The above-featured image of Smart City Laguna in Fortaleza, one of Planet Smart City’s projects in Brazil
The acquisition will strengthen Planet Smart City’s ability to integrate proptech expertise and environmental, social and governance principles into real estate development around the world.
Smart affordable housing company Planet Smart City has signed an exclusive agreement to acquire Politecna Europa which specialises in architectural and engineering design.
The acquisition will strengthen Planet Smart City’s Competence Centre, offering expertise that integrates proptech and environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles into real estate development.
Politecna Europa, founded by Luca Massimo Giacosa and Pietro Putetto, specialises in project management activities and is at the forefront of architectural, structural, and industrial design in the civil and infrastructure sectors.
The company is involved in activities across Italy, France, Switzerland, and Oman, leveraging a team of more than 100 engineers and architects. The specialist knowledge of both companies will be applied to create intelligent neighbourhoods and homes by increasing their efficiency and maximising the user experience of residents.
Planet Idea, Planet Smart City’s Competence Centre, and Politecna Europa are already working on joint projects around the world. Planet Idea designs innovative solutions in fields including technological systems, planning and architecture, social innovation, and the environment.
These solutions are integrated into real estate development projects that Planet Smart City carries out in Italy, India, Brazil, and the US, as well as supporting consultancy services to third party real estate developers.
“Planet Smart City and Politecna Europa have the same vision of real estate development aimed at the joint application of proptech together with the principles of ESG”
Planet Idea’s interdisciplinary team already includes architects, engineers, and urban planners, as well as digital transformation and social innovation specialists, who all work together at the Competence Centre in Turin.
After the two companies are fully integrated, an entity will be established including 350 professionals. A 4,000 square metre building has been chosen as the headquarters in Turin and, from October, will become an international centre of technological innovation and ESG in real estate.
“Planet Smart City and Politecna Europa have the same vision of real estate development aimed at the joint application of proptech together with the principles of ESG,” said Giovanni Savio, CEO of Planet Smart City.
He added: “The integration of our respective skills and professionalism will lead to the establishment of an interdisciplinary group that will increase our ability to generate and implement ground-breaking ideas.”
Planet Smart City’s mission is to create communities that respect local cultures and support inclusivity and sustainability. It does this through integrating innovative infrastructural, technological and social innovation solutions into its projects.
The research, development and integration of these innovative solutions is undertaken by subsidiary Planet Idea, which operates through multidisciplinary Competence Centres in Turin (Italy) and Pune (India). Planet Idea has, among other projects, created and launched the Planet App, a digital platform of high value-added services that also facilitates communication between residents in Planet Smart City’s neighbourhoods.
The Planet Smart City model has been rolled out in Brazil where four projects are underway: Smart City Laguna; Smart City Natal; Smart City Aquiraz; and Viva!Smart. In 2020, the business expanded into India and the US. In Italy, the company collaborates with leading real estate developers as an advisor in numerous smart social housing districts.
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is among the most vulnerable places in the world to climate change. The U.N. has highlighted the devastating toll that climate change will have on the region’s water supplies and food production systems, and its potential to create breeding grounds for terrorism and violent extremism. No country will be spared: The affluent Gulf nations face depleted freshwater resources within the next 50 years, while in conflict-ridden Iraq, average temperatures are soaring at a rate that is two-to-seven times faster than the global average. Food and water production systems across the Levant face imminent collapse.
Climate change has already started to exacerbate fragility in countries that are mired in conflict or undergoing post-conflict transitions, and countries that are struggling to cope with the impact of a growing youth population, bloated public sectors, volatile oil prices, weak governance, and the fallout from the pandemic. The crisis will contribute to the proliferation of armed groups, intensify conflicts over natural resources, and make it easier for extremist organizations to attract recruits. To address the problem, governments must approach climate change as a public policy issue, a threat that is interconnected with a host of other challenges that combine to create a multiplier effect.
This requires a renewed effort to deliver services, balance short-term economic grievances with the long-term imperative of austerity measures and good governance reforms, and ultimately build resilience so that violence and terrorism cannot easily flourish. The social fabric of the most vulnerable countries may continue to erode, but this does not mean governments cannot establish response mechanisms to slow the downward spiral.
