turned out so light and powerful that it is able to revolutionize carbon-free transport. Once an aluminum-air battery has been used up, it can be recycled very cheaply, he says.

The tests already carried out say that with the same weight, Jackson’s fuel cells produce nine times the energy of lithium-ion batteries. If you put it on the Tesla Model S, then the range of the electric car will increase from 600 km (370 miles) to 4300 km (2,700 miles) with an equal weight of batteries, and with an equal size – up to 2400 km (1,500 miles). A quick swap of battery (only 90 seconds) will eliminate many hours of recharging.

Now, Austin will start producing aluminum-air batteries according to Jackson’s recipe – first for tuk-tuks, three-wheeled Asian taxis, then for electric bicycles and, finally, kits for converting ordinary gas or diesel cars into electric ones.

In Tesla, Jackson says, the battery costs about £30,000. An aluminum-air fuel cell that would power the same car for longer would cost just £5,000, Daily Mail reported.

CO2 emissions fall in 18 countries with strong policies

In a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, researchers say that countries that are turning to renewable energy sources and moving away from fossil fuels are making progress in reducing CO2 emissions.

 

The study looked at emissions from between 2005 and 2015. Globally, CO2 was on the rise — about 2.2 per cent annually — but in 18 countries, their emissions saw a decline. These 18 account for 28 per cent of global emissions.

"We went in these 18 countries and looked at what policies they had in place … and we found that, in the countries where there's more policy in place, the decreases in emissions were larger," said Corinne Le Quéré, a Canadian professor of climate change science at the University of East Anglia in the U.K. "That suggests that the policies do work."

But another contributing factor, they found, was that these countries were also using less energy overall. They might have more efficient heating systems, or more electric cars on the roads, for example.

While it may seem like common sense — better policies beget positive outcomes — there are other factors, such as economic growth (or decline) that influences emissions and energy output. For example, the researchers did find that the financial crisis of 2008–2009 showed up in the data, with a decrease in emissions.

What the researchers found most encouraging about their study is that, for the two countries that were the control group, if you removed their economic growth, policies encouraging energy efficiency were linked to cuts in emissions.

"Really, what this study shows it's not a mystery. We have the technology: you put the effort in place, you develop the policies, you fund them, and then you get emission decreases," Le Quéré said.

"One of the messages that comes out of our analysis is that policy matters, and the efforts of policies," she said. "You need to have a lot of big policies in place and policies at the national level; policies that are well-funded, that are regulated." 

And though China, the world's biggest CO2 emitter, didn't make the list of Climatologist Michael Mann, a professor at Penn State University in Pennsylvania and director of the university's Earth System Science Center has hope.

"There is still an available path to stabilizing greenhouse warming below 2 C, a common threshold for defining dangerous human interference with the global climate," he said.

He notes that these 18 countries are already ahead of the game when it comes to a renewable, energy-driven economy. 

"There is a clear path toward averting catastrophic climate change," he said. "We just have to follow it."

Read the report

Renewable energy in Africa can lead the way

The IEA, or International Energy Agency, predicts that solar energy will play a big role in supporting the continent’s growing population and industrialisation over the next 20 years. Africa should be leading the way into the future using renewable energy sources to power production, says an IEA report predicting a solar boom in countries across the continent, which could give hundreds of millions of homes electricity for the first time.

Africa’s population is expected to grow to more than 2 billion people by 2040, a rise of 800 million from today or the population equivalent of the US and Europe combined, says the report. People are expected to turn to cities and towns at a rate never seen before, where the demand for new houses and infrastructure will ignite an energy-hungry industrial revolution.

Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, said Africa had a “unique opportunity” to leapfrog the fossil fuel dependency of other industrialised regions.

“I am optimistic about Africa’s energy future – it will surprise pessimists,” Birol said. “I have great expectations for the energy industry in the years to come, both in terms of bringing energy access to Africa’s people but also driving economic growth.”

He urged Africa’s leaders to take advantage of the natural resources available through solar power generation, and the mining of raw minerals needed to make electric and hydrogen batteries, which are in high demand across the world.

Birol said: “Africa’s total contribution to cumulative global emissions from energy over the last 100 years is only 2%, which is half the emissions of Germany today. If everyone in Africa had access to energy this 2% will rise to just 3% – it’s still nothing. It’s peanuts compared to other countries in the world which are using fossil fuels such as coal for energy.

