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Barack Obama
August 3, 2015, 10:56am

President Barack Obama is set to present the US’ most ambitious climate change plans to date, but they come fiercely opposed by both his political rivals and the energy sector.

The Obama administration will reveal state-specific details of the initiative, called the clean power plan, on Monday, but overall it will impose reductions of carbon emissions from US power plants by 32 per cent from 2005 levels by 2030.

The clean power plan faces legal challenges, however, with incensed coal companies as well as Obama’s Republican rivals calling it a “war on coal”. At least 10 states are gearing up for lawsuits challenging the White House plans, which will likely close more coal power station as renewables like wind and solar get a further boost.

White House adviser Brian Deese comments that the new rules are the “biggest step that any single president has made to curb the carbon pollution that is fuelling climate change”.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the initiative will yield $34-54bn by 2030, with carbon cuts resulting in fewer illnesses and premature deaths, while costing $8.4bn.

This initiative is presented just weeks after the US private sector pledged $140bn to green finance, as the White House hopes that ambitious commitments to cutting emissions will put the US in a stronger position to negotiate a strong global deal at the Paris summit in December. 

The government is planing to build more than 200,000 new houses on green belt land
August 3, 2015, 10:22am
Two-thirds of British people want the green belt area surrounding London to remain protected from new housing developments, according to a survey by Ipsos Mori. 
By asking 845 people whether they thought the protected countryside should be used to relieve the housing shortage in the capital, 64 per cent said no, while just 17 per cent said yes. The remaining nine per cent did not give a definite answer.
The poll, which was carried out for the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), found that supporters of the green belt fell into no particular category, with private renters, families with young children and council tenants all wanting to keep the land untouched. 
There was also no difference in opinion between people from different economic backgrounds, or between people living in cities and in the countryside. 
The government has expressed its intention to protect the green belt from being engulfed by the expanding capital, but the number of houses it intends to build there has been steadily rising. At the moment, it aims to build 226,000 new homes over the next few years, up from a target of just 81,000 new homes three years ago.
Housing minister Brandon Lewis said the government was giving the general public a say over the green belt's fate: 
We have placed local plans at the heart of our planning system, giving local people a far greater say over the future development of their area. The figures released by CPRE are from potential developments that have not yet been agreed by their local communities, have not gone through the rigour of the planning system and are not planning permissions.
We have put strong protections in place for the green belt, which mean that apart from land reclassified as National Park, there were 34,000 more hectares (84,000 acres) in the green belt in 2013-14 than in 1997.
August 3, 2015, 10:15am

Not only do businesses have to contend with the summer sunshine and soaring temperatures distracting people from their computer screens, but a summer of high-profile sporting events is set to cost the UK millions of pounds in lost productivity.

Tennis, cricket and golf have occupied sports fans this summer, at a cost of at least £100m to the UK economy, according to research by JLT Employee Benefits, through what they deem "questionable" sick days.

Wimbledon is the most costly event of the year, with an estimated loss of £43.3m, followed by the Ashes at £24.9m and the golf Open at £14.8m.

Read more: Why your highest-paid workers are the least reliable during the summer

The research, which took into account TV viewing data, average income and absence rates of five per cent, as well as just the events occupying the working week, estimated this figure could be even higher if hangovers, sleep deprivation and presenteeism are taken into account.

“While it is almost impossible to provide more than an estimate on the total cost to the UK economy of so many people losing a day, an afternoon or 20 minutes here and there throughout the day to entertainment, it is clear that there is an impact and this should be recognised by employers," said JLT's Andrew Drake, head of flexible benefits.

Read more: These are the sectors that need summer workers the most

"Some may raise an eyebrow at the absenteeism that happens to coincide with major sporting events, [but] those employers that are able to engage constructively with their staff to offer a flexible approach to work will almost inevitably be impacted less severely.”

An early win by the England cricket team against Australia not only came as a pleasant surprise to lovers of the game, but also saved a potential loss of around £2.5m since they were free to return to work the next day.

August 3, 2015, 10:11am

The price of Brent crude dipped as much as 2.2 per cent in morning trading to $51.04 per barrel, its lowest since the end of January this year, as the commodities crisis continued to weigh on the market. 

The news drove the rouble down 1.36 per cent against the dollar, to $0.01598. Russia's economy is heavily dependent on oil. 

Shares in UK-listed oil producers also fell, with BP shares dipping 1.3 per cent to 390.35p, while Shell shares fell 0.7 per cent to 1,848p. On Friday, former FTSE 250-listed Afren became the first major casualty of the rout in oil prices when it called in the administrators

US benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) ended July on its biggest monthly fall since the 2008 financial crisis during July. Meanwhile, a closely-watched survey by Baker Hughes published on Friday evening showed US drillers added five oil rigs last week, which was expected to mute prices even further. 