ALREADY A PROBLEM, WATER SCARCITY WILL GET WORSE
Globally, average rainfall has reached new record lows over the last three decades, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which said in 2014 that human security will be progressively threatened as temperatures increase, and has re-asserted the threat of climate-induced conflicts in its 2022 report. In the Middle East, water scarcity is already a huge problem — a region that is home to 12 of the world’s 17 most “water stressed countries” according to the World Resources Institute. The outlook is worrying: The World Bank estimates that climate-related water scarcity will cost Middle Eastern nations between 6 percent and 14 percent of their GDP by 2050, due to water-related impacts on agriculture, health, and incomes.
These red flags already indicate severe near-term implications for national and regional stability, including geopolitical flare-ups. Turkey controls more than 90 percent of the water that flows into the Euphrates, and 44 percent of that in the Tigris. Yet Ankara has been accused of weaponizing water supplies as it grapples with the conflict in Syria and geopolitical turmoil. Since December 2020, Turkish dams have cut the flow of the Euphrates to neighboring countries such as Iraq by 60 percent, which has also resulted in food and power shortages in Syria. This has compounded the water crisis in Iraq, which could see at least seven million people lose access to water.
Similarly, upstream dams in Iran have shrunk the Tigris tributaries, cutting off flow at the Diyala river in Iraq’s northeast. Lake Hamrin, the main water source for Iraq’s Diyala province, which borders Iran, has lost nearly 70 percent of its water, embroiling the province in a humanitarian and environmental calamity.
Yet climate change threatens every country in the region. Aid groups have warned more than 12 million people in Iraq and Syria are losing access to water, food, and electricity because of rising temperatures and record low rainfall. Desertification is sweeping across the region in Iraq, Syria, Jordan, and Iran. The cost of water in Jordan has increased by 30 percent over the past decade because of the lack of groundwater. The Middle East’s wealthier nations are also at risk. Outside of the fragile countries in the region, the UAE has the highest per capita consumption of water in the world but risks depleting its freshwater resources in the next 50 years due to population growth and higher domestic water use.
THE DOMINO EFFECT OF CLIMATE CRISES
Climate change can have a dilapidating impact on security and the fabric of societies by inflaming socioeconomic fractures and eroding the trust in public institutions. The problem is best summed up as interconnected crises that combine to create a domino effect of problems at the local, national, and geopolitical level. This begins with weakened state institutions and ends with ungoverned spaces in which extremist armed groups and criminal enterprises thrive, prompting the internal displacement of populations and an exodus of refugees that ensures no country in the region and beyond is spared.
Water scarcity and poverty force people to migrate to densely populated towns and cities in search of jobs, which imposes further costs and pressures on over-burdened infrastructure. The link between climate crises and social unrest as a result of climate migration has long been established. Syria’s civil war has been attributed to the five-year drought that struck the country in 2007, among other factors. The drought produced unprecedented poverty, paving the way for migration to the peripheries of Syria’s main cities, which were already burdened by population growth. The influx of refugees and resulting pressure on poor infrastructure established the deep-rooted grievances that were central to the 2011 uprising.
State failure, uncontrolled migration, and ungoverned spaces directly enable armed groups and terrorists who feed off the vulnerabilities of the poor to swell their ranks. The degradation of infrastructure as a result of poor governance, population density, and rising costs can intersect to create situations that become untenable for local populations, particularly in the summer when scorching temperatures and lack of rain result in crop failures and limited access to water and electricity. This has manifested itself in region-wide protests and upheaval, including protests that have rocked ruling elites from Iran to Lebanon.
CLIMATE CHANGE RAISES THE RISK OF ARMED CONFLICT
Geopolitical tensions — like the quarrel between Iraq, Turkey, and Iran over the building of dams that restrict water flows — and policies that weaponize water supplies, increase the prospects for conflict. Meanwhile armed groups like ISIS have displayed a notable ability to weaponize water infrastructure by wielding control of water infrastructure in Syria and Iraq to acquire legitimacy or to punish enemies and the communities under the organization’s control; in some instances, it taxed access to water. At one point the group controlled the Tabqa dam, which provided 20 percent of Syria’s electricity and supplies water to five million people.
