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Billions pledged for green development at Africa climate talks

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The three-day event began Monday and is billed as bringing together African leaders to define a shared vision for green development
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The UAE pledged $4.5 billion in clean energy investments in Africa on Tuesday at a landmark climate summit aimed to showcase the continent’s potential as a green powerhouse.

Kenyan President William Ruto has sought to use the Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi to shift the narrative on the region, presenting the clean energy transition as a unique opportunity for Africa — if it can attract the financing to realise its potential.

And on Tuesday, the conference saw its most significant pledge so far, with $4.5 billion announced by the United Arab Emirates, which will also host the COP28 summit in Dubai in November-December.

Sultan Al Jaber, who heads the UAE’s national oil company ADNOC and government-owned renewable energy company Masdar, said the investment would “jumpstart a pipeline of bankable clean energy projects in this very important continent”.

Jaber, who is also president of the COP28 climate summit, said a consortium including Masdar would help develop 15 gigawatts of clean power by 2030.

Africa’s renewable generation capacity was 56 GW in 2022, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.

The three-day Nairobi summit, which began Monday, has attracted heads of state, government and industry, including leaders from Mozambique and Tanzania, as well as United Nations head Antonio Guterres, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen and US climate envoy John Kerry.

It is billed as bringing together African leaders to define a shared vision for green development on the diverse continent of 1.4 billion and set the tone for a flurry of international diplomacy leading up to the COP28 meeting.

A front-page headline in the Kenyan newspaper Daily Nation on Tuesday proclaimed the summit marked “Africa’s moment”.

But the continent faces steep challenges, particularly in the form of mounting debt costs and a dearth of finance.

Despite an abundance of natural resources, just three percent of energy investments worldwide are made in the continent.

Guterres urged the international community to help “make Africa a renewable energy superpower”.

“Renewable energy could be the African miracle but we must make it happen,” Guterres told government and industry leaders.

With the world falling far short of its global goals to limit warming, Guterres spoke directly to G20 nations, whose leaders are meeting in India at the weekend, and told them to “assume your responsibilities” in the battle to reduce planet-warming emissions.

– ‘Africa holds the key’ –

A clean energy transition across the world’s developing nations will be crucial in order to keep alive the Paris Agreement goal of capping global warming “well below” two degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times, and 1.5C if possible.

To make that happen, the International Energy Agency says investment will need to surge to $2 trillion a year within a decade — an eight-fold increase.

Speakers at the summit have doubled down on calls to reform global financial structures to align with climate and green development goals.

Jaber called for a “surgical intervention of the global financial architecture that was built for a different era”, urging institutions to lower debt burdens.

On the opening day of the summit on Monday, Ruto said trillions of dollars in “green investment opportunities” would be needed as the climate crisis accelerates.

“Africa holds the key to accelerating decarbonization of the global economy. We are not just a continent rich in resources. We are a powerhouse of untapped potential, eager to engage and fairly compete in the global markets,” Ruto said.

The summit’s focus on some climate finance proposals has drawn opposition from some environmental quarters, with hundreds of demonstrators protesting near the conference venue in Nairobi on its opening day.

A coalition of civil society groups has been urging Ruto to steer global climate priorities away from what it perceives as a Western-led agenda that champions carbon markets and other financial tools to redress the climate crisis.

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In Brazil, hopes to use AI to save wildlife from roadkill fate

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Some 475 million vertebrate animals die on Brazilian roads every year
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In Brazil, where about 16 wild animals become roadkill every second, a computer scientist has come up with a futuristic solution to this everyday problem: using AI to alert drivers to their presence.

Direct strikes on the vast South American country’s extensive road network are the top threat to numerous species, forced to live in ever-closer proximity with humans.

According to the Brazilian Center for Road Ecology (CBEE), some 475 million vertebrate animals die on the road every year — mostly smaller species such as capybaras, armadillos and possums.

“It is the biggest direct impact on wildlife today in Brazil,” CBEE coordinator Alex Bager told AFP.

Shocked by the carnage in the world’s most biodiverse country, computer science student Gabriel Souto Ferrante sprung into action.

The 25-year-old started by identifying the five medium- and large-sized species most likely to fall victim to traffic accidents: the puma, the giant anteater, the tapir, the maned wolf and the jaguarundi, a type of wild cat.

Souto, who is pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Sao Paulo (USP), then created a database with thousands of images of these animals, and trained an AI model to recognize them in real time.

