UAE FIRST NATIONAL RAIL NETWORK TO ‘TRANSFORM THE ECONOMY’ AND KEY ROLE IN REDUCING CARBON FOOTPRINT
Engineers in the Hajar Mountains between Dubai and Fujairah are making way for 16 Kilometers of tunnel, which will one day see trains shooting through it on a journey that stretches from coast to coast, and even possibly further afield.
The UAE is known for its love of cars as well as its strategic ports and airports, but now is betting big on its first national rail network. The 1,2000-kilometre artery will connect the Gulf of Oman to the Persian Gulf, down through the emirates, into Abu Dhabi’s interior and to Ghuweifat on the border of Saudi Arabia, a key step in a long-mooted rail network crossing the Arabia peninsula.
“The top line implication … is that it has the potential to transform the UAE economy — and not just the UAE, but potentially the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council],” says Richard Thompson, editorial director of the Middle East Economic Digest.
GOING GREEN WITH SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORT
But the move also signals the country’s green ambitions. The UAE has one of the world’s largest footprints per capita, according to the World Bank, and sustainable transport is one way the government plans to reduce it.
The diesel rail line could save 2.2 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year through its freight capacity alone, says the developer. That’s equivalent to taking 375,000 vehicles off the road and even has the potential to electrify in the future, which would massively benefit the environment by cutting emissions further by using renewable energy.
“I think rail has a huge role to play in helping the UAE reduce its carbon footprint,” says Thompson. “Rail can provide a much more efficient mode of transport for goods and people movement around cities; it can help your cities function better.”
Led by Etihad Rail and funded by the UAE Ministry of Finance and the Abu Dhabi Department of Finance, it has been designed first for freight, and passenger capacity to follow. There is no completion date announced just yet, through “the network is growing as planned” with all contracts awarded, Etihad Rail told CNN.
The network will include links to Jebel Ali Port, Khalifa Port and the Port of Fujairah and industrial hubs in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah. The route across the UAE, according to Thompson, when connected to an in-progress Saudi network could create a direct link from the Indian Ocean to the Red Sea across the peninsula, bypassing the Straits of Hormuz to the north and the Horn of Africa to the south, with big repercussions for the movement of international cargo.
“You have a more efficient mode of transport, linking ports with each other and removing congestion on the roads and contributing to decarbonization,” he explains.
The executive director of commercial at Etihad Rail, Ahmed Al Musawa, expects 60 million metric tons of freight will move from road and sea to the rail network annually.
Beyond consolidating the UAE’s position as an international transport hub, there will be benefits at a national level too, Al Musawa says. Stage one of the network in Abu Dhabi has transported 33 million metric tons of sulfur since 2016 and has turned the UAE into the world’s largest exporter of the element, he says. Sulfur is used in the manufacturer of everything from fertiliser to paper.
Stage two, which stretches 367 miles began constructions earlier this year, could have even wider benefits.
Kevin Smith, the editor in chief of the International Railway Journal, identifies the railway as a “key strategy … to diversify (the UAE’s) economy slightly away from oil and gas.”
“I think the steel industry, oil and gas industry, then the mining and quarrying industry, should be the main beneficiaries,” says Thompson. “(The network) has the potential to integrate the northern emirate economies much closer into the national economy and accelerate growth and investment in those places.”
OFF THE ROADS TO THE RAILS?
It’s still unknown how the rail line will change the daily lives of the population. Passenger trains running at 124 miles per hour are touted by Etihad Rail – but no date has been announced. If the network follows through, it could change commuting forever.
“When you have direct, fast access, naturally that does change the way we perceive (distance), or we select where we live or work or study,” Al Musawa says. “The access to materials, services and markets can evolve around such a network.”
But will it convince Emiratis to swap their cars for trains? Thompson says there are some obstacles, including the “last mile problem” — getting people from their homes to train stations.
Walking in the summer sun isn’t an attractive option, but Al Musawa says ride-sharing and “other micro-mobility solutions” may be the answer, adding Etihad Rail is learning from other countries’ experiences.
