It’s been unseasonably hot in North India this month; but cooler weather brings not relief but stinging eyes and painful breath.
Air pollution has become headline news here—one of the snippets that flowed from President Obama's visit was that breathing the air had cut six hours off his life-expectancy. Soot levels are up to 16 times higher than World Health Organization safety levels, double Beijing's. Corporations routinely try to reassure their staff by providing air purifiers for their offices.
"@350: Some intense stats about how bad #AirPollution is in #Delhi http://t.co/tr8ZOAI4LX @350india http://t.co/e3RyBzGjGg" @ClimateReality— Val Williams (@Val Williams)1422418530.0
Delhi came to the edge of unlivable air pollution once before, in the 1990’s. Highly polluting two-cycle three wheeler motor rickshaws were a main villain. A campaign led by the Center for Science and the Environment, capped by a Supreme Court ruling, converted the rickshaws to CNG and the air immediately improved. But three decades of vehicle growth, exacerbated by government subsidies for diesel fuel which drove the auto market towards dirtier diesel models, brought the return of choking air. This time there is no single fix like CNG in the wings.
Not all of Delhi’s problem is the result of poorly controlled industry. The early winter problem is significantly exacerbated by the burning rice straw in the fields after the harvest. And cultural practices matter. When three babies sued to prevent the use of firecrackers to celebrate India’s Diwali festival, because the crackers create enormous clouds of smoke, the courts declined to intervene, referring to well established custom.
They did, however, rule that trucks passing through Delhi bound for other destinations were to pay a special toll to encourage the to route around the heavily polluted capital. (Many of the destinations were Delhi suburbs which lie outside its boundaries but are fully economically integrated). When the company which manages the truck check points into Delhi initially refused to collect the tolls, the courts instead ordered such non-local loads turned back, even though in some cases the crops the trucks were carrying would rot on the longer routes around the city.
The result was a nightmare—long lines of trucks waiting at the check-points, belching out pollutants and wasting fuels while inspectors used handkerchiefs as respiratory protection. Eventually the collection of the toll was implemented—but if it accomplishes its purpose and causes truckers to drive around Delhi instead of through it, regional pollution could well increase because the new routes will be longer and more fuel wasting. What is really needed is cleaner trucks and cleaner fuels or better ways of delivering goods than using trucks—but these take time.
New Delhi air pollution hits 27 times the safe limit, making it worse than Singapore haze https://t.co/AgmTgO3yDU https://t.co/si7Z9F59RR— Bloomberg (@Bloomberg)1446721046.0
This kind of rough and ineffective justice is often a marker of early efforts to cope with the first wave of public concern over air pollution. Typically the effort is made to eliminate or reduce the source of pollution only when air quality is particularly bad. Mexico City experimented with prohibiting vehicles from driving one day a week during bad smog episodes, based on the last digit on the license plate. Families responding by buying an additional car, often a polluting clunker, for the day their regular sedan was banned. China banned factories from operating during the Olympics; factories stepped up production and pollution after the games ended. My own San Francisco sponsors "spare the air days" on which the public is encouraged to make special efforts to use transit to get to work. (Bizarrely, bicycling is also encouraged on these heavily polluted days, at the same time that health authorities warn against such heavy physical exercise.)
Industries resist real modernization. When governments accede to these pressures to avoid genuine solutions, they resort to “squeeze the driver” strategies like the Delhi truck tax. But public demand eventually requires solutions—requiring cleaner fuels as Delhi did with 3-wheelers and CNG, imposing tougher emission standards on new cars as Mexico eventually was forced to do, installing pollution controls of power plants as the Obama Administration is finally requiring in the U.S.
The costs are enormous. Delaying modernization once air pollution hits the public concern threshold is invariably penny-wise and pound foolish. This is true even if you ignore the economic and health costs of the pollution itself. First, squeeze the driver solutions typically generate a lot of ancillary expenses, like raising the costs of shipping goods to Delhi suburbs or the increased driving in Mexico by clunkers. But more important, delaying action means that another generation of poorly engineered vehicles or poorly controlled power plants and factories, get built. When the public finally demands clean air, not band aids, governments are left with two economically unattractive options. Either impose truly draconian limits on new vehicles and facilities, to make up for the failure to control those just built; or insist on retrofitting (power plants) or junking (cars, as in the U.S. cash-to-clunkers program) vehicles and industrial facilities goods that should have been properly designed and pollution optimized in the first place.
Retrofitting is astonishingly more expensive than doing it right in the first place. One of the major reasons for the shut-down of more than 200 U.S. coal power plants is that for decades power companies lobbied, successfully, to avoid installing mercury and sulfur pollution controls on them, choosing instead to purchase slightly cheaper coal and install high stacks to spread the pollution around. Now that the Obama Administration is insisting on cleaning up pollution, instead of dispersing it, pollution controls that might have been affordable as original equipment for plants built in the 1970’s and 1980’s are prohibitive.
