Lucy Sherriff   |   August 6, 2015    4:39 PM ET

Earlier this week, President Obama revealed new climate change plans to cut US carbon emissions by 30% by 2030.

Over in the UK, David Cameron recently declared the 2015 Conservative government as the "greenest" ever - whilst simultaneously slashing solar power subsidies, cancelling plans to build onshore wind farms and canning requirements for new homes to be zero carbon.

After Ed Miliband said the urgency to address the climate change problem had gone out the window, perhaps it's time we stepped up our game?

Syria: Assad-Iran's Faustian Pact with ISIS

Nehad Ismail   |   August 6, 2015   10:19 AM ET

According to Zvi Bar'el the Israeli analyst writing in Haaretz 3rd June 2015 the "Assad regime forces abandoned the city of Palmyra and allowed ISIS to take it over unopposed, and it appears they may do the same in the southern province of Daraa, leaving ISIS to fight the other rebel groups on their behalf. Salim Idris, defense minister in the rebels' provisional government, said approximately 180 Syrian Army officers are currently serving with ISIS and coordinating the group's military operations with the army".

According to media reports in June 2014 the Assad regime had refrained from attacking ISIS bases. A Syrian government adviser told the New York Times' Anne Barnard this was indeed a deliberate policy designed to "tar" the broader opposition and "frame [the] choice" as either Assad or the extremists.
In a further twist that implicates the Assad regime in collusion with ISIS, on 6th February 2015 the US Embassy in Syria accused the regime of supporting ISIS advance on Syria's largest city, Aleppo. The Embassy tweeted:
"Reports indicate that the regime is making air-strikes in support of ISIL's advance on Aleppo, aiding extremists against Syrian population," said the post.
In a string of tweets, the U.S. embassy condemned Assad's actions, saying he "will never be an effective counterterrorism partner." Embassy operations have been suspended since 2012, but the Twitter account is still active.

In March 2014 the news media reported that the EU issued sanctions against "seven persons and six entities providing support to the Syrian regime as well as benefitting from it". They included George Haswani, a prominent Syrian businessman said to be in direct contact with Assad and accused of brokering oil deals between the regime and ISIS.
The sanctions against Haswani represent one of the first official positions taken by Western countries acknowledging the links between the terror group and the Syrian regime, a position long maintained by those in the region and beyond.

Philip Hammond UK Foreign Secretary announced at the time:
"We have also agreed to target individuals supplying oil to the regime, including George Haswani, a middleman buying oil from ISIL [Isis] on behalf of the regime. This listing gives yet another indication that Assad's 'war' on ISIL is a sham and that he supports them financially."

In January 2014 a report in the Daily Telegraph by Ruth Sherlock drew attention to the oil deals between ISIS and the Assad regime.
"The regime has "financed" the jihadists "by selling oil and gas from wells under their control to and through the regime".

The Iranian Link:
A question that puzzled Western observers what would Iran's motivation be to support a Sunni jihadist organizations like ISIS? In Syria, ISIS has forced the West to choose between the regime of Bashar al-Assad or a terrorist outfit. Given that choice, it was assumed that the West would back Assad, as did the Russians and the Chinese.
Cynically Iran is exploiting the Western fear of terrorism to make common cause with the West against ISIS.
But ample evidence exists to prove Iran's collusion with Al Qaeda. The US 9/11 Commission Report, had already established that Iran "facilitated the transit of Al-Qaeda members into and out of Afghanistan before 9/11, including future hijackers. Iran, according to the report, wished to conceal any past evidence of its cooperation with Sunni terrorists' association with Al-Qaeda," but these connections continued.

At ISIL's headquarters in rural western Aleppo in March 2014 opposition forces discovered official documents, passports and SIM cards issued by the Iranian authorities to fighters from Chechnya and Kazakhstan. Doesn't this suggest some kind of connection between ISIL leaders and Iranian intelligence, of which rank and file of ISIS are likely ignorant?
ISIS suddenly emerged in Syria, at a time when the collapse of Assad's regime seemed imminent. The emergence of ISIS saved the Syrian regime by threatening the world that an alternative terrorist regime would replace Assad's.
A report in the Economist magazine 21st June 14 explained how ISIS was less interested in toppling the Assad's regime than fighting other groups.

ISIS has been criticized for its attacks on civilians and rival opposition groups. It has rarely targeted the Assad's regime and not a single barrel bomb has been dropped by the regime on ISIS.
Iran actually has a lot to gain from keeping ISIS alive. As long as the group survives, Iran can claim that their allies in Syria and Iraq are preventing a jihadist takeover -- an argument that raises Tehran's prestige and ensures it a degree of international support for their allies in both countries. This argument has so far worked. The Guardian reported in Sept 2014 that "the Syrian government and its close allies in Moscow and Tehran warned Barack Obama that an offensive against Islamic State (Isis) within Syria would violate international law". The implication is obvious: leave ISIS alone.

Sophie Brown   |   August 5, 2015    8:24 PM ET

The woman who interrupted Obama's speech during an event honouring LGBT Pride Month has spoken out about the moment that propelled her into the global spotlight.

Jennicet Gutiérrez cut off the president mid-speech when she called for the release of all LGBTQ immigrants from detention.

Footage from the event quickly became a viral sensation after Obama responded "Listen, you're in my house," and asked Gutiérrez to either be quiet or leave.

jennicet gutiérrez

Gutiérrez, a transgender woman, is a passionate LGBTQ rights activist and the co-founder of Familia, a 'trans queer liberation movement'.

Tired of being dubbed as a 'heckler' while the cameras showed Obama's witty retorts to her interjection, she spoke to about her experience in the White House.

"I was thinking to myself, what would have happened if they had joined me, if only 10 people joined me imagine the impact that would have," Gutiérrez said.

