Category: Events-reports

The Bridge Tank co-organises the conference “Central Asia: between Russian and Chinese covetousness, what place for the European Union? “

On 17 September, a conference on Central Asia “Between Russian and Chinese covetousness, what place for the European Union?” was held at Sciences Po Strasbourg with the support of The Bridge Tank, the Think Tank Paris-Berlin-Moscow, Sciences Po Forum and the Alumni Association of Sciences Po Strasbourg. The aim of this conference was to discuss Central Asia and more specifically to study the Russian, Chinese and European influences in the five Central Asian countries of the former USSR: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, thanks to the expertise and experience of practitioners of international relations and the region.

Among the speakers were Mrs Sylvie Bermann, former French Ambassador to China and Russia and President of the IHEDN Board of Directors, Mr Gilles Rémy, Director of the CIFAL Group, Mr Thierry Kellner, Professor at the Université Libre de Bruxelles and China specialist, Mr Michaël Levystone, Researcher at the Russia/NEI Centre of IFRI and Mrs Malaurie Le Bail from The Bridge Tank.

This event brought together around 150 people: Mr Ivan Soltanovsky, Ambassador, Permanent Representative to the Council of Europe, Mr Anuarbek Akhmetov, Consul General of the Republic of Kazakhstan in Strasbourg, Mr François Loos, Former French Minister, Mr Pierre Andrieu, Former French Ambassador, various experts who have worked in the region and many students.

The Bridge Tank, co-organiser of the event, was represented by analyst Malaurie Le Bail. She deciphered the climate and environmental situation of the region through a scientific reading of the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (IDNC) of Kazakhstan and Tajikistan a few weeks before the COP26. According to Malaurie Le Bail, many analyses, both in academic and institutional literature and in the media, highlight Kazakhstan’s climate leadership in the region. However, when comparing the INDC of Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, their greenhouse gas reduction targets are almost identical. Her presentation put Kazakhstan’s leadership into perspective and highlighted the way in which the climate ambitions of states should be studied according to the notion of “differentiated common responsibilities”. Malaurie Le Bail suggested two recommendations:

  • The development of a tool to measure the degree of ambition of a State and to compare the climate ambitions of States with different and/or equal contexts.
  • The importance of creating a Central Asian climate coalition during the climate negotiations to fight against common environmental problems, such as the lack of water irrigation or desertification.

Finally, Malaurie Le Bail concluded her intervention by presenting a vision of The Bridge Tank on new Silk Roads (BRI – Belt and Road Initiative). The BRI is a Chinese-Chinese solution to a Chinese-Chinese problem and responds to low domestic market demand and high exports of goods, which caused the accumulation of Chinese currency in the years 2000-2010. The BRIs are therefore not an initiative to promote investment but to develop Chinese loans abroad that generate trans-border economic activity. The idea for China, especially for Chinese companies, is to create infrastructure and activities abroad financed by debt to rebalance the domestic economic situation and to develop infrastructure in the western provinces of the country. The Bridge Tank argues for a reading of the BRIs from within China, rather than from simply a regional and global influence perspective. From a Central Asian perspective, the BRIs allow these countries to benefit from the infrastructure and technologies developed and used in this project, but also to integrate a global market and to be at the heart of a strong geopolitical system.

Sustainable Energy transition trajectories in large countries

By Baudouin Becker, Antoine Goutaland, Xieshu Wang,  Joël Ruet, Laure Elise Wargnier and Malaurie Le Bail.

The ecological emergency has caused a sharp pressure on policy makers to concentrate their efforts on elaborating public policies to organize the passage from the existing fossil fuels based system, that is unsustainable, to another system, whose contours are unknown in details for the time being, but whose ambition is to be durable. Unlike previous energy transitions that were achieved through industrial investments, the decarbonization of national economies is directly led and orchestrated by public authorities through incentives, constraints and policies. The presented documents are methodologies that aim at assessing the ability of governments to coordinate key actors and systems in order to achieve their climate goals and to identify the structural characteristics of the countries’ ecosystems.

 These studies identify trajectories, that we define as the coordination of variables that allow a system to remain balanced while being in motion. A systemic understanding of these trajectories is proposed, including both major responses of public policies to climate issues and the possible integration of the new technologies within the existing system, including an analysis of industrial systems and their capacity (or disability) to meet these challenges.

