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IRENA to Help Deliver Low-Carbon 2022 Winter Olympics in Zhangjiakou, China

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The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has today signed a co-operation agreement with the People’s Government of Hebei Province, China to provide the city of Zhangjiakou with a renewable energy roadmap that will support its ambition to deliver a low-carbon Winter Olympics in 2022. The agreement will also help the city become China’s first energy transition pilot city. As co-host of the Winter Olympics with Beijing, Zhangjiakou aims to generate 50 per cent of its power from renewable sources by 2020.

The agreement, signed by IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin and the Governor of Hebei Province, Xu Qin, will support the establishment of a ‘low-carbon Olympic zone’ in Zhangjiakou, with plans for both the Olympic centre and Olympic stadiums to be powered by renewable energy. IRENA will also provide strategic advice in the context of the development of an International Center for Renewable Energy Industry Innovation in Zhangjiakou City.

“China has made remarkable progress in the pursuit of renewable energy and in the transition towards a modern energy system,” said IRENA Director-General Adnan Z. Amin at the signing of the Memoradum of Understanding. “From renewable energy adoption to technological innovation – China is emerging as a leader of the new energy economy and a key actor in energy transformation.

“The pursuit of a low-carbon Winter Olympics in 2022 will not only support China’s ambition to lower harmful emissions, but it will also see them pioneer a movement towards the cost-effective decarbonisation of the world’s greatest spectacles,” continued Mr. Amin. “This agreement reflects the Agency’s deepening cooperation with China and will facilitate a positive, two-way exchange of expertise and knowledge.”

Governor of Hebei Province, Mr. Xu Qin said: “President Xi Jinping’s strategic vision for an ecological civilization has significantly advanced environmental protection in China, greatly benefiting Chinese people whilst representing China’s contribution to global green development. Hebei Province will realise the vision proposed by President Xi, by prioritising ecological protection and exercising green development, as we expedite the speed at which we build a beautiful Hebei.

Mr Xu continued: “With abundant renewable energy resources – particularly the area of Zhangjiakou City – the potential of this cooperation with IRENA is broad and bright. As both sides work to advance R&D, technology innovation and the broader development of the renewable energy industry, this will support our planning for a low-carbon Winter Olympic Games.”

The Games will be the first major global sporting event held in China since the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Co-host Zhangjiakou, located approximately 200 kilometers from Beijing, has been identified as having a strong renewable energy resource endowment, with abundant wind, solar and biomass potential in the region.

Between 2012 and 2016 China witnessed a 10-fold increase in solar energy adoption, and in 2017 alone, it added 53 GW of PV. China announced an intention to invest USD 361 billion in renewable power generation by 2020. China chaired IRENA’s 14th and 15th Council Meetings and is President of the Agency’s 9th Meeting of the Assembly in January next year.

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ADB Loan to Unlock Long-Term Financing for Solar Power in Viet Nam

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) today signed a $37.8 million loan deal with TTC Energy Development Investment Joint Stock Company (TTC Energy) to provide long-term financing to develop and operate a 50-megawatt (MW) photovoltaic solar power plant in Tay Ninh Province in Viet Nam.

ADB’s assistance for the Gulf Solar Power Project was provided through an innovative project finance structure, which ensured the bankability of the project. It will help catalyze commercial financing for one of the first large-scale solar power project finance transactions in the country. The loan is composed of an $11.3 million A loan and a B loan of up to $18.9 million.

An additional $7.6 million loan was provided by the Leading Asia’s Private Infrastructure Fund, which is supported by the Japan International Cooperation Agency. The loan marks the first transaction under the fund’s Non-Parallel program and improves the bankability and financial viability of the project to allow other lenders to provide long tenor, US dollar-denominated financing. The B loan will be funded by Bangkok Bank PCL, Siam Commercial Bank PCL, and Standard Chartered Bank (Thai) PCL.

“ADB is excited about this transaction because the project will have a significant impact on the sustainability and security of Viet Nam’s energy sector for years to come,” said the Director of Infrastructure Finance Division of ADB’s Private Sector Operations Department Mr. Jackie B. Surtani. “Apart from providing much-needed financing to develop solar power in Viet Nam, the project will also help reduce perceived risks in the country’s renewable energy sector.”

“We believe the project’s fundamentals were improved significantly as a result of its competitive financing structure and longer tenor led by ADB, and we are confident that the project will be developed successfully according to plan,” said Gulf Energy Development Public Company Limited (GED) Executive Director Ms. Yupapin Wangviwat.