"When people called me a heckler, I felt somewhat disempowered. It attacks your character, your credibility, but most importantly your message. And it's a message that has to be heard because we can not tolerate any social injustices for the undocumented trans women in detention centres who are being abused and harassed and mistreated."

She went on to express her disappointment at the reaction of the crowd made up largely of prominent LGBTQ influencers.

Just days after Gutiérrez spoke out during Obama's speech, immigration officials announced that transgender immigrants would be housed in detention facilities that corresponded with their gender identity.

Sophie Brown   |   August 5, 2015    3:47 PM ET

The woman who interrupted Obama's speech during an event honouring LGBT Pride Month has spoken out about the moment that propelled her into the global spotlight.

Jennicet Gutiérrez cut off the president mid-speech when she called for the release of all LGBTQ immigrants from detention.

Footage from the event quickly became a viral sensation after Obama responded "Listen, you're in my house," and asked Gutiérrez to either be quiet or leave.

jennicet gutiérrez

Gutiérrez, a transgender woman, is a passionate LGBTQ rights activist and the co-founder of Familia, a 'trans queer liberation movement'.

Tired of being dubbed as a 'heckler' while the cameras showed Obama's witty retorts to her interjection, she spoke to about her experience in the White House.

"I was thinking to myself, what would have happened if they had joined me, if only 10 people joined me imagine the impact that would have," Gutiérrez said.

"When people called me a heckler, I felt somewhat disempowered. It attacks your character, your credibility, but most importantly your message. And it's a message that has to be heard because we can not tolerate any social injustices for the undocumented trans women in detention centres who are being abused and harassed and mistreated."

She went on to express her disappointment at the reaction of the crowd made up largely of prominent LGBTQ influencers.

Just days after Gutiérrez spoke out during Obama's speech, immigration officials announced that transgender immigrants would be housed in detention facilities that corresponded with their gender identity.

Ryan Barrell   |   August 4, 2015    9:06 AM ET

Jimmy Fallon's latest political sketch is a doozy, featuring himself as weird-haired real estate mogul Donald Trump.

Barack Obama noticed presidential novice Donald Trump was having some trouble dealing with the media, politics, and people in general, so he decided to give him a call and hand down some wisdom.

Sadly, while Obama was telling Trump he needed to listen more and stop making up statistics, Trump trailed off into a rant full of pointless numbers. That just made the whole thing segue into jokes about Governor Chris Christie and an autotune contest.

That was one very weird phone call.


Paul Vale   |   August 3, 2015    7:45 PM ET

President Barack Obama revealed the final version of his clean power plan to dramatically cut emissions from US power plants on Monday, calling it a moral obligation.

Speaking at the White House, Obama said the unprecedented carbon dioxide limits are the "the single most important step" America has ever taken to fight climate change, while warning that the problem was so large hat the world must get it right quickly or it may become impossible to reverse.

"There is such a thing as being too late when it comes to climate change," Obama said. The final version of Obama's plan imposes stricter carbon dioxide limits on states than was previously expected: a 32 percent cut by 2030, compared with 2005 levels, the White House said. Obama's proposed version last year called only for a 30 percent cut.


US President Barack Obama delivers remarks at a Clean Power Plan event at the White House in Washington, DC, August 3, 2015

It also gives states an additional two years — until 2022 — to comply, yielding to complaints that the original deadline was too soon. States will also have an additional year to submit their implementation plans to Washington.

Obama was joined in the East Room by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy and by parents of asthma patients. The Obama administration has sought to draw a connection between climate change and increased respiratory illness in vulnerable populations. "This is an especially wicked-cool moment," said McCarthy, wielding a colloquialism from her hometown of Boston.

The pollution controls form the core of Obama's ambitious and controversial plan to drastically reduce overall US emissions, as he works to secure a legacy on fighting global warming. Yet it will be up to Obama's successor to implement his plan, which has attracted strong opposition from the field of Republican presidential candidates.

Opponents announced immediately that they will sue the government, and will ask the courts to put the rule on hold while their legal challenges play out. Many Republican governors have said their states simply won't comply.

The Obama administration estimated the emissions limits will cost $8.4 billion (£5.3 billion) annually by 2030. The actual price won't be clear until states decide how they'll reach their targets. But energy industry advocates said the revision makes Obama's mandate even more burdensome, costly and difficult to achieve.

The move by the White House came on the same day that a study conducted by the World Glacier Monitoring Service revealed the world's glaciers have melted to the lowest levels since record-keeping began more than 120 years ago.

Commenting on President Obama’s clean energy plan, Friends of the Earth’s chief executive Craig Bennett called the initiative "politically significant," but said it falls "way short of what scientists say is required to tackle catastrophic climate change."

“In the face of huge US vested interests that oppose any measures on climate change, the President’s plan at least pushes the issue up the agenda," he said in a statement.

"But these measures are just a drop in the ocean, when a sea change in energy policy is what’s desperately required. It would have been more significant if the President said no to drilling in the Arctic, and stopped his support for new fossil fuels such as fracking and tar sands,” Bennett added.

Amid the praise for the proposal, presidential candidate Mike Huckabee decried the plan, claiming it was an attack on the American energy industry.

Last week, Hillary Clinton revealed her climate change policy should be become the next president. Her plan is to install a half-billion solar panels by the end of her first term and to run every home in America on renewable energy a decade after her inauguration.

No-one Can Do It Alone: Open Collaboration to Power the Next Generation of African Ventures

Beatrice Pembroke   |   July 31, 2015   12:48 AM ET

President Obama's trip to Kenya this week kicked off at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, where he joined leading figures from across the continent to highlight how important entrepreneurship will be in 'keeping Africa on the move'. In the next five years, 122 million young Africans will enter the employment market. Tens of millions are currently unemployed or underemployed. New ways are needed to generate jobs.

At the British Council, we want to make a contribution to creating an entrepreneurship of the future; one which is sustainable, inventive and equitable. Locally driven and globally relevant. That sort of entrepreneurship should be assisted by a variety of different agencies working together to support hubs of innovation; cross-disciplinary, collaborative, creative spaces which connect resourceful people with local experience, digital tools and investment to power the next generation of African ventures.

