VIDEO: Pakistan floods spur new businesses

A natural disaster changes lives forever, and Pakistan is no exception.

The country experienced its worst floods in 80 years in 2010 and nearly 20m people were affected.

But in one village in the Punjab, rebuilding and reconstruction has meant new opportunities – and new businesses – for women.

The BBC’s Shumaila Khan reports.

The future of the ubiquitous app
Man using a smartphone in front of an Apple Watch display
There’s an app for that: The app is no longer confined to mobile phones and tablets

Apps. Without them, a smartphone is only a mobile – or the Apple Watch, just a humble wristwatch.

Apple’s App Store, boasting more than 1.5 million apps, has topped 100 billion downloads. Android’s Google Play lags slightly at 50 billion, but downloads there are ticking over faster – 70% more than Apple’s in the first months of 2015.

The App Store, though, prevails in revenue, again by 70%. (Android’s lead is largely in the developing world.) Both are growing hand over fist.

A revamped app store was a chief priority for Microsoft in designing the new Windows 10.

No decently dressed business now dares venture into the world without an app, with 61% of US adults, and around three quarters of Brits, carrying smartphones in their pockets.

App usage increased 76% last year, says research firm Flurry, with shopping, productivity, and messaging apps growing most of all.

“2014 was the first year where, at least in America, people spent more time on mobile apps than on the desktop and mobile web combined,” says Itai Tsiddon, whose company Lightricks developed the apps Facetune and Enlight.

If this is the future of the internet, what does the future hold for the app?

The Apple Watch has created a new platform for iOS apps
The Apple Watch has created a new platform for iOS apps

Great expectations

A sprinkling of innovation from the likes of Uber and Airbnb has changed our expectations. It has prompted ripples of imitation, especially in their use of smartphones’ sensor and location data, or Airbnb’s peer-to-peer market for excess capacity.

“It’s the Uber of things phenomenon,” says Jyoti Bansal, chief executive of AppDynamics.

“There’s now an Uber for this and for that – even an Uber for massage.”

Uber wouldn’t work as a desktop application.

But the titans of the internet are princes too of the app jungle.

AppDynamics' Jyoti Bansal
AppDynamics’ Jyoti Bansal

Four of the five most-downloaded apps in the UK, including WhatsApp and Instagram, are owned by Facebook, according to analysis firm App Annie. And the fifth, YouTube, is the property of Google.

With so many out there, including over a million apps on Google Play, how can developers and users navigate them?

“With Google search responses coming within 250 milliseconds, our expectations as customers are increasing, so performance becomes more and more critical,” says John Rakowski of AppDynamics.

The company is one of a growing number of start-ups orientated towards helping developers monitor app performance, and keep tabs on how it’s doing in the wild.

Crucial fractions of seconds might be lost by not adapting to patchy network speeds, relying on laggardly third-party cloud providers, or overdoing time-intensive database calls, he says.

App stores also have limitations for both developers and downloaders.

Outside the top lists in each category, there is a mushrooming number of “zombie apps”, which are effectively invisible to consumers – 83% per cent, by the end of last year – vying to get noticed or downloaded.

Top apps on iOS and Google Play
If an app doesn’t appear in any of the top app lists, the majority of users will never find it

“We will start to see deluges of adverts for apps. We’re now seeing television slots, billboards – this is all new, in the last year or so,” says Simon Kendall from Adjust, an app analytics start-up based in Berlin.

Money spent on mobile advertising has recently caught up with the amount of time people devote to their mobiles, says Mr Tsiddon, though research spending has not, he says.

There also is increased willingness to pay for apps.

“When we launched Facetune,” says Mr Tsiddon, “almost every app was selling for 99 cents; nowadays, we have moved our prices up to four to six dollars.”

Meanwhile, companies increasingly find themselves interlacing nifty front end applications with legacy back-end core technology, says Brandon Bichler, from the London management consultancy firm Elixirr.