The Government of Viet Nam plans to increase the share of renewable energy sources, such as hydropower, solar, wind, and biomass, as a percentage of total installed capacity to 21% by 2030 to meet rapidly growing energy needs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 25% by 2030.

The project will develop and operate the 50 MW solar power plant and its associated facilities in Tay Ninh Province, which is about 50 kilometers northwest of Ho Chi Minh City. The solar power plant will directly serve the electricity demand of residents and businesses of Ho Chi Minh City and surrounding areas. It will reduce annual carbon dioxide emissions by 29,760 tons by 2020.

TTC Energy, established in 2017, is 90% owned by GED. GED is a leading private power generation company and has the largest portfolio of gas-fired power projects in Thailand.

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Technology can help track choices to balance nutrition and climate impact

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Like the popular fitness apps, which help users track their exercise activities, food intake and more, an app called Evocco aims to give consumers information about their shopping habits to help cut their carbon footprint by estimating the climate impact of their choices.

By taking a photograph of food receipts, shoppers can check their score which combines the climate impact of the food they’ve bought with their nutritional value, helping customers get the most nutritious food for the lowest climate impact.

“We see food as the first step in somebody’s climate action journey,” said Hugh Weldon, Evocco co-founder and Young Champion of the Earth for Europe 2018. “With this tool, we aim to make it easier for people to join the climate movement.”

At the start of the year as a Young Champion, Evocco had completed its first alpha tests with users of the Android smartphone app. The company was a team of five. Then, the design was overhauled based on feedback from testers, and the team refocused for a public release originally slated for January 2019.

“The year has been one of many lessons for Evocco,” said Weldon. “Technology challenges and changes in the team saw the launch of the app delayed. Targets had to be reconsidered, and the team had to be restructured.”

Yet despite challenges, Evocco’s Weldon was named on many of Ireland’s hottest upcoming talent lists and honored in the Ten Outstanding Young Persons awards. Weldon and the Evocco team presented at climate change conferences in New York, Xiamen, Nairobi, Stockholm, Estoril, and at a climate youth festival in Dax.

“These opportunities have resulted in huge personal growth for me and have boosted the credibility of Evocco immensely,” said Weldon. “There have also been further opportunities that we simply did not have the capacity to take.

There have been serious challenges this year, too.

“The effects have been a real setback but we have learned some important lessons. With few resources, we have had to find other ways to launch our technology and use our data to the best advantage. In the end, the challenges we have faced have forced us to become more resourceful and to find low-tech solutions. It’s been a huge challenge, but we’re really excited to be almost there.”

In April 2019, Evocco launched Tracker in Ireland, allowing shoppers to upload their food receipts and receive an email star rating for their basket, with tips to improve. Then in May, Ursula Clarke joined as Head of Software Development, Evocco’s first senior tech hire and a huge boost to the team.

“Over the course of the year, our business plan has evolved greatly, and in addition to our consumer app, we are excited to launch a corporate product in January. This allows employees to compete against each other on sustainability, and has sparked some great interest,” said Weldon.

With the first cohort of users in Ireland already enjoying the benefits of the Evocco app, the focus is now to grow user numbers and secure investment from angels and venture capitalists.

Clementine OConnor, sustainable food systems expert at the United Nations Environment Programme, said: “Food systems generate around 30 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. Shifting to healthy sustainable diets is one of the most powerful things individuals can do to reduce their climate impact, while improving their own health and well-being. “Evocco’s app provides a really practical tool to help consumers understand the impact of their food purchases and make small changes to make their diet more sustainable.”

UN Environment

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Governing the Coin: WEF Announces Global Consortium for Digital Currency Governance

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Following extensive consultation with the global community, the World Economic Forum announced today the Global Consortium for Digital Currency Governance. Digital currencies are often cited as a tool for financial inclusion, but this opportunity can be realized only when paired with good governance.

This is the first initiative to bring together leading companies, financial institutions, government representatives, technical experts, academics, international organizations, NGOs and members of the Forum’s communities on a global level. To tackle the challenge ahead, an international, multistakeholder approach with the public and private sectors working alongside civil society is needed.

This consortium will focus on solutions for a fragmented regulatory system. Efficiency, speed, inter-operability, inclusivity and transparency will be at the heart of this initiative. It will call for innovative regulatory approaches to achieve these goals and build trust. A set of guiding principles will be co-designed to support public and private actors exploring the opportunities that digital currencies present.

