Mayflower 400 And The Citizen Climate Assembly Reports

This month sees the 400 year anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower to the New World, from England to America. This year sees a high-tech ship also named Mayflower, sailing the Atlantic to collect scientific data. This ship has no crew on board.

The first UK citizen climate assembly reported its findings after several meetings held since last year. It is part of public engagement with climate change. Several solutions have been proposed.

Climate Assembly Report

The UK has held a unique citizen based climate assembly. It was formed of 108 assembly members taken from the general population, as a cross-section of society. It has been working on addressing questions relating to a net zero climate policy from 2050 such as:

  • how will we travel?
  • what will we eat?
  • what will we buy?
  • how will we heat our homes?
  • how will our electricity be generated?
  • how will we use the land?

The key question that needed to be answered was “How should the UK meet its target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050?”

Assembly members were clear on the principles that should govern policy choices. They included the importance of information and education and the need for fairness, to support those who might be adversely affected by the transition to net zero. Government had to lead the debate and take the actions necessary to reach net zero. A cross-party consensus was needed, to give long-term certainty on the policy choices made. The path to achieve a net reduction in carbon dioxide is, essentially, a collaboration between the UK Parliament, the population, Government and business.

Key findings from the climate assembly members, from across society, are as follows:

  • There is a need for information and education for everyone.
  • The solutions to climate change are neither easy nor free, but they need to be fair.
  • It is important to maintain, wherever possible, freedom and choice for both individuals and local areas so that they can choose the solutions that work best for them.
  • Co-benefits: tackling climate change could bring with it many advantages. It could see benefits for local communities, high streets and local businesses. It could boost our economy and promote innovation, including technological innovation.
  • We need to protect and restore our natural environment, and our access to it.
  • There is an imperative need for strong and clear leadership from Government – leadership to forge a cross-party consensus that allows for certainty, long-term planning and a phased transition.
  • Achieving net zero will require a joined-up approach across society – all of us will have to play our part.

Towards the end of the report an additional section was added for Covid-19 recovery and the path to net zero. Assembly members thought that steps should be taken as part of the recovery to use the opportunity to commit to net-zero emissions. Almost 80% of assembly members thought that Government could re-think its investment to support the transition to net zero. There should be support to stimulate or support, economically, further low-carbon economy growth. Changes are required to encourage lifestyles that are more compatible with reaching net-zero.

Covid-19 impacts included: changes happening to air travel (people may continue to fly less); homeworking becoming more acceptable; the impact on public transport (people are currently less willing to use it); increases in cycling and walking or active travel options.

The ten recommendations that received most support with the most recommended first, all of which included support of 85% of the assembly members, were:

  1. The transition to net zero should be a cross-political party issue, and not a partisan one.
  2. More transparency in the relationship between big energy companies and Government support.
  3. Get to net zero without pushing our emissions to elsewhere in the world.
  4. Incentives to accelerate progress to net zero and conditions attached for organisations seeking Government financial support.
  5. A robust media strategy on the outcomes of the Assembly.
  6. An independent neutral body that that monitors and ensures progress to net zero, including citizens assemblies and independent experts.
  7. Move away from fossil fuels and transition to new energy sources.
  8. Products and services labelled to include their carbon footprint.
  9. A follow up on the outcomes of the Assembly covering what has been taken into account, what hasn’t and why.
  10. Harness the response to Covid-19 and next year’s UN climate conference, COP26, to drive international coordinated action on climate change.

Interestingly a slight majority of the assembly did not see ambitions to bring net zero before 2050 as an option. The points above include one on having products and services report their carbon footprint. This would certainly show how much carbon is embedded in a product and allow consumers to adapt due to greater awareness of a product’s climate impact.

A full overview is available in the executive summary of the Climate Assembly report.

