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High-speed rail presents major opportunities for decarbonisation of transport

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High-speed rail (HSR) passenger activity totalled 625 billion passenger kilometres in 2015 with China, Europe and Japan together accounting for 95% of the global total. HSR is also the fastest growing passenger rail transport service worldwide – while global high-speed rail activity has grown steadily since 2005, growth accelerated to nearly 70% over 2013 to 2015, mainly as a result of a surge in China.

This shift to HSR represents an opportunity as the rail sector can play a key role in reducing CO2 emissions from transport, particularly in being able to displace short haul aviation.

The efficiency of rail is significant in relation to other modes of transport. For example, the railway sector accounted for over 6% of global passenger transport activity in 2015, yet was responsible for less than 2% of transport final energy demand and just over 4% of CO2 emissions from the transport sector. This is due to not only better energy efficiency of the rail sector compared to the road sector, but also a continued increase in rail’s dependence on electricity – and particularly renewables.

Despite these obvious efficiency benefits, the share of passenger transport by rail has fallen over the past decades in Europe and North America relative to other modes. However, Asia is another story, representing continued growth and 75% of global passenger rail activity in 2015.

Most of this growth can be attributed to the development of primarily high-speed rail networks in China, which have seen a remarkable acceleration over the past two decades. This change was accompanied by significant increases of rail passenger-kilometres in Korea and the ASEAN region.

The HSR sector in China in particular has been growing faster and at a larger scale than in any other country. Over the past decade the Chinese share of HSR activity (in passenger kilometres) grew from 4% to 62% of the global total, reaching 386 billion passenger kilometres in 2015. With nearly 20,000 km of HSR lines in operation in 2016, China also accounts for around 60% of today’s global HSR network and 82% of the HSR track-kilometres built between 2005 and 2015.

In 2016, nearly 11,000 km of HSR lines were still under construction and an additional 1500 km of lines were planned. This will raise the total high-speed rail network extension to 31,000 km by 2020, doubling the value of 2014. The Chinese government’s target is to keep expanding and upgrading the rail network so that all Chinese cities with more than half a million inhabitants, covering 90% of the Chinese population, benefit from rapid rail services.

HSR projects need to be accessible to a large volume of passengers in order to be economically sustainable, and are therefore more successful in densely populated areas. Many areas of China qualify for this because of their high population densities. Distances between Chinese cities also fall in the distance range (200 to 1000 km) allowing HSR to be highly competitive with aviation. When looking exclusively at the financial performance of HSR projects, only a select few HSR lines were profitable in 2016 including the Tokaido Shinkansen line operating between Tokyo and Shin-Osaka, the Paris-Lyon TGV line and the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed rail link.

Nevertheless, HSR delivers important economic and environmental benefits that are not directly related to project financing. One potentially significant environmental benefit is the capacity to shift passengers away from aviation, a mode of transport with much higher carbon intensity.

While overall changes in global aviation activity due to HSR are relatively small, there are several examples of how the introduction of HSR has led to significant reductions, or even the curtailment, of air traffic on specific routes. These include Paris-London, which saw a 56% reduction in air traffic volume from 1993-2010, Seoul-Busan (54% reduction from 2003-2011), and Taipei-Kaohsiung (80% reduction from 2005-2008).

Such a shift can result in major energy and CO2 emission savings, as the energy use per passenger kilometre of HSR is about 90% lower than aviation. In addition, HSR has the potential to emit very low or zero CO2 emissions if paired with decarbonised electricity generation systems.

Ultimately, HSR could be part of the strategy to meeting global climate ambitions. In fact, in a scenario aiming to meet the goals outlined by the Paris agreement, nearly all global aviation activity at short to medium distances (up to 1000 km) is substituted with HSR by 2060.

HSR tends to be competitive when journey times are shorter than or similar to those offered by aviation, a common feature for distances less than 700 km. HSR also tends to be more competitive in densely populated areas. Japan, where the Tokaido Shinkansen is one of few profitable HSR connections globally, has 127 million people living mainly in large cities with high population density along the coastal strip. This allows HSR to connect a chain of large cities so that flows between different cities are combined in a highly efficient network.

This connection of cities leads to a broader benefit of HSR: the possibility of so-called “agglomeration economies”, with positive feedbacks on economic growth and industrial competitiveness. These economies can emerge through a network of large, but not oversized, urban agglomerations. This in turn can lead to wealth redistribution, for example due to lower costs of living in satellite cities.

These recent trends of surging HSR passenger volumes in China align well with global imperatives to improve energy efficiency and energy diversification of transport. Yet bringing about a global shift of the magnitude necessary to meet Paris Agreement climate targets is a major challenge and will require adding HSR capacity at a rate beyond any observed so far.