“I think there’ll be great demand,” Smith argues. “Their whole cities are built around the car, but I think the popularity of the metro (in Dubai) has shown that people will use it if it’s there.”
Reuters’ Factbox: Fossil fuel-based vehicle bans across the world is a snapshot of what will happen in the major economies of the world by the near future. Could the same be decided upon in the MENA region countries, hence the feature picture above, that is of typical daily road congestion in Cairo. It is for illustrative purposes.
Britain last year became the first G7 country to set in law a net-zero emission target by 2050, which will require wholesale changes in the way Britons travel, use energy and eat.
Other countries or regions that have pitched the idea of banning fossil-fuel based vehicles include:
California will ban the sale of new gasoline-powered passenger cars and trucks starting in 2035, Governor Gavin Newsom said in September.
The Canadian province of Quebec said this week it would ban the sale of new gasoline-powered passenger cars from 2035.
EU environment ministers struck a deal on Oct 23 to make the bloc’s 2050 net zero emissions target legally binding, but left a decision on a 2030 emissions-cutting target for leaders to discuss in December.
German cities started to introduce bans on older diesel vehicles that emit higher amounts of pollutants than from late 2018. (reut.rs/38UFw6L)
Norway, which relies heavily on oil and gas revenues, aims to become the world’s first country to end the sale of fossil fuel-powered cars, setting a 2025 deadline. Fully electric vehicles now make up about 60% of monthly sales in Norway.
In 2017 China begun studying when to ban the production and sale of cars using traditional fuels but did not specify when it might be introduced.
Sales of new energy vehicles (NEV) will make up 50% of overall new car sales in China, the world’s biggest auto market, by 2035, an industry official said last month.
Last year, India’s central think-tank asked scooter and motorbike manufacturers to draw up a plan to switch to electric vehicles. The think-tank also recommended that only electric models of scooters and motorbikes with engine capacity of more than 150cc must be sold from 2025, sources told Reuters.
Reporting by Aakash Jagadeesh Babu and Samantha Machado in Bengaluru; Editing by Gareth Jones
Reducing the environmental impact of the global built environment sector by Chalmers University of Technology enlighten us on we currently stand in terms of reducing or lowering all built environment related human activities from impacting the Earth’s climate and how “powerful, combined efforts are absolutely crucial for the potential to achieve the UN’s sustainability goals.” and as a consequence, ‘The global built environment sector must think in new, radical ways, and act quickly’. The above feature picture is only for illustrative purpose.
The construction sector, the real estate industry and city planners must give high priority to the same goal—to drastically reduce their climate impacts. Powerful, combined efforts are absolutely crucial for the potential to achieve the UN’s sustainability goals. And what’s more—everything has to happen very quickly. These are the cornerstones to the roadmap presented at the Beyond 2020 World Conference.
Today, 55% of the world’s population lives in cities. By 2050, that figure is estimated to have risen to 68%, according to the UN. Cities already produce 70% of the world’s greenhouse gasses. Buildings and construction account for 40% of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions. Rapid urbanization is bringing new demands that need to be met in ecologically, economically and socially sustainable ways.
“If we continue as before, we have no chance of even getting close to the climate goals. Now we need to act with new radical thinking and we need to do it fast and increase the pace at which we work to reduce cities’ climate impact. We must look for innovative ways to build our societies so that we move towards the sustainability goals, and not away from them,”
says Colin Fudge, Visiting Professor of urban futures and design at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden.
As an outcome of the Beyond 2020 World Conference, Colin Fudge and his colleague Holger Wallbaum have established a “Framework for a Transformational Plan for the Built Environment.” The framework aims to lay the foundation for regional strategies that can guide the entire sector in working towards sustainable cities and communities, and the goals of the UN Agenda 2030.