Mayflower 400

400 years ago the Mayflower ship left England for the New World in September 1620. English puritans were on board – they became known as pilgrims. These people had left England for exile in the Netherlands two years earlier as they believed that the Church of England was beyond redemption. They left Leiden, Holland for England before going on a treacherous journey across the Atlantic Ocean. This journey left Plymouth in south west England on 6 September 1620 with around 130 people on board. The journey concluded in the “New World” after a challenging sailing over the Atlantic Ocean in a time of autumn storms. Only one life was lost on the voyage. Resources were low upon eventual arrival, in November, off Cape Cod. The Mayflower Compact, an agreement as to the rules that would be followed, was signed before landing and establishing settlement. The immigrants were not used to the cold and freezing conditions that they found. The new arrivals probably only survived their first winter due to the indigenous people helping and teaching them. Around 45 pilgrims died in the first winter.

The pilgrim ship the Mayflower became an important symbol of European colonisation of America. It was not the first group of European emigrants, but a significant one due to the Compact declaration agreed before the pilgrims landed. The Mayflower Compact with its just and equal laws later influenced, and were a precursor of, the United States Declaration of Independence. Plymouth Colony was established from the New Plymouth landing site. By 1622 the indigenous tribe of the Patuxet were extinct. One of the last tribe members, Tisquantum or Squanto, died in November 1622.

Mayflower 2020: Autonomous Research Ship

A new fully-autonomous, artificial intelligence powered marine research vessel, also named the Mayflower, has been launched to coincide with Mayflower 400. Its full name is MAS or Mayflower Autonomous Ship. It has a job to do: undertake cutting edge marine research.

The World Ocean contains more than half of all life on Earth, covers over 70 per cent of its surface and contains 97 per cent of its water. It regulates the Earth’s climate and acts as a crucial sink of excess heat and carbon.

MAS has 6 artificial intelligence powered cameras, 30 onboard sensors, 15 edge devices and 0 humans on board. With no human onboard MAS uses artificial intelligence and automation to traverse the ocean. It is used to collect data and, like the original Mayflower, undertake discovery. Certainly there is a contrast from the conditions on the original Mayflower heading to the New World.

This ship will continue a tradition and provide much scientific data, remotely, from around the world. Full details on MAS can be found here. There is a wide range of experiments that the ship will undertake and data will be returned from automated experiments whilst at sea.

Posted in America, Climate Solutions, Community Interests, Earth Science, Energy, Geography, Net Zero, Netherlands, Politics, Renewable Energy, Resources, Sustainable Development, Technology, Transition Movement | Leave a comment

2020: Clean Hydrogen Developments

Hydrogen Futures?

Both Korea and the Netherlands have big plans for hydrogen power. This month both country’s plans and developments are considered. Hydrogen could be used in the gas mix for home heating, for industry or for transport fuel. Hydrogen, when burnt as a fuel, emits water vapour.

In the Netherlands, there are two ambitious projects that are planning to generate hydrogen from wind power being developed this year. Feasibility studies into using North Sea wind farms to power electrolysers in Eemshaven and off the coast of Holland aim to demonstrate new technologies. These technologies will take water and using electrolysis create hydrogen using renewable energy to provide the electricity needed in the process. The results should be clean hydrogen power created from renewable electricity generated by the wind.

Holland’s Innovative Offshore Wind Power Plans

Shell, a major oil company, is in a joint venture investing in a huge pioneering new subsidy free off-shore renewable energy supply for The Netherlands. It is being developed by The CrossWind consortium which is a joint venture between Shell and Eneco. The wind farm is being developed at Hollandse Kust (noord). It aims to meet the objectives of the Dutch Climate Accord and the European Union’s Green Deal.

Hollandse Kust (noord) should be operational in 2023. It will have an installed capacity of 759 megaWatts and should generate at least 3.3 terawatt-hours (TWh) each year. This is enough renewable power to supply more than 1 million households with electric power. The wind farm will be 18.5 kilometres off the coast of The Netherlands near the town of Egmond aan Zee.

