On a rainy afternoon in Shenzhen, damp passengers jostle their way onto the megacity’s buses, the quiet foot soldiers of an electric revolution for coal-guzzling China’s public transport network.
Shenzhen ditched diesel buses and went fully electric in 2017 — a world first — with its taxi fleet not far behind.
Other Chinese cities have since followed suit, with many aiming to fully switch their systems before 2025.
“Electrification is one of the most important strategies” for reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), with bus decarbonisation representing around five percent of cumulative emissions reductions in transport.
But so far China is an outlier, accounting for over 90 percent of the world’s electric buses and trucks in 2021, according to the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT).
“It didn’t happen in a night,” EV specialist Elliot Richards told AFP.
“It was many years of planning and huge amounts of infrastructure work. But it’s made such a huge difference in terms of global awareness.”
Wrangling over the path to a net-zero future will be at the heart of the United Nations’ upcoming COP28 climate summit in oil-producer Dubai, which begins in late November.
So far though, budget and planning constraints, a lack of knowledge and the difficulty of rejigging infrastructure in older cities have prevented others from replicating China’s experience, Richards said.
– Step-by-step –
At a Shenzhen bus depot, driver Ou Zhenjian told AFP he had been ferrying passengers around the city for 18 years and saw a “big difference” with the shift to electric.
“It is really comfortable to drive… easy to operate, and environmentally friendly. It’s soundless too — it’s great to drive like this.”
“At the beginning of the service, we had to step-by-step solve problems,” Ethan Ma, deputy general manager of the Shenzhen Bus Group (SZBG), told AFP.
“Now we can say we almost have the same technical performance of our e-buses compared to diesel buses in the past.”
There have been other, more obvious benefits.
For a huge metropolis crisscrossed by four-to-five lane avenues, traffic noise is noticeably subdued.
“(Diesel buses) emitted a lot of exhaust… Especially when walking on the road, the smell made me very uncomfortable, but now it’s gone,” a young male passenger told AFP as the bus purred through the city.
– ‘Political will’ –
A World Bank case study on SZBG, the city’s largest public transport operator, found emissions from an e-bus over its service time were 52 percent that of a diesel bus.
The analysis takes into account the fact that the local grid generates about half its electricity from coal, and found the switch had saved 194,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.
Pollution in Chinese cities was a major factor pushing the central government to prioritise the switch in public transport, said Tu Le, managing director of Sino Auto Insights.
And that top-down directive was key, with the World Bank noting transition “not only depends on technology but also political will”.
“They were thinking about this way before any other country was even considering it,” said Le.
Strong government financial support and close collaboration with automaker BYD — then a fledgling, now a giant in the global EV field — greatly contributed to success in Shenzhen.
By 2021 China supplied more than 90 percent of the world’s e-buses, according to the ICCT.
The changes are already having a measurable effect.
In September, the IEA chief said the growth of electric vehicles globally — especially in China — meant oil demand was on course to peak before 2030, and coal “in the next few years”.
– Coal-sourced electricity –
However, China remains the world’s largest emitter, with the IEA predicting it will account for 45 percent of the global total from now until 2050, and the country relies on coal for nearly 60 percent of its electricity.
Last year, Beijing approved the largest expansion of coal-fired power plants since 2015, despite President Xi Jinping pledging to peak CO2 emissions between 2026 and 2030.
China is investing heavily in renewable energy, but “they need the coal to cover the gaps in the grid for the time being”, said Richards.
“Even 100 percent coal-fired power (for EV charging) wins over gasoline though” in terms of emissions, said David Fishman, energy consultant at The Lantau Group.
For SZBG’s Ma, the switch to electric has given the company a new outlook.
“We don’t consider ourselves anymore as a pure bus operator, but a new energy service operator or provider,” he said.
Bus systems in 10 other cities in Guangdong province are now fully electric, as is the eastern city of Hangzhou’s.
And over 90 percent of the bus systems in major cities like Beijing and Shanghai have made the switch.
Less developed power grids and charging infrastructure, as well as maintenance issues, have slowed progress in smaller cities, said Sino Auto Insights’ Le.
Still, he predicts seeing “a high percentage — in the 70s — of the whole country’s networks electrified by 2030, no problem”.
UAE sought to use COP28 to advance oil deals: report
The United Arab Emirates planned to exploit meetings with foreign governments arranged due to its COP28 hosting role to strike fossil fuel deals, according to leaked documents obtained by the BBC.
The leaked briefing notes, obtained by journalists at the Centre for Climate Reporting (CCR) working alongside the British broadcaster, were prepared by the UAE’s COP28 team for summit president Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber ahead of meetings with foreign governments between July and October this year.
Leaked “talking points” prepared for a meeting with China said that ADNOC, the UAE’s state oil company, was “willing to jointly evaluate international LNG (liquefied natural gas) opportunities” in Mozambique, Canada and Australia.
Briefing notes prepared for meetings with Colombia, Germany and Egypt suggested that ADNOC “stands ready” to support each country develop fossil fuel projects.
The documents showed the UAE prepared talking points for meetings with 20 countries, including the United States, UK and Germany, on commercial opportunities for state renewable energy company Masdar.
COP28 president Al Jaber is also CEO of ADNOC and Masdar.
A COP28 spokesperson told AFP that the documents cited by the BBC “are inaccurate and were not used by COP28 in meetings. It is extremely disappointing to see the BBC use unverified documents in their reporting.”
