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China, Pakistan and Afghanistan Sign a Deal to Enhance Counter Terrorism

China has said it would help build roads and railways to connect it with Afghanistan.

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Pakistan, CHina, Afghanistan, U.S.
Afghanistan's Minister of Foreign Affairs Salahuddin Rabbani, center, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, first right, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, first left, shake hands after signing the agreement at the presidential palace in Kabul, Dec. 15, 2018. VOA

China, Pakistan and Afghanistan signed a trilateral understanding Saturday to enhance counterterrorism security cooperation, and collectively reiterated their call for the Taliban insurgency to join Afghan peace talks.

The foreign ministers of the three countries met in Afghanistan’s capital city, Kabul, for a second round of talks, where they put the understanding into effect and also pledged to jointly work for regional connectivity, as well as economic development.

Beijing initiated the platform and hosted the inaugural meeting last year with a mission to help ease tensions and suspicions that have long plagued Afghanistan’s relationship with Pakistan. Critics say the tensions have hampered the effort to fight terrorism and promote regional peace, as well as economic connectivity.

 

Afghanistan, China, Pakistan
Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, left, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, right, shake hands at the end of a joint press conference at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing, Jan. 26, 2016. VOA

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told a joint news conference after the meeting that his country will continue diplomatic efforts to help improve Kabul’s strained relations with Islamabad to further Beijing’s mission of regional peace and development.

 

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi noted terrorist entities — such as Islamic State (IS), the anti-China East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — threaten regional peace and could only be defeated through joint efforts.

Chinese officials worry that continued Afghan instability could encourage ETIM to foment problems in the western Xinjiang region, which borders Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“We signed today an MoU [memorandum of understanding] on counterterrorism and security. This is a step forward and I think it will help us achieve what we collectively want to achieve,” Qureshi told reporters.

He emphasized that Pakistan is making efforts to promote a reconciliation process in Afghanistan, but he said it is up to Afghans themselves to decide how they want to achieve a political settlement to the war.

Pakistan, China
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi gestures during a briefing at foreign ministry in Islamabad, Pakistan, Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2018. VOA

Afghan officials allege that Pakistan allows Taliban leaders to hide in the neighboring country and direct their violent insurgency from there. Kabul accuses Islamabad of not upholding its commitments made in bilateral and multilateral forums to prevent the Taliban from using Pakistani soil.

Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, while addressing the news conference, called on Islamabad to play its “important role” to facilitate Kabul’s peace talks with the Taliban. He stopped short, though, of reiterating accusations that Pakistan is behind the deadly insurgency in his country.

“There are groups in the region who have been getting support and who have been involved in this violence in Afghanistan. We need to see countries in the region, particularly in this case Pakistan, to support this initiative of peace and reconciliation and support us in reducing this growing violence and ultimately eliminate the violence throughout Afghanistan,” Rabbani said.

But his remarks drew a strong reaction from the Pakistani foreign minister, who urged both sides to stop pointing fingers at each other.

Pakistan, China
Ahsan Iqbal (L), Pakistan’s Minister of Planning and Development and Yao Jing, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan attend the launching ceremoney of CPEC long-term cooperation plan in Islamabad, Pakistan December 18, 2017. VOA

“We will have to be more positive. We will have to realize that by blaming each other we are going nowhere. We have spent decades, we have seen devastation, we have seen people killed and maimed on both sides of the border. Time has come to move on. Time has come to stop pointing fingers,” Qureshi lamented.

The Pakistani foreign minister said his delegation’s visit to Kabul and participation in the trilateral meeting are all aimed at building mutual political trust and facilitating the Afghan peace process.

The allegations and counter allegations at the news conference once again underscored a deeply mistrusted relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

China, a close ally of Pakistan, lately has deepened its economic and political ties with Afghanistan. It has been actively using its influence to bring the two uneasy South Asian neighbors closer. Beijing also maintains contacts with the Taliban and repeatedly has urged the insurgents to engage in peace talks to seek a solution to their concerns.

The Chinese and Pakistani foreign ministers on Saturday invited and encouraged the Afghan government to join their bilateral multi-billion-dollar infrastructure-building project that Beijing is carrying out in Pakistan as part of its global Belt and Road Initiative.