This project provides a new approach to the challenges of intermittent electricity production. Wind power creates peaks in production when it is windy and troughs when the wind is not blowing. New technologies are needed to manage the intermittent supply of power. This wind farm is demonstrating five new technologies, some will help to manage the intermittent nature of wind power. The five technologies include:

  1. a floating solar park
  2. short-term battery storage
  3. turbines that are optimally tuned to the network to minimise the negative ‘wake’-effects that wind turbines have on each other
  4. hydrogen, or “green hydrogen’ produced by electrolysis as a further storage technique
  5. the combination of these individual measures to provide a continuous power supply regardless of the wind

These aim to provide a fully resilient wind powered system. Different techniques are being combined to provide innovative ways to support the transition to clean energy systems across Europe. Universities and scientific institutions will collaborate with the joint venture to develop further technical innovations. This knowledge will be shared to improve energy storage from intermittent wind powered electricity sources. This will be the first offshore wind farm focused on system integration.

This project supports Shell’s goal of becoming a net-zero emission energy business by 2050 or sooner. It will help the company move from fossil fuels and pioneer new clean power solutions. The project will assist with ambitions to use wind to create clean hydrogen using electrolysis.

Details of the project can be found on the Shell web site and on this Reuters article.

There are plans to build a green hydrogen plant in Rotterdam and with NortH2 in the north of the Netherlands as shown below.

Hydrogen From Water

Also in The Netherlands at Eemshaven, the NortH2 group with Dutch gas grid operator Gasunie and the port authority Groningen Seaports, aim to be the first to transport “green” hydrogen to industrial customers by 2027. Green hydrogen is extracted using electrolysis with clean energy used in the process.

There are plans to have 3-4GW of new offshore wind capacity dedicated to green hydrogen production by 2030. This would be scaled up to 10GW of off-shore wind powering around 4GW of electrolysis by 2040. The project could produce up to 800,000 tonnes of hydrogen annually by 2040. If used to substitute use of fossil fuels there could be emission reductions of around seven megatonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2). Further details are on the wind power web site

Korea’s Hydrogen Future

South Korea is on a journey to a low-carbon future with a hydrogen based economy. The government sees hydrogen as a new engine for economic growth which will be central to its long-term future. In 2019, President Moon Jae-in announced the government’s determination to build a hydrogen economy. A roadmap for the country aims to produce 6.2 million units of fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) and build 1,200 hydrogen refuelling stations by 2040. Mobility and fuel provision are two main areas of focus for the new economy.

By 2022 Korea aims to have around 80,000 hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles on the roads. To fuel these new vehicles there will be around 300 hydrogen stations. The Korea Energy Economics Institute suggests the size of the hydrogen industry in Korea is currently worth $12bn. By 2030 it is likely to almost double to around $21.3bn. There are plans to change the economics of the price of hydrogen: the current price of hydrogen at the country’s refuelling stations is between $5.7 and $7.1 per kilo. The government wants this to be around $4.8 per kilo by 2022 with the cost falling further to $2.4 per kilo by 2040. Currently the high cost of transporting hydrogen is being subsidised locally and is loss making.

There is a massive stimulus package from the government: the New Deal. There is also a Green New Deal that has $47bn public capital allocated. Of this money around 36% of it, $17bn, will be used for hydrogen mobility projects. The government has allocated subsidies of $462m for fuel cell vehicles and hydrogen infrastructure for this year (2020). Further subsidies for fuel cell buses come into force in 2022: this is expected to be reduce the price of a kilo of hydrogen fuel by $2.9.

In 2019 hydrogen for mobility was around 50,000 tons but hydrogen production is likely to increase to 5.2m tons by 2040. Fuel provision has the benefit of new regulations requiring large office owners to source at least 30% of total electricity from a renewable source. Space constraints in Korea benefits fuel cells instead of solar or wind installations. Technology such as solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology can benefit residential, commercial and utility spaces. Further insights are available on the h2 view web site.

Conclusions And Further Resources

Hydrogen is now being considered widely as a new source of fuel. There are still challenges to overcome with the fuel, especially around the transport and storage. It has benefits for reducing air pollution and cutting existing carbon emissions.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) and the European Union have reports into the future of hydrogen at the global and European levels. There are links to these two reports below. They both highlight the state of this rapidly developing low pollution fuel source.

