Conservation

This handout photo taken on 20 June 2021 and released on 24 June by Yunnan Provincial Command of the Safety Precautions of the Migrating Asian Elephants shows elephants, part of a herd which had wandered 500 kilometres north from their natural habitat, walking near Yuxi city, Yunnan province, China. (Handout/Yunnan Provincial Command of the Safety Precautions of the Migrating Asian Elephants/AFP)

Death follows as people push into elephant enclave

Caixin journalists Kang Jia and Han Wei note that balancing modern human activities with protection of wildlife is becoming increasingly challenging, especially in Xishuangbanna, which is known as a safe haven for wild Asian elephants. What are the authorities doing to improve the situation?
Wind turbines at the San Gorgonio Pass wind farm in Whitewater, California, U.S., 3 June 2021. (Bing Guan/Bloomberg)

US-China competition in climate cooperation a good thing for Southeast Asia

The US is back in the international climate cooperation game, but the influence it will have remains to be seen. Its passing of a new omnibus package which includes major energy provisions to address climate change provides hope that partisan divides are not insurmountable. On China’s part, its 14th Five-Year Plan demonstrates strong impetus to tackle climate change issues. As for ASEAN, the ASEAN-China Strategy on Environmental Cooperation papers has enabled cooperation with China to progress well, but cooperation with the US can be improved with an institutional framework to bring climate cooperation to a higher level.
Wind turbines on the outskirts of the new city area of Yumen, Gansu province, China on 31 March 2021. (Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)

Can China keep its climate change promises?

The adoption of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) with significant targets for the development of renewable energy and other green technologies, together with the launch of a national carbon emissions trading scheme, indicates that the Chinese leadership is committed to policies that should reduce the nation’s carbon footprint, ultimately leading to a zero-emission economy by 2060. However, the complexities of implementing these policies are daunting, with stakeholders that are likely to resist change and reforms that require substantial investment over the next decades.
A general view of Laos, January 2020. (SPH)

Is Laos mining itself into a crisis?

Despite low global commodity prices, the mining sector in Lao PDR still constitutes a key source of state revenue and an important destination for foreign direct investment, especially from China, Vietnam and Thailand. However, economic development through industrial mining has not translated into employment opportunities for local communities. Rather, the Lao mining sector is marked by a parallel structure of medium- to large-scale mining operations and informal artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM), which often operate in a legal grey zone. ASM communities thus suffer from the sector’s high social and environmental costs and conflicts with foreign investors over allocated land.
People visit the riverbank of the Yangtze River in Wuhan, China's central Hubei province on 2 February 2021. (Hector Retamal/AFP)

China’s serious water woes

Water security is literally a question of life and death. And as one of the most populous nations in the world with a severe lack of water resources, China needs to ensure that its water sources are sustainable and usable. But as Chinese academic Chen Hongbin explains, this is not always easy, despite the country’s best efforts.
A view of the Mekong between Don Det and Don Khon, Si Phan Don, Laos, May 2019. (Wikimedia)

American researcher: China's upstream dams threaten economy and security of Mekong region

China’s 11 hydropower dams built on the upper Mekong River held back massive quantities of water over the last two years, causing crop failure and depleting fish catches, and threatening the livelihoods of the 60 million people living downstream. Besides, China has financed half of Laos’ 60 dams on Mekong tributaries and two more on the mainstream, pushing Laos' debt levels to about US$17 billion in 2019, nearly equivalent to the country’s annual GDP. Furthermore, other projects in Thailand have been cancelled out of concern that it would give Beijing too much strategic and economic influence deep into mainland Southeast Asia. American researcher Murray Hiebert explains the situation.
A view of the Mekong river bordering Thailand and Laos is seen from the Thai side in Nong Khai, Thailand, 29 October 2019. (Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters)

Role of Vietnam in Mekong: A middle power in another US-China geopolitical battleground

Hanoi is applying its South China Sea playbook to the Mekong. It is putting effort into enmeshing all stakeholders while carefully balancing relationships with major powers interested in the Mekong. What does this mean for Southeast Asia and the region's relationship with China and the US? RSIS graduate research assistant Phan Xuan Dung examines how Vietnam can make a difference.
A woman wearing a protective mask looks at blossoms in a park in Beijing on 21 March 2020. (Thomas Peter/File Photo/Reuters)

The world has become greener because of Covid-19, but will it last?

The world has become greener and cleaner because of a drastic drop in human activity brought about by the pandemic. Professor Koh Lian Pin opines that these effects may be only temporary but the fact remains that the world needs to direct more attention to climate change. He sees China playing a bigger role in implementing nature-based solutions for climate and sustainable development. With its experience and immense investments in scientific research and development, it could even lend a hand to countries in the Asian region.
The conservation of China's green peacocks sparked huge debate in China recently. (Photo: Arddu, https://www.flickr.com/people/21178134@N00 / Licensed under CC BY 2.0, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

Can less than 500 green peacocks grind a billion-RMB hydropower project to a halt?

Construction work at a 3.7 billion RMB hydropower station was suspended by court order in China recently, because it could destroy the natural habitat of endangered green peacocks and a rare plant accorded first-grade protection by the state. Chinese academic Zhang Tiankan weighs up the arguments of nature versus economic gain. What is the cost of having an intact, healthy ecosystem? Should it all be expressed in economic terms? And how can humans fight nature's battles on the latter’s behalf? Can there be a win-win situation?