China is several years ahead of other developed countries on the migration to a green economy, in clean technology production capacity, massive market penetration and green investments. China already has an extraordinary global green export potential. China leads in renewables, electric vehicles and battery production, incrementally regulating plastic solutions, high-speed rail, private clean tech investment, government environmental support and green bonds. China’s concurrent climate actions are gamechangers destined to have huge global competition impacts on energy, economic, transportation, industrial and other paradigms, perhaps more so than the climate crisis. But there are simultaneous contradictions. China is the world’s largest liquified natural gas importer, once again ramping up coal production and certainly not a leader on human rights.
Putin’s war has created an electroshock for Europe because it depends on fossil fuel imports for 60% of its energy, one-third of which comes from Russia. Organically evolving European Union (EU) plans target 2027 for a massive and rapid transition to a green economy and energy independence. Renewables, electric vehicles, clean technologies and energy efficiency will all play major roles in the creation of fast-forward paradigms for global emulation. For the immediate, by the end of 2022, EU plans entail cutting Russia gas imports by two-thirds, substitution fuel sources plus ramping up renewables and energy efficiency. These EU plans will be devastating for the Russian economy. Russia needs European oil and gas revenues more than Europe needs these fuels.
Green hydrogen, produced with electrolysers to separate hydrogen from water, uses clean energy as a power source. Green hydrogen will not be with cost competitive with grey hydrogen for some time, perhaps not until 2030. Grey hydrogen, derived from steam reformation of natural gas, represents 98 percent of global hydrogen consumption, and is primarily used for industrial processes. To replace grey hydrogen with green hydrogen would require a doubling of global electricity generation with primarily solar and wind sources. This would pre-empt the use of renewables for electrical power, with energy losses totaling up to 75% when green hydrogen is reconverted into electricity! The result would be more use of natural gas for power production. And there are extraordinary inefficiencies and technological challenges for green hydrogen use, while there is no shortage of affordable and efficient clean technologies alternatives. Nevertheless, US$30 billion has been committed to-date for green hydrogen through government stimulus packages. Is green hydrogen a fossil fuel industry trojan horse for gas derived hydrogen and the use of gas for electrical power?
Cargo and cruise ships represent 2.6 percent of global emissions and could reach 17 percent by 2050. Nearly all these ships use cheap dirty heavy oil with high sulphur content. International regulations aren’t helpful as they are lax and difficult to enforce. Fortunately, Maersk, the largest container shipping company in the world, has created the conditions for an industry-wide sectoral revolution by setting 2040 as a target to achieve net-zero emissions, requiring all new vessel acquisitions be carbon-neutral and has already ordered 12 green methanol powered ships. Concurrently, many new technological solutions are under development including ones associated with electric, wind and biofuel energy sources. Stringent territorial waters and docking standards, Maersk technological catalysts, financing of emerging remedies, could advance clean technologies quickly. Finally, open-loop scrubbers are widely used as a band-aid to remove sulphur from the exhausts to transfer the pollutants into the sea.
Reliable standards for environmentally sound investments do not exist and very few Canadian clean tech firms are listed on a stock exchange. Too often, Canadian clean tech firms must go outside Canada for financial support and/or to enter the stock market. This article presents solutions for investors and clean tech companies alike, but these solutions require government action.
BlackRock, the world’s largest investment firm, has indicated that those that don’t tackle climate change will lose money in 5 years. Some financial institutions have made multi-trillion commitments from now to 2030 to invest in the green economy while still focusing the majority of investments in fossil fuels. Canadian banks are among the global top fossil fuel investors.
Not all Big Oil firms are alike. Some are engaged in a rapid green migration, many are sitting on the fence and others are still in climate denial. Meanwhile, the value of fossil fuel assets are declining but the industry is camouflaging this by selling assets and debt financing to keep shareholders happy.
There are those like Stephen Harper who repeatedly say we must choose between economic development and sustainable development.
And there are those who, concerned about the environment and the latest reports from the International Panel on Climate Change, suggest that economic development and sustainable development should be reconciled. Countries such as Germany are often cited as cases in point. Most environmental organizations fall into this latter reconciliation category.
When most people talk of China and its environmental and energy challenges, they tend to paint a very bleak picture. While this view is historically justified, things are changing fast in today’s China.
Criticism of China’s environmental record has been traditionally well-justified. After all, China: 1) displaced the US as the world’s largest energy consumer as of 2009 – doubling its energy consumption between 2000 and 2009; 2) produces the world’s highest pollution levels, with 16 of the top 20 most-polluted cities in the world being in China; and 3) now has total annual vehicle sales higher than that of the US.
Both the Intergovernmental Panel and Climate Change and the International Energy Agency have concluded that public policies, rather than the availability of resources, are among the key determinants for a shift from fossil fuels to clean technology development and deployment. Public banks are critical agents for change along these lines.
Public financial institutions and the green economy around the world
Starting with some of the largest public banks, in July 2013, both the World Bank and the European Investment Bank announced that they will limit to the bare minimum investments in fossil fuel projects, while shifting the lion’s share of their respective energy investments to renewables.