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Most automakers fall short on climate goals: report

Only two of the world’s 12 top automakers plan to make enough electric vehicles by 2030 to stay in step with Paris Agreement climate goals.

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Globally, more than half of all new vehicles coming off of production lines in 2029 would need to be electric for the sector to be compliant with the goal of capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels
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Only two of the world’s 12 top automakers plan to make enough electric vehicles by 2030 to stay in step with Paris Agreement climate goals, experts said Wednesday.

Globally, more than half of all new vehicles coming off of production lines in 2029 would need to be electric for the sector to be compliant with the goal of capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, according to Influence Map, a research NGO that evaluates corporate climate goals and policies.

At the same time, 11 of the 12 carmakers — while publicly supporting the Paris Agreement — have actively opposed government policies to accelerate the shift to electric vehicles, especially the phase-out internal combustion engines, Influence Map said.

Japanese auto giants Toyota, Honda and Nissan are especially far off the mark, with non-polluting cars accounting for only 14, 18 and 22 percent, respectively, of their planned production in 2029, the report said.

South Korea’s Hyundai, US manufacturer Ford and France’s Renault — with 27, 28 and 31 percent of their global fleets projected to be electric in seven years — were only marginally more on track.

The standout exception is US-based Tesla, a “pure player” manufacturer that has only ever made electric cars and trucks.

– Lagging behind –

“Almost all automakers are failing to keep pace with the transition to zero emissions,” said Influence Map program Manager Ben Youriev.

“Those lagging the furthest behind are also the most negative when it comes to climate policy advocacy.”

Ford, Stellantis, Volkswagen and BMW come closer to the 52 percent threshold for compatibility with Paris temperature target, with 36 to 46 percent of their fleets planned to be electric in 2029.

Besides Tesla, only Mercedes-Benz — at 56 percent — is projecting a transition in keeping with that target.

To evaluate automaker trajectories, Influence Map cross-references different datasets.

Researchers used the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) scenario for decarbonising the transport sector rapidly enough to not jeopardise the 1.5C goal, which would need 57.5 percent of all cars produced in 2030 to be electric.

The IEA’s Net Zero by 2050 report also assumes the share of renewables in global electricity generation would be about 60 percent in 2030.

The Influence Map report then compared this goal with IHS Markit production forecasts to 2029, corresponding to a 52 percent share of electric vehicles in the IEA schema.

Collectively, the combined global production of battery electric vehicles by all automakers is forecast to only reach 32 percent by 2029.

That means the auto industry would need to boost production of zero-emission cars by 80 percent in order to hit the IEA 2030 production target.

– Impact of government policy –

The report findings reveal the critical impact of government policy on the pace of the transition away from internal combustion engines, which account for around 16 percent of global energy-related CO2 emissions, according to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

In the European Union, which aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 55 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, Toyota’s produced fleet is projected to be 50 percent electric by 2029.

But in the United States, where fuel emissions standards are less stringent, that figure is only four percent.

Similarly, Ford’s EU-based production is forecast to be 65 percent electric by 2029 — nearly double it’s global average.

One pension fund with shares in Toyota and Volkswagen expressed concern about the Influence of the Map findings.

“As investors, we are concerned with the picture painted which confirms that some companies in the auto industry are placing themselves on the wrong side of history when actively opposing much needed climate change-related rules and regulations,” Anders Schelde, CIO of Denmark’s AkademikerPension, with $20 billion of assets under management, told AFP.

“We are also worried about Toyota scoring worst among peers on climate lobbying as the company is jeopardizing its valuable brand.”

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Seaweed and 3D printers: Chile’s innovative approach to feeding kids

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Food engineering student Alonso Vasquez cuts cochayuyo seaweed to process it before putting it into a 3D printer at the lab of Chile's University in Santiago, on June 17, 2022
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Some dehydrated “cochayuyo” seaweed, some instant mashed potatoes and hot water: these are the ingredients for a nutritious menu of 3D printed food that nutritional experts in Chile hope will revolutionize the food market, particularly for children.

With a 3D food printer and a modern twist on the traditional use of cochayuyo, an algae typically found in Chile, New Zealand and the South Atlantic, Roberto Lemus, a professor at the University of Chile and several students, have managed to create nutritious and edible figures that they hope kids will love to eat. 

Pokemon figures, or any type of animal imaginable, are all fed into the 3D printer, together with the gelatinous mixture, and the food is “printed” out seven minutes later. 

