Tuesday 14 November 2023 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 14/11/2023

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Flying colours: an aerobatics team releases coloured smoke near Emirates planes

Image: Getty Images

Aviation / Gabriel Leigh

Lucky sevens

As Dubai Airshow kicked off this week, all eyes were on two companies. Emirates, one of the UAE’s two national flag carriers, was expected to make a high-profile purchase; US aerospace manufacturer Boeing wanted to show that its troubles were behind it after a series of setbacks and production issues in recent years. They didn’t leave us waiting long, with Emirates placing an enormous order with Boeing on day one for 95 aircraft, including 90 777Xs.

The news will come as a much-needed boost for Boeing and a vote of confidence in the updated, larger 777Xs, which have experienced years of delays, even after they awed audiences at displays including the 2021 Dubai Airshow. The aircraft is expected to enter service in 2025 and Emirates will have sought assurances from Boeing that the date will hold. Flydubai also placed an order for 30 787 Dreamliners, which will be the Emirati airline’s first wide-body aircraft.

Good news is also expected for Boeing’s narrow-body division, with China reportedly considering committing to new 737 Max aircraft, which would involve the resumption of deliveries to the country’s carriers, which have been paused since crashes in 2018 and 2019. Riyadh Air, the extremely well-funded Saudi start-up aimed at shuttling tourists to and from the kingdom, is said to be eyeing up an order of as many as 100 737 Max aircraft too.

Fears of recession and slowing passenger demand have dominated headlines lately but it’s clear that airlines, especially those in the Middle East and Asia, aren’t too concerned. Plenty more news is expected from the Dubai Airshow this week, including high-value orders from Turkey and India, but everyone in attendance is already feeling very good about how things are shaping up.

Gabriel Leigh is Monocle’s transport correspondent. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.


Politics / UK

Groundhog Dave

While political comebacks are happening with increasing regularity, no one foresaw the return of former UK prime minister David Cameron this week. After being granted a peerage by King Charles at the request of the current prime minister, Rishi Sunak, Cameron can take up his seat around the cabinet table as foreign secretary. The move is not unprecedented but is a gamble for Sunak in many ways. Cameron’s track record on foreign policy – the Brexit referendum aside – includes bungled interventions in Libya and Syria, as well as a post-premiership role in a lobbying scandal on behalf of financial services company Greensill Capital. For the former prime minister, it’s a rare opportunity in Westminster to reset a tarnished legacy. As an architect of austerity whose rebranding of his party included replacing a flaming torch with a tree logo, Cameron is attempting a return just as the consequences of his policies are burning brightest across public life.

Transport / Japan

Off your trolley

When it comes to rail travel, Japan leads the world with unrivalled services that offer both punctuality and comfort. But as of this month, one of the great pleasures of a shinkansen ride from Tokyo to Osaka – the food trolleys that trundled up and down the aisles, serving hot coffee, bento boxes, snacks and ice cream – has been stopped. The trolleys, made in Fukushima, were designed with insulated drawers and a low centre of gravity for stability.

Track changes: a bullet train crosses a bridge over the Fuji river

Image: Alamy

Box fresh: a ‘makunouchi’-style bento box

Image: Alamy

Central Japan Railway Company blames the decision on declining sales and staff shortages. It will be installing more vending machines at stations instead (including those for the rock-hard Sujata ice cream, previously a shinkansen exclusive), while passengers in the first-class Green Car seats are now able to order food and drink via a QR code and have it delivered to them. The trolleys and their smartly uniformed operators will be missed. Their selection of snacks and refreshments were always welcome at the end of a long day.

Green shoots of progress: the nationwide tree-planting drive in Nairobi

Image: Getty Images

Environment / Kenya

Growing pains

Yesterday was declared a special holiday in Kenya as part of the government’s “national tree-growing restoration” drive. The move was announced last week by the country’s president, William Ruto, who, dressed as a forest ranger, asked citizens to plant two seedlings each in a bid to achieve 30 per cent national tree coverage by 2032 – up from the current 12 per cent. According to the government, the holiday was aimed at reducing greenhouse-gas emissions and reversing deforestation. But sceptics in the country dismissed it as a PR stunt that diverted attention from more pressing issues.

Ruto wants to project himself as a champion of Africa’s climate causes. Kenya is also desperate to meet the environmental requirements of an International Monetary Fund loan, worth $500m (€467m), which requires the country to prove that it is tackling climate change through its national planning and investment framework.

Beyond the Headlines

Image: Patrik Ekenblom

Q&A / Harald Overholm

Good day sunshine

Harald Overholm is the founder and CEO of Alight, a leading Stockholm-based developer that aims to make the use of solar energy more widespread among large corporations. The company is celebrating its 10th anniversary with more than 50 solar projects under management or construction, the opening of a new office in Madrid and a move into the Finnish market with the development of one of the country’s largest solar parks. Overholm tells Monocle how solar energy can address environmental challenges and be a more cost-effective alternative.

What is the purpose of Alight?
We want to make solar power widespread by convincing big companies to replace power coming from fossil fuels. We do this by making it more affordable and hassle-free. We have worked with the likes of H&M, Swedbank and Toyota to install solar panels on their premises or build large fields of panels and sell power to them. If you can successfully convince large corporations that it’s a no-brainer, its use will be more widespread worldwide.

Why solar power?
It has huge potential for two reasons. The first is that it is modular: it can be built anywhere. You can make the infrastructure small, mid-sized or big. The other is that its costs just keep decreasing. It is very cheap to produce. In the future, solar energy will be everywhere, flow like water and find its way into every situation. A growing number of people think that it will amount to more than 50 per cent of the power networks in the next 10 years.

Why should people be excited by this technology?
It’s good for the climate not only because it is a cleaner source of energy but also because it can benefit its immediate environment. If, for example, we build infrastructure from metal, it’s important for us to ensure that it becomes a haven for biodiversity – something that adds to whatever is growing next to it, a place where bees can build a beehive or other small mammals can have a place to nest. It’s something that we believe in as a company and it helps us to convince people that this is a force for good.

For our full interview with Harald Overholm, tune in to the latest Eureka episode of ‘The Entrepreneurs’ on Monocle Radio.

Image: Getty Images

Monocle Radio / The Foreign Desk

Who speaks for the Arctic?

The Arctic isn’t just a forbidding, fragile environment. It’s a home to millions of people, many of whom hail from indigenous communities who have harmoniously worked with the land and sea for generations. But who speaks on its behalf? And is anyone listening? In our final episode recorded at the Arctic Circle Assembly in Reykjavík, we meet representatives of some of the region’s indigenous peoples and a few office-holders who grapple with the unique challenges of governing in or near the Arctic.


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