“The conference clearly demonstrated the growing awareness of sustainability issues among more and more actors in the sector. But it’s not enough. Achieving the sustainability goals will require a common understanding among all actors of how they can be achieved—and, not least, real action. That is what we want to contribute to now,”
says Holger Wallbaum, Professor in Sustainable Building at Chalmers University of Technology, and host of Beyond 2020.
Chair of Sweden’s Council for sustainable cities, Helena Bjarnegård, is welcoming their initiative.
“We are aware that we have to deliver change to address the climate, biodiversity, lack of resources and segregation. We need to develop sustainable living environments, not least for the sake of human health. The framework of a transformational plan for the built environment provides a provocative but necessary suggestion on concrete actions to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for one of the most important sectors,”
says Helena Bjarnegård, National architect of Sweden.
In the framework, Wallbaum and Fudge have added a detailed action plan for northwestern Europe that contains 72 concrete proposals for measures—intended as an inspiration for the rest of the world.
The proposals cover everything from energy efficiency improvements, research into new building materials, digital tools and renovation methods, to free public transport, more green spaces and cycle paths. They involve all actors from the entire sector—such as architects, builders, real estate companies, material producers and urban planners.
Several of the high-priority measures in northwestern Europe are under direct governmental responsibility:
Higher taxes on carbon dioxide emissions and utilization of land and natural resources—lower taxes on labor
State support for energy-efficient renovation works
A plan for large-scale production of sustainable, affordable housing
Increased pace in the phasing out of fossil fuels in favor of electric power from renewables
“Here, governments, in collaboration with towns, cities and other sectors, have a key role, as it is political decisions such as taxation, targeted support and national strategies that can pave the way for the radical changes we propose. But all actors with influence over the built environment must contribute to change. In other parts of the world, it may be the business community that plays the corresponding main role,”
says Holger Wallbaum.
Wallbaum and Fudge are clear that their proposed measures are specifically intended for the countries of northwestern Europe, and that their work should be seen as an invitation to discussion. Different actors around the world are best placed to propose which measures are most urgent and relevant in their respective regions, based on local conditions, they claim.
“Key people and institutions in different parts of the world have accepted the challenge of establishing nodes for the development of regional strategies. From Chalmers’ side, we have offered to support global coordination. Our proposal is that all these nodes present their progress for evaluation and further development at a world conference every three years—next in Montreal, in 2023,”
says Colin Fudge.
A thousand participants followed the Beyond 2020 conference, which was arranged by Chalmers 2-4 November in collaboration with Johanneberg Science Park, Rise (Research Institutes of Sweden), and the City of Gothenburg. As a result of the Corona pandemic, it was held online. The conference discussed methods for reducing climate footprints, lowering resource consumption, digital development and innovative transport. Among the speakers were authorities in sustainable construction, digitization and financing from around the world.
Beyond 2020 has the status of a World Sustainable Built Environment Conference (WSBE). Organizers are appointed by iiSBE, a worldwide non-profit organization whose overall goal is to actively work for initiatives that can contribute to a more sustainable built environment. The next WSBE will be held in Montreal in 2023.
More about: A roadmap for the built environment
In their newly established framework, Wallbaum and Fudge establish a general approach that each individual region in the world can use to identify the measures that are most urgent and relevant to achieving the goals of the UN Agenda 2030, based on local conditions. They identify the key questions that must be answered by all societal actors, the obstacles that need to be overcome and the opportunities that will be crucial for the sector over the next decade.
More about: Action plan for the built environment sector in northwestern Europe
Wallbaum and Fudge have specified 72 acute sustainability measures in northwestern Europe (Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Norway, Belgium, Switzerland). A selection:
Establish renovation plans which focus on energy efficiencies for all existing property by 2023. Avoid demolition and new construction when it is possible to renovate.
Halve emissions from production of building materials by 2025. The transition to greater usage of materials with lower climate impact needs to accelerate.
Accelerate the phase out of fossil fuels in the transport sector in favor of electric power—with, for example, a ban on new petrol and diesel cars by 2030.