There also is a trend towards apps integrating different sorts of information, like Waze, which in 2012 began combining petrol prices with its navigation app to help users decide where to refuel.

Another trend comes from increasingly strict EU data-protection regulations.

The result may be a race to the top in data protection, predicts Mr Kendall, with new regulations making developers question “what sort of data are we mining, and is it creepier than it needs to be?”

Inside the Lightricks office
Inside the Lightricks office

Dressing up

When the killer app arrives for the smart watch and other new wearables, what will it look like?

“You don’t just experience computing when you sit at your desk,” notes Google engineering director David Singleton, who leads Google’s development of its Android platform for smartwatches and wearables, Android Wear.

And we will soon experience it through apps increasingly appearing on televisions and also car dashboards, he adds.

He sees new gestures taking root in apps for wearables, such as scrolling by motion of the wrist.

And much being made of location – bringing up recipe apps when you are in a supermarket for example.

Lady watching video on her smartphone on a pavement in India
Android is the dominant smartphone platform in emerging market economies like India

As well as their constant presence – quietly tracking how much you walk, and knowing (and tallying) if you are running, cycling, or doing press-ups.

“I think there’s a huge trend here for apps to be able to plug into a user’s context,” says Mr Singleton.

This includes linking into the internet of things, telling a home automation system you are near, to turn your heating on say.

In the world of payments, this could mean “throwing what you want into a bag, walking out the door, and paying automatically,” says Mr Bichler.

One challenge from smaller screens will be fiercer jostling by apps for your attention.

And perhaps even more than with smartphones, a second challenge for wearable apps is extending battery life.

Android Wear watch
Android Wear also includes watches – which also run apps

Healthy app-etite

What makes a good app?

Maciek Drejak, behind the Sleep Cycle alarm clock app and chief executive of Northcube, suggests the key lies in bringing “fun, simplicity, and value” to users, without being invasive or forcing them to learn new habits”.

Omer Perchik, chief executive of the task-managing app, notes major trends towards messaging, as well as more action-orientated car, food, and hospitality apps.

“The interesting part would be if and how these two trends would merge,” he says.

Agreeing on the importance of simplicity and seamlessness, Mr Bansal suggests a good app is intuitive, quick, and requires few clicks to achieve a task.

And Facetune’s Mr Tsiddon praises apps with “no shady monetarisation mechanisms, just old-fashioned people with PhDs making straight-edge, quality software, and selling it”.

A wrist-summoned Uber massage, then, from a person with a PhD? Maybe not yet.

But if it’s a drink-dialing blocker you’re after (Drunk Dial No!, 99 cents), games for your cat (Game for Cats, $1.99), or a pointless button (Pointless Button, free) — well, there is an app for that.

Paris Air Show: Can you print a plane?
The Airbus A350 has a number of 3D printed parts

The new Airbus A350 XWB that is flying daily displays at the Paris Air Show can claim several engineering firsts.

One of these is that it has more 3D printed components than any other aircraft, about 1,000 on a plane that has only just gone into service.

Meanwhile, Raytheon has 3D parts on its missiles, while Textron Group has them on its drones. And United Launch Alliance – a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing – has the parts on the rockets it sends into space.

No longer is 3D a novelty manufacturing process. It’s going mainstream, underlined by the number of 3D-related firms at the Paris show and conference briefings being held on the sidelines.

And it has the potential to transform the aerospace industry’s global supply chain and cost structure, producing parts faster, and which are lighter and mean less waste. It may also mean companies bringing more production back in-house.

The 3D components on the A350 XWB are mostly widgets and brackets, formed by fusing layer upon layer of resins in machines that replicate computer-generated 3D models. (Metals and even glass can also be used).

So, we’re talking about small routine parts here, rather than large structures – at the moment.

But don’t dismiss the significance that 3D printing is playing, says Ian Risk, Airbus Group’s head of innovations in the UK, where the aerospace giant makes aircraft wings.

