Reflections of Zafar Makhmudov.
It is well-known that a human tendency is more prone to denial than to take it on faith: people prefer to pass everything through their critical filter, taste and sample everything, assess the degree of objectivity and ensure that what is happening is real.
Very illustrative in this sense is how society perceives global climate change and its inevitable consequences: the world took almost four decades to stop heated scientific debates and polemics and admit that the problem does exist, along with its server impacts worldwide.
The countries of Central Asia have rather quickly managed to live through the period of doubt and moved from debates to actions.
What is currently happening in Central Asia in terms of tackling climate change?
What are the results of joint efforts?
How does the regional resilience to climate change evolve?
Zafar Makhmudov, Executive Director of the Regional Environmental Centre for Central Asia
The Regional Environmental Centre for Central Asia (CAREC) has more than 20 years of experience in combatting climate change, and the CAREC has been acting simultaneously at the regional and national levels at first.
Let me reflect on facts and achievements reached thanking the practical experience.
Since 2016, CAREC has been implementing the Climate Adaptation and Mitigation Program for the Aral Sea Basin (CAMP4ASB), the largest and most ambitious project, which encompasses all the countries in the region: the project is implemented jointly with the Executive Committee of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea (IFAS EC) with the financial support of the World Bank; CAMP4ASB has become so successful and highly demanded in the region that received additional funding from the Green Climate Fund.
The range of the project includes cooperation with parliamentarians of the countries of Central Asia, Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Finance, authorized environmental agencies, hydrometeorological services of the region, scientific communities, non-profit organizations, and regional organizations and centers.
Adaptation and mitigation activities of the project include participation in drafting strategic documents and creating regional-level dialogue platforms that are unique in Central Asia today: for example, the annual Central Asia Climate Change Conference (CACCC) and the dialogue platform of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Parliamentarians of the Central Asian Countries.
I will list some specific mitigation and adaptation activities and figures: 39 000 farmers have received assistance from CAMP4ASB to adapt to new climate conditions; the project has covered more than 12 000 ha of farmland.
According to the latest analytical report of the Eurasian Development Bank (EADB), a shortage of irrigation water is forecasted in the Central Asian region if the countries fail to establish a sufficient level of regional cooperation.
Essentially, the region has little time left, and in the meantime, the water supply issue directly affects energy and food security; I believe that we should use the potential of a classical water-energy-food (WEF) nexus to the maximum extent possible; it will also become an optimal solution for building efficient regional cooperation.
By the way, this is the approach used by the Nexus project: at the Nexus Regional Dialogue Programme’s final conference “Nexus Dialogue| Breaking the Silos for a Sustainable Tomorrow” (June 2023, Bonne, Germany), I said with confidence that the CA countries are ready for a systemic application of the Nexus approach; to be able to do it, CAREC has already invested six years of hard work to implement the Central Asia Nexus Dialogue Project: Fostering Water, Energy and Food Security Nexus and Multi-Sector Investment supported by the European Union.
Our efforts have not been in vain. Currently, the Central Asian countries have a perfect understanding of the interconnection between water, energy, food, and environmental resources that is reflected in the national strategic documents. Appropriate bodies and high-level councils are being created, and they consider inter-sectoral cooperation based on the Nexus approach; the Guideline on drafting a Multinational Aral Sea Basin Programme comprises some elements of the Nexus approach.
Seven Nexus projects have been included in the Aral Sea Basin Program. The region has witnessed and recognized that the Nexus approach tackles several problems simultaneously: it improves the environmental component, gives the possibility to make a profit, attracts investments and strengthens water, energy, or food security.
I will give a simple example – silt removal at the Tuyamuyun Hydroelectric Complex: we have studied and proposed using the Nexus approach not to clean up the accumulated silt on the bottom of the Hydroelectric Complex but to process it; we suggested using this silt to produce such construction materials as bricks, foamed cinder blocks, or facing tiles; all that is left to do is to put it into practice. And if we consider the transboundary location of the Tuyamuyun Hydroelectric Complex (Turkmenistan – Uzbekistan), the readiness of the neighboring countries for cooperation becomes apparent.
My practical conclusions:
– Today, we can talk with certainty about a common understanding by the countries in the region of the problems of climate change and their joint solution at the regional level; and I believe we have one more hidden but highly important achievement – the ecological reshaping of the mind.
– Results of the CAMP4ASB project and the Nexus project have demonstrated to the countries of the region that they can solve all the problems, what’s more important – that regional cooperation is mutually beneficial.
What is next?
Now, it is essential to find solutions which will make it possible to incorporate the Nexus approach into all strategic plans and projects developed by the relevant national authorities.
It is equally essential establishing a dialogue with financial institutions and the private sector to determine possible public-private partnership mechanisms and attract investments to climate change adaptation and mitigation projects.
It is crucially important to convey to the global community that the region of Central Asia is highly vulnerable to climate change and requires international support in terms of both funding and content and methodology provision. This is the premise that we will focus on in the regional statements to be made on behalf of the governments of the CA countries at the upcoming 28th Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP28) in Dubai, UAE.
Zafar Makhmudov, CAREC Executive Director, reminded us that the regional statements will be developed in cooperation with the national partners, while CAREC will assist in this process.
Prepared by Zhanna Khusainova