 In order to understand energy transitions across sectors, we have developed a detailed and replicable methodology that fully integrates the role and potential impact of actors (political and industrial). This has enabled us to understand energy transitions in an original way, freeing us from siloed macroeconomic studies and overly specific energy studies that do not allow us to understand the energy stakes as a whole.

In the following documents, you will find this methodology applied to over 20 economies.

The full report : Energy trajectories in main markets

Specific focus : Energy trajectories in main markets

The making of Hydrogen – Definition and acceleration of a sector

By Joël Ruet, Baudouin Becker, Antoine Goutaland and Xieshu Wang.

Hydrogen is a subject in trend and announcements of breakthrough hydrogen technologies have been multiplying in the last couple months. Indeed, it seems hydrogen, as an energy vector similar to electricity, has imposed itself in most government’s eyes as an indispensable tool in order to transition to climate neutral economies by the end of 2050. Indeed, a number of executive bodies have published hydrogen national strategies in the last 15 months, among which notably the EU, the US, France, the Uk, Germany, and many others (even if mostly Europeans so far).  

            Hydrogen is not a new molecule and has been known and used for decades. Currently, it is mostly utilized as an industrial composite for the production of ammonia, of steel or for refining oil. However, in the context of the energy transition, it is mostly considered useful as an energy vector that would complement electricity. Indeed, in hard-to-abate sectors, meaning sectors where electricity isn’t a solution or an unsatisfactory one, hydrogen appears as a viable replacement to fossil fuels, for example in long-distance transport or shipping where oil is hard to substitute.  

These two documents provide an overview of hydrogen developments and increasing importance in the energy transition as well as a prospective analysis of its prospects of evolution towards 2030. It notably identifies an unexpectedly faster pace of development of the molecule. Country that are mostly likely or unlikely to decarbonize their current hydrogen production are also identified. Finally, the documents provide a specific lens on hydrogen use for mobility and on hydrogen ecosystems.

 

Main report : Main Report – The making of Hydrogen – Definition and acceleration of a sector over 2017-2021

Executive summary : Executive Summary – The making of Hydrogen – Definition and acceleration of a sector over 2017-2021

The current state of the hydrogen ecosystems in the world

By Florian Dommergues and Joël Ruet

Retrospectively, 2021 might well prove to be the breakthrough year for the ecological transition towards climate neutral societies. With the election of Joe Biden, who reinstated the United States in the Paris Agreement hours after coming into office, the ecological transition has gained new momentum.
By the end of 2020, more than 110 countries had pledged to reach climate neutrality by the mid-century, including China by 2060. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has induced an important economic crisis which in response has required the launch of large-scale recovery plans by OECD countries, such as Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue plan, France’s €100 billion recovery plan (of which €30 billion are dedicated to the ecological transition), or the EU’s €1800 billion plan, of which one third is dedicated to the European Green Deal to reach climate neutrality. These plans have been seen as a chance to accelerate further the ecological transition and to invest in the technologies and energies of tomorrow.

In this context, one energy in particular gained particular drive and importance : hydrogen (H2). The aim of this policy brief is therefore to provide an overarching view of the current state of affairs of the hydrogen ecosystem and a review of the existing literature.

We argue that three trends required special attention and allow to have a structured analysis of the field.
First, hydrogen must be approached around the industrial problematics that compose the ecosystems that are emerging around the molecule. One of the decisive dynamic being the interaction between industrial players (both new upcoming players and old industrial fossil fuel players, such as gas utilities) and government public policies which will shape the regulatory environment.
Second, hydrogen in the years to come, will most probably become an object of trade between countries with abundant RES and those with scarcer ones in the years to come. If we analyse these dynamics that notably take the form of bilateral partnerships between states, we argue that for a long time to come hydrogen exports will not take the magnitude nor the forms of standardized transactions, such as oil or natural gas. Indeed, hydrogen cannot be understood as a uniformed commodity, as we stated in a previous policy brief (in french).
Third, the place of green hydrogen in the energy transition must be considered lucidly, what we call a « philosophy of transition ». Hydrogen, if an essential tool of the energy transition, will remain second whenever electrification is possible. It must be considered first and foremost in order to decarbonize industrial uses of hydrogen, then in hard-to-abate sectors and finally as a tool for system integration (providing grid stability and allowing sector coupling).