Falcon 9 rocket
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket has a 3D-printed main oxidiser valve in one of its engines.

“These components contribute a huge amount to the manufacturing process. Often, it’s the fiddly parts that create delays in production,” he said.

The size of the component being made is limited by the size of the printing machine.

Mr Risk doubts there will ever be a machine big enough to turn out a whole airframe. “But we are looking at wider applications,” he said. “The scale of what we do will increase.”

On-demand supply

3D printing’s biggest supporters talk of a future world in which machines will be sited at key locations across the globe, churning out components when needed – not stored in a factory somewhere awaiting delivery to factories.

Say, for example, an A380 super-jumbo is flying into Singapore and needs a new part. In our digitally connected world, a machine could be programmed to start printing even before the aircraft lands.

In sounds good in theory, and Mr Risk says that “agile manufacturing” will certainly reshape the industry’s global supply chain and reduce lead times.

But there are plenty of hurdles, especially the issue of transmitting secure data across the world, he said.

While the holy grail of on-demand supply may be a little way off, John Schmidt, US-based managing director of aerospace and defence at consultancy Accenture, says printing is reducing lead times from months to weeks.

He says it’s too far early to call the end of traditional manufacturing – machining, casting and injection moulding. But the technology and scale of 3D printing will inevitably improve, so it’s only a matter of time before a tipping point is reached.

‘First time, right time’

3D parts reduce weight on aircraft, and so improve fuel efficiency, he says. And making one 3D part often replaces the need to combine several smaller parts, reducing the need to carry inventory.

Part of a cooling system used by rocket maker ULA now uses 16 parts, where before it was 140. ULA also says it has cut costs on its latest Atlas rocket by $1m using 3D.

Mr Schmidt added: “3D is also ideal for industries with short production runs – like aerospace – as it maximises the cost advantages of smaller production runs.” It also reduces waste, as the component is built up rather than cut from a block of material.

ULA rocket
ULA’s Atlas rocket uses 3D-printed thermoplastic parts

He predicts that one of the most significant impacts could be on aircraft design, especially as 3D offers the promise to produce more complex shapes. “It opens options to be innovative in ways that do not exist now; to build something the first time and at the right time,” he said.

And wouldn’t that be good news for plane makers, whose big industrial projects are frequently plagued by production delays and cost-overruns.

Sky’s the limit

The US-Israeli company Stratasys makes 3D machines and supplies materials and composites used to build components.

Director Scott Sevcik predicts that within 10 years, about 40-50% of aircraft components will use printed materials. It’s about 4% now. In 20 years, the vast majority of parts will have some form of 3D printed contribution.

The thermoplastic material that Stratasys supplied for ULA’s rockets can operate in extreme heat and cold, as well as under intense vibration and speed. As with 3D components used in civil aircraft, they have to go through rigorous regulatory approval.

Mr Sevcik said the ULA parts are for interior use, but that if tests on Stratasys’ plastic, called Ultem, go to plan then 3D parts could be used on the exterior of unmanned rockets with a couple of years.

“It is very hard now to think of anything that won’t be printable at some point in the future,” he said, given advances in technology and material science.

News outlets face revenue challenge
The trend to reading news on social media sites is affecting traditional brands, a new report finds.

News organisations need to become “more inventive” to arrest a decline in traditional revenue sources, an international survey has warned.

Researchers at Oxford University found that digital subscriptions and online advertising were failing to compensate for the collapse in newspaper sales.

Fully 75% of Britons said they would never consider paying for online news.

Respondents also expressed frustration with so-called “sponsored content” being disguised as news.

The fourth annual Reuters Institute’s Digital News Report, which is backed by Google, Ofcom and the BBC, surveyed the news consumption habits of almost 24,000 people across 12 countries, including the UK, US, Australia, Japan and Brazil.

Almost half of those questioned said they accessed news on a smartphone – a significant increase on last year’s study – but revealed they were loyal to just one or two news sources on the device.

