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Climate talks begin in Poland, with deadline looming for Paris accord ‘rule book’

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Delegates from nearly 200 nations on Sunday began two weeks of talks to tackle deep political divisions at the most important UN meeting on global warming since the landmark 2015 Paris deal to shift away from fossil fuels.

Expectations are low that negotiations in Katowice, at the heart of Poland’s coal region, will be sufficient to address concerns laid out in reports over recent weeks on the severity of rising greenhouse gas emissions.

The political climate has been transformed since the Paris agreement and the fragile global unity that brought about that accord has shattered.

Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama declared the UN conference open on Sunday and handed over the presidency of the talks to Michal Kurtyka, Poland’s deputy environment minister.

Polish Secretary of State Michal Kurtyka, on screen, speaks during the inaugural session at the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24) summit on Sunday in Katowice. (Janek Skarzynski/AFP/Getty Images)

“We will all have to show creativity and flexibility,”​ Kurtyka said.

Brazil pulls out of hosting duties

Stoking the tensions, Brazil has gone back on an earlier promise to host next year’s UN climate conference.

The United States, meanwhile, reiterated at the G20 summit in Argentina on Saturday its decision to withdraw from the Paris accord and a U.S. commitment to using all energy sources.

The other members of the group of industrialized nations — including the biggest polluter, China — reaffirmed their commitment to implementing the Paris deal, taking into account their national circumstances and relative capabilities.

Big goals, but results fall short

Last June, 23 nations ranging from Canada to France to Britain to Pacific island states said they would try to limit their greenhouse gas emissions more than already planned under the Paris climate agreement by 2020.

But a recent United Nations report warning CO2 emissions are rising for the first time in four years and named Canada as one of several countries that are as falling short on their commitment to the targets from the Paris accord. 

“When you look at our emissions, and we modelled this and we’ve reported this, that our emissions have gone down,” Canadian Environment Minister Catherine McKenna told CBC’s The Weekly on Sunday — adding, “It doesn’t happen overnight.”

But Canada’s target commitment requires more reductions. 

“It’s not just about the federal government,” McKenna said. “It really is critically important that provinces step up, and cities, because a lot of the emissions are 40 per cent within the cities’ control. We need provinces to understand that it can’t be free to pollute, that you’ll have more pollution.”

The provinces of Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and New Brunswick don’t have carbon pricing plans that meet federal standards and are opposed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s plan to impose a federal carbon tax next year. 

“Almost 50 per cent of the world has a price on pollution. China has a price on pollution, the European Union,” McKenna said. 

“When you look at California, it’s the fifth largest economy — it’s got a price on pollution. Quebec is part of that market. British Columbia has been able to demonstrate that you can reduce emissions while you have a price on pollution and have a fast-growing clean sector. So we know what the solutions are.”

The Katowice talks precede an end-of-year deadline to produce a “rule book” to flesh out the broad details that were agreed in Paris, aimed at limiting the rise in global temperatures to between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius.

To give the negotiations a better chance, the start of the Katowice talks was brought forward by a day.

Poland is hosting UN climate negotiations for a third time, but the nation remains hooked on coal, the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel. Coal provides about 80 per cent of Poland’s power and has been a major source of employment and national pride.

The younger generation is less emotionally attached to coal and is increasingly environmentally aware, though any phasing out of the fuel in Poland is likely to be slow.

The energy ministry said only last week that the country plans to invest in new coal capacity while its long-term energy strategy assumes it will still obtain about 60 per cent of its power from coal in 2030.

Trudeau’s climate change plan track record:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau campaigned on promises to combat climate change. Three years later, how have those held up? 12:48

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The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla

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Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

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PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm

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Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

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Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover

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KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

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