A paper by Stanford University that investigates how much climate change affects the risk of armed conflict concludes that droughts, floods, natural disasters, and other climatic shifts have influenced between 3 percent and 20 percent of conflicts over the last century. The response to climate crises in fragile states is likely to be poor and slow, and the diminished trust in political elites that follows makes it easier for militants to contest the state. Some groups, like Shiite militias in Iraq or militias in Syria, have established geographic advantages and control over water supplies at the expense of other groups, creating zero-sum political and security conditions — in some cases underscored by ethnic and sectarian rivalries — that set intra-state conflicts over increasingly scarce resources into motion. One in four intrastate conflicts will result from changing climate according to the paper.
GOVERNMENTS MUST RETHINK HOW THEY TACKLE CLIMATE CHANGE
Middle Eastern governments must recalibrate how they make decisions about climate-related threats, taking into account the short and long-term implications of the crisis. For example, the push for digitalization in the region is still in its nascent stages — the UAE has become a trailblazer, with others like the Kurdistan region of Iraq looking to follow suit — but it has the potential to reduce emissions and waste. The World Economic Forum estimates digital technologies could cut global emissions by 15 percent. Digitalization will provide institutions in the Middle East with greater bandwidth to combat the socio-economic challenges that climate change can produce or aggravate. Secondly, and as part of this process, regional and international governments, multilateral institutions, and the private sector should increase funding for climate-related research in the MENA region, which currently pales in comparison to the resources awarded to institutions in the West.
Climate change will struggle to find its way to the top of national agendas until it is identified as a conflict and risk multiplier, rather than simply yet another problem that should be added to the growing list of issues facing the region. As a multiplier, it creates the potential for a convulsion that will impose untold suffering on a region already engulfed in socioeconomic crises, social unrest, violent extremism, and terrorism. An investment in research and awareness could trigger a cultural shift within government and society that allows for a re-calibration of public sector reform approaches and that adjusts good governance strategies to encourage and enable innovations that alleviate climate-related challenges.
In today’s world that sadly continues on through not exactly a thin patch of worldwide traumas, the Arab League’s Arab Administrative Development Organisation as reported by Gulf Daily News of March 14, 2022, has awarded its Arab Government Excellence to Bahrain. It was 5 government institutions that were rewarded for their unified work as per the vision of the country’s monarch.
Bahrain wins five excellence awards
Five Bahraini ministries and government institutions have won awards at a ceremony to honour excellence in governance in the Arab world.
The announcement was made yesterday at a virtual celebration held under the patronage of UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Dubai Ruler Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in Dubai.
The Arab Government Excellence Award is organised by the Arab League’s Arab Administrative Development Organisation (ARADO), in co-operation with the UAE government.
The Health Ministry won the award for Best Arab Government Project for Developing the Health Sector, the Labour and Social Development Ministry (Best Arab Government Project for Community Development for its “Khatwa” programme for home projects) and the Interior Ministry’s Customs Directorate (Best Arab Government Development Initiative award for its Governance of Economic and Customs Information to Facilitate Trade).
The Information and eGovernment Authority picked up the Best Arab Government Smart App award in recognition of its Tawasul App for the National Suggestion and Complaint system. The Youth and Sports Affairs Ministry was selected for its Elite Project which was chosen as the best Arab government project for empowering the youth.
This achievement comes within the framework of the efforts made by the Bahraini government, led by His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and Prime Minister, to benefit from the best practices in upgrading the government’s performance to achieve the kingdom’s Economic Vision 2030.
The award aims to promote the culture of institutional excellence among government work teams in Arab countries.
It also seeks to provide positive leadership thinking to adopt the approach of excellence and innovation in a way that enhances the ability of the governments to deal with the tasks assigned to them through continuous development of the work system and its methods.