The challenge - blocks to ambition

There's no shortage of ambition in Sub-Saharan Africa. The region has the highest percentage (60%) of 18-34 year olds who believe they could create a business out of local opportunities.

Turning that ambition into practice, however, can be more difficult.

A new report from the Tony Elumelu Foundation showed that 60% of the 2000 respondents surveyed thought that starting a business was very difficult. Moreover, 65% said they required additional skills to be successful - both for themselves and their employees.

Money remains an issue. Nearly 90% of respondents named getting start-up capital as one of their most significant challenges. Links to professional networks, corruption, ineffectual intellectual property rights and an over-regulated ICT sector were also identified as blocks to business.

Existing physical infrastructure is also a problem. Millions of people in Sub-Saharan Africa live without electricity and many more experience rolling electricity blackouts. Consequently, more than 50% of Sub-Saharan businesses identify unreliable electricity as a major constraint.

Rule breaking and a culture of collaboration

Challenges abound, then, for African entrepreneurs. But, as Brian Bergstein at MIT said recently: "very big problems often get solved with collaborations from many disciplines and a willingness to break some rules."

The rule breaking could begin by fostering skills that are relevant to the 21st century, like communication, creativity, critical thinking and collaboration, as well as how to harness emerging technology in imaginative ways. Conventional educational systems, focussed on theoretical skills, may not be the best way to prepare people to create innovative new enterprises.

Collaboration has in many ways become easier with new technology. The Internet has driven openness, transparency and rapid prototyping. Crowdfunding means that ideas can now be more easily implemented and social networks facilitate global collaboration and open innovation.

Rapid change and openness is not limited to life on the Internet. A number of innovation hubs based on open source principles are emerging across the world. This approach is also not confined to startups, as traditional companies and institutions now have the chance to reinvent themselves, their research and development to be ready for the 21st century.

A global hub for new ideas

Africa is already home to some world-leading and ingenious enterprises. The boom in mobile phone usage, innovative consumer finance techniques such as M-Pesa, creative business models and breakthroughs with energy supplies (like increased battery capacity and the declining cost of solar power) has set the scene for innovative businesses.

These are not just important locally. They also have global relevance, as examples of sustainable businesses that use technology for social change. Not just tech entrepreneurship, but tech for good.

Take Off Grid Electric in Tanzania. They combine basic battery technology with photovoltaic energy. For 65 cents a day, they offer 2-5 LED lights, a cell-phone charger, and a radio. In the last year, they've doubled their number of users and they aim to light a million homes by 2018.

Or look at Recell Ghana, which reduces e-waste and creates employment opportunities through phone and tablet recycling. They work on product sustainability with Fairphone, the Amsterdam-based social enterprise which designs and produces smartphones which cause minimal harm to people and the planet.

Another example of an enterprise which could be replicated elsewhere is found in rural Mpumalanga in South Africa. The community-based newspaper Ziwaphi monitors water quality in the rivers by using old smartphones submerged in plastic bottles. The inbuilt cameras in the phones take regular flash-lit pictures. These are then magnified and compared to an existing database which detects dangerous levels of E.coli. Ziwaphi's readers are sent this information via SMS, which lets them know which rivers to collect water from, and which ones to avoid. Once a month, Ziwaphi also publishes an in-depth story about the results.

The creative sector and economic growth

These examples of ventures which combine creativity, design thinking and technological skill are great, but more are needed. Technological progress is nothing without locally relevant, compelling content; designed with the user in mind and the power of imagination. It was heartening to see the value of the creative sector was emphasised by the special session at Obama's Global Entrepreneurship summit about the Creative Economy. A 2013 UN report identified the creative economy as one of the fastest growing in the world. Despite the global financial crisis of 2008, the sector has doubled in the last decade. As millions more go online, global trade and domestic demand for creative goods and services is set to increase.

Value beyond numbers

The creative and cultural industries don't just contribute to export earnings and job creation. Storytelling allows us to develop our identities - on a personal, community and national level. By expressing ourselves, we have the power to self-define and relate to each other. All of which is increasingly important on our globalised stage.

Cultural understanding and a critical space for reflection is also crucial to consider the ethicacy of new technology and its purpose. We don't want to live in a technocracy where we just engineer whatever is possible when we can think about how we shape our world and why.

The creative sector in Africa

Despite a seeming international increase in recognition of African creativity, however, from the popularity of Nollywood to Graphic Africa at London Design Festival, recent research shows that Africa's share of the global creative economy is less than 1%. Statistics in some African countries show a dramatic increase in foreign cultural products being imported, without significant increase in cultural exports.

Sharing skills and spaces for the creative sector

Part of what's needed to shift that balance is putting creative people in touch with each other and giving them the skills and resources to promote their work. The British Council, together with local partners and international agencies, has delivered and supported several programmes that encourage enterprise and digital confidence in the creative and cultural sector.

Working with UK innovation charity Nesta, the British Council has translated Nesta's Creative Enterprise toolkit into several languages, including local case studies and trainers. The project has successfully built hundreds of new ventures, by offering aspiring creative entrepreneurs a four-day workshop on how to develop, test and turn their creative ideas into sustainable practice. The participants not only gain practical skills like branding, financing and digital but also a shift in mindset; the confidence to share with a strong peer network.

We seek to foster this spirit of open collaboration with all our programmes. CultureShift, part of ongoing programmes in Lagos, Cairo, Johannesburg, Nairobi and Harare, is a hackday that brings together artists, designers and technologists with business knowhow to imagine new solutions and products that can respond to local challenges.

The Makerlibrary Network is an international platform connecting designers and makers through networked spaces where they can exchange ideas, swap skills and share resources as well as prototype with new design and digital tools.