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the body responsible for the COP28 summit, which starts on Thursday, told the BBC that the “cardinal principle” for hosts was “the obligation of impartiality”.
Climate campaigners have raised concerns about the influence of fossil fuel interests at the talks in Dubai, noting Jaber’s role as head of an oil company.
In an interview with AFP on Saturday, Jaber defended the large presence of heavy emitting industries including the oil and gas sector.
“Everyone needs to be part of this process and everyone needs to be held responsible and everyone needs to be held accountable,” he said.
COP28, which will be held until December 12, is due to be attended by 167 world leaders, including King Charles III and Pope Francis.
Alberta proposes more open definition of software engineer in new bill
Tech companies and the APEGA feud as the Alberta government prioritizes tech growth
Software engineers build technical programs — but not unless they’re regulated and certified. At least, that has been the stance of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA).
Tech companies in Alberta like Neo Financial and Helcim recently petitioned to Premier Danielle Smith for a more open interpretation of the job title “software engineer,” as they were faced with lawsuits over job ad verbiage from the APEGA.
It seems the government listened.
Fast forward to November 2023? The Government of Alberta has proposed changes to legislation, specifically the Engineering and Geoscience Professions Act, to open up the legal definition of software engineer, as many tech companies use the title without actually seeking a professional engineer’s professional designation or certification.
The proposed changes fall under the new Bill 7, which has generated approval from the tech industry:
“This is an important development for the innovation sector in the province and will give companies and their employees the freedom to use titles that have long been universally accepted in the tech industry.”
- Sam Pillar, Chief Executive, Jobber
However, the APEGA sees the initiative as a threat to public safety:
“Title protection is vital to preserving public safety and maintaining high standards of practice and ethics.”
- Jay Nagendran, Registrar, APEGA
Sure, tech companies could retitle job descriptions to “software developer” instead; however, studies show that these job ads receive significantly less applicants and interest than those titled with “software engineer.” The main goal? Supporting the tech industry in attracting and retaining top talent.
Experts predict similar issues will arise in the ever-evolving tech industry. For example, growing popularity of generative AI like Chat-GPT will create a demand for “prompt engineers” — see the dilemma? The legislative changes (if passed) are thought to foster tech company growth, improve the economy, and reduce red tape.
Learn more about the proposed bill here.
Veronica Ott is a freelance writer and digital marketer with a specialization in finance and business. As a CPA with experience in the industry, she’s able to provide unique insight into various monetary, financial and economic topics. When Veronica isn’t writing, you can find her watching the latest films!
Nissan accelerates UK electric car production
Japanese auto giant Nissan announced Friday it would invest up to £2 billion in UK electric car manufacturing, which the government touted as a sign of confidence in the sector.
Nissan said it will produce electric models of two best-selling cars, Juke and Qashqai, at its facility in Sunderland, northeast England, which is its biggest factory in Europe, building on UK net zero plans to switch away from dirty fossil-fuel vehicles.
The carmaker will plough £1.12 billion ($1.4 billion) into its UK operations and wider supply chain for research and development and manufacturing of the two new models, it added in a statement.
That will also spark further investment in infrastructure projects and the supply chain, including another electric car battery factory, bringing total investment to as much as £2 billion ($2.5 billion).
Nissan’s investment will support its UK workforce of 7,000 employees — and 30,000 jobs in the nation’s broader supply chain.
– Carbon neutrality plans –
“Exciting, electric vehicles are at the heart of our plans to achieve carbon neutrality,” said Nissan President and CEO Makoto Uchida.
“With electric versions of our core European models on the way, we are accelerating towards a new era for Nissan, for industry and for our customers.”
Uchida declared in September that there was “no going back” on the group’s electrification plans as it aims for 98 percent of European sales to be electric vehicles by 2027.
The news comes as Britain looks to take a leading role in the production of electric cars as companies and governments shift away from high-polluting automobiles.
The UK government confirmed Friday that it has awarded £15 million of funding towards a collaborative R&D project for zero-emission vehicles led by Nissan.
“Nissan’s investment is a massive vote of confidence in the UK’s automotive industry, which already contributes a massive £71 billion a year to our economy,” said British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who will attend a formal announcement at the site later on Friday.
“This venture will no doubt secure Sunderland’s future as the UK’s Silicon Valley for electric vehicle innovation and manufacturing.
“Making the UK the best place to do business is at the heart of our economic plan.”
Finance minister Jeremy Hunt pledged Wednesday in his budget update to invest £4.5 billion in strategic sectors including the auto industry.
– Net zero targets –
However, earlier this year Sunak softened policies aimed at reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050, delaying a ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars by five years to 2035.
That still means however that the country’s largely foreign-owned car manufacturing sector must switch to producing fully-electric vehicles.
Nissan had previously warned that a no-deal Brexit would threaten the Sunderland site, but committed to its future after the government agreed a trade deal.
Yet the nation’s car industry has warned that automakers will soon face a damaging 10-percent hike in customs duties on electric cars crossing the Channel.
Britain left the European Union in 2021 after clinching a last-gasp free trade agreement which removed tariffs on cars.
But under the deal, from January 1, 2024, at least 45 percent of the value of car parts must originate from Britain or the European Union to be exempt from customs duties.
That hits electric carmakers because their batteries often originate from China, despite UK efforts to establish production.
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