Numerous tests followed, and were successful, according to the results of his efforts recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Souto collaborated with the USP Institute of Mathematical and Computer Sciences.

For the project to become a reality, Souto said scientists would need “support from the companies that manage the roads,” including access to traffic cameras and “edge computing” devices — hardware that can relay a real-time warning to drivers like some navigation apps do.

There would also need to be input from the road concession companies, “to remove the animal or capture it,” he told AFP.

It is hoped the technology, by reducing wildlife strikes, will also save human lives.

– ‘More roads, more vehicles’- 

Bager said a variety of other strategies to stop the bloodshed on Brazilian roads have failed.

Signage warning drivers to be on the lookout for crossing animals have little influence, he told AFP, leading to a mere three-percent reduction in speed on average.

There are also so-called fauna bridges and tunnels meant to get animals safely from one side of the road to the other, and fences to keep them in — all insufficient to deal with the scope of the problem, according to Bager.

In 2014, he created an app called Urubu with other ecologists, to which thousands of users contributed information, allowing for the identification of roadkill hotspots.

The project helped to create public awareness and even inspired a bill on safe animal crossing and circulation, which is awaiting a vote in Congress. 

A lack of money saw the app being shut down last year, but Bager is intent on having it reactivated.

“We have more and more roads, more vehicles and a number of roadkill animals that likely continues to grow,” he said.

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Honda to build major EV plant in Canada: govt source

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Honda hopes to sell only zero-emission vehicles by 2040, with a goal of going carbon-neutral in its own operations by 2050
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Japanese auto giant Honda will open an electric vehicle plant in eastern Canada, a Canadian government source familiar with the multibillion-dollar project told AFP on Monday.

The federal government as well as the province of Ontario, where the plant will be built, will both provide some financial incentives for the deal, according to the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The official announcement is due Thursday, though Ontario premier Doug Ford hinted at the deal on Monday.

“This week, we’ve landed a new deal. It will be the largest deal in Canadian history. It’ll be double the size of Volkswagen,” he said, referring to a battery plant announced last year, for which the German automaker pledged Can$7 billion (US$5 billion) in investment.

Canada in recent years has been positioning itself as an attractive destination for electric vehicle investment, touting tax incentives, renewable energy access and its rare mineral deposits.

The Honda plant, to be built an hour outside Toronto, in Alliston, will also produce electric-vehicle batteries, joining existing Volkswagen and Stellantis battery plants.

In January, when news of the deal first bubbled up in the Japanese press, the Nikkei newspaper estimated it would be worth Can$14 billion — numbers backed up by Canadian officials recently.

In the federal budget announced last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government introduced a new business tax credit, granting companies a 10 percent rebate on construction costs for new buildings used in key segments of the electric vehicle supply chain.

Canada’s strategy follows that of the neighboring United States, whose Inflation Reduction Act has provided a host of incentives for green industry.

Honda hopes to sell only zero-emission vehicles by 2040, with a goal of going carbon-neutral in its own operations by 2050.

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Denmark launches its biggest offshore wind farm tender

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Denmark's offshore wind parks currently generate 2.7 gigawatts of electricity
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The Danish Energy Agency on Monday launched its biggest tender for the construction of offshore wind farms, aimed at producing six gigawatts by 2030 — more than double Denmark’s current capacity.

Offshore wind is one of the major sources of green energy that Europe is counting on to decarbonise electricity production and reach its 2050 target of net zero carbon production, but it remains far off the pace needed to hit its targets.

Denmark’s offshore wind parks currently generate 2.7 gigawatts of electricity, with another one GW due in 2027.

The tender covers six sites in four zones in Danish waters: North Sea I, Kattegat, Kriegers Flak II and Hesselo.

“We are pleased that we can now offer the largest offshore wind tender in Denmark to date. This is a massive investment in the green transition,”  Kristoffer Bottzauw, head of the Danish Energy Agency, said in a statement.

Investment in offshore wind plummeted in Europe in 2022 due to supply chain problems, high interest rates and a jump in prices of raw materials, before bouncing back in 2023.

A record 4.2 gigawatts was installed in Europe last year, when a record 30 billion euros in new projects were approved, the trade association WindEurope said in January.

It said it was optimistic about the future of offshore wind in Europe, expecting new offshore wind capacity of around five gigawatts per year for the next three years.

However, it noted that that was still far short of what is needed if Europe wants to hit its 2030 target of 111 gigawatts of offshore wind installed capacity, with less than 20 gigawatts installed at the end of 2023.

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