In September, we launch another Innovation ZA month of public events and activities in Johannesburg alongside Fak' ugesi: Digital Africa Festival with market hacks, digital residencies and skills workshops. Later this year, we will welcome the Playable City to Lagos, developing imaginative interventions with local partners that re-think public spaces and smart city technology.

Innovation hubs: homes for new ventures and social change

Fostering the right environment for collaboration is key. There are now more than 90 tech hubs across Africa, according to the World Bank. There's also a growing number of other innovation spaces like makerspaces, accelerators, clusters and incubators. Places where inventive people from different backgrounds can find unlikely allies, inspiration, resources and investment. Where they can test new business models and prototype with the latest design and digital tools. Hub convenors and their members are driving local economic growth; they make the connections between creative, social, technological and entrepreneurial possible.

The British Council is proud to be working with several of these organisations, such as CcHub, SwahiliBox, Pawa254 to run programmes. We are also mapping and connecting them through Open Movement, a new global platform. 85% of global growth comes from small start-ups and the number of freelancers is ever increasing; hubs provide a home to what can be an otherwise isolating and lonely existence. Increasingly, makerspaces and innovation hubs are seeking to promote women and marginalised communities, encouraging social inclusion.

That's why Obama's Global Entrepreneurship Summit was right to give attention to innovation hubs, organisations which are sometimes undervalued or at least poorly understood. Despite their potential value, many of them have problems with financial sustainability and access, which networks like Afrilabs seek to address.

Working together for global learning

This work cannot be done by any one organisation alone. In September, the British Council will be working with Indigo Trust and Hivos to gather a small number of agencies, both public and private, who are interested in supporting African innovation hubs. As international and local development agencies, cultural organisations and private enterprise we also need to join up - to understand that collectively we can pool our resources and learning for more effective global development.

Together we know more - 'no one can do it alone'.

Beatrice Pembroke is Director of Creative Economy at British Council, which supports international collaborations, innovation and enterprise with the creative and cultural industries. She is also co-founder of

Paul Vale   |   July 27, 2015    3:13 AM ET

There has been some legitimate criticism of the Iran nuclear deal by American conservatives. On Sunday, Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee instead opted for hyperbole, invoking the holocaust to bemoan the agreement and attack President Obama.


Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee speaks at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, Saturday, July 18, 2015

“This president’s foreign policy is the most feckless in American history,” puffed the former Arkansas governor in an interview with Breitbart News. “It is so naive that he would trust the Iranians. By doing so, he will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven."

Huckabee has promised to rescind the deal on his first day as president in the unlikely scenario he’s handed the keys to the White House. "This is the most idiotic thing, this Iran deal,” he continued. “It should be rejected by both Democrats and Republicans in Congress and by the American people. I read the whole deal. We gave away the whole store. It’s got to be stopped."

Huckabee is currently third in Republican polling ahead of the first primary TV debate in early August. Donald Trump has been hoarding the headlines with a raft of nativist and populist rhetoric. By raising the spectre of the final solution, Huckabee may well have given himself a bit more skin in the game.


Sarah Ann Harris   |   July 25, 2015    3:02 PM ET

Barack Obama called for equal treatment of gay and lesbian people under the law on his first visit to Kenya since becoming president.

When asked about gay rights during a joint press conference with Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, Obama said that he was "painfully aware of the history when people are treated differently under the law".

He said: "That's the path whereby freedoms begin to erode and bad things happen.

"When a government gets in the habit of treating people differently, those habits can spread."

He had been warned not to bring up the issue on his visit.


Crowds gather to catch a glimpse of Obama

Gay sex is a crime in Kenya, punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

Kenyatta said that there were some things that cultures simply did not agree on, adding that gay rights "is not really an issue on the foremost mind of Kenyans. And that is a fact."

Obama heralded Africa as a continent "on the move" Saturday as he opened a U.S.-sponsored business summit in Kenya, the East African nation where he has deep family ties.

"Africa is one of the fastest growing regions of the world," Obama said. "People are being lifted out of poverty."

Obama's visit to Kenya - the first by a sitting U.S. president - has been highly anticipated in a nation that views him as a local son. The US president's late father was born in Kenya and many family members still live here, including his elderly step-grandmother.

"This is personal for me," Obama said. "There's a reason why my name is Barack Hussein Obama."


Barack Obama arrives in Kenya

Much of the president's visit is focused on boosting business and security ties with Kenya, a growing economy grappling with the threat of terrorism, most notably from the Somalia-based al-Shabab network. Nearly two dozen U.S. lawmakers and 200 American investors have joined Obama on his trip, which also includes a stop in Ethiopia.

At the Global Entrepreneurship Summit on Saturday, Obama announced more than $1 billion in new commitments from the U.S. government, as well as American banks, foundations and philanthropists. Half of the money will go to support women and young people, who Obama says face bigger obstacles when trying to start businesses.

"If half of your team is not playing, you've got a problem," Obama said, referring to women excluded from the formal economy.

Obama hosted the inaugural entrepreneurship summit at the White House in 2010. This year's conference is the first to be held in sub-Saharan Africa.


President Kenyatta, who co-hosted the summit with Obama, lamented that the continent's security and other challenges, including the 2013 attack on an upscale Nairobi mall, had created a negative reputation. He said he hoped Obama's visit would help change the narrative about Kenya and Africa.

"Africa is the world's newest and most promising frontier of limitless opportunity," Kenyatta said. "Gone are the days when the only lens to view our continent was one of despair and indignity."

At the two leaders sat down for a formal meeting at Kenya's State House later on Saturday, Obama emphasised the need for timetables and concrete plans to make progress for the region. He said the U.S. wants to partner with Africa "not out of charity, but because we see opportunity."

"What happens in Africa is going to affect the world," Obama said.