Ad-block ‘epidemic’

Additionally, many consumers in the US and UK admitted to using ad-blocking software, eroding many media companies’ main source of online revenue.

Ad-blocking, which is installed by default on some browsers, is “reaching epidemic proportions”, according to Nic Newman, a research associate at the Reuters Institute.

Publishers were dealt a further blow recently when Apple announced that its latest mobile browser would also come with such a feature.

Chart showing social networks used to access news in 2014 and 2015

At the same time, revenue from display ads that do make it through to the reader has continued to fall, particularly for so-called “banner ads” that feature across the top or down the sides of a web page.

Selling ads on smartphones has proven even more challenging, due to the limited amount of screen space.

“The move to mobile is reducing the amount of money news companies can make,” says Mr Newman. “The advertising dollars haven’t moved across in sufficient amounts yet.”

“Unless you’ve got a massive brand or have a niche, its hard to get people to pay for news,” he adds.

Facebook on a tablet computer
Many people, especially younger generations, get a lot of their news from social media

Social climbers

The report also highlights how the huge increase in the use of social media sites as a “gateway” for news is affecting traditional brands.

The number of readers heading directly to specific news websites is falling, while in some countries up to 48% of people access news content via Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, WhatsApp and other services.

News organisations are also facing increased pressure from technology and social media companies to publish content directly on their platforms – with The New York Times, the BBC, National Geographic and others recently joining Facebook’s Instant Articles scheme.

However, there are some rays of sunshine for the news industry.

The consumption of online video is rapidly increasing – by as much as 10% in Spain – which is welcome news for companies. Video advertising fetches higher premiums – for the moment at least.

Chart showing the types of news content people consumed online in 2014 and 2015

The report also showed substantial growth in sponsored or “branded” content – essentially articles paid for by advertisers, but presented in a similar way to news stories.

About a third of respondents said they felt disappointed or deceived after realising they had read a sponsored article.

“Our research documents that most people like news and use news, but they don’t want to pay for it, don’t want to see advertising around it, and don’t want to see it mixed up with sponsored content,” says Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, the Reuters Institute’s director of research.

“This means sustainable business models remain elusive even for those who succeed in building an audience.”

How to have a life beyond work

“Work and life is the same thing for me,” says Jake Park – the founder of South Korean start-up firm VCNC.

Like many young entrepreneurs, his work has become all consuming and he doesn’t mind in the least, saying his company – which has created a mobile app to allow couples to create and remember special moments called Between – makes him happy.

“I’m happy when I work and, I’m really happy when I see the people who use my product. Making our users happy, makes me happy,” he says.

Jake Park
Jake Park says for him there’s no difference between work and life

But nurse Bronnie Ware – who spent years caring for people at the end of their lives – suggests it’s a different story once people get older.

Her book based on her experiences – The Top Five Regrets of the Dying – found one of the most common sources of sadness was “I wish I didn’t work so hard”, with men in particular “deeply regretting spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence”.

It’s a salutary tale for those dismissive of the work-life balance issue – a phrase so common that it’s practically become a cliche.

Research suggests that advances in technology giving employees the ability to check their work emails 24 hours a day have made it even harder for people to separate work and life.

Management consultancy Deloitte’s global survey of 2,500 business leaders found two thirds of employees were feeling “overwhelmed” with 80% wanting to work fewer hours.

‘Useless course’

Sir Martin Sorrell confesses he was initially sceptical of the issue. At business school, he dutifully drew three intersecting circles representing career, family and society to score top marks in an exam, but admits he thought it was a “useless course”.

Years on having built WPP, the advertising firm he founded, into a global giant, and having gone through a divorce he says he failed the real life version of that particular course, and knows “very few people” who have managed to achieve a genuine balance.

“The stresses and strains from each of those three vary over time. You know, sometimes family demands are greater, sometimes societal demands… are greater, sometimes your career demands are greater. But balancing those three I think is exceptionally important,” he says.