You can find the full brief here : The current state of play of the hydrogen ecosystems in the world

China’s policy on strategic materials – impact on the batteries ecosystem and industry recommendations

By Xieshu Wang and Joël Ruet.

Strategic materials, such as rare earth, lithium, cobalt or nickel, are indispensable inputs for green transition technologies such as wind turbines or batteries for electric vehicles. With more and more governments aiming to reach climate neutrality by 2050 and as the necessity to transition to sustainable economies is becoming more and more pressing, primary materials’ demand will rise and they are therefore considered critical inputs, or strategic materials. It is expected that consumptions of strategic metals will increase from 7 to 19 billion tons per year, inducing serious tensions on the supply side. Cobalt is one of these metals used as an input in the magnets of wind turbines, and for the production of the cathodes of lithium-ion and nickel metal hybride batteries.

As China quickly understood the importance of the metal for future strategic technologies, it positioned itself early on the cobalt value chain and has therefore been able to control a significant part of the chain, mostly by controlling a large portion of the DRC’s cobalt ressources.

This document provides an analysis of China’s materials strategy, the way it has managed to gain a privileged position on the value chain,  as well as an analysis of the key private actors that are major players on the cobalt value chain.

Industry recommendations : Industry Recommendations – China’s key materials strategy

Analytical report : Analytical Report – China’s key materials strategy

Policy Brief – Hydrogen, a new commodity, a ‘magic’ energy carrier, or a prescriber of demanding public policies?

By Antoine Goutaland and Joël Ruet

“Hydrogen” is seeing its industrial and energy uses differ while its synthesis processes abound. But in reality, there are hydrogens whose promoters constitute a heterogeneous club with more or less convergent interests, present at different geographical, sectoral and temporal levels. A unified and stabilised ecosystem does not exist at this stage, and due to the characteristics of the molecule, we defend that this unique and global ecosystem will not be emerge.

Green hydrogen remains a decisive tool for the energy transition. It has the capacity to better store, use, and valorise renewables, and, more generally, offers an additional flexibility option to the great energy systemic overhaul necessary for the ecological transition.

At present, the World Hydrogen Council has an interest in showing a united front to policy makers, in order to broaden the base of what has not, so far, really been a “sector”. But behind this homogeneous ‘narrative’, industrial and political battles are being fought.

Hydrogen will contribute to the slow change in perspective of ecology: in parallel with the systemic question of transitions and trajectories, there will be a return, not of the micro-economic question (price formation on markets), but rather of the macro-economic policy of natural resources, an all-encompassing problem, going from a national accounting of resources to a geostrategy of resources.

Read the Full Brief (in French): 2021-07-07-PB_Hydrogene

 

Key points

  • Hydrogen is not a commodity and will probably not become one. However, this by-product can play a key role in the decarbonization of certain heavy industries or energy uses.
  • Hydrogen is not oil, therefore the previous economic model of this sector is not necessarily adapted to hydrogen. It is consequently necessary to question the assumptions and cognitive habits acquired, as well as to objectively analyse the accelerators at hand, and in particular the territories, that are determining factors.
  • Hydrogen opens the Pandora’s box of the industrial economy: are forced technological oligopolies coming? Will they overlap or will they transcend geopolitical competition? Will certain coal basins impose themselves by a sort of return of history? Will industrial parks turn demand to their advantage?
  • The electrification of the world, mobilizing hydrogen, and associated with “natural” uses of hydrogen where electrification is not relevant, is compatible with an explosion of energy transformations, alongside a decrease in CO2 emi

4th Nanjing/Paris Forum on innovation: towards state-regulated technological partnerships?

On Thursday the 24th of June 2021, the Nanjing/Paris Innovation Partnership and the 4th Sino-French Innovation Cooperation Conference was held in Nanjing, China within the context of Nanjing Techweek 2021. The forum aims at deepening strategic partnerships between China and France through the cities of Nanjing and Paris, with a particular emphasis on scientific and technological innovation and development.

