People

Translate

Open Translation

KUWAIT: Agility vice chairman and CEO Tarek Sultan says he has identified several game-changing innovations that can help counter the bad news about climate change, income inequality, vaccine inequity and other problems - including ‘Putin’s War’:


The daily doom and gloom about climate change, job losses and lack of access to COVID vaccines feeds our sense of anxiety, vulnerability and helplessness. I think it also clouds our ability to see that we are living in an era of breathtaking human innovation and heroic problem solving. A few potential game changers have caught my eye:

• ‘Green’ steel and CO2-enriched concrete

Several companies, including H2 Green Steel and Hybrit of Sweden, have begun using hydrogen and non-fossil fuels to produce ‘green’ steel. That’s important because steel is one of the world’s most widely used materials, essential in construction, fabrication and consumer goods, and is normally made through a carbon-heavy coking process that uses coal. In conventional steelmaking, nearly two tons of CO2 are emitted for every ton of steel produced. That’s about 7.0 percent of global greenhouse emissions.

People tend to think of hydrogen as an answer for transportation emissions, says Sunfire CEO Nils Aldag. Instead, it might be a better power source for ‘hard-to-abate’ sectors like the chemical and steel industries, he says.

Production of concrete and cement is just as concerning. Depending on how it’s measured, concrete production is responsible for 4.0 percent to 8.0 percent of man-made carbon emissions – more than any country except for China and the U.S. on an annual basis. To make concrete you need stone and sand, then cement to bind it by adding water. To make cement, you need to kiln-fire a mix of materials in a dirty process that releases a lot of CO2.

But it turns out that CO2, captured from industrial processes, can be injected into concrete during the curing process to strengthen it. Canada’s Carbicrete and the U.S. company Solidia are doing just that. Zero-carbon concrete is coming — the question is when, experts say.

• COVID vaccine factory-in-a-box

BioNTech partnered with Pfizer to develop and scale the West’s first COVID-19 vaccine. Now BioNTech says it can solve the worrisome problem of scarce vaccine supplies in Africa with mobile, modular production units that could each manufacture up to 50 million doses a year.

Individual vaccine production units are comprised of 12 shipping containers, which can be moved by air, sea, road or rail and can also be used to make vaccines to ward off malaria, tuberculosis and other diseases. Even more impressive: BioNTech pledges to cover the cost of development, manufacturing and shipment.

• Eliminating food waste and feeding the hungry

By some estimates, up to 40 percent of food in the United States is thrown out. And in Africa, half or more of perishable food commodities go bad before they reach the market or table. What’s more, food waste contributes about 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Goodr, a startup company, has developed software that tracks surplus food, helps customers such as restaurants, airports, schools, hospitals and grocers cut down on the amount they waste and donate what might otherwise go in the garbage. Goodr automatically generates tax donation receipts so customers can write off what they give away.

• A bio-materials revolution

Consumers want more sustainable products, and regulators are mandating lower emissions. So product makers are turning to DNA sequencing, gene editing and AI to make bio -materials and processes that can substitute for plastics, foams, synthetic fabrics, elastomers and other materials made from petrochemicals and processing chemicals.

With automation and high-powered computing, they are able to effectively “engineer” biology and produce physical materials that perform better and are more sustainable. The result is a coming bio-materials revolution that will change what goes into our clothes, cars, electronics and consumer goods, as well as the packaging they come in. We’ve already seen the first wave in lab-grown meat, plant-based clothing, plastic substitutes, and fabrics made through fermentation.

• Eliminating supply chain blind spots & helping small business

Sourcemap promises shippers something they haven’t yet found: 100 percent traceable, transparent supply chains. Its software helps companies create end-to-end mapping for due diligence, customs compliance, environmental and social sustainability, business continuity, operations planning and other uses. 'Identify the suppliers you didn’t know you had,' Sourcemap tells customers.

SME Climate Hub gives small businesses carbon calculation tools to help them measure, lower and report emissions. The tools allow smaller businesses to take climate action and meet the growing demands from customers and consumers for data, reporting and progress on CO2 emissions.