  1. IEA Hydrogen report
  2. Hydrogen Road Map Europe
Posted in Climate Solutions, Energy, Europe, Fuel Cells, Geography, Hydrogen Fuel, Megatrends, Net Zero, Netherlands, Renewable Energy, Resources, Sustainable Development, Technology, Transition Movement, Zero | Leave a comment

China Causing Tensions

This month considers China’s continued expansion plans, being pursued at the expense of any other country: its continual push for power and control of a greater region is manifesting in several different ways. This post highlights the need for other countries to work together to stand up to a country that is continuing to force an agenda and control people regardless of their rights or international laws.

China’s Expansion: At Any Cost?

China has pursued much expansive activity recently whilst other countries are inwardly looking in order to manage the Covid-19 pandemic. There has been an opportunity whilst other countries that have focused internally that have manifested in various ways in numerous geographical locations.

There is an on-going trade war with the USA, with President Trump refusing to engage with China’s President Xi. In the more immediate area around China Hong Kong territory has seen the imposition of Chinese rules on the former UK colony, there has been much activity to take control of the South China sea and disruption on the China-Indian border among others.

Indian Border Skirmish

In June 2020 Chinese troops attacked and killed Indian troops in the remote area of the Galwan Valley in Ladakh, North India. The event caused a rise in tensions between the two most populous countries in the world. The fighting was triggered by a row over two Chinese tents and observation towers that India said had been built on its side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Residents of India highlight the continued Chinese incursions into Galwan and other disputed areas, such Panong Tso, over the LAC. In Panong Tso, a freshwater lake on the border, there was a similar but non-deadly clash between Indian and Chinese forces in early May 2020. There has been substantial Chinese military structures built here, including a radar tower. They have been built close to a ridge known as Finger Four in June and July 2020, despite agreements to disengage.

Around Panong Tso, known as the eight fingers, are eight ridges. India used to control the whole area. Chinese troops gradually moved in, and in June 2020, they now control four of the eight fingers. China is said to be building a helipad and other infrastructure around Finger Four, as well as bringing more troops into the territory. Further details in this report.

Since the dispute in mid June 2020, when disengagement was discussed between the leaders of India and China, there has been continued building activity on the Chinese side of the border. This Reuters report shows satellite imagery indicating much activity by the Chinese soon after the incident. Road construction on the Chinese side of the border has increased whilst the Indian forward post has retreated. The images show a new Chinese camp suggesting that disengagement is far from the truth.

South China Territorial Claims: At Other’s Expense

China is trying to erode the internationally agreed marine limits. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam challenge China’s claim to about 90% of the South China Sea.

Vietnam is chairing the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Hanoi. Both Vietnam and the Philippines highlight growing regional insecurity as China was advancing its territorial claims under the cover of the Covid-19 pandemic. China increasingly has military drills in the regions and has built fortified islands around the Sea, often outside of its accepted water limits.

China has claims to the Sea based upon a vague, U-shaped “nine-dash line” including much of Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ). It also claims the Paracel Islands and Spratly Islands and overlaps the EEZs of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

In 2016, a tribunal at The Hague, brought by the Philippines, ruled that China has no historic title over the waters. Its line was superseded by the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. In 2019 there was a standoff between Chinese and Vietnamese vessels that were embroiled in a months-long standoff in Vietnam’s EEZ. A Chinese research vessel was conducting a seismic survey of waters overlapping Vietnamese oil blocks. Similar activity occurred in Malaysian waters close to where a drill ship contracted by the Malaysian state oil firm, Petronas, had been working. Indonesia has started to take a harder stance against China: Chinese vessels had entered Indonesia’s EEZ around the northern Natuna islands.

Australia has also become another country to reject the Chinese claims to the South China Sea according to this report. Australia made a declaration to the United Nations to reject the claims. Further details were from this report.

Japan’s Tensions

In Japan, there has been accusations that China is pushing its territorial claims under the cover of Covid-19 whilst “assisting” other nations. China is continuing to try and change the status quo of the East China Sea region. There are continued “relentless” intrusions around a group of islets claimed by both nations in the East China Sea, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.