“Digital currency, a cross-cutting topic that requires input across sectors, functions, and geographies, is a key area of interest for the Forum,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum. “Building on our long history of public-private cooperation, we hope that hosting this consortium will catalyse the conversations necessary to inform a robust framework of governance for global digital currencies.”

“Any evaluation of digital currencies should consider both policy and business objectives, as well as the unique circumstances that face different economies around the world, in order to fully evaluate their risks and benefits,” said Lesetja Kganyago, Governor of the South African Reserve Bank. “Bringing together diverse perspectives through this consortium will allow for this holistic review. In order to achieve this, we need the public and private sector to collaborate.”

“While digital currencies offer wide possibilities, these have to be assessed against the fundamental objectives of economic advancement and shared prosperity,” said Patrick Ngugi Njoroge, Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya. “Global governance of the diverse initiatives provides greater assurance of this outcome.”

“Governance is the core pillar of any form of digital currency,” said Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England. “It is critical that any framework on digital currencies ensures security, efficiency and legitimacy of payments while ensuring fair and open competition. We welcome the World Economic Forum’s platform to help develop a robust governance framework for inclusion through digital currencies.”

“We are exploring the potential that properly-regulated digital currencies hold for cheaper and faster cross-border payments, financial inclusion, and rooting out illicit finance,” said Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Senior Minister and Chairman, Monetary Authority of Singapore. “This dialogue between public and private sector players is now essential, so we find the right roles for each in realizing this potential.”

“We are watching closely as digital currencies increasingly become an area of focus around the world,” said Eric Parrado, Chief Economist, Inter-American Development Bank. “They may unlock new opportunities for efficiency and inclusion, but this can only happen with the appropriate infrastructure and guardrails.”

“The release of digital currencies will have far-reaching implications, from domestic financial stability to international trade,” said Rania A. Al-Mashat, Minister of International Cooperation, Egypt. “As such, it is imperative that efforts to regulate digital currencies are well-informed, collaborative, and global in nature.”

“Building on our collaboration around the World Economic Forum’s Central Bank Digital Currency Toolkit, we are eager to continue exploring the pillars of well-informed approaches to digital currency through this consortium,” said Rasheed Al Maraj, Governor of the Central Bank of Bahrain.

“Having witnessed firsthand technology leapfrog East and West African financial markets forward over the last decade, we are excited that this initiative will bring leaders from around the world to share best practices and will work on truly global policy recommendations,” said Elizabeth Rossiello, Chief Executive Officer of AZA Finance.

“We welcome the dialogue the World Economic Forum is facilitating about digital currencies,” said David Marcus, Head of Calibra, Facebook, Libra Board Member. “We agree that good regulation is important for the success and safe adoption of digital currency platforms and are looking forward to continue to engage in this constructive conversation.”

“Digital currencies have the potential to improve access to financial markets, but proper oversight and governance are required,” said Rob Heyvaert, Founder and Managing Partner of Motive Partners. “The World Economic Forum is uniquely placed to bring together the private and public sectors to discuss these issues and tackle the challenges ahead.”

“Digital currencies are a tremendous opportunity to make the financial system more accessible and fair,” said Neha Narula, Director, Digital Currency Initiative, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Creating an inclusive, integrated global digital currency system requires dialogue across stakeholders ranging from finance ministers to open source developers, and the World Economic Forum is in an ideal position to facilitate this important conversation.

“Trust is needed in this space now more than ever,” said Joseph Thompson, Chief Executive Officer of AID:Tech. “Creating new economic opportunities and a paradigm shift in how technology is used can benefit all societies. What we need now is multistakeholder cooperation that is anchored in principles of social justice.”

“It’s rare that such an important global organization takes into consideration the context of developing countries in the application of Fourth Industrial Revolution technology to achieve the SDGs,” said Maria Antonia Arroyo, Principal of the Ignite Impact Fund. “Stablecoin is an important development that, if properly implemented and responsible to the concerns of civil society, will be effective at universal financial inclusion.”

“New technologies, like blockchain, have helped catalyze a revolution in the mechanics of money,” said Joseph Lubin, Founder of ConsenSys. “We applaud the efforts by the WEF in actively researching digital currencies, including those that are blockchain-based, as a means to foster innovation but also ensure that central banks can maintain their role as stewards of the economy. The future of money is digital and central banks and the public sector have a crucial part to play in ensuring that this future is sustainable, inclusive and positive for society.”

This initiative builds on work done by the Forum over the past year, convening a global community of central banks to co-design a policy framework for the adoption of digital currencies. The Forum’s Global Technology Governance Summit will take place in San Francisco from 21-22 April. Governance of digital currency will be a core pillar.

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