SME360, backed by the International Chamber of Commerce, is another initiative that gives smaller businesses the tools they need to measure and track their impact on the environment.

• Cleaner ocean shipping

The Yara Birkeland, the world’s first autonomous, emissions-free containership, made its maiden voyage in late 2021. The battery-powered ship will be used to transport fertilizer in Norway, handling loads now made with 40,000 diesel-truck trips each year.

The ocean industry is also looking at methanol and ammonia, two cleaner-burning fuels that are expensive to make and hard to obtain in sufficient quantities. Maersk, the world’s largest ocean carrier, says it is working with partners in Denmark to scale production of methanol, a carbon-neutral fuel, starting in 2023. Maersk has ordered 12 methanol-powered liners, at a cost of US$175 million a ship, that can each carry 16,000 TEUs.

On the software side, Searoutes is one of many companies helping shippers build custom routing algorithms and data sets to lower shipping emissions.

• On the road

Lithium batteries are the key to electrification of cars and trucks, but they pose their own problems. One concern is that there is a limited known supply of lithium, concentrated mainly in Australia, Chile and China. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is among those looking for lithium in new places. It has discovered vast deposits in a California lakebed.

A related problem is the lack of charging infrastructure for electrified vehicles. Daimler, Black Rock and NextEra have joined to build a nationwide charging network in the United States for medium- and heavy-duty battery electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Companies like Hyliion, a U.S. company developing low-emission and zero-emission power train systems for heavy trucks, have drawn a lot of attention from investors and the general public.

Less noticed have been innovations in niche transportation areas. Frigoblock and Thermo King, for example, have pioneered emissions-lowering electric systems for refrigerated trucks that are used to ship perishable foods, medicines and other cold chain products. Now, they are working to make those vehicles noiseless so that they can be used for off-hours deliveries in congested urban areas. Volta Trucks is another company pioneering sustainable urban trucking.

• Shortening supply chains

3D printing or additive manufacturing has been a tantalizing – but extremely limited — technology since it was first developed in the 1980s. Beyond certain specialized uses, it’s been hard to scale or to use for high-end products with lots of components.

Seurat Technologies has figured out a way to speed up and scale 3D manufacturing and use it to make sophisticated products and parts containing metal. Seurat’s breakthrough involves a technique that splits a laser into many beams that are programmed to do their own printing.

One of the benefits of 3D printing is that it shortens supply chains by moving production closer to end users and eliminating the need to transport goods long distances.

• The grid

The clean power conundrum is really three problems: generation, transmission and distribution. Renewables such as wind and solar, along with cleaner-burning fossil fuels, offer an answer as to how we will generate power with little or no emissions. But there can be no net-zero power grid without long-duration energy storage (LDES) that addresses the problems inherent in trying to store energy while making transmission and distribution cleaner and reliable.

The problem of long-term storage for the grid has spawned an industry devoted to using new and existing technologies – mechanical, thermal, electrochemical and chemical – to store energy from different sources and release it efficiently to correspond with demand.

• Chance to make a difference

Individual investors suddenly have lots of options to channel their retirement savings and other funds into responsible investments that are tailored to their interests.

Socially responsible investing is not new, but the variety of options is large and growing. One example: the thematic investments offered by Fidelity. They include funds comprised of companies that are developing disruptive technologies; built to capitalize on megatrends; or structured with sustainable practices, diversity and strong governance. Some of the thematic fund sectors: digital health, electric vehicles, cloud computing, and clean energy.

My point is that the momentum behind serious global problem solving is undeniable. And it is making a difference.

McKinsey says capital is ‘increasingly plentiful’ for next-generation technologies and estimates that they could attract US$1.5 trillion to US$2 trillion in fresh investment annually by 2025. One indication is the creation of the First Movers Coalition, a group of global companies that includes Agility, which is pledging to help build early market demand for low-carbon goods and services.

It will take all of this and more to make our world cleaner, fairer, safer and more just. Let’s not get so caught up in the gloomy headlines that we lose heart, or fail to recognize that we’re making progress.