Double the amount of pedestrian and cycle paths in cities by 2030.
Offer free municipal public transport for all school children and for everyone over the age of 70.
Introduce the climate perspective as a mandatory element of the architectural industry’s ethical guidelines.
Increase the proportion of green spaces by 20% in all cities by 2030.
Concentrate research on the development of new building materials with lower carbon footprints, digital tools for the built environment and new energy-efficient renovation methods.
Read the entire action plan on the pages 20-23 in the Framework document on a Transformational Plan for the Built Environment
OPEC, Unconventional Oil and Climate Change – On the importance of the order of extraction by Benchekroun, Hassan, Gerard van der Meijden, and Cees Withagen. Published by the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management is a long-awaited reflection on what could be the most important topic of the century. The abstract and part of the introduction are republished below, and the whole text could be found in the original referred to document.
We show that OPEC’s market power contributes to climate change by enabling producers of relatively expensive and dirty oil to start producing before OPEC reserves are depleted. We examine the importance of this extraction sequence effect by calibrating and simulating a cartel-fringe model of the global oil market. While welfare net of climate damage under the cartel-fringe equilibrium can be significantly lower than under a first-best outcome, almost the entire welfare loss is due to the sequence effect of OPEC’s market power. In our benchmark calibration, the cost of the sequence effect amounts to 15 trillion US$, which corresponds to 97 percent of the welfare loss. Moreover, we find that an increase in non-OPEC oil reserves decreases global welfare. In a counterfactual world without non-OPEC oil, global welfare would be 13 trillion US$ higher, 10 trillion US$ of which is due to lower climate damages.
What is the impact of imperfect competition in the oil market on climate change? This question is relevant given the sizable carbon footprint of oil and the prominent size of OPEC. Oil is responsible for close to a quarter of anthropogenic carbon emissions (IEA, 2016)1 and, with OPEC producing 40 percent of global oil supply and owning 70 percent of world oil reserves (EIA, 2019b), it is not realistic to assume that OPEC is a price taker in the market of oil.
An old adage says that “the monopolist is the conservationist’s best friend” (e.g., Dasgupta and Heal, 1979, p. 329). Indeed, we know from non-renewable resource economics that market power typically leads to higher initial resource prices and slower resource depletion. However, in the case of oil, the consequences of imperfect competition for the Earth’s climate are more complex because different types of oil reserves with varying carbon contents are exploited. The reason is that imperfect competition does not only affect the speed, but also the order of extraction of different reserves of oil (cf. Benchekroun et al., 2009, 2010, 2019). Conventional OPEC oil is cheaper and its extraction is less carbon intensive than unconventional oil owned by relatively small oil producers (Malins et al., 2014; Fischer and Salant, 2017; OCI, 2019). Technically recoverable reserves and production of unconventional types of oil by non-OPEC countries have grown significantly over the last decade. The supply of oil sands from Canada has more than doubled, and shale oil production in the US has increased more than tenfold since 2007 (CAPP, 2017b; EIA, 2019b). Current recoverable reserves of Canadian oil sands and of US shale oil amount to 165 and 78.2 billion barrels, respectively (CAPP, 2017a; EIA, 2019c). In this paper, we take into account that when OPEC exercises market power it does not only slow down its rate of extraction—which tends to be good for the climate—but it also opens the door for earlier production by the fringe. As a result, OPEC’s relatively cheaper and cleaner oil is extracted later, while the fringe’s costlier and dirtier oil is extracted earlier. This ‘sequence effect’ leads to higher discounted extraction costs and climate damage.
Statista querying Where America’s Used Vehicles Get Exported To elaborates in its AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY, this article by Niall McCarthy, not only provides us with quite a clear answer that is illustrated as usual by a graph but with also some related explanations.