Attended by hundreds in person and broadcast live online, the Nanjing/Paris forum hosted notable guests from both China and France. On the Chinese side, speakers included: Li Shigui, Member of the Standing Committee of the Municipal Party Committee, Deputy Director of the Standing Committee of the Municipal People’s Congress and Secretary of the Jiangning District Party Committee and Shen Xiang, Minister of Economic and Commercial Affairs of the Chinese Embassy in France and Lu Qingjiang, Consul General of the Chinese Consulate General in Lyon.

On the French side, Dominique Villepin, minister of foreign affairs, outlined the importance of maintaining and developing this relation in order to further develop the energy, scientific and technology sectors within France, such as the recent development of French Chinese entrepreneurial clubs supported by the municipality of Nanjing. De Villepin was accompanied by the economist Pascal Petit, Director of the French National Center for Scientific Research who spoke on the necessity of a more opened policy with regards to innovation of new models between the two countries, and by Joël Ruet, president of The Bridge Tank.

Our president, Joël Ruet, also spoke at the event, elaborating on three main points:  

– first, drawing the lessons from the history of technological cooperation between China and France, particularly within nuclear and energy sectors, today ending their cycles,

– second, the need to build on these past cooperation’s through the expansion of research frontiers and dialogue, for instance on fast breeding nuclear reactors or urban environmental services,

– third, focusing on new energies like hydrogen, which would be highly beneficial for France’s technology systems and industry.

Joël Ruet put his speech in the context of growing technological rivalries, arguing that both parties should clearly delineate those technologies where open cooperation is possible from those that ought to be regulated by strict state protocols.

 In the subsequent remote interaction session between the Paris session and Nanjing Sino-French Collaborative Innovation Center, more than ten Chinese and French business leaders made corporate presentations and exchanges.

  An online signing ceremony of Sino-French technology projects and innovation platforms also took place alongside the forum, with keynote speeches by Chinese and French invited guests and a roundtable forum on science and technology innovation.

This forum, bringing together a wide range of experts in varying fields, from economics to technology, finance and academia, adopted a “cloud + offline” model to structure the conference, aims to become a platform of open innovation, cooperation and sharing between France and China, in order to promote mutually beneficial development. The topics touched on over the course of the forum included but were not limited to: automotive, artificial intelligence, medicine and health, energy saving and environmental protection.

EU-US Summit : towards a new transatlantic partnership ?

“America is back” and the Trump years are behind us, as evidenced by the holding of the EU-United States summit in Brussels on June 15, 2021: being the first meeting of this type since 2017, it marked the launch of a renewed partnership and a joint program for cooperation between the EU and the United States, following a sectoral approach. This meeting notably enabled three major commercial achievements to revive and deepen transatlantic trade in a context of Sino-American tensions.

 Civil aircraft cooperation agreement closes 17-year dispute

Leaders Joe Biden, Charles Michel, president of the European Council, and Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, have committed to creating a cooperative framework for large civil aircraft, taking a major step toward ending the dispute over the sector. After 17 years of dispute between Brussels and Washington before the WTO, this agreement initiates a new transatlantic relationship in the aeronautics sector. At the root of the dispute: illegal subsidies granted to aircraft manufacturers Airbus and Boeing. Under the Trump administration, tensions were exacerbated and the WTO authorized the imposition of taxes on $7.5 billion worth of imported European goods and services, including 25% on wine and 15% on Airbus aircraft. 

At the end of the summit, the leaders announced the suspension of punitive tariffs imposed on each other, as part of a five-year truce. The resolution of this dispute, which has plagued bilateral relations, is a strong signal that the Biden administration is moving toward a rapprochement that will create a level playing field and address new industrial challenges. 

This search for appeasement reflects an attempt to bring the EU on board in the US tug-of-war with China by strengthening the U.S.-European position. Especially since this former duopoly of aircraft manufacturers is now becoming an oligopoly with the entry of the new Chinese player Comac. This common-sense measure therefore also has the potential to counter the Chinese breakthrough in this sector and to challenge China’s perceived unfair competition practices. The idea is also to set up an effective cooperation model to jointly address other challenges posed by China’s economic model. While it is not certain that a compromise will be reached at the end of this truce, there is a real American will to reach an agreement. Indeed, when the dispute began in 2004, Airbus was gaining ground on the international market to the detriment of Boeing, whereas today the threat comes from China and it is time for unity on both sides of the Atlantic.