So delay is typical, whether we are looking at the U.S. or India. (Or London, where Mayor Boris Johnson has proposed to wait until 2020 to take any further action over London’s resurgent pollution, saying its air is not as bad as that in Beijing or even Paris. Instead, he urged Londoners to spend less time outdoors to improve their health). Delay is expensive, as India is likely to find out when it proceeds with current government plants to clean up public health pollutants from the huge cadre of recent coal plants it has built without scrubbers and other state of the art pollution equipment.
And delay kills. Delhi’s air may or may not be worse than Beijing’s. It is quite lethal enough to represent a real threat to the city’s residents. The saddest part of all—another generation all around the world is subjected to truly dangerous levels of pollution in the name of “economics” when delay only makes the final bill higher, not cheaper. No economist would recommend borrowing money from a money lender to pay routine costs of living—delaying real clean-up once pollution reached critical levels is no different.
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While traditional investment in the ocean technology sector has been tentative, growth in Israeli maritime innovations has been exponential in the last few years, and environmental concern has come to the forefront.
theDOCK aims to innovate the Israeli maritime sector. Pexels<p>The UN hopes that new investments in ocean science and technology will help turn the tide for the oceans. As such, this year kicked off the <a href="https://www.oceandecade.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)</a> to galvanize massive support for the blue economy.</p><p>According to the World Bank, the blue economy is the "sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem," <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019338255#b0245" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Science Direct</a> reported. It represents this new sector for investments and innovations that work in tandem with the oceans rather than in exploitation of them.</p><p>As recently as Aug. 2020, <a href="https://www.reutersevents.com/sustainability/esg-investors-slow-make-waves-25tn-ocean-economy" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Reuters</a> noted that ESG Investors, those looking to invest in opportunities that have a positive impact in environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, have been interested in "blue finance" but slow to invest.</p><p>"It is a hugely under-invested economic opportunity that is crucial to the way we have to address living on one planet," Simon Dent, director of blue investments at Mirova Natural Capital, told Reuters.</p><p>Even with slow investment, the blue economy is still expected to expand at twice the rate of the mainstream economy by 2030, Reuters reported. It already contributes $2.5tn a year in economic output, the report noted.</p><p>Current, upward <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/-innovation-blue-economy-2646147405.html" target="_self">shifts in blue economy investments are being driven by innovation</a>, a trend the UN hopes will continue globally for the benefit of all oceans and people.</p><p>In Israel, this push has successfully translated into investment in and innovation of global ports, shipping, logistics and offshore sectors. The "Startup Nation," as Israel is often called, has seen its maritime tech ecosystem grow "significantly" in recent years and expects that growth to "accelerate dramatically," <a href="https://itrade.gov.il/belgium-english/how-israel-is-becoming-a-port-of-call-for-maritime-innovation/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">iTrade</a> reported.</p><p>Driving this wave of momentum has been rising Israeli venture capital hub <a href="https://www.thedockinnovation.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">theDOCK</a>. Founded by Israeli Navy veterans in 2017, theDOCK works with early-stage companies in the maritime space to bring their solutions to market. The hub's pioneering efforts ignited Israel's maritime technology sector, and now, with their new fund, theDOCK is motivating these high-tech solutions to also address ESG criteria.</p><p>"While ESG has always been on theDOCK's agenda, this theme has become even more of a priority," Nir Gartzman, theDOCK's managing partner, told EcoWatch. "80 percent of the startups in our portfolio (for theDOCK's Navigator II fund) will have a primary or secondary contribution to environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria."</p><p>In a company presentation, theDOCK called contribution to the ESG agenda a "hot discussion topic" for traditional players in the space and their boards, many of whom are looking to adopt new technologies with a positive impact on the planet. The focus is on reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, the presentation outlines. As such, theDOCK also explicitly screens candidate investments by ESG criteria as well.</p><p>Within the maritime space, environmental innovations could include measures like increased fuel and energy efficiency, better monitoring of potential pollution sources, improved waste and air emissions management and processing of marine debris/trash into reusable materials, theDOCK's presentation noted.</p>
theDOCK team includes (left to right) Michal Hendel-Sufa, Head of Alliances, Noa Schuman, CMO, Nir Gartzman, Co-Founder & Managing Partner, and Hannan Carmeli, Co-Founder & Managing Partner. Dudu Koren<p>theDOCK's own portfolio includes companies like Orca AI, which uses an intelligent collision avoidance system to reduce the probability of oil or fuel spills, AiDock, which eliminates the use of paper by automating the customs clearance process, and DockTech, which uses depth "crowdsourcing" data to map riverbeds in real-time and optimize cargo loading, thereby reducing trips and fuel usage while also avoiding groundings.</p><p>"Oceans are a big opportunity primarily because they are just that – big!" theDOCK's Chief Marketing Officer Noa Schuman summarized. "As such, the magnitude of their criticality to the global ecosystem, the magnitude of pollution risk and the steps needed to overcome those challenges – are all huge."</p><p>There is hope that this wave of interest and investment in environmentally-positive maritime technologies will accelerate the blue economy and ESG investing even further, in Israel and beyond.</p>
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