Walter Robb and John Mackey
Walter Robb (left) and John Mackey share the burden of the top

‘Workaholic culture’

Yet for those at the top, admitting they need a break can be perceived as a weakness,

John Mackey, co-founder and co-chief executive of supermarket chain Whole Foods says in the US a “workaholic” culture means people often boast about how long they work, seeing 80-hour weeks as a badge of honour.

He admits he himself has worked such long hours, but says it’s not sustainable in the long term.

In an effort to reduce the workload of being the boss, he divides the top role with co-chief executive Walter Robb, and they are part of a seven-strong executive team which all earn the same salary and share executive responsibilities.

“Walter and I may be the leaders of that group but we all are working together,” he says.

This approach continues throughout the firm, with individual stores having control over budgets and staff having the power to make decisions.

This structure, gives him time, to meditate, exercise and eat well, he says.

While it is easy to be sceptical about an approach that appears to have come straight from the 1960s hippie era, the results suggest it is effective. The firm most recently reported record sales for its second quarter and for the past 18 years in a row, it has been listed as one of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” in the US by Fortune magazine.

Allan Zeman
Allan Zeman does 90 minutes of exercise every morning without fail

Many of those at the top believe focusing on their health – in particular regular exercise – is the main thing that enables them to tolerate the pressure of being in charge.

The father of Allan Zeman, chairman of the Hong Kong-based Lan Kwai Fong Group, died of a heart attack when he was just 50.

Wanting to avoid the same fate, Mr Zeman says he is absolutely regimented about fitting 90 minutes of exercise into his diary every morning – even on one occasion keeping a US president waiting while he was doing his routine.

“Exercise helps to clear your body, helps to clear your mind. The more you abuse your body, the more stress you put on your body, it will hinder you from doing good business or being a good person. So I try to balance the things I do,” he says.

Helena Morrissey
Helena Morrissey says being in charge makes it easier to juggle her responsibilities

Being at the top can also make it easier to take time out for other things because bosses don’t normally need to ask for permission to take a break.

Helena Morrissey, chief executive of fund management firm Newton and the mother of nine children says being in charge makes it easier to juggle her different responsibilities.

“I want to encourage other women who might be looking and thinking how can I do all of that, to keep going until you get to that point where you do have a little bit more control,” she adds.

Tim Brown, chief executive of design firm IDEO, has done exactly this. He adopted the “10 day rule” practised by a company founder which meant never spending more than that period of time apart from his wife.

“Making sure that I don’t spend too long away has made a huge difference to our relationship and therefore a big difference to my life. So I think in terms of quality of life, that was probably the best piece of advice I ever got,” he says.

This feature is based on interviews by leadership expert Steve Tappin for the BBC’s CEO Guru series, produced by Neil Koenig.

Hollande sounds alarm on Greek exit
Alexis Tsipras
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has called on his country’s creditors to be more “realistic”

Greek shares have fallen sharply after the latest round of talks with EU officials in Brussels broke down without agreement on Sunday.

Athens’ benchmark ATG index, which fell 5.9% on Friday, was down 6.5% in early trading on Monday.

A European Commission spokesman said while progress was made at Sunday’s talks “significant gaps” remained.

Europe wants Greece to make spending cuts worth €2bn (£1.44bn), to secure a deal that will unlock bailout funds.

Greek bank stocks were hit hardest on Monday morning with Athens’ Stock Exchange FTSE Banks Index falling 12%.

National Bank of Greece fell 10.6% and Bank of Piraeus plunged 15%.

More widely shares across Europe were lower on heightened fears of a default and messy Greek exit from the eurozone in just over two weeks’ time.

Greece must repay more than €1.5bn of loans to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) at the end of the month and promise further economic reforms to receive around €7bn bailout funds, which have been delayed by three months amid growing fears the government has run out of money altogether.

Sticking points between Greece and the IMF and EU remain reforms to VAT, pensions and a primary budget surplus target for this year and next year.


Talks were reported to have broken up after just 45 minutes on Sunday.