“But while Africa does not contribute to climate change the continent is on the frontline of its potential effects, including droughts. Africa is perhaps the most innocent continent in terms of its contributions to climate change, but they will be the victims.”

 

Read the report

GREEN STEEL: Liberty Steel will be carbon neutral by 2030

Under the name of Liberty Steel, mining, metals, and energy giant GFG Alliance is to re-organise its steel businesses to become "the world's first carbon neutral steel company" by 2030. Sanjeev Gupta, executive chairman at the family owned multinational, announced the move at the World Steel Dynamics' European Conference in Milan.

 

Sanjeev Gupta confirmed in an interview that the reorganisation was designed to ensure the new business is ready for a potential IPO in the future - an approach he intends to replicate for all the conglomerate's businesses.

 

"Whether it's the steel, aluminium or energy companies... all the companies will be made ready in terms of governance, reporting and transparency, so they'll be ready in every way to go for a listing as and when they want to," he said.

 

The new company organisation will be incorporated by the end of this year and is expected to employ 30,000 people in 10 countries.

 

Over the past few years the company has established renewable energy projects, invested in electric arc furnaces to produce recycled steel, and explored the use of hydrogen and carbon capture and storage technologies in the steel manufacturing process. The accompanying commitment to ensure the business is 'carbon neutral' within a decade is central to the new strategy.

 

Steel from recycled scrap using fossil fuel based energy already generates less than a third of the CO2 emissions compared with primary steel making and that savings can be further maximised through the use of renewable power. However, Gupta argue it is critical the steel industry now pursues full carbon neutrality.

 

"We are creating a new force in steel with the size, scale and agility to forge a path towards a sustainable future for our steel businesses and the communities in which we operate," he said confident that carbon neutral steel was possible. "Technically it's already been proven, you can make steel with hydrogen, the only question is the economic viability," he said.

 

He added that there is a moral obligation for the steel industry to tackles its emissions.

 

"As a responsible business, the legacy we pass on to future generations is every bit as important as our bottom line," he say. "Liberty Steel aims not just to produce top quality steel but to be an agent of change in the industry. In doing so, we can open the door to the re-industrialisation of the developed world by reviving and restoring often neglected industry."

 

The move was welcomed by Fautine Delasalle, director of the Energy Transitions Commission.

"I am delighted to see pioneering companies like Liberty Group turn vision into practice as there is high demand for zero carbon steel products today."" Delasalle said.

The making of renewable energy plants use less minerals

A global report from Australia’s Institute of Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology Sydney, have warned of skyrocketing demand for metals such as copper, lithium and cobalt used in the making of renewable energy plants, like solar and wind, but the report finds fossil fuel generation still using far more of these mineral resources globally.

 

The report finds that metals so far represent only a small share – less than 3 per cent – of the current mineral footprint of the global renewable electricity sector, but they are nonetheless essential for the production of renewable power equipment and infrastructures. Most of the material footprint of renewable technologies is made up of non-metallic minerals – such as aggregates, gravel, calcite, clays, shale and gypsum – and raw fossil fuels extracted for infrastructure construction.

 

“Although renewable electricity technologies generate much lower CO2 emissions than fossil fuel power plants, their large-scale deployment has raised concerns about higher mineral requirements and related environmental and social impacts,” the report notes.

 

Iron is by far the most-used metal for renewable power, accounting for almost 85 per cent (120 Mt) of the sector’s cumulative metal footprint over 2013-18, of which two-thirds was used for steel in hydro and wind power plants together. Aluminium (5%) and copper (4%) are the second and third most mobilised metals, mainly for PV panel manufacturing.

The remaining fraction of the metal footprint includes metals with relatively lower production levels – some mined as principal substances including nickel, zinc, lead, tin and titanium; others recovered as by- or co-products of the former, like germanium, gallium, indium, hafnium, tellurium, bismuth and others.

This footprint will “increase substantially” as the renewable electricity sector continues to grow over the outlook period, driven primarily by growth in solar PV and wind capacities, and will need to be monitored in terms of sustainability. While the geological availability of mineral resources is not expected to impede deployment of renewable technologies in the near future, the report says, tensions in supply chains and price volatility may occur over the longer term, depending on “substitution opportunities, the evolution of demand for competing applications (e.g. batteries, electronics and electric appliances), geopolitical events, and environmental, social and trade regulations among other factors.”

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