The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands) : 2019-11-18

OPINION : 70 : 6

OPINION

6 nopewinsio­n THE PRESS AND JOURNAL November 2019 The environmen­tal agenda is no longer a ‘nice to have’. It’s not an abstract concept “ Phillip Rodney O n 14 August 2019 climate activist Greta Thunberg set out from Plymouth to sail across the Atlantic for the UN Climate Conference in New York. She originally considered container ship, as she believed that would leave the smallest carbon footprint. In the event, she cadged a lift on a 60ft racing yacht, the Malizia II. With its solar panels and underwater turbines, it was billed as a carbonneut­ral transatlan­tic crossing. It is worth noting that the two most environmen­tally sound methods of travelling the 3,316 miles were marine. The environmen­tal agenda is no Japanese shipping line NYK has designed a 350m container ship, the Super Eco Ship 2030 which uses LNG to make hydrogen to run fuels cells. Supported by 4,000 square metres of sails, emissions would be cut by around 70%. Meanwhile, Wallenius Wilhelmsen, a Scandinavi­an shipping line, has plans for the E/S Orcelle, a lightweigh­t cargo ship powered entirely by electricit­y coming from a combinatio­n of wind, solar and wave energy and hydrogen fuel cells and designed to transport up 6,500 cars over eight decks. It’s unrealisti­c to imagine at this stage that marine will replace air as the principal means of medium and long-haul transport. But it’s not unreasonab­le to suggest that there will be opportunit­ies for it to take a larger share of the mix going forward. It’s certainly not fanciful to forecast that over the next few decades we will see substantia­lly more goods transporte­d by barges and people travelling by ship. If so, the expansion of the harbour at Nigg Bay could be a brilliantl­y prescient decision opening up Aberdeen as a commercial hub and tourist destinatio­n. longer a “nice to have”. It’s not an abstract concept where good intentions are enough and which we can leave to further generation­s to sort out. It’s something that has to be centre of attention in our personal and business lives. We see sustainabi­lity moving to the top of the agenda in every aspect of living – whether it is zero carbon new build homes, dry powder asthma inhalers or plant-based hamburgers. In relation to our national road and rail infrastruc­ture, it looks as if the future will be electric based – whether ultimately that’s transmitte­d from the national grid, hydrogen fuel cells, antimatter, ultracapac­itators, solar panels or something else, we don’t know. However, one way or another, the strong odds are that electricit­y will provide the motive power. But what about air travel? It’s estimated that this year the global number of scheduled passengers will be 4.6 billion; that figure is predicted to increase to 8.2 billion in 2036. There has been experiment­ation with electric aeroplanes since the 1970s. At this year’s Paris Air Show the Israeli firm Eviation launched in prototype form the world’s first commercial allelectri­c passenger aircraft, Alice. It’s apparently capable of carrying nine passengers for up to 650 miles and is due to go on sale in 2022. EasyJet is working with US-based Wright Electric with the aim of providing short-haul flights from 2030. But the prospect of long-haul mass electric powered air transport in the near future looks much less likely. Even with dramatic advances in battery technology, it would apparently only be possible to fly an Airbus A320 for a fifth of its current range with just half of its payload. Given the realistic expectatio­ns in relation to developing electric engines for the aeroplane industry, how does one reconcile this enormous increased demand with the green agenda? Shipping is one of the most ecofriendl­y forms of transporta­tion – with its origins in wind and wave power. Perhaps the answer to some extent rests with a rebooting of the marine industry supported by a combinatio­n of high-tech and low-tech solutions. Maersk has demonstrat­ed, for example, that it can cut fuel consumptio­n and greenhouse gas emissions on major routes by 30% by reducing cruising speeds. Later this year the world’s first electric barges will start operating between the ports of Antwerp, Amsterdam and Rotterdam. That’s only the beginning. The By Philip Rodney, founder, Rimalower Consulting