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British Prime Minister Theresa May Eyes Stronger Trade Ties with India Post Brexit

India wants to expand trade ties with Britain, it also wants easier access for its students and skilled workers

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FILE- Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing street in London, July 20, 2016. VOA

November 6, 2016: British Prime Minister Theresa May arrives in India Sunday on her first bilateral visit outside the European Union to lay the groundwork for stronger trade ties post Brexit with the world’s fastest-growing major economy.

But India will press the British leader on tighter visa rules that have diminished the number of Indian students going to British universities and that could impact Indian professionals in the country.

Ahead of the visit, the British leader said the trip was about “expanding our horizons and forging stronger partnerships with countries around the world” following Britain’s exit from the European Union.

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In India, immigration concerns

In New Delhi, observers say the visit will test how stricter immigration policies will impact Britain’s efforts to build stronger business partnerships.

While India wants to expand trade ties with Britain, it also wants easier access for its students and skilled workers.

Ahead of the visit, India foreign ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup underlined those concerns, saying, “Indian students and people-to-people relations are important pillars of India-UK ties … we expect mobility issues to be raised during this visit.”

He said restrictions have impacted Indian students staying in Britain after graduation.

“In the last year or so, the number of Indian students enrolling in U.K. universities has gone down by almost 50 percent from around 40,000 to around 20,000 now,” he said.

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Those restrictions were introduced into legislation by May when she was interior minister. Changes to visa rules announced last week also will impact Indian professionals in Britain.

“The impression Britain is giving to countries such as India is, we want your business but we don’t want your people,” said London-based political strategist Manoj Ladwa in the Hindu newspaper.

Both sides seek trade deals

However expanding trade ties with Britain is a priority for India, which is the third largest investor in Britain with about 800 Indian companies operating there. Britain is also a major investor in India.

There will be no trade deals on the table during the visit because Britain cannot formally negotiate these until it officially leaves the European Union, but the two countries will explore the possibility of a free trade deal post Brexit.

And while New Delhi has struggled to seal a free trade pact with the European Union for years, it might be easier to do it with Britain, which shares historical ties with India dating back to the colonial era.

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“This is a partnership about our shared security and shared prosperity. It is a partnership of potential. And on this visit I intend to harness that potential, rebooting an age-old relationship,” May said in a statement ahead of the visit.

The British leader is scheduled to address a trade-focused technology seminar in New Delhi, meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday and visit India’s IT hub of Bengaluru on Tuesday.

May is accompanied by International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, Trade Minister Greg Hands, and business leaders from medium- and small-sized companies. (VOA)

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UN Aims at Curbing Carbon Emissions Globally

UN Climate Talks Aim to Pave Way for Global Carbon Market

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Germany Climate Refinery
A Uniper coal-fired power plant and a BP oil refinery and chemical plant are at work in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. VOA

On a cold afternoon in late November, Jan Gerrit Otterpohl eyes the chimneys of Berlin’s Heizkraftwerk Mitte, a state-of-the-art power plant that supplies the city with heat and electricity. It’s not the billowing steam he’s interested in, but the largely invisible carbon dioxide that the power station exhales as it burns natural gas.

Under European Union rules, the plant’s operator, Vattenfall, needs a permit for each ton of carbon dioxide it emits. Otterpohl’s job is to keep costs low by making sure the company buys only as many permits as necessary, at the current market price.

Economists say that carbon markets like the one Otterpohl uses can become a powerful tool in the fight against climate change, by giving emitters a financial incentive to reduce greenhouse gases. But despite making progress in other areas, governments have for years been unable to agree on the rules that would allow truly global trade in carbon permits to flourish.

Negotiators at a U.N. meeting in Madrid this month are aiming to finally tackle the issue, after last year agreeing on almost all other parts of the rulebook governing the 2015 Paris climate accord.

China carbon dioxide
A coal processing plant that is emitting greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. VOA

“There are reasons to be optimistic and to think that there could be some progress because of the political attention that it’s getting,” said Alex Hanafi, a lead counsel at the New York-based Environmental Defense Fund.

Many governments are struggling to make the emissions cuts necessary to meet the Paris accord’s goal of keeping global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) by the end of the century.

The hope is that putting a price on carbon will unlock billions of dollars in investments as countries and companies seek the most cost-effective way to cut emissions. By capping the number of permits in the market and reducing it steadily, the incentive to save on emissions would grow over time.

“There is tremendous potential for carbon markets to contribute to the achievement of the Paris agreement goals,” said Hanafi.

But he warned that a bad deal on carbon markets, known in climate diplomacy parlance as ‘Article 6,’ would be “worse than no deal at all.”

That would be the case, for example, if airlines find it cheaper to offset their emissions than reduce them; or if countries protect large areas of carbon-absorbing forests, sell the resulting permits to other nations and simultaneously count them toward their own emissions-reduction efforts.

Brazil has long pushed back against some of the stricter accounting rules demanded by the EU and the United States. The Latin American nation, criticized by environmentalists for failing to properly protect the Amazon rainforest, also insists that it should be allowed to keep vast amounts of carbon credits amassed under a now-discredited system, a stance shared by China and India.

Climate change China
This coal processing plant in China produces toxic air pollutants. VOA

“It’s very important to really avoid these kind of negative impacts,” said Claudia Kemfert, a senior energy expert at the German Institute for Economic Research.

Kemfert noted that it took more than a decade to tweak the emissions trading system that so far only covers the power and heavy industry sectors in 27 European Union countries— all, except Britain — plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein — a region with well-functioning markets and low levels of corruption.

Otterpohl, who oversees emissions at Vattenfall’s Berlin power plant, agreed.“As far as the EU (emissions trading system) is concerned, there’s now a mature and functioning market in the areas it covers.”

Expanding that market to cover other sectors in the EU, such as transportation and home heating, or linking it up with other existing emissions trading systems in China, California and elsewhere should be possible, said Daniel Wragge, the director of political and regulatory affairs at the European Energy Exchange in Leipzig, Germany.

“Technically speaking, it’s not a challenge,” said Wragge, whose company manages the marketplace for European emissions, where a ton of carbon dioxide is currently traded for about 25 euros ($27.70). “But, of course, there are certain conditions and the key is, of course, that the certificates are mutually recognized.”

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Kemfert cautioned that putting a price on emissions alone won’t stop climate change.“What we need are many, many activities to reduce emissions,” she said. “If we reach a carbon market, that’s fine. But we should go for other solutions very urgently.” (VOA)