Solar Appreciation Day 2022: Here’re Some Unique Use of Solar Technologies Worldwide to Combat Energy Crisis
India’s budget for FY2022-23 clearly highlights the country’s priority to double down for ‘green’ and renewable energy, particularly solar, to combat climate change and meet the emission reduction targets set for 2030.
Moreover, as the Ukraine-Russia war continues, coal and natural gas prices are surging sharply across the globe. With the soaring power bills, several European and Asian countries are seeking alternatives to Russian supplies. And using technologies based on solar energy is a comparative quick fix to the energy crisis.
Meanwhile, Solar Appreciation Day 2022 is here, which is celebrated globally on every second Friday of March. The day has become all the more significant amid the ongoing climate and energy crisis. On this day, here are some unique solar technologies that demonstrate the immense potential of solar technologies to address the needs of the modern world.
Solar trolley invented by a farmer from Haryana
Pradeep Kumar, a farmer from Haryana, has built a mobile solar plant with panels mounted on a trolley that can be moved on demand. The trolley is custom made as per the user’s requirements.
In an interview with The Better India, Pradeep said, “the devices come in two sizes and carry solar panels which provide electricity of 2 HP and 10 HP. The trolley can also be mounted to the back of a tractor and has sturdy wheels that allow it to move over uneven surfaces.”
The cost-effective technology has benefitted over 2000 farmers so far.
Bihar’s floating solar power plant
The Mithila region in North Bihar is called the ‘Land of Ponds’ and is taking complete advantage of its gift. A floating solar plant is set to be commissioned in the region, consisting of 4,004 solar modules. Each module lodged in a pond can generate 505-megawatt peak (MWp) electricity and nearly 2 MW of green and clean energy. The plant can supply electricity to 10,000 people in the state.
The main benefit of a floating solar power plant is that the water cools the solar panels, ensuring their efficiency when temperatures rise, resulting in increased power generation. It also minimises evoporation of freshwater and aids fishery.
This innovation has hit two birds with one stone: producing green energy from solar panels and promoting fish farming underwater.
South Korea’s solar shade
In South Korea, a highway runs between Daejon and Sejong and its entire bike lane on the 32 km stretch is covered with solar roof panels. Not only do they generate sufficient electricity, but they also isolate cyclists from traffic and protect them from the sun.
The two-way bike lane is constructed right in the middle of the road, while there are three other lanes for vehicles to travel on either side. This also obstructs the high beam lights of oncoming cars.
Using the technology, the country can intern produce clean, renewable energy.
Solar-powered desalination technique by Chinese and American researchers
Desalination process is considered to be among the most energy-intensive activities. Now researchers have developed a solar desalination process that can treat contaminated water and generate steam for sterilizing medical instruments without requiring any power source other than sunlight itself.
The design includes a dark material that absorbs the sun’s heat and a thin water layer above a perforated material that sits atop a deep reservoir of salty water such as a tank or a pond. The holes allow for a natural convective circulation between the warmer upper layer of water and the colder reservoir below and draw the salt from the water.
Not only is the solar-powered desalination method efficient but also highly cost-effective.
Saudi Arabia’s goal of sustainable development using solar technology
Dry-climate arid regions are prone to droughts and often face water scarcity. While local food production would have been a distant dream for countries that host mostly deserts, scientists in Saudi Arabia have developed a unique solution using solar technology.
In an experiment, they designed a solar-driven system that could successfully cultivate spinach using water drawn from the air while producing electricity. This proof-of-concept design has demonstrated a sustainable, low-cost strategy to improve food and water security for people living in dry-climate regions.
“Our goal is to create an integrated system of clean energy, water, and food production, especially the water-creation part in our design, which sets us apart from current agrophotovoltaics,” says senior researcher Peng Wang.
The burning of organic materials (such as fossil fuels, wood, and waste) for heating/cooling, electricity, mobility, cooking, disposal, and the production of materials and goods (such as cement, metals, plastics, and food) leads to emissions. This affects local air quality and the climate. In a recent blog, we showed that the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) lags behind all other regions in decoupling air pollutant emissions from economic growth.
Particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5) is the air pollutant associated with the largest health effects. MENA’s cities are the second-most air-polluted following South Asia; virtually all of its population is exposed to levels deemed unsafe. In 2019, exposure to excessive PM2.5 levels was associated with almost 300,000 deaths in MENA and it caused the average resident to be sick for more than 70 days in his or her lifetime. It also carries large economic costs for the region, totaling more than $140 billion in 2013, around 2 percent of the region’s GDP.
A good understanding of the emission sources leading to air pollution is necessary to planning for how to best reduce them. Figure 1 shows that waste burning, road vehicles, and industrial processes accounted for around two-thirds of PM2.5 concentrations. Electricity production is also a significant contributor, most of which is used by manufacturing and households.
5 PRIORITY BARRIERS AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR POLICY REFORMS TO KICK-START DECOUPLING
A forthcoming report titled “Blue Skies, Blue Seas” discusses these measures, alongside many others, in more detail.
1. Knowledge about air pollution and its sources is limited, with sparse ground monitoring stations. Detailed source apportionment studies have only been carried out for a few cities within the region, with results often not easily accessible for the public.
Extensive monitoring networks and regular studies on local sources of air and climate pollutants are foundational, as is making results easily accessible to the public (e.g., in form of a traffic light system as is done in Abu Dhabi). This will empower sensitive groups to take avoidance decisions, but also nurture the demand for abatement policies.
MENA’s heavy subsidization of fossil fuels, whether that is at the point of consumption or at the point of intermediary inputs in power generation and manufacturing, makes price reforms essential. Aside from incorporating negative externalities better, lifting subsidies also reduces pressure on fiscal budgets, with freed-up fiscal space being available to cushion the impact for low-income households. There have been encouraging steps by some countries such as Egypt, which reduced the fossil fuel subsidies gradually over the last couple of years, leading to significant increases in fuel prices, which in turn had positive effects on air quality.
To support a shift in the modal share toward cleaner mobility, it is imperative to invest in public transport systems, while making them cleaner and supporting nonmotorized options such as walking and biking. Cairo’s continued expansion of its metro system has been effective in reducing PM pollution and other MENA cities have also invested heavily in their public transport infrastructure, moving the needle on improving air quality. Furthermore, it is also important to raise environmental standards, both for fuel quality and car technology, together with regular mandatory inspections.
4. Lenient industrial emissions rules and their weak enforcement. The industrial sector is characterized by low energy efficiency standards, also due to the low, subsidized prices for energy mentioned above. MENA is currently the only region, where not a single country has introduced or is actively planning to introduce either a carbon tax or an emission trading scheme.
Mandating stricter emissions caps, or technology requirements, together with proper enforcement and monitoring is crucial. Incentivizing firms to adopt more resource-efficient, end-of-pipe cleaning, and fuel-switching technologies are additional crucial means to reduce air pollution stemming from the industrial sector. A trading system for emissions could either target CO2 emissions, or air pollutants, such as the PM cap-and-trade system recently introduced in Gujarat, India. Such a system should target both the manufacturing industry as well as the power sector.
5. Weak solid waste management (SWM) is a major issue in MENA. Although the collection of municipal waste has room for improvement in many countries, it is mainly the disposal stage of SWM where the leakage occurs. Too often waste ends up in open dumps or informal landfills, where it ignites. Furthermore, processing capabilities are often limited, and equipment outdated, at least for the lower- and middle-income countries of the region.
Hence, enhancing the efficiency of disposal sites is critical to reducing leakage and the risk of self-ignition. To start, replacing or upgrading open dumps and uncontrolled landfills with engineered or sanitary landfills is a viable option. Going forward, recycling capabilities should be improved and the circularity of resources enhanced. For agricultural waste, the establishment of markets for crop residues and comprehensive information campaigns in Egypt showed that such measures can supplement the introduction of stricter waste-burning bans.
Kick-starting decoupling and banking on green investments hold the promise for MENA not only to improve environmental quality and health locally, and to mitigate climate change globally, but also to reap higher economic returns (including jobs). Moreover, decoupling now will prepare MENA economies better for a future in which much of the world will have decarbonized its economies, including its trade networks.
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