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Digital Spending Increases, Greater Focus on Digital Strategy Is a Top Need for State Auditors

MD Staff

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photo: Deloitte

The 2018 Digital Government Transformation Survey released today by Deloitte and the National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers and Treasurers (NASACT) reveals how its members are investing more in digital transformation, yet only 35 percent of respondents are satisfied with their organizations’ responses to digital trends. This is a drop of 29 points from the 2015 survey. Additionally, less than half of respondents stated they have a clear and coherent digital strategy.

“The survey reveals an eagerness for state financial professionals to use digital technologies on par with the private sector,” said R. Kinney Poynter, executive director, NASACT. “Our members want to take advantage of emerging technologies, but clearly impediments to being more digital remain.”

“One clear takeaway from the survey is that those NASACT member organizations who have a clear and coherent digital strategy consider their digital capabilities to be comparable or ahead of the private sector,” said Christina Dorfhuber, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP, and a government and public services ERP strategy leader. “We also saw how respondents with a digital strategy were more satisfied with their organization’s reaction to new trends and more confident in their organization’s readiness to respond to new ones, demonstrating that much of an organization’s digital prowess hinges on that strategy.”

“The expectations for digital strategies and opportunities are clearly increasing for all organizations, including governments,” said Clark Partridge, state comptroller of Arizona and president-elect of NASACT. “As we expand our understanding, we can appropriately identify opportunities to leverage technology to re-engineer our processes and enhance the capacity of our workforce. The result is a greater capacity to successfully accomplish the work of government and deliver quality outcomes to citizens.”

The survey reveals three key themes:

A digital strategy is important. Most, but not all, respondents reported having a digital strategy and believe that there is more that needs to be done. Those with a digital strategy were more satisfied with their organization’s reaction to digital trends (54 percent versus 18 percent of respondents) and confident in the understanding of digital trends by their leaders (87 percent versus 30 percent).

Investing in automation and cognitive technologies. With more funding, organizations must determine which technologies to invest in. Currently only 11 percent of organizations reported a broad use of automation and cognitive technologies. Increasing these numbers will be critical as more audits are likely to be augmented by these technologies in the coming year.

Addressing the digital skills gap. While 65 percent of organizations indicated that training staff would be a key focus, 39 percent of organizations also noted they would augment staff with consultants and contractors. Additionally, only 48 percent of respondents believe their employees have sufficient skills to execute a digital strategy while 43 percent believe that employees have the skills for automation and cognitive technologies.

The report examined the need for more training and a skilled workforce in these new emerging technologies to eliminate the skills gap.

“Emerging technologies can have tremendous benefits for state organizations, but preparation is needed,” said William D. Eggers, executive director for Deloitte’s Center for Government Insights. “Public finance leaders looking to capitalize on emerging technologies should devise a roadmap for integrating these technologies into their day-to-day operations.”

The previous survey was conducted in 2015. This year’s survey includes feedback from more than 70 NASACT member offices. A more detailed analysis of the survey can be found here, including data specific to auditors, comptrollers and treasurers.

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AI Creating Big Winners in Finance but Others Stand to Lose as Risks Emerge

MD Staff

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Artificial intelligence is changing the finance industry, with some early big movers monetizing their investments in back-office AI applications. But as this trend widens, new systemic and security risks may be introduced in the financial system. These are some of the findings of a new World Economic Forum report, The New Physics of Financial Services – How artificial intelligence is transforming the financial ecosystem, prepared in collaboration with Deloitte.

“Big financial institutions are taking a page from the AI book of big tech: They develop AI applications and make them available as a ‘service’ through the cloud,” said Jesse McWaters, AI in Financial Services Project Lead at the World Economic Forum. “It is turning what were historically cost centres into new source of profitability, and creating a virtuous cycle of self-learning that accelerates their lead.”

The report points to Ping An’s One Connect and BlackRock’s Aladdin platform as prime examples of the trend:

In China, One Connect sells AI-powered services ranging from credit adjudication to instantaneous insurance claims settlement to hundreds of small and mid-sized Chinese banks and is expected to fetch up to $3 billion at public sale

In the US, Aladdin provides sophisticated risk analytics and comprehensive portfolio management tools that leverage machine learning to a range of asset managers and insurers and is expected by BlackRock’s Chief Executive Officer Larry Fink to provide 30% of the firm’s revenues by 2022

The report, which draws on interviews and workshops with hundreds of financial and technology experts, observes that the “size of the prize” driven through these as-a-service offerings and other applications of AI is much larger than that of the more narrow applications that drive efficiency through the automation of human effort.

The report predicts that AI will also accelerate the “race to the bottom” for many products, as price becomes highly comparable via aggregation services and third-party services commoditize back office excellence.

“AI’s role in financial services is often seen narrowly as driving efficiency through the automation of human effort, but much greater value can be driven through more innovative and transformative applications,” said Rob Galaski, Deloitte Global Banking & Capital Markets Consulting Leader.

As such, financial institutions are seeking to build new sources of differentiation on the back of AI, such as on-the-fly product customization and free advisory services built into products.

