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Environmental Regimes in Asian Subregions

China and the Third Pole

Simon Marsden

Informed by international law, international relations and environment management scholarship, this interdisciplinary analysis of environmental regimes in Asian subregions proposes a new regime for the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau based on China’s cooperation with its south Asian neighbors.
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Chapter 5: Linking south and east Asia: the Tumen regime, China and the Third Pole

China and the Third Pole

Simon Marsden

Extract

Chapter 5 looks to south and east Asia. It considers the environmental governance currently in place in south Asia, in particular as supported by the South Asian Cooperative Environment Program (SACEP) and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). The latter has produced three relevant agreements: the Environmental Cooperation Convention, the Rapid Response to Natural Disasters Agreement, and the Energy Cooperation (Electricity) Agreement. These are all considered along with the Indus Waters Treaty, climate change arrangements, Malé Declaration on air pollution, and the Regional Seas Programme for the South Asian Seas. Significantly Chapter 5 also evaluates the SAARC and SACEP institutional arrangements that operate independently of the agreements promulgated, which may form the basis for any Third Pole regime. In east Asia, it furthermore analyses the Tumen Agreements, the aim of which is to attain environmentally sound and sustainable development of northeast Asia and the Tumen River Economic Development Area. Obligations are also present for EIA and environmental management plans, which are fully analysed. Chapter 5 also examines the informal arrangements for air pollution in northeast Asia, and the Regional Seas Programme for East Asia. Significantly, Chapter 5 analyses the prospects for establishing an additional environmental regime for the Third Pole, and China’s potential role in relation to this. This is based on the conclusions from each of the preceding chapters and in the context of the particular environmental issues and geopolitics of this subregion. While most of the regimes in the subregions discussed in Chapters 2-5 are based on formal agreements, and the majority have been adopted, (and in many instances ratified and applied with some - albeit limited - success), the governance of the Third Pole is yet to be conceived, fully proposed and evaluated. Finally, Chapter 5 answers the remaining central research questions not addressed in the previous chapters, summarises findings, and emphasises likely challenges. These include - despite the significance and necessity of engaging China (and other key states) in environmental regimes, and particularly in the Third Pole subregion - that a reluctance to cede national sovereignty to international law-making may impede progress. Research directions going forward are elaborated at the end of Chapter 5, which include considering multilateral, regional and subregional agreements in other parts of the world, and the significance of institutional support in any legal transplant. Keywords: SAARC, SACEP, Tumen, China, Third Pole

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