While in Nairobi, Obama toured an innovation fair highlighting the work of vendors working with his Power Africa initiative, which aims to double sub-Saharan access to electricity. As he perused solar panels and posed for photos, Obama acknowledged concerns that the program's progress has been slow, but said it would soon help millions and that building power plants takes time even in the U.S.


Obama speaks with Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta

Obama also placed a wreath at the site of the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. The president bowed his head for a moment, then studied the names of the victims etched into a brick wall.

Extremists simultaneously attacked the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on Aug. 7, 1998. The Kenya attack killed more than 200 Kenyans and 12 Americans at the embassy. Thousands were injured.

Obama arrived in Kenya late Friday and spent the night reuniting with his father's family. Security was tight in the Kenyan capital, with some of the city's normally bustling streets closed to traffic and pedestrians during his visit.

There was palpable excitement in Nairobi for Obama's long-awaited visit. U.S. and Kenyan flags lined the main road from the airport and billboards bearing Obama's picture dotted the city. Local newspapers marvelled at the massive U.S. Secret Service contingent that accompanies Obama whenever he travels overseas.

Warm Words Won't Beat Climate Change - But a New Global Finance Deal Still Could

David Nussbaum   |   July 24, 2015    2:55 PM ET

Visiting Kenya last weekend, Barack Obama stirred hearts and minds with his words on the country's potential to become a development success story. Gracing a summit on African entrepreneurship, the President rightly celebrates the efforts of the inspirational men and women working to bring prosperity to the country and the wider continent.

Kenya is one of WWF-UK's focus countries, where we support work to protect and restore nature as the basis for peoples' livelihoods and well-being. We know very well that Kenya, and developing countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America, need far more than warm words - they need predictable and reliable funding for their efforts to lift their people out of extreme poverty.

These efforts are threatened by challenges often not of their making. Climate change and its impacts - increasingly being felt today across the world - is one such challenge. The World Bank has repeatedly warned of the threat that climate change poses to poverty eradication. Conversely, the New Climate Economy panel has highlighted the opportunities that the low-carbon transition offers developing countries to end extreme poverty and achieve broadly-based prosperity, while protecting the climate.

Obama's visit to Kenya comes at a critical juncture. It closely follows the UN's Financing for Development conference in Addis Ababa, comes ahead of a UN summit in New York in September to agree the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, and in the run-up to COP21 climate change talks in Paris in December.

As WWF has been pointing out for some time, sustainable development and climate change are inextricably linked and need an integrated approach. Our latest report Twin Tracks, jointly produced with CARE International, clearly shows the substantial synergies between the UN negotiations currently underway on post-2015 development and UNFCCC. It highlights opportunities for mutual support towards sustainable outcomes on climate change mitigation and adaptation, sustainable energy and agriculture.

Coinciding with Obama's visit, Kenya has published its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) as part of the UN climate process on the run-up to Paris. This outlines how Kenya will look to achieve a 30 percent cut in green house gas emissions than would otherwise be emitted over ten years from 2020, off the back of a deal in Paris. Combining steps to both reduce emissions and address the impact of unavoidable rises in temperature, a range of measures - from the expansion of renewable energy to ensuring at least 10 percent of the country is covered by trees - will be used to achieve the reductions.

Developing countries, including Kenya, justly argue that they need support from the international community, and especially from those countries with historic responsibility for past CO2 emissions, to respond to climate change. Even today, Kenya's carbon dioxide emissions per head of population are just one sixth of the global average.

They rightly stress that the international community has pledged to provide this support: at the 2009 Copenhagen climate talks, the rich world committed to provide at least $100 billion a year in climate finance by 2020.

They stand a long way from meeting this commitment. Less than $20 billion a year in public finance is flowing to developing countries to help them take action on climate change. The vast majority of these funds are dedicated to mitigating emissions, rather than also helping them adapt to a warming world. This needs to change and money to follow commitments.

Looking ahead, the issue of finance is unsurprisingly central in securing agreement in Paris: there will be no new climate treaty if those countries most impacted, and with the least means to adapt to its effects, are left behind. A deal will also rely on agreement on sharing the technologies necessary for low-carbon development.

These issues are not new; resolve is what is lacking, as we can see from the agreement struck at the Financing for Development summit. Addis Ababa resulted in fewer concrete commitments than many would have liked. This includes little progress towards meeting the long-standing official development assistance target.

The agreement is nonetheless a significant step towards financing the sustainable development agenda. It brings together national governments, business, philanthropy and development partners, and aims to bolster traditional aid with other funding streams. It is also critical in bridging the finance shortfall otherwise faced which creates an opening within the Paris agreement for bolder ambition on climate finance - ambition that would inject much-needed trust into the climate talks.

Without doubt, momentum within and without the UN climate process is building. Bilateral climate agreements between the US and, respectively, China and Brazil, have, ahead of the Paris talks, helped address long-standing rifts between the industrialised world and major developing countries. The Pope's recent encyclical on climate change has added even more moral weight to the scales. Investors are voting against fossil fuels with their asset allocations and $310 billion investment in clean energy in 2014 alone. This progress and growing momentum will continue apace, regardless of what happens in Paris.

But the UN climate process remains the primary means to ensure equity in a world of international, globalised markets. Obama's visit to Kenya will give him first-hand insights into the challenges that Kenya and other developing countries face as they seek a more sustainable path to security, growth and prosperity in the face of growing climate impacts. This should certainly serve as a reminder of the need for him and his peers - including the United Kingdom - to honour their promises on climate finance. They too will be left behind if they fail.

Jack Sommers   |   July 24, 2015    2:04 PM ET

A gunman killed himself and two others in a packed Louisiana cinema just hours after Barack Obama said the failure to restrict gun ownership was his biggest disappointment as president.

The man stood up about 20 minutes into the showing of 'Trainwreck' and began firing into the crowd, killing two and injuring at least seven others on Thursday night before fatally shooting himself.

"We heard a loud pop we thought was a firecracker," witness Katie Domingue told The Louisiana Advertiser.


