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‘No single company can address the climate crisis alone’: Wipro CEO

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Whether it’s a sportsperson trying to outdo their rival on the playing field or a tech giant attempting to develop the latest cellphone and dominate the market, competition and going it alone can drive innovation and success.

When it comes to the environment and climate change, however, things are different.

As COP26 nears, calls for an approach which focuses on working together in favor of a common goal —keeping emissions low and putting plans in place to address the challenges our planet will face over the coming years and decades — are growing louder by the day.

There are always exceptions and getting people to find common ground is hugely challenging, but this focus on collaboration is beginning to span politics, civil society and business.

Thierry Delaporte is CEO of Wipro, which describes itself as an “information technology, consulting and business process services” firm.

During a recent debate moderated by CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick, Delaporte emphasized the need for different parties to work together. “The reality is that no single company can address the climate crisis alone,” he said.

“To really have a big impact and to really drive … real results to net zero we need to standardize [a] net zero approach to ensure the progress is made efficiently and effectively,” he went on to explain.

Delaporte also spoke of the need for a good relationship between governments and firms.

“It must be … substantially easier for companies of all size, all sectors across the globe to also move towards achieving a net zero future,” he said.

“The connection with … other companies, the ecosystem, the communication and the cooperation with administrations in the respective countries is absolutely essential for us to drive … substantial results.”

Read more about clean energy from CNBC Pro

During the discussion Adair Turner, who is chairman of the Energy Transitions Commission, stressed the importance of the relationship between government and business. 

“There’s this endless iterative process between government setting frameworks, setting, for instance, carbon prices, setting regulations that make it clear that the private sector is going to have to respond,” he said.

Turner went on to flesh out his argument, explaining the private sector would then do what it does, namely cost reduction and innovation, to deliver within those targets at least cost.

“This is a process that never ends but it needs to involve both strong action by governments and strong action by the private sector, including by private sector finance — asset managers, banks, etcetera.”

One example of climate-related collaboration is the Science Based Targets initiative, or SBTi, a partnership between the World Wide Fund for Nature, World Resources Institute, CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project) and United Nations Global Compact.

The latter’s CEO and executive director, Sanda Ojiambo, explained to CNBC how the SBTi was leveraging the four organizations’ strengths.

Leading companies, she said, had “been setting emissions reduction targets in line with the latest climate science advanced by the SBTi.”

Earlier this year, the SBTi published a progress report for 2020. Among other things, this looked at emissions reductions from 338 firms it described as having “approved science-based targets.”

“The 338 companies in our analysis collectively reduced their annual emissions by 25% between 2015 and 2019 — a difference of 302 million tonnes, which is equivalent to the annual emissions of 78 coal-fired power plants,” the report said.

For Ojiambo, getting the message out there and communicating progress is a crucial tool.

“It’s been really important to demonstrate that, with science-based targets, progress has happened,” she said.

“For us, it’s important to have a standard and it’s important to not only raise the ambition but make sure that actions are grounded in science and we’re able to track and measure that progress.”

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Alibaba expands cloud business abroad with new data centers in Asia

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Zhang Jianfeng, president of Alibaba Cloud Intelligence, speaks during the opening ceremony of Alibaba Renhe Cloud Data Center on September 16, 2020 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province of China.

Qian Chenfei | China News Service | Getty Images

GUANGZHOU, China — Alibaba plans to open its first data centers in South Korea and Thailand in 2022 as the Chinese technology giant looks to expand its cloud business further overseas.

The e-commerce giant is the number one cloud computing player in China but has focused on expanding its footprint internationally, particularly into other areas of Asia, including Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia, pitting itself against U.S. giants like Amazon and Microsoft.

Local data centers can help businesses in those countries or regions access Alibaba’s cloud services. They can also help Chinese companies expand their presence overseas.

Alibaba announced the plans on Wednesday at its Apsara Conference along with a number of other new cloud products.

On Tuesday, Alibaba also launched a new chip called Yitian 710 that will go into servers called Panjiu. The aim is to power artificial intelligence applications on Alibaba’s cloud.

The company hopes custom chips can help it stand out from rivals in the competitive cloud computing market.

Cloud computing is seen as a key profit driver for Alibaba over the long term, though it accounts for around 8% of the company’s total revenue at the moment. E-commerce remains its core business.

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Chinese economy lacks new growth drivers, says China Beige Book

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China’s property sector slowdown is hitting economic growth — and it’s not clear there are new growth drivers to pick up the slack, said the chief executive of a China-focused research firm.