Imran Khan, Pakistan, China
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during a ceremony in Kartarpur, Pakistan. VOA
Under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), China has said it would help build roads and railways to connect it with Afghanistan. Qureshi urged his Afghan counterpart to send a delegation to Pakistan to examine projects in which they might want to take part.
Also Read: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran Hold Meeting To Counter Trafficking of Opiate

He said the regional connectivity will be crucial for building war-ravaged Afghanistan. Pakistan also believes linking Afghanistan to CPEC would give it better access to trade with Central Asian markets.

Foreign Minister Rabbani said a third meeting of the trilateral dialogue will take place in Islamabad next year. (VOA)

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China- Top Contributor in Global Warming

China is the leader in coal and clean energy and is the top emitter of greenhouse gases

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Climate China Coal
In this photo, smoke and steam rise from a coal processing plant that produces carbon black, an ingredient in steel manufacturing, in Hejin in central China. VOA

As world leaders gather in Spain to discuss how to slow the warming of the planet, a spotlight falls on China — the top emitter of greenhouse gases.

China burns about half the coal used globally each year. Between 2000 and 2018, its annual carbon emissions nearly tripled, and it now accounts for about 30% of the world’s total. Yet it’s also the leading market for solar panels, wind turbines and electric vehicles, and it manufactures about two-thirds of solar cells installed worldwide.

“We are witnessing many contradictions in China’s energy development,” said Kevin Tu, a Beijing-based fellow with the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. “It’s the largest coal market and the largest clean energy market in the world.”

That apparent paradox is possible because of the sheer scale of China’s energy demands.

But as China’s economy slows to the lowest level in a quarter century — around 6% growth, according to government statistics — policymakers are doubling down on support for coal and other heavy industries, the traditional backbones of China’s energy system and economy. At the same time, the country is reducing subsidies for renewable energy.

China solar panel
A solar panel installation is seen in Ruicheng County in central China. VOA

At the annual United Nations climate summit, this year in Madrid, government representatives will put the finishing touches on implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement, which set a goal to limit future warming to 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Nations may decide for themselves how to achieve it.

China had previously committed to shifting its energy mix to 20% renewables, including nuclear and hydroelectric energy. Climate experts generally agree that the initial targets pledged in Paris will not be enough to reach the goal, and next year nations are required to articulate more ambitious targets.

Hopes that China would offer to do much more are fading.

Recent media reports and satellite images suggest that China is building or planning to complete new coal power plants with total capacity of 148 gigawatts — nearly equal to the entire coal-power capacity of the European Union within the next few years, according to an analysis by Global Energy Monitor, a San Francisco-based nonprofit.

Separately, investment in China’s renewable energy dropped almost 40 percent in the first half of 2019 compared with the same period last year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, a research organization. The government slashed subsidies for solar energy.

Last week in Beijing, China’s vice minister of ecology and environment told reporters that non-fossil-fuel sources already account for 14.3% of the country’s energy mix. He did not indicate that China would embrace more stringent targets soon.

“We are still faced with challenges of developing our economy, improving people’s livelihood,” Zhao Yingmin said.

China is alternately cast as the world’s worst climate villain or its potential clean-energy savior, but both superlatives are somewhat misplaced.

As a fast-growing economy, it was always inevitable that China’s energy demands would climb steeply. The only question was whether the country could power a sufficiently large portion of its economy with renewables to curb emissions growth.

Many observers took hope from a brief dip in China’s carbon emissions between 2014 and 2016, as well as Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s statement in 2017 that China had “taken a driving seat in international cooperation to respond to climate change.”

Renewed focus on coal

Today the country’s renewed focus on coal comes as a disappointment.

China Pollution
The pollution in China is at extreme levels. VOA

“Now there’s a sense that rather than being a leader, China is the one that is out of step,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, lead analyst at the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air in Helsinki. He notes that several developed countries — including Germany, South Korea and the United States — are rapidly reducing their reliance on coal power.

Fossil fuels such as coal, gasoline and natural gas release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, trapping heat and changing the climate. Coal is the biggest culprit.

Last year, coal consumption in the United States hit the lowest level in nearly 40 years, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

One place to consider the rise, pause and rise again of China’s coal sector is Shanxi province — a vast mountainous region in central China.

