Asia

Business moral is changing rapidly, but some companies sadly lag behind

The Queensland government has extinguished native title over 1,385 hectares of Wangan and Jagalingou country for the proposed Adani coalmine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin - without any public announcement of the decision.

The decision could see Wangan and Jagalingou protesters forcibly removed by police from their traditional lands, including lands used for ceremonies.

W&J Council leader Adrian Burragubba, and a group of Wangan and Jagalingou representatives, had been calling on the government to rule out transferring their land, arguing they had never given their consent for Adani to occupy their country.

In a meeting with government officials, seeking a halt on leases being issued for mine infrastructure, they learned the state government had instead granted Adani exclusive possession freehold title over large swathes of their lands, including the area currently occupied for ceremonial purposes.

At the same time a report finds that Adani mine would be 'unviable' without $4.4bn in subsidies, which upsets the indigenous population.

“We have been made trespassers on our own country,” Burragubba said. “Our ceremonial grounds, in place for a time of mourning for our lands as Adani begins its destructive processes, are now controlled by billionaire miner Adani.

“With insider knowledge that the deal was already done, Adani had engaged Queensland police and threatened us with trespass.”

To mine any land under a native title claim, a miner needs an Indigenous land use agreement, essentially a contract that allows the state to extinguish native title. Adani has a ILUA over the land: five of the 12 native claimants have opposed it, but have lost successive legal challenges in court to prevent it.

Burragubba and a group of supporters set up camp on the land ahead of its legal transfer to Adani. He said they will refuse to leave.

“We will never consent to these decisions and will maintain our defence of country,” he said. “We will be on our homelands to care for our lands and waters, hold ceremonies and uphold the ancient, abiding law of the land.”

China's environmental transformation: From the worlds bad guy to its good guy

China's recent transformation from the world’s environmental ‘bad guy’ to its ‘good guy’ in a matter of years is the result of the top-down enforcement of a green vision held by President Xi himself. But, as his environmentalism is nationalistic, not global, there is still need to broaden up the scope.

Comparing his climate policies to his predecessors, Xi’s is much more advanced. He is the first Chinese leader to enforce an environmentalism that is built upon the idea of nature as a ‘national asset’. He even famously said that "green mountains are essentially gold mountains".

Xi’s environmentalism relies on centrally controlled, top-down mechanisms though. In the past few years, the most visible environmental campaigns have been run by the Party’s disciplinary arm, detaining thousands of government officials for negligence and other offences. Public-interest litigation, for holding environmental violators to account, is now used frequently by government prosecutors.

This brand of environmentalism can be effective, to an extent. but as Scholar Bruce Gilley noted in his paper on China’s ‘Authoritarian Environmentalism’: "Environmental laws and regulations from the top down delivers short-term, low-hanging fruit results, but the lack of extensive deliberation may undermine long-term implementation".

To get popular consent Xi therefore use an appraisal system with clear indicators, rewards and punishments. This is according to him "most crucial" factor while creating an "ecological civilisation".

Even though China’s elaborate state machinery may be the envy of many governments struggling to ‘get things done’, its non-participatory way of doing business can lead to poor decisionmaking.

While China both embraces, appreciates and enforces environmental measures at home, it tends to export those same problems out of its borders. China has quickly become the world’s largest financier and builder of coal-power plants overseas. This is in stark contrast to what’s happening domestically, where, in early 2017, the government cancelled or mothballed 120 gigawatts of coal-power construction.

But building up coal power abroad is no contradiction under Xi’s ecological nationalism. Exporting environmentally destructive industries abroad and cutting them at home, as a way to strengthen the nation, is the core of China’s environmentalism.

As nationalism can not provide a sustainable solution to a global problem, Xi therefore need to broaden his model of environmentalism in the future.

A car that runs forever?

Put together the best solar panels money can buy, super-efficient batteries and decades of car-making know-how and, theoretically, a vehicle might run forever. That’s the audacious motivation behind a project by Toyota Motor Corp.Sharp Corp. and New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization of Japan, or NEDO, to test a Prius that could revolutionize transportation.

 Even if fully electric cars overtake petroleum-powered vehicles in sales, they still need to be plugged in, which means building a network of charging stations across the globe. The sun, on the other hand, shines everywhere for free, and when that energy is paired with enough battery capacity to propel automobiles at night, solar-powered cars could leapfrog all the new-energy technologies being developed, from plug-in hybrids to hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles,.

 But the current forecast is only partly sunny because there’s still some work left to reach that level of efficiency.

“This is not a technology we are going to see widely used in the next decades,” said Takeshi Miyao, an auto analyst at consultancy Carnorama. “It’s going to take a long time.”

Not for lack of trying. Toyota and Hyundai Motor Co. already introduced commercial models with solar panels on the roof, but they were too underpowered and could barely juice the sound system.

“The solar car’s advantage is that — while it can’t drive for a long range — it’s really independent of charging facilities,” said Koji Makino, a project manager at Toyota.

Indeed, there have been some breakthroughs, mainly due to advancements by Sharp. The prototype’s solar panel converts sunlight at an efficiency level of more than 34%, compared with about 20% for current panels on the market.

Because the solar cell being used by Toyota, Sharp and NEDO is only about 0.03 mm thick, it can be placed on more surfaces, including the curvy parts of the roof, hood and hatchback. The electrical system can charge the vehicle even when it’s on the move.

If the car is driven four days a week for a maximum of 50 kilometers a day, there’s no need to plug into an outlet, NEDO’s Yamazaki said.

India cancel coal power due to record low cost for solar power

Leaders in India have turned their backs and walked away from plans of building nearly 14 gigawatts of coal-fired power stations – which is about as much power used in the whole of the UK. The dramatic plummeting of the cost of solar energy has made this possible. This good news only highlights the rate of change regarding solar energy, reports India Times.

Analyst Tim Buckley (director of energy finance studies) wrote in his article on the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis’s website that this shift away from the dirtiest fossil fuel and towards solar in India will have “profound” ramifications for global energy markets. He tells about how 13.7GW of planned coal power projects have been canceled so far this month.

It all started in January of 2016 when Fortum, a Finnish company, got on board to generate electricity in Rajasthan at record low tariff (a guaranteed price) of 4.34 rupees per kilowatt-hour (about 5p). At the time, Mr. Buckley said that this price was so low it would never be repeated.

He was wrong about that! Just 16 months later, an auction for a 500-megawatt solar facility resulted in a tariff of just 2.44 rupees. That’s 31% less than the wholesale price charged by a major coal-power utility of 3.2 rupees! From that moment, everything turned in favour of renewable energy.

Mr. Buckley said: For the first time solar is cheaper than coal and the implications this has for transforming global energy markets is profound.

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.

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