The US vehicles export to the world, according to a new report published by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), which, based on an in-depth analysis of 146 countries revealed that in 2015, 14 million used light-duty vehicles find their way to most developing countries. The snag is that per this report, this fast-growing global vehicle fleet, air pollution and climate change and the lack of adequate standards has allowed richer countries to dump their old, polluting and unsafe vehicles into developing countries. As a consequence, African countries have the largest number of used cars, followed by countries in Eastern Europe (24%), Asia-Pacific (15%), the Middle East (12%) and Latin America (9%). The UAE, despite its recent diversification policies, takes the lion’s share of those Middle East’s 12% with the added situation as illustrated in the attached Youtube video here below.
29 October 2020
The export of millions of used motor vehicles to developing countries is proving a major contributor to air pollution. The finding comes from a recently released United Nations Environment Programme report which states that 14 million light duty vehicles (cars, SUVs and minibuses) were exported to low and middle-income countries between 2015 and 2018. 40 percent of that total ended up in Africa. The European Union accounted for 54 percent of all used vehicle exports during the above period, followed by Japan’s 27 percent and the United States’ 18 percent. The vast majority of developing countries importing these vehicles have no environmental requirements or regulations governing their safety.
That has resulted in imported used vehicles providng a major contribution to air pollution and climate emissions in their markets. Poignantly, the analysis also states that most developing markets are importing vehicles today that would not be allowed to circulate on the exporting country’s road network. Some governments are attempting to implement change, however, and a group of West African countries are set to introduce minimum requirements for used vehicles from 2021. That is set to primarily involve the use of cleaner fuels as well as a maximum age for any second-hand vehicle imported.
Despite accounting for a lower share of total used vehicle exports than the EU and Japan, the U.S. still shipped 2.6 million overseas between 2015 and 2018 with a collective value of $24.5 million. So where are America’s old cars ending up? In 2018, at least, the UAE was the top importing nation, bringing in 129,489 vehicles surplus to U.S. requirements. Despite the UAE being a wealthy nation at the top of the list, there are several low or middle-income countries within the top-10. Nigeria imported the second-highest number of used vehicles from the U.S. in 2018 with more than 82,000 while Georgia came third with nearly 60,000. Cambodia is among the top export markets with 31,167 used vehicles while the Dominican Republic also imported around 27,000.
Nearly 230,000 tonnes of plastic is dumped into the Mediterranean Sea every year, a figure which could more than double by 2040 unless “ambitious” steps are taken, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature said Tuesday.
Egypt, Italy and Turkey are the countries that release the most plastic into the sea, mainly due to large coastal populations and huge amounts of “mismanaged waste,” an IUCN report found.
But on a per capita basis Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia have the highest levels of plastic waste leakage into the Mediterranean.
The report, called “Mare Plasticum: The Mediterranean”, estimates that over one million tonnes of plastic have already accumulated in the Mediterranean Sea.
“An estimated 229,000 tonnes of plastic –- equivalent to over 500 shipping containers –- are leaking into the Mediterranean Sea every year,” said the report, blaming “mismanaged waste” for 94 percent of the total plastic leakage.
Under a “business as usual” scenario, this figure will reach 500,000 tonnes per year by 2040, which is why “ambitious interventions beyond current commitments will be required to reduce the flow of plastic into the sea”.
Minna Epps, the director of the IUCN’s marine programme, warned that “plastic pollution can cause long-term damage to terrestrial and marine ecosystems and biodiversity.”
“Marine animals can get entangled or swallow plastic waste, and ultimately end up dying from exhaustion and starvation,” he added.
Over 50,000 tonnes of plastic leakage into the Mediterranean could be avoided each year if waste management was improved in the top 100 contributing cities alone, the report said.
A ban on plastic bags in the Mediterranean Sea basin region would further reduce plastic leakage into the sea by another 50,000 tonnes per year.
“Governments, private sector, research institutions and other industries and consumers need to work collaboratively to redesign processes and supply chains, invest in innovation and adopt sustainable consumption patterns and improved waste management practices to close the plastic tap,” said Antonio Troya, head of the IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation which is based in Malaga, southern Spain.
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