Bystanders look on as emergency personnel respond to the scene of the deadly shooting at the Grand Theatre late on Thursday night

"He wasn't saying anything. I didn't hear anybody screaming either," said Domingue, who added that she heard about six shots before she and her fiance ran to the nearest exit, leaving behind her shoes and purse.

Obama had just told the BBC that trying to pass "common sense" gun ownership laws was what had left him "most frustrated" in his presidency.

He told the BBC: "If you look at the number of Americans killed since 9/11 by terrorism, it's less than 100. If you look at the number that have been killed by gun violence, it's in the tens of thousands,

Police said the shooter as a 58-year-old "lone white male" with a "criminal history" but did not disclose his name. They evacuated the entire theatre complex and conducted a sweep inside the building.

Investigators found suspicious items inside the shooter's car and set off explosions in the vehicle.

Stories of heroism immediately began to emerge with Bobby Jindal, the state's governor and presidential hopeful, telling reporters that a teacher who was in the theatre jumped in front of a second teacher, saving her life.

The second teacher then managed to pull a fire alarm to alert other moviegoers, he said.

"Her friend literally jumped over her and, by her account, actually saved her life," Jindal said.


Federal investigators outside the cinema

Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft said at a news conference that police know who the gunman is, and that he had a "criminal history," but they are not immediately releasing his name.

Edmonson said the body of the shooter and "at least one other person" were still inside the theater. He said there were about 100 people inside the theater at the time of the shooting.

Edmunson added that police believe the gunman fired shots only at the theater and had not waged an attack anywhere else beforehand. However, authorities said they were not releasing his name immediately in part so police could safely track down and interview friends or family who knew the shooter.

"We have no reason to believe that this individual acted beyond this location here," Edmonson said.

He said police saw something suspicious inside the shooter's car and that a bomb-sniffing dog "hit on three different locations" in the vehicle, "so out of an abundance of caution we brought in the bomb squad."

One of the stars of "Trainwreck," Amy Schumer tweeted:

Jindal called the shooting "an awful night for Louisiana."

"What we can do now is we can pray," he said. "We can hug these families. We can shower them with love, thoughts and prayers."

Lafayette is about 60 miles west of the state capital of Baton Rouge. Outside the movie theater complex hours after the shooting, a couple of dozen police cars were still at the scene, which authorities had cordoned off with police tape as onlookers took photos with their cellphones.

Landry Gbery, 26, of Lafayette, was watching a different movie, 'Self/less' at the time of the shooting when the lights came up and a voice over the intercom told everyone there was an emergency and that they needed to leave.

Gbery said he never heard gunshots, and assumed the emergency was a fire until he got outside and saw a woman lying on the ground.

"I was really anxious for everybody at that point," Gbery said. "Fortunately I was lucky. I took the right exit."


Bobby Jindal speaks to reporters at the scene

Tanya Clark was at the concession stand in the lobby when she saw people screaming and running past her. She said she immediately grabbed her 5-year-old daughter and ran.

"In that moment, you don't think about anything," Clark, 36, told The New York Times. "That's when you realise that your wallet and phone are not important."

Clark's son Robert Martinez said he saw an older woman run past with blood streaming down her leg, and screaming that someone had shot her.

The Louisiana shooting occurred three years after James Holmes entered a crowded movie theater in suburban Denver and opened fire during the premier of a Batman film, killing 12 people and injuring 70 others.

The shooting took place a week after the man who shot and killed 12 people at a theater in Aurora, Colorado, was convicted and on the very day a jury said his attack was cruel enough to consider sentencing him to death.

A jury last week quickly convicted Holmes on 165 counts of murder, attempted murder and other charges, rejecting defense arguments that he was insane and suffering delusions that drove him to the July 20, 2012, attack.

Prosecutors said Holmes planned and carried out the massacre to assuage the pain of his failures in graduate school and in romance. Defense lawyers said schizophrenia had been growing inside Holmes' mind for years and eventually overwhelmed him, creating a delusion that he could improve his self-worth by killing others and absorbing their value.

Paul Waugh   |   July 24, 2015    8:08 AM ET

The five things you need to know on Friday July 24, 2015...

obama cameron


Barack Obama is getting more and more bold in his second term. And after several similar hints and winks at the G7 this year, his BBC interview again makes crystal clear his worries about Brexit.

“The European Union… is part of the cornerstone of the institutions built after World War Two that has made the world safer and more prosperous and we want to make sure the United Kingdom continues to have that influence,” he said. Previously he had said he was ‘looking forward’ the UK staying in the EU. Now the US ‘want to make sure’ it does, which suggests a lot more pressure to come next year, Obama’s last in office. (Note too Obama’s line that there had been an ‘honest conversation’ between the pair of them on the 2% defence target)

Dan Hannan and UKIP’s Patrick O’Flynn were quick to Tweet their dismay at such foreign interference. Curiously, a new intake backbencher Tom Pursglove, has been put up to put the Tory view. He said the issue of EU membership was "a matter for the British people". "It isn't for anybody else to tell the British people what they are going to do”.

Just as interesting is the Indy story that a group of former UKIP businessmen are to launch a £20m campaign to persuade the public to vote to leave the European Union in the referendum. The ‘’ campaign is already causing worries among some Tories that it could split the No camp.


The race to ‘stop’ Jeremy Corbyn hots up. It’s not always an accurate guide to party support, but the battle for Constituency Labour Party nominations is fierce and as of this morning it stood at Corbyn 91, Burnham 83, Cooper 79, Kendall 14. The Cooper camp were delighted at winning a surge of 14 CLPs last night.

The Burnham camp point to a new Standard/MORI poll showing their man as the public’s (not just the party’s) choice as best Prime Minister among the leadership rivals. He’s ahead of the others, but the 27% figure ain’t that high, the Tories will point out. Still, he’s the only Labour candidate without a net negative rating among the public.

