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The Bangladesh Today (13-02-2018)


EDITORIAL TUESDAy, FEBRUARy 13, 2018 4 Acting Editor & Publisher : Jobaer Alam Telephone: +8802-9104683-84, Fax: 9127103 e-mail: Tuesday, February 13, 2018 Phobia in Indo- Bangladesh relations More than 47 years after the independence of Bangladesh, some quarters in this country are still convinced that our vast neighbour to the east, west and north, is not well disposed towards us. They see India as a typical aggressor nation bent on destroying the sovereignty or independence of Bangladesh. It would not matter if they were restricted in their belief to themselves. But the problem is that such beliefs can become the dominant ideology of major political parties in this country. They can draw inspiration from it or base their politics on it. In that case, such phobias can indeed become detrimental to positive interactions in different fields between the two neighbouring countries for the benefit of both. For example, successive governments in Bangladesh except for the government that ruled for a short period in the immediate post-independence period, took the posture of standing up to India on various issues. The governments and the political parties they represented behaved as if India was like a bully or like a Goliath and tiny Bangladesh heroically defended itself like a David against the evil Indian designs. Thus, a negative perception could develop in people's mind in Bangladesh about India's intentions in relation to this country. Some diehard elements even went so far as to spread apprehensions that India would some day gobble up Bangladesh like Sikkim. If India had expansionist designs against Bangladesh, then the best time for it was after the independence of Bangladesh when its forces had invaded this country. Russian forces came into East European countries in the course of the Second World War but did not leave. The Russian forces remained stationed there for nearly four decades and ensured the total subservience of these countries to Moscow's desires and needs. For all practical purposes, the East European countries only had a namesake independence and they were vassal entities of Moscow- politically, economically and strategically. If India so desired, it could try for such a relationship with Bangladesh. Its armed forces would not be simply pulled out in 1972 .That these forces were pulled out soon after the independence ofBangladesh was the best proof that India truly wanted Bangladesh to develop as a sovereign and independent entity. Notwithstanding propaganda that India exploits Bangladesh commercially and economically, the realities are far different. Bangladesh, no doubt, is an important destination for Indian exports. But Indian businesses have won market shares in Bangladesh by their own right as efficient producers and suppliers of goods. They are not necessarily bullying Bangladesh into buying their products. It is not that only India gains from such exports for Bangladesh also gains. The geographical nearness means that the freight costs or per unit costs of the delivery of an Indian product is cheaper for Bangladesh than from any other import source and also the quality of Indian products are found to be satisfactory. Bangladesh's export oriented readymade garments (RMG) sector obtains a bulk of its raw materials or fabrics from India at costs cheaper than from China and other suppliers and the goods also arrive faster helping quicker production which in turn shortens the lead time for the local RMG exporters. Bangladesh has for many years met a substantial part of its requirements of food grains from India. Cheap and reliable import of food grains fromIndia has helped food security in Bangladesh. Even this year when food grain production slumped round the world and India was also a part of this decline in food grain production, India has gone on to progressively keep its pledge to supply 0.5 million tons of rice to Bangladesh at a price which is notably lower than the prevailing international prices. Bangladesh has to import a large and wide range of products and importing these from India prove to be comparatively cheaper and reach this country faster in contrast to any other regional source. Even the sacrificial cows for the religious Eid-ul-Azha festival in Bangladesh come in great number from India. Without this trade, many persons in Bangladeshis would have to go without observing the religious rite of animal sacrifice. If Bangladesh has not been exporting as much to India, the same can be traced to the fact that Indian producers of the goods that Bangladesh would likely export to India, they are more efficient producers in terms of quality and offer better competitive prices than the Bangladeshi ones. In many cases, Bangladeshi exporters cannot meet the quality certification requirements of that country. But in the media in Bangladesh, India is often blamed for keeping Bangladeshi products out of its market by setting nontariff barriers. IMAGINE a group of citizens living in a densely populated lower middle-income neighbourhood in Lahore. Chances are that they will face any