“The major risk going forward is that as the party intentionally … deflates the property sector, what is the growth driver that will at least set a floor on growth? Nobody knows yet,” Leland Miller, chief executive of the China Beige Book, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Tuesday.

He was referring to the long-ruling Chinese Communist Party in Beijing.

“They hope it’s consumption, but it’s not consumption yet,” he added.

China on Monday reported a disappointing 4.9% year-on-year growth in the third quarter. The country’s National Bureau of Statistics said there was a slowdown in the real estate sector’s contribution to the economy.

Beijing has stepped up efforts to rein in heavily indebted property developers as it wants to move away from an investment-led and debt-fueled economic growth model. That left Evergrande and other Chinese developers struggling to repay their debt.

At the same time, China has not made enough progress to transition to a consumption-led economy, said Miller. He said structural changes that could boost consumption — such as strengthening the currency and increasing the social safety net — remained absent in China.

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“Yes you’ve seen a fall off in investment in the past several years, but you haven’t seen consumption pick up. So right now, this is a goal but it’s one that’s not being worked toward — it’s no where near in the data and I think this is a major concern going forward,” said Miller.

The latest official data showed that fixed asset investment in the first nine months of 2021 grew 7.3% from a year ago — missing expectations of a 7.9% increase predicted by analysts polled by Reuters.

Meanwhile, retail sales rose 4.4% in September from a year ago, beating analysts’ expectations for a 3.3% growth.

Lower home prices could hurt consumption

Challenges facing China’s property sector could weigh on consumer spending, said Michael Pettis, a finance professor at Peking University in Beijing.

Home ownership accounts for around 80% of wealth for an average Chinese, said Pettis.

“The reason we worry a lot about consumption is because of housing prices,” the professor told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Tuesday.  

“If we see a decline in home prices, that will reduce the perceived wealth of households and typically, they respond by cutting back on spending and rebuilding their savings. And if that were to happen, that would be bad for consumption,” he said.

But as the Chinese economy slows down, consumption would hold up better than other investment-led sectors such as property, said Petties.

“If China does it right, consumption will continue to grow a little bit more slowly but still quite solidly,” said the professor.

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Former Australian Prime Minister Turnbull says ‘clean coal’ is a scam

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The concept of “clean coal” is a scam, according to former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Speaking with CNBC Tuesday as part of its Sustainable Future Forum, Turnbull said the idea of carbon capture and storage “simply doesn’t work” despite years of investments.

“The proposition was that you would … effectively separate the CO2 from the flue gases … of a power station, you would then compress it and you’d pipe it and put it under the ground into you know some sort of … stratum … where it would hopefully stay there forever,” Turnbull explained.

Reflecting on his time as environment minister under former Australian Prime Minister John Howard in 2007, Turnbull said there was “quite a bit of optimism” surrounding the idea, with billions being poured into it.

If a technology is not ready to be deployed at scale today, then it’s too late.

Richard Lancaster

CEO, CLP Group

All that investment has had little to show for it, however, with the technology only working in “some very niche areas,” he said, adding it’s now time to “stop wasting money.”

“It’s a scam in this sense that the fossil fuel sector talk about clean coal, and they talk about carbon capture and storage as a means of not doing what we need to do, which is stop burning fossil fuels,” Turnbull said. “I can say this as somebody who thought it had great prospect, you know, 15 years or so ago. But it failed, and we should work on the technologies that do work.”

Turnbull’s comments come as major global economies, including China and parts of Europe, face an ongoing power crunch fueled, in part, by government efforts to reduce carbon emissions to avert an impending climate crisis.

Electricity firm CLP Group’s CEO Richard Lancaster agreed, saying the coal industry “has had plenty of time over the past 25 years” to prove itself and it’s “too late” for the idea of clean coal to be further considered.

“The challenge that we’re facing to achieve net zero by 2050 is that the electricity sector has to decarbonize well before 2050,” Lancaster said.

This means that all the current infrastructure used to produce and distribute electricity — built over more than a century — needs to be replaced in less than 30 years, he said.

“If a technology is not ready to be deployed at scale today, then it’s too late,” Lancaster said.

The CEO said the road to zero emissions is through “old technologies,” such as renewable energy from sources like wind and solar as well as storage though batteries and pump hydro schemes.

“They’re all existing technologies that are well understood, well proven, and it’s those technologies … that we need to deploy,” Lancaster said.

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