Charlie Falconer, a surprise Blairite backer of Burnham, tells the Times his man can beat Corbyn in a way Kendall and Cooper can’t. It’s a measure of Labour’s challenge that he focused on beating Corbyn not Boris. But Kendall herself is furious with Falconer's suggestion that only Burnham is upto the job (and with that Times headline that 'Women In Leadership Race Not Upto Challenge'. "It is depressing to see a senior man in the party dismiss the contribution of women so easily," she said just now.

Kendall adds: "For Charlie to say that women somehow aren't tough enough to lead the Labour Party is a gross insult and, as for standing up to Jeremy Corbyn, I'm the only candidate who has been saying he would be a disaster for our party and that I wouldn't serve in his shadow cabinet, unlike the candidate Charlie is supporting." Ouch.

And one Cooper-supporting MP just sent a text on Falconer's column: "Surely the issue with Andy is not so much the depth of his convictions but how often they change. Little doubt he feels deeply about things...before he changes his mind on them." Double ouch.

The infighting continues. Alan Milburn says Labour would have a ‘death wish’ if it opted for Corbyn. David Miliband told Sky Labour needs ‘new ideas, not old ones’. John Mann tells the Sun that Corbyn ‘did nothing’ to investigate child abuse scandals in Islington in the 1980s. Mann was swiftly labelled a ‘scumbag’ by Corbynites. Corbyn says in the Mail the slight on him is a 'new low'.

New Labour was often ridiculed as SDP Mk II. But could we get a close encounter of the third kind if Corbyn wins the Labour leadership, with mainstream MPs and activists splitting off? Tony Blair was swift to dismiss that this week and vowed to stay and fight. The Guardian splashes on an interview with Labour donor John Mills (who seems to get far too much attention simply because of his donor status) in which he says ‘You would have an SDP-type party’. Ken Livingstone just told BBC News Blair was 'very lucky' to win three elections because the Tories were 'having a psychiatric breakdown'.

The final official Labour organised hustings is this weekend folks and I'm in the chair in Warrington tomorrow. Let's hope they all seize their chance to make it interesting...


Amber Rudd is proving herself the most subsidy-allergic of Energy and Climate Change Secretaries since the post was created under New Labour. And today Rudd has a speech whose prebrief has already got environmentalists up in arms. She will say in effect that the Left and its ‘loudest voices’ cannot be allowed to ‘dictate’ solutions to climate change. The key passage is this: "So I can understand the suspicion of those who see climate action as some sort of cover for anti-growth, anti-capitalist, proto-socialism.”

To Labour and the groups she was attacking, that sounded very much like a sop to climate change-denying Tory backbenchers and peers like Lord Lawson. Caroline Flint says Rudd’s words are ‘unbelievable’ and proof that the Conservatives are tearing up the cross party consensus on the issue.

The PM himself risked ridicule yesterday when he did a clip repeating his claim that his was ‘the greenest government ever’. This came on the same day as Whitehall axeing the Green Deal for home insulation, and in the same week as Rudd slashing solar and wind subsidies. Add in fracking, a lifting of a pesticide ban and other moves and you can see why campaigners say the PM really doesn’t have time for ‘green crap’.

Still, Rudd sounds like she’s trying to make a case for market-led solutions in a way that the ineffective ‘mate of Dave’ Greg Barker (one of just six who backed Cam in 2005) failed to do. As a mate of George, Rudd certainly has the clout to fend off barbs from her critics. And I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that she and the PM will try to pull off a surprise at the Paris climate talks this year, seizing on Obama’s desire for a legacy and Chinese geopower play.


Watch these Jedi chipmunks fight it out with light sabres in a recreation of Obi Wan v Anakin.


The Indy has a nice follow-up to the revelation that secret Cabinet papers revealed officials decided not to do anything about allegations that a senior MP had ‘a penchant for boys’. The paper reports that ‘catalogued and unregistered’ papers - known as the Civil Service ‘black book’- contain the private records of Cabinet Secretaries from the 1950s until 2007.

Many of the memos were ‘too hot to handle’ and kept away even from ministers, an expert told the Indy. The papers should have been handed over the National Archive years ago and are only now being trawled through. A team of officials has been given until 2020 to go through them all to work out what can be published. As well as details on the Profumo affair there are also confidential assessments of other MPs and ministers’ private lives.

Meanwhile Lord Armstrong, the former Cab Sec who was warned by MI5’s Anthony Duff about the possible paedophilia of a senior MP, has denied any cover up. He tells the Daily Mail: ‘I thought MI5’s actions were correct at the time. I think they were right to report the rumour.. I don’t think this is a matter of important people being protected. You can’t pursue inquiries unless you have evidence on which you can base the enquiry. A shadow of a rumour is not enough.’ Lord Armstrong said he knew the identity of the MP in question but refused to name him, saying: ‘I think he was interviewed but he denied it’. Armstrong, older readers will remember, became famous for his phrase ‘economical with the truth’...


The Sun has a scoop that David Cameron and George Osborne were both undercharged for tax to the tune of about £2,000. The sum is what they should have been paying as tax for a benefit in kind for living in ‘grace and favour’ accommodation in Downing Street. Instead of calculating the impact on their entire MP and ministerial pay, officials only assessed the latter. Treasury bosses were forced to admit the error to HMRC.

A Treasury spokesman admits the benefit in kind of living in No10 and No11 was ‘misreported’ in annual accounts for 2014.

Acting Shadow Chancellor Chris Leslie says: “If the Treasury cannot get the Prime Minister and Chancellor’s own houses in order literally, how will they close the widening tax gap?”


The FT says the Treasury ‘direction of travel’ is to get broadband firms to pay a £500m levy to foot the bill for the final rollout of internet connections to all Britions by 2020.

The Telegraph splashes its undercover probe that has found that senior NHS England staff in charge of drugs policy are being paid to work as consultants for pharmaceutical companies.