or all of these municipal failures: trash piles in a public space or in an empty plot; a dysfunctional sanitation system; an unpaved or patchy street; and non-functioning street lights. How would they go about resolving such collectively encountered problems? One response would be to wait patiently for a bureaucrat in the municipal administration to take notice and divert some funding to their area. This could take anywhere between a year to never. Another would be to hope someone in their vicinity is a) wellconnected, and b) able to lobby and redirect political attention through the local MPA/MNA, or since 2016, through a local Union Council representative. This particular mechanism is likely to be most effective in competitive constituencies around election time when politicians become more attentive to voter concerns. In interim periods, political contact and responsiveness nosedives, as demonstrated by a survey conducted by the Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives in Lahore. Only 17 per cent of male respondents in their sample, and a shockingly low 3pc of female respondents, reported any contact with any political party worker in the four years after the 2013 general election. The wilful secession of participatory rights is a pervasive feature of a number of domains in Pakistan. The two pathways described are not abstract theorising; they constitute lived reality in vast swathes of a city of 11 million people. At a supply-side level, Domestic American politics has become so cripplingly partisan that Congress can't pass a longterm spending bill or deal with critical issues such as immigration reform, comprehensive health-care reform, or provide the massive funding needed to repair the country's crumbling infrastructure. Due to this deep and bitter divide - fuelled, in part, by United States President Donald Trump's inflammatory tweets; the harsh and inflammatory rhetoric from the pundits; and the media's penchant to create feeding frenzies over "gotcha" scandalous news stories - Washington has turned decidedly inward and disturbingly dysfunctional. Focused more on fighting for the sake of fighting and scoring points against political opponents, too little attention is paid to America's role in the rest of the world. The only times that Congress will attend to international matters is when there is, at stake, a domestic political advantage in appeasing supporters or striking out at rivals. As a result, there will be Congressional debates on punishing groups that support boycotting Israel, imposing sanctions on Iran or Russia, Russia's meddling in America's elections, or building a wall between the US and Mexico. But scant attention is given to addressing the US role in critical conflict areas from Somalia and Yemen, to Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan This reality came into sharp focus, a A non-participatory democracy they point to two basic issues: the first is the outdated and highly opaque architecture of municipal governance, wherein little fiscal and administrative powers are devolved to elected local governments. In the functioning of an array of provincially controlled (and overlapping) bureaucratic bodies, most notably the behemoth Lahore Development Authority, citizen contact, cognisance, and responsiveness are the first few victims. The second issue is the lack of organised contact between political parties and regular citizens, which undermines the former's primary responsibility as aggregators and articulators of the latter's interests. Pakistan's parties demonstrate low levels of organisational capacity for such basic functions, which is one reason for both their episodic lapses into crises and the prevailing low levels of trust in political elites and processes. There is, however, a demand-side component to this dysfunctionality. A third pathway to resolving municipal few days back, at an event hosted by my institute. It was our 20th annual Congressional dinner. This has long been one of my favourite affairs since it's a small gathering that brings together the Arab American members of Congress, the Arab ambassadors to the US, and a select number of members of our board, many of whom have rich political experience. It is, by design, an intimate, private and off-the-record dinner, providing the attendees with an opportunity to "let down their hair" and have a frank and open conversation about critical issues facing the US-Arab relationship. This year's dinner discussion, however, was different and the difference was illustrative of the serious problems plaguing American politics and the impact that this is having on the UMAIR JAvED service-delivery issues at the neighbourhood level would have been collective action of some kind. This could take the shape of residents making monetary contributions towards resolving the issue on their own, or mobilising collectively to place sustained pressure on service-delivery concerns through associational platforms (such as a neighbourhood residents' body). Existing evidence from other contexts The two pathways described are not abstract theorising; they constitute lived reality in vast swathes of a