Negotiations to resolve steel and aluminum dispute underway

Leaders agreed to begin discussions to resolve the steel and aluminum trade dispute and to lift all additional and punitive tariffs by the end of the year. Ursula von der Leyen announced a working group on this issue that has marred transatlantic relations since Donald Trump announced in 2018 the imposition of taxes of 25% on European steel imports and 10% on aluminum imports, provoking European countermeasures in return. 

Lifting these taxes in the spirit of appeasement that prevails today would be a much-awaited political gesture by the EU, which expects strong actions beyond intentions. However, this diplomatic gesture should not change the face of European trade, nor turn the European steel and aluminum market upside down, as prices have risen in an unprecedented manner over the past six months, drowning out the impact of the US taxes.

Moreover, the actual resolution of the conflict is likely to be thorny, as the EU does not have a tariff and trade logic but a border tax logic that is different from the United States. The partnership is not self-evident and leaves the door open to a possible rapprochement with China, whether on the American or European side. 

The establishment of an EU-US Trade and Technology Council 

It is no longer a question of Europe and the United States entering into a free trade logic, as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiated since 2013 is no longer relevant. However, a Trade and Technology Council will be created to provide a platform for cooperation on trade, investment, technology, digital issues and supply chains. It embodies a willingness to cooperate in developing compatible and international standards and to promote innovation while avoiding unwarranted new trade or technical barriers. It will enable the partners to align on global technology issues, such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, clean technologies… Both sides have already committed to a partnership on rebalancing semiconductor supply chains as a priority. 

This third announcement is both the most imprecise and the most structuring for the future of EU-US bilateral relations. At a time when a technological war seems to be underway with China, the issue of technological coordination is central. After a first American and commercial globalization, which was undermined by the Trump years, Biden now has the project of knitting a new one, which will take the form of technological liberalization. 

Our analysis of Morocco’s New Development Model

Context:

Ambassador and former Interior Minister Chakib Benmoussa, Chairman of the Special Commission on the Development Model (CSMD), presented his general report on Tuesday 25 May 2021 at a ceremony presided over by King Mohammed VI. The latter will give rise to a national pact for development – an unprecedented proposal in Morocco. The objective is to anchor the New Development Model as a common reference for the actors and to commit the different parties. In other words, the pact will be the tool for renewing the relationship between the State and the development actors (political parties, constitutional institutions, the private sector and social partners, territories and the third sector); a renewal whose key words are: accountability, subsidiarity, partnership, sustainability and inclusion.

Read our report in french here

Download the version PDF in French here: The Bridge Tank_analyse_Maroc_Juin2021

Financing the African economy: Supporting the Modernization of African Economies

By Clarisse Hida & Joël Ruet

As the Summit on the financing of the African economy will be held on May 18, 2021 in Paris, at the invitation of Emmanuel Macron and with the African heads of state and government, solutions must go well beyond refinancing of sovereign debt, to integrate the dynamics of an African financial system undergoing a great transformation, and must include the banking sector, both at the level of the private sector and of commercial banks.

Africa has been resilient since the economic crisis of 2008 with controlled debt until the covid pandemic, and, for many countries, debt has been raised in connection with a transformation, an extension of the tax base, with margins remaining in this in terms of debt sustainability. But above all the continent, and in particular sub-Saharan Africa, has demonstrated a real boom in its economies, served by the growth of pan-African banks, which now desreve better support internationally.

But today Africa remains underbancarised, and a “classic” treatment of African economies by the tools of the banking system possibly supported by a multilateral public tool for the correct assessment of risks, including the issues of “rating”, looks promising.

Key Take-aways :

► The issue of financing the African growth should be approached through:

– Maintaining development assistance in the context of COVID-19 which, in itself, does not constitute a specific risk for Africa.

– The revival of public and private foreign investments in Africa, by improving the perception of African opportunities, including a fairer rating of private and sovereign financial assets.

– And finally, through support the access to capital markets for commercial banks since it is clear that many banking regimes are sound and should not be underestimated.

► In each of the avenues proposed, the international community must play an integrating or intermediary role that goes beyond the framework of development aid.

► This triple approach would make it possible to tap new types of financers, who would be able to better understand the specificities and strategies of African countries, particularly, but not only, with regard to debt and its refinancing.

Theme: Overlay by Kaira
Copyright 2020 - The Bridge Tank