Greek deputy prime minister Yannis Dragasakis said that Athens was still ready to negotiate with its lenders.

He said Greek government proposals submitted on Sunday had fully covered the fiscal deficit as demanded.

But on Monday Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras warned Athens would stand its ground until its creditors become “realistic”.

“We will wait patiently until the institutions become more realistic,” Mr Tsipras wrote in Greek national newspaper Ephimarida ton Syndakton adding that “political opportunism” was driving the creditors to keep pressing Athens to make cuts to pensions.

He called on the IMF and EU to “meditate” on the idea that: “We are not only the heirs of a long history of struggle. We are also carrying on our shoulders the dignity of a people, and the hope of the peoples of Europe.”


Meanwhile on Monday, the president of Germany’s central bank Jens Weidmann, warned Greece “time was running out” adding that it was now clearly up to the government in Athens to act.

IMF chief economist Olivier Blanchard said in a blog post that an agreement will require “difficult decisions”, with “tough choices and tough commitments to be made on both sides”.

Eurozone finance ministers will discuss Greece when they meet on Thursday. The gathering is regarded as Greece’s last chance to strike a deal.

The Commission spokesman said: “President [Jean-Claude] Juncker remains convinced that with stronger reform efforts on the Greek side and political will on all sides, a solution can still be found before the end of the month.”

In June Greece owes 6.74 billion euros
In July Greece owes 5.95 billion euros
In August Greece owes 4.38 billion euros

Greece in numbers


Greece’s debt mountain


European bailout

  • €56bn Greece owes Germany

  • 177% country’s debt-to-GDP ratio

  • 25% fall in GDP since 2010

  • 26% Greek unemployment rate

Source: ECB, IMF, Greek National Statistics Agency


How serious for us is the Greek tragedy?

Retailer Gap to close 175 stores
Gap shirts

The retailer Gap is to close 175 stores across North America over the next few years as it attempts to turn around the business.

A “limited number” of European shops would also close, the San-Francisco-based company said in a statement.

In addition, Gap will also cut about 250 jobs from its head office.

It has been struggling with falling sales as it competes with the likes of Europe’s H&M and Zara.

Like-for-like sales for the Gap brand fell by 15% in April, compared with a 3% rise in the same month last year.

Chief executive Art Peck said: “Returning Gap brand to growth has been the top priority since my appointment four months ago.”

“Customers are rapidly changing how they shop today, and these moves will help get Gap back to where we know it deserves to be in the eyes of consumers,” he added.

The store closures will mean a loss of sales worth about $300m, Gap said, with one-off costs expected to be between $140m to $160m.

It did not say how many employees would be laid off as a result.

Barclays Chair To Head City Lobbying Group

By Mark Kleinman, City Editor

The chairmen of Barclays and Prudential are to take the helm at one of the City’s most prominent lobbying groups as the financial services sector braces for a referendum on the UK’s European Union‎ (EU) membership.

Sky News has learnt that John McFarlane‎ is expected to be named on Tuesday as the next chairman of TheCityUK’s board, while Paul Manduca will take over as chairman of the group’s advisory council.

Mr McFarlane’s appointment will come just weeks after he took the same role at Barclays, and will entrench his status as one of the ‎key figures in British finance.

A former chairman of Aviva, the insurance company, he will replace Sir Gerry Grimstone as chair of TheCityUK’s board in September, a source said on Monday.

Mr Manduca, who has chaired the Pru for four years, will also replace Sir Gerry, who stepped in to chair the advisory council when Lord Green‎ resigned in February over the Swiss tax evasion affair at HSBC.

TheCityUK is set to play an important role in the debate over the UK’s  future in the EU amid warnings from asset managers and investment banks that ‘Brexit’ would damage London’s status as a global financial centre.

TheCityUK was set up five years ago from an amalgamation‎ of various trade bodies, and is regarded as having done an effective job despite the cacophony of banking and trading scandals which have damaged the reputation of many City-based institutions.