city of 11 million people. At a supply-side level, they point to two basic issues: the first is the outdated and highly opaque architecture of municipal governance, wherein little fiscal and administrative powers are devolved to elected local governments. In the functioning of an array of provincially controlled (and overlapping) bureaucratic bodies, most notably the behemoth lahore Development Authority, citizen contact, cognisance, and responsiveness are the first few victims. JAMES J. ZogBy tells us that the odds of timely and efficient solutions through collective action are greater than a reliance on the salience of one or two well-connected individuals and the ephemeral generosity of elected representatives. The participatory angle of politics and governance is largely missing in a city like Lahore. Part of this is certainly traceable to the bureaucratic and political context in which citizens find themselves. As mentioned earlier, parties are weak and poorly organised, while governance is centralised and bureaucratic. Such autocratic ability of our country to meaningfully engage in the world. Despite the presence of some Arab ambassadors whose countries are facing serious internal and regional challenges and whose situations are directly impacted by US policies, and despite the eloquent presentations made by these ambassadors, the discussions kept returning to the country's dysfunctional partisan divide. To their credit, the Congressional representatives and other participants, some of whom were senior political figures with long and distinguished careers in both the Democratic and Republican parties, never descended into rancour or finger-pointing. The concerns they raised were heart-felt and thoughtful. They lamented the demise of the political parties, which contingencies have helped perpetuate a weak associational culture, where the idea of coming together and forming platforms to resolve a collectively encountered problem is often not on the table. This inadequacy is found across both high- and low-income groups. For poorer citizens, the calculus involved in collective action play a deterring role. The opportunity cost of time spent organising and mobilising is often very high, thus increasing a reliance on individual brokers and patrons for problem-solving needs. However, even in Lahore's middleand high-income areas, where residents have both time and financial resources, participatory activity is highly curtailed and often limited to mosque and bazaar committees. This pales in comparison to urban India, where middle-class citizens utilise associational platforms for mobilising around environmental and servicedelivery concerns. One major example from across the border is the ubiquitous Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs), which have proven to be influential shapers of the urban planning process and are now emerging as important nodes of managing services. There are few parallels to the RWAs or similar bodies in a city like Lahore. The vast majority of middle- and highincome citizens have entered into a bargain with benevolent despots - ie housing society developers (such as Bahria and DHA), where they forgo their voice and participatory rights in exchange for improved, private municipal services. Source: Dawn American political dysfunction has turned the nation inward It all looked so good when the year started. Global stock markets were going gangbusters. The IMF talked of growth of 3.9 percent with all regions growing simultaneously for the first time since the financial crisis. It all sounded so great. The exuberance at the World Economic Forum's Davos meeting was eerily reminiscent of 2006, which worried many analysts. Then it happened: A higher-than-expected wage growth spooked the markets who were fearing the re-emergence of inflation and more than the expected three rate rises by the Federal Reserve (Fed) this year. It was always a question of how to wean expectations off the drug of combined low interest rates and expansionary monetary policies. Both the Fed and the European Central Bank are shrinking their balance sheets; and the Fed is raising rates. It was not a matter of if, but when there would be a wake-up call. The ferocity and velocity of this wakeup call stunned markets. The last two weeks saw $4 trillion wiped off global stock markets in as little as two days. Up to Feb. 2, equities lived in a sustained goldilocks environment and volatility was all but gone. It came back with avengeance with the volatility index VIX reaching 51 at times. (The multi-year average for the VIX stands at 20.) While this was a correction and Focused more on fighting for the sake of fighting and scoring points against political opponents, too little attention is paid to America's role in the rest of the world. The only times that Congress will attend to international matters is when there is, at stake, a domestic political advantage in appeasing supporters or striking out at rivals. As a result, there will be Congressional debates on punishing groups that support boycotting Israel, imposing sanctions on Iran or Russia, Russia's meddling in America's elections, or