A Times investigation has found Whitehall paid a half a billion pound cheque to a Swiss-based global fund to combat malaria, only days before a deadline to meet the UK’s 0.7% overseas aid target.

The Sun splashes a photo photograph showing about 40 illegal migrants arriving in the UK on a freight train through the Channel Tunnel.


The WaughZone is taking a summer break (like many politicos I haven’t been off since a few days in February). I’d like to thank you all for your kind words and support. See you the other side of August.

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Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Paul Waugh (, Ned Simons (, Graeme Demianyk ( and Owen Bennett (

Paul Vale   |   July 23, 2015   10:31 PM ET

Barack Obama has warned that the UK must stay in the European Union to retain its influence on the global stage. In an interview with the BBC, the president, who referred to Britain as America’s “best partner,” said the UK’s membership of the EU gives him “much greater confidence about the strength of the transatlantic union.”

Obama lauded the European project as making the world “safer and more prosperous,” while congratulating Cameron for meeting NATO's 2 percent of GDP target for defence.

"We don't have a more important partner than Great Britain. For him to make that commitment when he has a budget agenda that is confined, a budget envelope that is confined, is significant," he said.

In June, US defence secretary Ashton Carter said would be a "great loss to the world" if Britain "disengaged" by cutting its defence spending, noting that the nation had historically "punched above its weight."

He said: “The European Union… is part of the cornerstone of the institutions built after World War Two that has made the world safer and more prosperous and we want to make sure the United Kingdom continues to have that influence.”

He added that Britain's strength derived from its "willingness to project power beyond its immediate self-interests to make this a more orderly, safer world".

In response, MEP Daniel Hannan, a Conservative eurosceptic, tweeted: “I accept that there may be some arguments for Britain staying in the EU. Humouring Barack Obama is not one of them.”

Ukip MEP Patrick O’Flynn was equally dismissive, saying: “We need to look to our own national interest first."

Obama struck a similar tone at the G7 summit in Germany in June, the president urging Britain not to abandon Europe. He told reporters: "I would note one of the great values of having the United Kingdom in the European Union is its strength and leadership on a whole host of global challenges. So we are looking forward to the United Kingdom staying part of the European Union."

In an attempt to placate members of his party's right flank, Cameron has promised to renegotiate Britain's relationship with the EU ahead of a referendum scheduled for 2017. The prime minister has repeatedly stated he wants Britain to remain part of the union, but only if it reforms its rules.

Also in the interview, Obama revealed the biggest frustration from his time in office was not being able to pass "common-sense gun safety laws... even in the face of repeated mass killings."

He said: "If you look at the number of Americans killed since 9/11 by terrorism, it's less than 100. If you look at the number that have been killed by gun violence, it's in the tens of thousands."

"For us not to be able to resolve that issue has been something that is distressing," he reflected.


The Cry of Kenyan-Somalis: Is Anyone Listening?

Catherine Wyatt   |   July 23, 2015    3:59 PM ET

The Kenyan state has an ethnicity problem. By presenting their conflict with the terrorist group al-Shabaab as a conflict of ethnicity, ethnic Somalis living in Kenya are at increasing risk of discrimination, marginalisation, and human rights abuses.

Ethnic Somalis in Kenya are marginalised based on the fear that they are supporters of, or related to, al-Shabaab. This marginalisation of ethnic-Somalis includes harsh measures used against the group in order to 'weed out Shabaab sympathisers'. Operation Usalama Watch, which began in April 2014, arrested over 4000 Muslims in four months. Police use extreme force, stealing items such as phones and watches from suspects, with a high number of reports of physical violence and rape. When Human Rights Watch interviewed 101 refugees and asylum seekers in Eastleigh about their experiences of police custody in 2013, almost all of them reported that the police repeatedly called them 'terrorists' or 'al-Shabaab'.

The government's monopoly on citizenship means that 60% of Somali residents living in the North Eastern Province of Kenya, the area most densely populated with Somalis, do not have ID cards. Upon failure to produce an ID card, Somalis can be arrested and punished. Video footage captured by Al Jazeera shows the military forcibly bundling innocent men and women into trucks, with one man shouting 'I am not al-Shabaab'. Somalis are being deliberately kept in a state of vulnerability.

The Kenyan authorities are conflating immigration issues with terrorism issues, giving legitimacy to the violation of the rights of ethnic-Somalis. This is a conscious tactic on behalf of the Kenyan government: focus on ethnicity forces focus away from issues such as government corruption and unfair allocation of resources.

This tactic is working. In 2014, the Managing Editor of Kenya's most popular newspaper the Daily Nation, Mutuma Mathiu, wrote 'Are we going to sit around and wait to be blown to bits by terrorists?...every little, two-bit Somali has a big dream - to blow us up...terrorists are pouring across the border'. Ethnic tension is the harmful consequence of the Kenyan state's insistence in conflating Somali ethnicity with terrorism.

However, Somalis living in the NEP are fighting back. Last month, a small group of Somalis embarked on a 1000 kilometre walk from Garissa to Mandera. They arrived in Mandera this week, significantly larger in number than when they started. Their trek encouraged others to join, providing hope and inspiration to the communities they walked through.

Named the #WalkofHope, the month long trek's aim was to bring international attention to the plight of Kenyan-Somalis. Unfortunately, the walk did not feature in the international media at all: it seems that Somalis are destined to only make the news when al-Shabaab attack, as they have been doing with increasing frequency in the past year.


By reporting on al-Shabaab but not the Somalis who aim to separate themselves from the Islamist group, we as journalists play into the hands of the Kenyan state, who use fear of al-Shabaab as a way of legitimising discrimination of Somalis.

Hearing the stories of Somalis in the NEP is the first step in fighting prejudice and discrimination. We must listen to the voices of those who are suffering. With President Obama currently visiting Kenya, now is the perfect time to bring to light the plight of one of the world's most disadvantaged ethnic groups.