Canadian lender RBC is providing its automotive dealership clients with sophisticated demand-forecasting tools that complement the existing credit products it provides to these firms

IEX, a young New York-based stock exchange, is exploring the use of machine learning in creating new order types that protect trades from execution during unstable, potentially adverse conditions

The net result for customers will be “self-driving finance” – a customer experience where an individual’s or firm’s finances are effectively running themselves, engaging the client only to act as a trusted adviser on decisions of importance.

“A small business won’t go to a bank for a revolving line of credit,” said Bob Contri, Deloitte Global Financial Services Leader. “It will seek out a liquidity solution that anticipates how their need for growth capital will evolve and provides customized products to meet those needs,” he said.

But the expanding presence of AI in finance doesn’t come without tensions and risks.

First, financial institutions will be drawn closer to big tech since cloud computing is central to most AI strategies. But there is a chance that most of the benefits will escape them.

Second, the report warns that AI will raise new challenges for the financial ecosystem, particularly around regulation. The divergent path being taken by regulators around the world towards customer data could create a new form a regulatory arbitrage, project participants said.

Finally, the report points to systemic and security risks from creating a more networked finance system, where a few AI databases contain most clients’ information.

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Your new digital rights across Europe during summer holidays

MD Staff

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This summer, European citizens will enjoy more digital rights than ever before. Following the end of roaming charges across the European Union last year, holidaymakers can now travel with their online TV, film, sports, music or e-book subscriptions at no extra cost. In addition, everyone across Europe can enjoy world-class data protection rules that ensure all Europeans have better control over their personal data.

Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market said: “Europeans are already starting to feel the benefits of the Digital Single Market. This summer you will be able to bring your favourite TV programmes and sports matches with you wherever you travel in the EU. By the end of this year, you will also be able to buy festival tickets or rent cars online from all over the EU without being geo-blocked or re-routed.”

Věra Jourová, Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality added: “The digital world offers tremendous opportunities, but also challenges; for example, our personal data is a useful asset for many companies. With the modern data protection rules we have put in place, Europeans have gained control over their data whenever they shop, book their holidays online or just surf the internet.

Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society said: “We are improving the daily life of our citizens, be it end of roaming charges or safer online environment. By completing all our digital initiatives we will bring even more positive change to consumers and businesses alike.

Digital rights already in daily use

Since June 2017, people have been able use their mobile phones while travelling in the EU just like they would at home, without paying extra charges. Since the EU abolished roaming charges, more than five times the amount of data has been consumed and almost two and a half times more phone calls have been made in the EU and the European Economic Area.

Since April 2018, consumers can access online content services they have subscribed to in their home country also when travelling across the EU, including among other films, series and sports broadcasts (see examples in factsheet).

Under the new data protection rules which have been in place across the EU since 25 May 2018, Europeans can safely transfer personal data between service providers such as the cloud or email; everyone now has the right to know if their data has been leaked or hacked, or how their personal data is being collected. Furthermore, with the ‘right to be forgotten’, personal data has to be deleted upon request, if there are no legitimate reasons for a company to keep it.

Finally, with the net neutrality rules applying since spring 2016, every European has access to open internet, guaranteeing their freedom without discrimination when choosing content, applications, services and information of their choice.

Coming soon

With some digital rights already in place, there is more to come in the upcoming months. From September, Europeans will have increasingly the right to use their national electronic identification (eID) across the whole EU to access public services.

As of December, everyone will benefit from the free flow of non-personal data, as they will have access to better and more competitive data storage and processing services in the EU, thus complementing the free movement of people, goods, services and capital. Entrepreneurs meanwhile will have the right to decide where in the EU they store and process all types of data.

As of 3 December, Europeans will be able to shop online without unjustified discrimination wherever they are in the EU. They will not have to worry about a website blocking or re-routing them just because they – or their credit card – come from a different country.

As of next year, citizens will be able to compare parcel delivery costs more easily and benefit from more affordable prices for cross-border parcel delivery.

Agreed rules on value added tax for e-commerce will allow entrepreneurs to take care of their cross-border VAT needs in one online portal and in their own language.

With the recently agreed European Electronic Communications Code, Europeans will have the right to switch internet services and telecoms providers in a simpler way. They will also have the right to receive public alerts on mobile phones in case of an emergency. The new rules will also guarantee a better and more affordable connectivity across the EU.

With the updated rules for audiovisual media, Europeans will have the right to a safe online environment that protects them from incitement to violence, hatred, terrorism, child pornography, racism and xenophobia.

Background

The Digital Single Market strategy was proposed by the Commission in May 2015 to make the EU’s single market fit for the digital age – tearing down regulatory walls and moving from 28 national markets to a single one. This has the potential to contribute €415 billion per year to our economy and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

Three years later, the strategy is well on its way: 17 legislative proposals have been agreed on, while 12 proposals are still on the table. There is a strong need to complete our regulatory framework for creating the Digital Single Market. Thanks to this the value of Europe’s data economy has the potential to top €700 billion by 2020, representing 4% of the EU’s economy.

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