building a wall between the US and Mexico. But scant attention is given to addressing the US role in critical conflict areas from Somalia and yemen, to Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. not necessarily a crisis, the movements of global stock markets were exacerbated by computer-led exchange-traded mechanisms. They reacted vehemently to the spikes in volatility. We must get used to the end of cheap money and expansionary monetary policies on both sides of the Atlantic. We will still have to get used to the new normal, which is the end of cheap money and expansionary monetary policies on both sides of the Atlantic. Such adjustments are never easy. Therefore volatility is back, which in itself is not necessarily a bad thing. There was little attention focused on what this new normal will mean for emerging markets. Although the S&P 500 was down by around 10 percent, the i-shares of the MSCI Emerging Markets Index were down by 12 percent. This is a large drop. We still have not seen the magnitude of outflows from emerging markets which we witnessed during the "taper tantrum" of 2013, when tightening noises from the Fed opened the floodgates from emerging markets assets and currencies. The reason is simple: Many emerging markets have reduced their reliance on the US, which is why the stock markets reacted badly while the currencies held relatively stable. Emerging markets underperformed between 2010 and 2016 and have finally rebounded. The earnings outlook is positive and the economies are set to grow. As most of them are one participant described as once having played the role of mediating institutions that engaged and provided meaningful access to their members, but now served mainly as fund-raising vehicles. The once important role played by the parties had now been eclipsed by billionaire donors and their well-funded agenda-driven political action committees. Our participants also decried the transformation of cable television from conveyors of news into partisan entertainment vehicles that, instead of informing the public, served to inflame and polarise political discourse. And they expressed growing concern with the inability of Congress and some political leaders to engage in civil and productive discourse, making it increasingly impossible to reach compromise on critical issues facing the nation. The discussion was thoughtful and quite instructive, but despite repeated efforts to refocus participants on the US role in the Arab world, we kept drifting back to our preoccupation with the politics in America. And so, issues such as the needs of Syrian refugees and the destabilising impact they are having on host countries; the humanitarian crisis in Yemen; the deteriorating situation in the Occupied Territories; and the potential for an expanding US military role in Syria, without a strategic vision, received too little attention. Source: Gulf news After the wake-up call, volatility is the new normal CoRnElIA MEyER It all sounded so great. The exuberance at the World Economic Forum's Davos meeting was eerily reminiscent of 2006, which worried many analysts. Then it happened: A higher-than-expected wage growth spooked the markets who were fearing the reemergence of inflation and more than the expected three rate rises by the Federal Reserve (Fed) this year. export-driven, the trajectory of the global economy in general, and China in particular, will matter greatly. As for the GCC economies, the stock market indices are all down to varying degrees. The sovereign wealth funds will have been hit heavily by the turmoil. However, they are wise, longterm investors who can navigate the vagaries of the markets without getting spooked. Most of the GCC economies other than Dubai are still based on oil and highly correlated to oil markets. The success of the OPEC/non-OPEC deal to restrict production and the subsequent rise in price has done wonders for their government investment programs, which are important in that part of the world. Brent is no longer flirting with $70 and has readjusted to somewhere between $60 and $65. This is still way above where we were two years or even one year ago. It means that the GCC governments' investment programs might still be reasonably on track, which is good news for the economy. All in all the fundamentals for economies based on oil do not look bad as long as demand is set to grow and the OPEC/non-OPEC deal holds. There will be volatility, but that is the new normal. Source: Arab News