The news came as analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch warned the price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) could rise above Brent crude by spring next year. 

"Higher Middle East output combined with declining drilling activity in North America could reverse WTI-Brent dynamics in 2016," they said.

"With shale output dropping, US refiners may have to import light crude again to keep up with robust gasoline demand growth. Consequently, WTI may have to temporarily trade above Brent next spring to attract foreign light sweet crude into the US."

London Stock Exchange
August 3, 2015, 9:57am

We all have to prepare for the unexpected, with a Plan B to fall back on, and this isn’t just true for day-to-day life. It applies to the business world as well.

With that in mind, it’s worrying that the UK’s trading systems can be so exposed. Most of the global connectivity into UK trading systems relies on Internet infrastructure mostly located within a small radius of London. Most of the data passes through just a few main data centres in the City.

This is a huge exposure: A significant portion of UK internet traffic, including the London Stock Exchange and most other key UK financial infrastructure, passes via just a handful of buildings in London Docklands.

Let’s take a closer look at how the internet works in the UK. Businesses connect via internet service providers, which connect their networks into internet exchange points hosted in data centres. All customer traffic traverses these critical pinch-points.

The UK only has three of these critical standalone internet exchanges: two in London and one in Leeds. All financial infrastructure based in London has to traverse the two London centres.

We need an independent backup – and there’s a simple solution.

London-based internet exchanges tend to connect to the rest of the world via south-coast optic fibre cables. Leeds has the same model, except that those optic fibres leave the UK via the north east and north west coasts, in a separate route to those used by London-based operators.

In other words, Leeds has an internet infrastructure directly connected to the rest of the world, establishing London-independent connectivity for companies with a presence in Leeds.

As the threat of cyber attacks grows, London is likely to be increasingly compromised. A London-based trading exchange only needs to go down for half a day for it to hit the UK economy significantly.

Financial exchanges have previously tended not to have their backup situated geographically far from their main presence. The further away the backup is, the harder it is to keep both copies of the data perfectly synchronised. The transfer depends on the speed of light down a fibre, which, whilst fast, is finite. When you switch over to a backup location, there is a small risk of some data loss in those milliseconds.

But now that the risk of losing entire chunks of regional internet infrastructure is real, it’s important to have a geographically separate location for backup. Such as Leeds.

Leeds has been building a strong internet ecosystem and infrastructure over the past five years.

We can now connect to all worldwide markets via data connections that don’t have to pass through London-centric connectivity.

The message is simple: Increased financial infrastructure resilience from a digital perspective will make UK companies more resilient. This in turn will make the economy more stable.

Nokia maps logo
August 3, 2015, 9:46am

A group formed of some of  the world’s biggest car manufacturers has bought Here, the maps arm of former mobile giant Nokia, in a €2.8bn (£1.97bn) deal designed to help them step driverless car development up a gear.

German car firms Audi, BMW and Mercedes maker Daimler reportedly fought off competition from startup darling Uber, Chinese search engine Baidu and private equity firm Apax.

Nokia was spurred to sell its maps division, which is used by the likes of Garmin, BMW, and Facebook, after buying Alcatel-Lucent for €15.6bn earlier this year.

The car makers said the map technology will be used in the development of driverless car navigation systems.

Read more: Is Apple planning an iCar? 

In a joint statement, they said the technology will be used in combination with real-time vehicle data to improve road safety and create innovative new products and services.

“Here will play a key role in the digital revolution of mobility, combining high definition maps and data from vehicles to make travel safer and easier for everyone,” said BMW chairman Harald Kruger.

The deal will give the three firms the advantage of owning their own mapping technology, meaning they don't have to rely on a platform they don't own. Daimler chairman Dieter Zetsche said it secured "the independence of this central service for all vehicle manufacturers, suppliers and customers in other industries.”

Google has been one of the most prominent developers of the driverless car concept and is already testing them out on public roads in California, although they are still only at the prototype stage.

Read more: UK steps on it with £20m driverless car funding

Having dominated the taxi-ordering world, Uber has also made a play into driverless cars, opening a major research center in Pittsburgh earlier this year. Apple is also rumoured to be exploring self-driving autos.

“With this step we complete the latest stage of Nokia's transformation," said Nokia president and chief executive Rajeev Suri.

"We integrated the former Nokia Siemens Networks, divested our devices and services business, and have now reached agreement on a transaction for Here that we believe is the best path forward for our shareholders, as well as the customers and employees of Here. Going forward, we will focus on our planned combination with Alcatel-Lucent. Once that is complete, Nokia will be a renewed company, with a world-leading network technology and services business, as well as the licensing and innovation engine of Nokia Technologies," 

August 3, 2015, 9:43am

The Eurozone's manufacturing sector continued to grow modestly in July, suggesting any effect from the Greek debt crisis remained limited. 