“We looking for different figures, fun figures…visual, colors, taste, flavors, smells,” Lemus told AFP. 

But, he stressed, the main focus is on nutritional content. “The product has to be highly nutritious for people, but it also has to be tasty,” he said. 

3D food printers are expensive, costing from $4,000 to more than $10,000, but Lemus hopes that as technology advances, their cost will come down and reach more people. 

The technology is developing in the culinary field in dozens of countries, and 3D food printers are used to design sweets, pasta and other foods. 

NASA already tested it in 2013 with the idea of expanding the variety of foods that astronauts dine on in space.

– Superpower algae –

Chile is making progress with cochayuyo seaweed, one of the typical ingredients of the coastal nation’s cuisine, and which is rich amino acids, minerals and iodine, according to Alonso Vasquez, a 25-year-old postgraduate student who is writing his thesis on the subject. 

The young researcher takes dehydrated cochayuyo, cuts it and grinds it to create cochayuyo flour which he then mixes with instant mashed potato powder. 

He then adds hot water to the mixture to create a gelatinous and slimy substance that he feeds into the printer. 

“It occurred to me to use potatoes, rice flour, all of which have a lot of starch. The starch of these raw materials combined with the cochayuyo alginate is what generates stabilization within the 3D printing,” he says, waiting for the printer to finish creating a Pikachu figure of about two centimeters (just under one inch) and a taste of mashed potatoes and the sea. 

The project has been underway for two years and is still in its infancy, but the idea is to apply ingredients such as edible flowers or edible dyes to the menu to make them more attractive to children.

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SpaceX fires workers behind letter criticizing Musk

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Some SpaceX workers have been fired after circulating a letter critical of CEO Elon Musk
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Elon Musk’s SpaceX has fired several employees behind a letter critical of the outspoken billionaire’s public behavior, the aerospace firm said in a message to staff confirmed by AFP on Friday.

A “small group” of employees sought their colleagues’ signatures in a show of support for the letter and participation in a survey, SpaceX chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell wrote in an email late Thursday. 

The mercurial billionaire regularly uses Twitter to provoke, speak directly to customers as well as fans and sometimes offend with unfiltered or crude comments.

Shotwell’s message said some workers felt “uncomfortable, intimidated and bullied, and/or angry because the letter pressured them to sign onto something that did not reflect their views.”

“We have too much critical work to accomplish and no need for this kind of overreaching activism,” she added.

After conducting an investigation, the company “terminated a number of employees involved,” Shotwell said, without specifying how many.  

The workers’ letter, first reported by website The Verge, criticized Musk’s behavior in public, as well as recent accusations of sexual harassment against him, as “a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment for us.” 

“As our CEO and most prominent spokesperson, Elon is seen as the face of SpaceX — every Tweet that Elon sends is a de facto public statement by the company,” the letter added.

Musk, who also heads electric car maker Tesla, is in the midst of roller-coaster $44 billion bid to buy Twitter that has brought even more attention to the entrepreneur.

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US stocks end rocky week lower ahead of holiday

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Wall Street stocks have been battered amid moves to raise interest rates to combat blistering inflation
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New York equities ended a rocky week mostly higher on Friday but lower for the week amid worsening fears of recession as the US central bank takes aggressive action against inflation. 

In the last session before the holiday weekend, the broad-based S&P 500, which entered a bear market earlier this week, added 0.2 percent to finish at 3,674.84, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index gained 1.4 percent to 10,798.35.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.1 percent to 29,888.78, after closing below 30,000 on Thursday for the first time since January 2021.

The S&P lost 5.8 percent in the week, its worst performance since 2020, while the Dow and Nasdaq dropped 4.8 percent.

Wall Street stocks have been battered amid moves to raise interest rates to combat blistering inflation.

Investors initially welcomed the Federal Reserve’s super-sized rate hike on Wednesday, but retreated after other central banks including the Bank of England joined.

The Fed promised there are more big rate hikes to come, and recent economic data has not helped sentiment, including weak manufacturing data that followed a surprising resurgence in inflation in May.

Karl Haeling of LBBW said “markets are oversold, but probably not oversold enough to call for a bottom.”

He said the modest gains Friday likely mark “a little technical pause.”

But Kim Forrest of Bokeh Capital Partners did not read a lot into the session.

“We’ve had a pretty dramatic sell off yesterday. And it’s a holiday on Monday and people probably left, so there are fewer traders out there today,” Forrest told AFP.

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