ENVIRONMENT TuESDAY, FEBRuARY 13, 2018 5 We are turning space into a junkyard Kevin McKenna David Attenborough's Blue Planet series raised our awareness of rubbish tips traversing our oceans and choking some of our most beloved marine species. This has led to a global debate about how we manufacture and dispose of plastics. The Scottish government announced that it is to host an international conference in 2019 to discuss action on marine litter. It's ideal territory for any government seeking to be regarded as edgy and cool on this year's fashionable cause. No one could disagree with its aims and purpose and, more importantly, nothing that emerges from it will commit anyone to spending money or risking the growth of emerging industries. Perhaps soon our marine technology will have advanced to the stage where we can actually interpret what whales and dolphins are saying and begin to solicit their views on the subject. These creatures are believed to possess remarkable intelligence. If we reached the stage where we could converse with them, perhaps we could appoint some of them as environment tsars in western governments: that would sort the wheat from the chaff in all the chattering about human impact on the health of marine life. As the debate about our slatternly disposal of plastics was raging down on Earth we were all acclaiming a fresh addition to the garbage dump swirling above us in space. The billionaire car manufacturer Elon Musk launched one of his Tesla Roadsters to Mars in a rocket produced by his company, SpaceX. According to people who know about this stuff, it was the biggest and most powerful rocket launched since the Apollo series and Saturn V. We further learned that the rocket, the Falcon Heavy, uses 27 Merlin rocket engines to develop 22,819kN of thrust. I'm assured that this can carry a 64- tonne payload into low Earth orbit or geosynchronous orbit: more than sufficient SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket on the launch pad carrying Elon's Musk's red Tesla Roadster. for propelling a sports car to Mars. I won't pretend I understand the science but let's just say that Musk won't be getting invited to address an environmental summit in the near future. You might be tempted to dismiss this as an expensive publicity stunt by a billionaire playboy with too much time on his hands. But in reality it's an important step towards a time when space travel for your average indolent millionaire will become commonplace. It will probably become another way of managing your finances when Mars inevitably becomes the ultimate off-shore tax haven. Quite what our fetish for space exploration and spending billions on the technology required to feed this does to the environment is a serious matter. There's a dissonance emerging here. On Earth, we're organising summits and setting up carbon footprint-reduction targets all over the shop. Yet, up in yonder outer space we've established a giant garbage dump replete with huge hulks of rusting metal and, as of last week, a $200k American sports car. Photo: SpaceX Indeed, the whole issue of rocket emissions needs to be considered if we're serious about the environment. These emissions deliver gases and particles into the Earth's upper atmosphere and this will be addressed later this year at the UN's quadrennial global ozone assessment conference. Martin Ross, a senior project engineer for civil and commercial launch projects at the Aerospace Corporation in California, told the online journal that rocket soot accumulates in the upper stratosphere, where the particles absorb sunlight. "This accumulation heats the upper stratosphere, changing chemical reaction rates and likely leading to ozone loss." He added: "The 2018 assessment is really the first one to have a substantial section on rocket emissions, not just a passing thought… we now understand that the climate and ozone impacts of rocket exhaust are completely intertwined." And if we're discussing space, then we ought to be discussing the impact of all these rockets on our potential neighbours in the galaxy. I've always found it curious that despite spending even more billions over decades trying to locate other forms of intelligent life we've had nary a cheep back; not even a single intergalactic WhatsApp message. So either our neighbours are a rude shower or they simply don't exist. But what if there's another, more sinister explanation: that they do exist but are so far ahead of us in intelligence that they've created the means to put themselves out of our reach, perhaps with a giant jamming device. This would explain all those sightings of extraterrestrial spacecraft and kidnappings. Every so often, they check us out to see if we've advanced to a stage where they feel they can have a reasonable chat with us. Such visits are bound to have left them disappointed. In recent months, I can imagine one of their scouts reporting back: "Look, 2,000 years ago, the leader of the civilised world in Rome gave his horse a seat in his cabinet; now the most civilised country in the world has appointed some medieval bampot called Trump. They're still savages." I can only imagine, too, how resentful they're getting at us disfiguring their neighbourhood with obsolete metal junk. If I was them I'd be sorely tempted to invade us to sort this out or simply send a short, sharp reminder that our actions have consequences. Mind how you go. Bill Gates way of cleaning up the planet Reef fish are often caught using potassium cyanide and then injected with antibiotics to keep them alive. Photo: James Morgan The dire future for Coral Triangle reef fish Environment Desk The US$1 billion a year Live Reef Fish for Food Trade (LRFFT) is threatening the future of key reef predator species like grouper, coral trout and Napoleon wrasse, according to a recent study. The study - published by WWF, the Swire Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and ADM Capital Foundation - urges swift action towards regulating an industry that's decimating stocks of these species across the Coral Triangle, threatening poor communities that rely on the fishery for their livelihoods. The Live Reef Fish for Food Trade (LRFFT) is largely fuelled by consumers in Hong Kong, and mainland China, for whom reef species are a delicacy - dishes that must be served at formal dining occasions such as weddings. While campaigns against shark-finning have achieved some success, it is difficult to raise similar levels of awareness about these less iconic species, in spite of their crucial role in sustaining reef ecosystems. Though small in size compared to other fisheries, the LRFFT is disproportionately valuable, thanks to prestige driven demand. Napoleon Wrasse for example can fetch more than $600 per kilo, according to the report. And the estimated US$1 billion a year in revenue only accounts for the legal side of the business. "The real value of the trade is unknown, since much is traded illegally on the black market," says Geoffrey Muldoon, Senior Manager of the WWF Coral Triangle Programme. The report estimates that the volume of LRFFT imports into Hong Kong are being underestimated by as much as 50%. "Traders, transport and logistics carriers are allowed to exploit a vacuum created by inadequate and outdated regulation, loopholes in the law and lax enforcement," says Muldoon. The 15-20 reef species that make up the bulk of the trade - most of them types of grouper - are especially vulnerable since they are relatively slow to mature. The market's unrelenting demand means that fishers are taking increasing numbers of juveniles before they've had a chance to spawn. "The rate at which we are taking reef fish from our oceans, including juveniles, is simply not sustainable," says Dr Yvonne Sadovy, a professor of biological sciences and the study's lead author. "It is critical Hong Kong takes steps to regulate before it is too late." Some have touted mariculture as a potential solution, but while there is a growing market for farmed grouper, these operations don't actually reduce pressure on wild populations. It's difficult to hatchery-produce species like coral trout in commercial quantities, so juveniles are still taken from the wild for grow out. Also, consumers tend to believe that wild caught fish are superior in quality, which in turn makes them more valuable to traders. With Chinese New Year arriving on 16th February, dinner tables across southern China and southeast Asia will be laden with the obligatory plates of steamed grouper. But consumers will likely have little idea of where their fish came from, or how it was caught. Few will know that fishers often favour potassium cyanide as a means of stunning fish so they are easier to catch. Or that fishers use compressor engines to pump air through hose pipes, often going 40-metres and beyond in search of their ever-dwindling catch. Many are killed or crippled by decompression sickness. There are sustainable alternatives - consumers can download apps that offer guidance on sourcing fish that's sustainably caught. The LRFFT offers virtually no sustainable options however, due to byzantine and secretive supply chains and aggressive monopolies. The study includes a number of recommendations for government to play its part by including stronger regulations to crack down on the rampant illegal trade. Traders and retailers meanwhile are encouraged to make traceability a priority. "We are not talking about not eating fish at all," says Dr Sadovy. "What we are talking about is not eating so many wild fish that we destroy their populations. "We need to know where seafood comes from, that it's legally sourced, safe to eat, and that it is sustainable". John Vidal It's nothing much to look at, but the tangle of pipes, pumps, tanks, reactors, chimneys and ducts on a messy industrial estate outside the logging town of Squamish in western Canada could just provide the fix to stop the world tipping into runaway climate change and substitute dwindling supplies of conventional fuel. It could also make Harvard superstar physicist David Keith, Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates and oil sands magnate Norman Murray Edwards more money than they could ever dream of. The idea is grandiose yet simple: decarbonise the global economy by extracting global-warming carbon dioxide (CO2) straight from the air, using arrays of giant fans and patented chemical whizzery; and then use the gas to make clean, carbon-neutral synthetic diesel and petrol to drive the world's ships, planes and trucks. The hope is that the combination of direct air capture (DAC), water electrolysis and fuels synthesis used to produce liquid hydrocarbon fuels can be made to work at a global scale, for little more than it costs to extract and sell fossil fuel today. This would revolutionise the world's transport industry, which emits nearly one-third of total climate-changing emissions. It would be the equivalent of mechanising photosynthesis. The individual technologies