Agility is a global provider of supply chain services, infrastructure and innovation, with a market capitalization of US$7 billion. It remains a pioneer in emerging markets and one of the largest private owners and developers of warehousing and light industrial parks in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
 
Story Type: Comment

Vote for my Story

Our Rating: 9% - 1 votes

1000 Characters left


April 09, 2024
People Editor

Top European court says ignoring climate impact violates human rights

STRASBOURG: The European Court of Human Rights has, for the first time in law, acknowledged government failure to implement sufficient measures to combat climate change. A case brought by the Swiss Climate Seniors Association (SCSA) claimed Swiss authorities…
February 28, 2024
People Editor

83 million Americans breathe unhealthy air

BROOKLYN, NY/SAN DIEGO, CA: A report from research and technology company First Street finds 83 million Americans are exposed annually to air quality thresholds categorized as “unhealthy” by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Air Quality Index.…
February 22, 2024
People Editor

Nearly 50 million Americans deny climate change

ANN ARBOR, MI/CHICAGO, IL: A study by the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS) has concluded 12-26 percent of Americans, depending on location, deny the reality of climate change. The researchers used Twitter (now X) data…
February 19, 2024
People Editor

US$281 billion war profit in two years

LONDON: Five fossil fuel majors have made over US$281 billion net profit since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine two years ago. According to a new analysis by Global Witness, Shell, BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil and TotalEnergies paid US$200 billion to shareholders in…
February 04, 2024
People Editor

COP29 host Azerbaijan has “severe corruption issues”

BERLIN: Watchdog Transparency International (TI) has published its 2023 Corruption Perception Index (CPI). The Index ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public-sector corruption using a scale of zero to 100, where zero is highly…
December 31, 2023
People Editor

No room for greenwashing

BILBAO: Spanish energy company Iberdrola has signed a partnership that “could reach US$15 billion” with Masdar, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) renewables energy subsidiary headed by COP28 president and ADNOC CEO Sultan Al-Jaber. The two…
December 29, 2023
People Editor

Tax evasion doesn’t help climate mitigation

LONDON: Countries worldwide suffer an annual tax loss of US$480 billion according to a latest report from the Tax Justice Network (TJN). Some US$311 billion is lost by corporate tax abuse and a further US$169 billion vanishes via offshore tax evasion.…
December 06, 2023
People Editor

Disastrous and irreversible change to Earth forecast

EXETER, UK: A new report warns the environmental stress of a warming planet could become so severe that large parts of the natural world will result in abrupt and irreversible change. These moments are called Earth system ‘tipping points’. In a 500-page…
December 05, 2023
People Editor

Business group wants fossil fuel phase-out

DUBAI: The Mean Business Coalition, a business-centric non-profit working to accelerate climate action globally, is demanding immediate action from governments to phase out fossil fuels. In a letter to COP28 president and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company CEO…
December 01, 2023
People Editor

Fossil fuel subsidies in 82 countries rose to US$1.5 trillion in 2022.

DUBAI: Governments in 82 economies subsidised fossil fuels at a cost of US1.5 trillion in 2022 – up from US$769.5 billion the previous year. Data from the OECD and IEA indicate the offset was due to exceptionally high energy prices prompted “in part” by…
November 29, 2023
People Editor

COP 28 sponsors ranked for ethics

DUBAI, UAE: Spendwell, an independent information company enabling individuals to make ethical choices when buying goods or services from corporations, has ranked the 24 official sponsors of COP 28 in Dubai, UAE: The report, based on independently verifiable…
October 31, 2023
People Editor

Avoid greenwashing: is it true, is it necessary, is it kind?

CONCORD, NH: A project by PR and advertising professionals to highlight agencies greenwashing the climate crisis has published an ‘F-List’ of 500 fossil fuel contracts from 294 different PR and advertising agencies worldwide, including 103 in Asia. Created to…

We are using cookies

By continuing you are agreeing to our use of cookies

I understand