In its response to last month’s Queen’s Speech‎, TheCityUK said it ‎wanted a referendum to be “held without undue delay”.

“Our research has shown that there is strong support from businesses for the UK to remain in a reformed EU based on a broader and deeper Single Market,” it said.

The group has also been campaigning on issues such as Capital Markets Union in the EU, on the overhaul of senior managers’ accountability in the financial sector, and on taxation of the sector.

A spokeswoman for TheCityUK declined to comment.

China ‘deserves credit’ for renewables
solar panels
A solar power plant in Hami, in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.

China should be given more credit for its investment in clean electricity, the head of the International Energy Agency says.

Maria van der Hoeven says most people think that China is frantically building coal-fired power stations.

The reality, she says, is that China is spending as much as the US and Europe put together on clean power.

She says its coal-fired power stations are state of the art – and should be copied in other developing countries.

Maria van der Hoeven told BBC News: “People think about China in a way more representative of previous decades.

“They are now the largest wind power market in the world. They have increased their power generation from renewables from really nothing 10 years ago – and now it’s 25%. These are very important signals that China is moving into the right direction.”

Her organisation – the rich countries’ energy think-tank – says in 2014 that China spent more than $80bn in new renewables generating capacity; higher than the EU ($46bn); Japan ($37bn) and the USA ($34bn).

China’s commitment to renewables has benefited the rest of the world by creating a mass market that prompted a 70% reduction in the cost of solar panels in recent years.

Paris summit

The country is also building 50 new nuclear power stations and creating economies of scale in nuclear too, the IEA says, at a time when the industry is moribund in Europe.

Ms van der Hoeven’s comments come in the week that China is expected formally to declare its climate change pledge in preparation for the UN climate summit in Paris in December.

Last year the nation reported that its emissions had fallen by 1% as coal use slumped.

Power plant
A power plant near Hengshui in China’s Hebei province.

Ms van der Hoeven said China was still investing heavily in coal-fired power plants, but that the power stations were highly efficient and enabled old inefficient plants to be retired.

This was an example to some other developing nations that still used much less efficient technology, she added.

The IEA says if other nations can be persuaded to use better technology to improve performance by just a few percentage points, it would equal the entire carbon reductions effort from the EU.

But despite its admiration for China’s achievement, the IEA is still critical of what it says is the nation’s lack of transparency on data.

And it says that because of China’s vast size and its growing wealth, the country’s emissions are expected by 2030 to be two and a half times higher than the next bigger emitter, the US.

Follow Roger on Twitter @rharrabin

No bailout damages for ex-AIG boss
Hank Greenberg

A court has ruled that former AIG boss Hank Greenberg should get no damages in his case against the US government over the insurer’s 2008 bailout.

However, it did concede that the government overstepped its authority with “overly harsh” conditions imposed on an $85b loan to prevent AIG from collapse.

The government took an 80% stake in the company and 14% interest on the loan.

In total, AIG received nearly $185bn in aid during the financial crisis.

Mr Greenberg, through his company Starr International, had sought $50bn in damages on behalf of the company and its shareholders.

Starr was the largest shareholder in AIG at the time of the bailout, with a 12% stake.

‘Appropriately tough’

But Judge Thomas Wheeler awarded no damages because the alternative to the loan would have been bankruptcy.

“In the end, the Achilles’ heel of Starr’s case is that, if not for the government’s intervention, AIG would have filed for bankruptcy,” he said in the ruling.

”In a bankruptcy proceeding, AIG’s shareholders would most likely have lost 100% of their stock value.”

The US central bank, which worked with the US government on the bailout, said it strongly believed its actions “were legal, proper and effective”.

“The Federal Reserve’s extension of credit to AIG prevented losses to millions of policyholders, small businesses, and American workers who would have been harmed by AIG’s collapse,” it said.

The Fed added that the terms of the deal “were appropriately tough to protect taxpayers from the risks the rescue loan presented”.