Japan’s annual defence review claimed China’s responsibility for “propaganda” and “disinformation” amid “social uncertainties and confusion” caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Hong Kong’s Rights: Gone

China has declared full control over the territory of Hong Kong. A new national security law criminalises subversion, secession and collusion with foreign forces. The law fundamentally change the territory’s legal system. Article 29 states that anyone who conspires with foreigners to provoke “hatred” of the Chinese government, or the authorities in Hong Kong, could have committed a criminal offence.

China’s national security law for Hong Kong has fundamentally changes the territory’s legal system. There will be severe penalties for new crimes that includes up to life in prison. The law opens the way for mainland security personnel to legally operate in Hong Kong with impunity. The wording is highly subjective and malleable. Article 55 allows Chinese mainland security operatives the right to investigate some national security cases that are “complex”, “serious” or “difficult”. China is allowed to set up the “Office for Safeguarding National Security” in Hong Kong. It is a mainland Chinese body to be staffed by mainland Chinese personnel. Article 60 makes it clear: anyone working there does not have to abide by Hong Kong’s laws and shall not be subject to “inspection, search or detention”. This means mainland Chinese personnel are untouchable. Further details can be found on this BBC report and Hong Kong’s Security Law.

The new security law is wide-ranging and includes:

  • It is now illegal to incite hatred of China’s central and Hong Kong’s regional governments.
  • Closed-door trials are now allowed, wire-tapping of suspects and the potential for suspects to be tried in mainland China
  • A wide range of acts, including damaging public transport facilities, can be considered terrorism.
  • Internet providers might have to hand over data if requested by police.

The impact of the changes in Hong Kong will affect its economy with the New York Times moving to Seoul in South Korea. TikTok is looking to relocate its headquarters from the Territory.

Even before 2020 security law change, Beijing has increasingly undermining freedom of speech and the media. In 2018 the Financial Times journalist Victor Mallet was barred from entering the city weeks after his work visa had not been renewed without any explanation. He had angered Beijing by hosting a guest speaker at the Foreign Correspondent’s Club who advocated secession.

Human Rights Abuses: The Case of the Uighurs

In the north west of China is Xinjiang province where the Uighurs, a Muslim minority group, mainly live. They have Muslim Turkic ethnicity and are culturally and ethnically close to Central Asian nations. There are around 11 million Uighurs in Xinjiang (see this report).

There is increasing global political criticism over China’s alleged persecution of this group of people. Reports of forced sterilisation of women and mass “re-education” camps. In the camps the
Uighurs, who have their own Uighur language, are forced to learn Mandarin. Religious freedoms have been eroded and Xinjiang is covered by a pervasive surveillance. This include police checkpoints and facial recognition and number plate cameras. Xinjiang is perhaps the ultimate “Smart City” for total control of a population.

The Communist Party of China is trying to silence anyone abroad supporting the Uighur’s plight for rights. The UK Times reported (25 July 2020) that a Belgium Uighur Rights Activist was contacted by Chinese callers who try to stifle dissent abroad. This tactic is not uncommon and includes threatening calls, emotional blackmail, and recruitment from within Uighur communities living abroad.

Cyber Attack On Australia

A massive cyber attack on Australia was carried out in June 2020, was from a state actor with significant capabilities. The attacks crippled widespread computer networks in both government and private sectors. The attacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated. The attacks, allegedly by China, hit sites including government, industrial, political organisations, education, health, essential service provider sites.

Relations between Australia and China have have worsened in recent years but declined further after Australia echoed the US in calling for an inquiry into the origins of the Covid-19, first detected in China late last year. China imposed tariffs on Australian barley, stopped beef imports and warned its citizens and students about “risks” of travelling to Australia because of racist incidents. Australia has increased its rhetoric. The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, said he would not give in to “coercion” from Beijing.

Whether it was an attack from China, there are very few countries capable of this sort of cyber attack. Additional information is in this BBC News report.

Conclusion

This article highlights the extent and how far China is willing to go to dominate and get its own way at the expense of anyone or any country. Human rights are being ignored and nations will need to collectively act against a rising state that will impose its own totalitarian laws as it wants to.

Posted in China, Geography, Politics, Japan, Cyber War, Smart Cities | Leave a comment