Upbeat Bulletin - August 2021

Upbeat Bulletin - August 2021

Welcome to the latest instalment of our Upbeat Bulletin, the blog that tweaks the nose of negativity and uses an industrial-size broom to wipe away the doom and gloom.

The Olympics’ real hero

Forget Tom Daley, Adam Peaty, and Jason Kenny for a minute. Forget Caeleb Dressel, too. The real star of the Olympics was hydrogen. After all, none of the world’s finest athletes would’ve been able to strut their stuff without it. 

The Tokyo Olympics will go down in history as the first ever hydrogen-powered games. The pioneering Japanese built a pair of high-tech stadiums, a fleet of fuel-cell vehicles, and an entire Olympic village powered purely by our new favourite gas.

Hydrogen power could well be the renewable energy of tomorrow. It produces no emissions other than water, which can be used to irrigate gardens or crops, plus it’s the most abundant element in the entire universe. It really could be the answer to all our sustainability prayers. In fact, it could supply up to 25% of the world’s energy in thirty years’ time.

Japan became the first country to establish a national hydrogen strategy in 2017. They invested £300 million in research and development and soon built one of the world’s biggest hydrogen fuel plants in Fukushima. Since then, a host of other countries have established their own programmes including Germany, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and Spain. 

The Olympic village itself shows precisely what’s possible. It’s the first full-scale hydrogen infrastructure in Tokyo, with lights, heating, hot water, dormitories and cafeteria all powered by the cleanest of clean energies. Now that the 11,000 athletes have returned home, the village will be converted into hydrogen-powered flats with a school and shopping centre. That’s what we call a legacy. 

EU focused on global warming, too

Did you know that the EU has its roots in the European Coal and Steel fraternity? How times change. The EU has just unveiled an almighty list of proposals to slash emissions by 55% before 2030. And this is just an interim target. Their eyes are actually on the bigger prize of 100% carbon neutrality by 2050. One can only wonder what the Ruhr Valley coal miners of the mid-twentieth century would’ve made of that?

The EU is concerned that the next ten years represent a “make or break decade” for global warming. There are even fears of a tipping point where the damage could be irreversible. For example, the Siberian permafrost holds billions of tonnes of carbon. If it was to melt entirely – and sadly this process has already begun – this carbon would be released into the atmosphere and global warming would be accelerated. Consequently, the EU is determined to get on the case before exponential warming occurs. 

So what’s on the EU’s agenda? Some of the targets are quite radical: banning the internal combustion engine from car production lines by 2035, planting one billion carbon-absorbing trees, installing electric charging points every 60km on EU roads, acquiring 40% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030, and forcing fuel suppliers at airports and ports to use sustainable fuels. 

Even better, the EU executive is promising to help lower income families pay for greener transport and energy improvements to their homes. This is particularly good thinking. If sustainability comes with a cost, then it shouldn’t be the poorest in society who suffer the most. 

A call to arms from Biden

Finally, we end with some good news on the Covid-19 front. A few weeks ago, President Biden reached a historic agreement to buy 500,000,000 Pfizer vaccine doses to be distributed in 92 lower-income countries. The main beneficiaries are likely to be African nations where vaccination rates are predictably low. 

This is a great move by Biden as he seeks to rebrand America after the somewhat ‘divisive’ Trump years. The plan is for the US to pay for the vaccines at cost price and then distribute 200 million this year and then 300 million next year. What’s more, the offer comes with no strings attached

It would be wrong to suggest that Biden’s plan is completely altruistic, though. The president obviously wants to show off his multilateral credentials (and who can blame him). Gestures like this are also a great way to project American soft power. 

However, there is a more important universal benefit to consider here. With Covid-19 variations popping up left right and centre – it probably won’t be long until we go from delta to upsilon and omega – experts agree that we won’t be entirely safe from Covid-19 until the whole world has been vaccinated.

Whilst the vaccination programmes have been gangbusters in the developed world, there must be a risk of a vaccine-escape variant emerging in a quiet corner of the world that nobody’s paying attention to. Therefore, it’s great to see some international collaboration to remove the coronavirus’s crown as the world’s reigning scourge. 

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