may not be new, but their combination at an industrial scale would be groundbreaking. Carbon Engineering, the company set up in 2009 by leading geoengineer Keith, with money from Gates and Murray, has constructed a prototype plant, installed large fans, and has been extracting around one tonne of pure CO2 every day for a year. At present it is released back into the air. But Carbon Engineering (CE) has just passed another milestone. Working with California energy company Greyrock, it has now begun directly synthesising a mixture of petrol and diesel, using only CO2 captured from the air and hydrogen split from water with clean electricity - a process they call Air to Fuels (A2F). "A2F is a potentially game-changing technology, which if successfully scaled up will allow us to harness cheap, intermittent renewable electricity to drive synthesis of liquid fuels that are compatible with modern infrastructure and engines," says Geoff Holmes of CE. "This offers an alternative to biofuels and a complement to electric vehicles in the effort to displace fossil fuels from transportation." Synthetic fuels have been made from CO2 and H2 before, on a small scale. "But," Holmes adds, "we think our pilot plant is the first instance of Air to Fuels where all the equipment has large-scale industrial precedent, and thus gives real indication of commercial performance and viability, and leads directly to scaleup and deployment." The next step is to raise the money, scale up and then commercialise the process using low-carbon electricity like solar PV (photovoltaics). Company publicity envisages massive walls of extractor fans sited outside cities and on non-agricultural land, supplying CO2 for fuel synthesis, and eventually for direct sequestration. "A2F is the future," says Holmes, "because it needs 100 times less land and water than biofuels, and can be scaled up and sited anywhere. But for it to work, it will have to reduce costs to little more than it costs to extract oil today, and - even trickier - persuade countries to set a global carbon price." Meanwhile, 4,500 miles away, in a large blue shed on a small industrial estate in the South Yorkshire coalfield outside Sheffield, the UK Carbon Capture and Storage Research Centre (UKCCSRC) is experimenting with other ways to produce negative emissions. The UKCCSRC is what remains of Britain's official foray into carbon capture and storage (CCS), which David Cameron had backed strongly until 2015. £1bn was ringfenced for a competition between large companies to extract CO2 from coal and gas plants and then store it, possibly in old North Sea gas wells. But the plan unravelled as austerity bit, and the UK's only running CCS pilot plant, at Ferrybridge power station, was abandoned. The Sheffield laboratory is funded by £2.7m of government money and run by Sheffield University. It is researching different fuels, temperatures, solvents and heating speeds to best capture the CO2 for the next generation of CCS plants, and is capturing 50 tonnes of CO2 a year. And because Britain is phasing out coal power stations, the focus is on achieving negative emissions by removing and storing CO2 emitted from biomass plants, which burn pulverised wood. As the wood has already absorbed carbon while it grows, it is more or less carbon-neutral when burned. If linked to a carbon capture plant, it theoretically removes carbon from the atmosphere. Known as Beccs (bioenergy with carbon capture and storage), this negative emissions technology is seen as vital if the UK is to meet its long-term climate target of an 80% cut in emissions at 1990 levels by 2050, according to UKCCSRC director Professor Jon Gibbins. The plan, he says, is to capture emissions from clusters of major industries, such as refineries and steelworks in places like Teesside, to reduce the costs of transporting and storing it underground. "Direct air capture is no substitute for using conventional CCS," says Gibbins. "Cutting emissions from existing sources at the scale of millions of tonnes a year, to stop the CO2 getting into the air in the first place, is the first priority. "The best use for all negative emission technologies is to offset emissions that are happening now - paid for by the emitters, or by the fossil fuel suppliers. We need to get to net zero emissions before the sustainable CO2 emissions are used up. This is estimated at around 1,000bn tonnes, or around 20-30 years of global emissions based on current trends," he says. "Having to go to net negative emissions is obviously unfair and might well prove an unfeasible burden for a future global society already burdened by climate change." The challenge is daunting. Worldwide manmade emissions must be brought to "net zero" no later than 2090, says the UN's climate body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). That means balancing the amount of carbon released by humans with an equivalent amount sequestered or offset, or buying enough carbon credits to make up the difference. An artists impression of what Carbon Engineering's ambitious direct air capture project. Photo: Carbon Engineering

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