Shanxi is the heart of China’s traditional coal country, dotted with large mines, but also the site of some of the country’s largest solar and wind-power projects, according to state media.

During most of the past 30 years of rapid economic growth, the coal business boomed in Shanxi and nearby provinces. As China’s cities and industries expanded, coal supplied much of that power, and China surpassed the U.S. as the world’s top carbon emitter in 2006.

But after climbing sharply for two decades, China’s emissions stalled around 2013 and then declined slightly in 2015 and 2016, according to Global Carbon Budget, which tracks emissions worldwide. This dip came as Chinese leaders declared a “war on pollution” and suspended the construction of dozens of planned coal power plants, including some in Shanxi.

At the same time, the government required many existing coal operators to install new equipment in smokestacks to remove sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide and other hazardous substances. About 80% of coal plants now have scrubbers, said Alvin Lin, Beijing-based China climate and energy policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit.

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

As a result, the air quality in many Chinese cities, including Beijing, improved significantly between 2013 and 2017. Residents long accustomed to wearing face masks and running home air-filter machines enjoyed a reprieve of more “blue sky days,” as low-pollution days are known in China.

Annual levels of PM 2.5 — a tiny but dangerous pollutant — dropped by roughly a third across China between 2013 and 2017, from 61.8 to 42 micrograms per cubic meter, according to scientists at Beijing’s Tsinghua University and other institutions. They made the report in November in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a peer-reviewed journal.

“That’s a big improvement, although in terms of safe air quality, we’re still not there yet,” Lin said. China’s pollution levels are still well above standards set by the World Health Organization.

While these retrofitted coal plants emit fewer pollutants that harm human health, the scrubbers do not reduce greenhouse gases. “The new plants are good for air quality, but you still have all that carbon dioxide that goes into the atmosphere,” Lin said.

Carbon emissions rising

In the past three years, China’s carbon emissions have begun to rise again, according to Global Carbon Budget.

That trend was evident in the first half of 2019, when China’s carbon emissions from fossil fuels and concrete production rose 4%, compared with the same period last year, according to Myllyvirta’s preliminary analysis of Chinese government data.

The coming winter in Beijing may see a return of prolonged smog, as authorities loosen environmental controls on heavy industry — in part to compensate for other slowing sectors in the economy. Cement and steel production remain both energy intensive and heavily polluting.

Permits for new coal plants proliferated after regulatory authority was briefly devolved from Beijing to provincial governments, which see construction projects and coal operations as boosts to local economies and tax bases, said Ted Nace, executive director of Global Energy Monitor.

“It’s as though a boa constructor swallowed a giraffe, and now we’re watching that bulge move through the system,” said Nace. In China, it takes about three years to build a coal plant.

In November, Premier Li Keqiang gave a speech to policymakers emphasizing the importance of domestic coal to energy security.

But because China’s coal-power expansion is growing faster than energy demand, overcapacity “is a serious concern now,” said Columbia University’s Tu.

And once new infrastructure is built, it’s hard to ignore.

People in China
The highest red alert was issued for heavy smog in several cities in China. VOA

“It will be politically difficult to tear down a brand-new coal plant that’s employing people and supporting a mining operation. It will make it more difficult for China to transition away from coal,” Nace said.

Reliance on China

The world has already warmed by 1 degree Celsius. All scenarios envisioned by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for holding planetary warming to around 1.5 degrees Celsius involve steep worldwide reductions in coal-power generation.

In that effort, other countries rely on China to manufacture most of the solar panels installed worldwide, according to an analysis in the journal Science co-authored by Jonas Nahm, an energy expert at Johns Hopkins University.

“If we have any chance to meet climate targets, we have to do a lot by 2030 — and we won’t be able to do it without China’s clean-energy supply chain,” Nahm said.

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China’s manufacturing helped bring down the cost of solar panels by 80% between 2008 and 2013. Prices for wind turbines and lithium-ion batteries also dropped significantly, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“China has a really mixed record. On the one hand, it’s seen rapidly rising emissions over the past two decades,” Nahm said. “On the other hand, it’s shown it’s able to innovate around manufacturing — and make new energy technologies available at scale, faster and cheaper.” (VOA)