Markit's Eurozone manufacturing PMI hit 52.4 in July, ahead of the earlier flash estimate of 52.2, and also above the crucial 50 mark which indicates growth.

This also meant it managed to hold close to June's reading of 52.5, which had been the highest for over a year.

"The Eurozone manufacturing economy showed encouraging resilience in the face of the Greek debt crisis in July," Chris Williamson, chief economist at Markit, said. Nevertheless he added growth continued to remain "modest".

Read more: Friedman was right about the “gnomes” from Brussels

In Greece itself, though, the story was rather different: new production orders, new export orders, employment and purchasing activity all dropped at the fastest rates since the Greek survey began in May 1999.

Meanwhile, Germany's survey ticked lower to 51.8, down from 51.9 in June, and in France the figure fell below the 50 mark which separates expansion from contraction. However, the survey said the rate of contraction was "only mild".

The Netherlands and Italy both enjoyed strong expansions in both production and new business during July, while Spain also remained a strong performer despite its rate of expansion cooling further.

Sunny days in the UK don't come around often
August 3, 2015, 9:35am
The UK's gloomy weather doesn't just stop us having a good time – it is also making us unhealthy, advisers to the government have warned. 
A new report by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) says we are not getting the vitamin D we need from sunshine during the winter months, and that we should therefore all be taking supplements of the nutrient.
Vitamin D helps prevent the development of diseases such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, asthma and type 2 diabetes. As well as forming naturally in the skin when it's exposed to sunlight, the vitamin is also present in certain foods such as fish, eggs and fortified milk. 
But when summer comes to an end, diet alone isn't enough to make up for the lack of sunshine, the researchers say. To meet requirements, people between the ages of 11 and 64 should consume 10 micrograms of vitamin D every day. In reality they usually take in just five micrograms from food and drink.
Public Health England recently published data showing how one in five people in Britain has an unhealthily low level of vitamin D in their bloodstream. 
Although there's enough sunlight in the summer to get the required daily dose without supplements, the advisers recommended everyone in the UK should take them throughout the year. 
“It is proposed that the intake is applicable throughout the year, as a precautionary measure, to cover population groups in the UK identified to be at risk of minimal sunshine exposure as well as unidentified individuals in the population with minimal sunshine exposure who would be at risk of low concentrations in summer,” the report says. 
Since it is difficult to achieve the recommended dose from natural food sources alone, it is recommended that consideration is given to strategies for the UK population to achieve the it.
August 3, 2015, 9:24am

The long slide of commodities prices is taking its toll on corporate spending, it seems: global expenditure is predicted to shrink by at least 10 per cent this year, according to new research from rating agency Standard & Poor's (S&P).

Spending is expected to continue falling well into next year, according to S&P’s forecast, before stabilising in 2017.

Energy and mining companies struggling with oversupply and low prices are leading the plunge: the sector accounts for nearly 40 per cent of global capex, and its spending is expected to decline 14 per cent this year.

The Bloomberg commodities index recently hit a 13-year low, with BG recently joining other oil giants in responding to a sliding oil price by announcing spending would be slashed by 30 per cent.

S&P’s Gareth Williams, the report's author, commented:

Global capex is struggling to make headway in the face of steep spending cuts from commodity producers. These cuts are likely to continue until 2017, given intense cash flow pressures wrought by falling prices, uncertain demand, and plentiful supply in many commodity markets

While commodities are dragging spending down, other industries are actually rising. S&P predicts that, excluding energy and materials, capex will actually rise eight per cent in 2015 - the first positive growth in three years.

The industries driving this growth are IT, telecoms, automotives and healthcare. 

London skyline
August 3, 2015, 9:03am

It's created billion-dollar startups, attracted record investment and is keeping major banks on their toes - London FinTech is having its moment in the sun and there are some crucial influencers making that happen.

These are the movers, the shakers, the doers and builders, and the people you need to know in the world of London FinTech right now.

The FinTech most influential powerlist is based on the on active users of Twitter and other social media and their Klout scores. This Klout score is based on various metrics from Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Instagram, Foursquare, Wikipedia as well as Klout.

The influencer list is an almost real-time run down of the most important people in London FinTech on social media which is automatically updated on a weekly basis every Monday at 8am.

Should you, or someone you know, be on City A.M.'s FinTech powerlist? Hit the "join" button below to get started. Please remember this is a UK-based list of individuals and that City A.M. reserves the right to not accept or exclude people from the list as it deems appropriate.

UPDATE: On 1 June we made an adjustment to the way the power score is calculated to enable us to provide a fairer list.

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