COP28: Results and Lessons for Central Asia

Publication date: 27 December 2023

The climate summit in Dubai that drew global attention has become a new milestone in the world community’s opposition to global climate challenges, including for the countries of Central Asia.

For the CA states, UNFCCC COP28 started with a presentation of the most important document – the Regional Strategy for Climate Change Adaptation in Central Asia.

The strategy adopted by all the five countries of the Central Asian Region – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, contains a mechanism of cooperation to overcome negative consequences of climate change and implement adaptation measures in the region until 2030.

It is worth noting that impact of climate change is different in each country of the region. In Kazakhstan, for example, climate change above all impairs flora and fauna, soil degradation occurs on large territories thus affecting the country’s agricultural sector.

In Tajikistan, 80% of all negative climate change consequences are related to water resources – mudslides, high waters, floods.  Currently, Tajikistan is devising a National Water Strategy until 2040. Symbolically, the document will include the regional approach to tackling the problem.

Regional natural factors such as the drying of the Aral Sea, wind erosion of its bottom, glacier melting, snow cover reduction, and desertification contribute to climate change in CA. The temperature is also expected to continue to rise exceeding the global average.

It should be noted that glaciers continue to retreat in Central Asia. Their area has decreased significantly in the last 50-60 years. This suggests high vulnerability of the region to climate change in the XXI century.

All of these will result in an increase of interannual variability of runoffs and a rise in a number of hydrological droughts. Glacier melting and river flow change may destabilize food security, drinking water availability and hydropower generation. Climate change is already leading to significant human, financial and ecological losses, affecting food security and the poverty level.

In this regard, the Regional Strategy for Climate Change Adaptation in Central Asia identifies four strategic objectives. They should allow the countries of the region to account for all climate risks. These include reinforcement of regional coordination of climate change adaptation actions; creation of mechanisms to develop and implement adaptation projects/programs and attract funding; improve adaptation capabilities by means of knowledge generation and exchange and scientific cooperation; development of systems for climate monitoring, information exchange and forecasting. 

As was noted by Zafar Makhmudov, Executive Director of the Regional Environmental Centre for Central Asia (CAREC), many countries have developed national adaptation strategies. 

“The regional approach yields an opportunity to adapt on the regional level and enhance cooperation. We have our own strategy – a clear plan of regional adaptation of our economies to climate change,” commented Zafar Makhmudov on the significance of the unified strategic document for the countries of CA. 

Traditionally, regional statements on behalf of the governments of the countries of CA, the civil society and the youth were made at COP28. The CA countries have once again endorsed their unity in their vision and tackling of climate change problems. 

Representatives of civil society and youth of CA noted in their regional statement the need for the countries of Central Asia to conduct a more ambitious climate policy.

“The gap between actual actions, NDC commitments, national development plans, and the goals of the Paris Agreement should be closed,” urges Central Asia Civil Society and Youth’ Statement for the 28th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Regional Coordinator of the Civil Society Climate Network of Central Asia Dr. Svetlana Mogilyuk emphasizes that representatives of civil society and youth consider preservation of natural ecosystems as the most important and effective means of adaptation and preservation of a resilient climate system on the global and regional level. “We call on the global community and the region’s governments not to replace the preservation of natural ecosystems with the creation of artificial forests, and to avoid the introduction of alien tree species. Naturebased solutions should be developed through a scientific approach, and only projects with high socio-ecological value should be considered for emission reduction units,” noted in the statement of the civil society and youth.

According to the statement made on behave of the governments of the CA countries, over 75 million residents of Central Asia experience devastating consequences of climate change, including the temperature rise, more extreme weather events, and water shortages. These consequences have a significant impact on the society, economy and the ecosystem.

“Despite the existing challenges, we are committed to implementation of joint measures to combat climate change. All the countries of CA have already presented their updated NDC, adopted ambitious national climate objectives, and are implementing a wide range of strategies and measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, adapt to climate change and build a more sustainable future. The Global Synthesis Report, however, shows that a more stable support is needed to implement our climate ambitions and achieve the global goals,” the statement says.

The countries of the region urge the global community to support the effort to tackle climate change by providing access to funding, technologies and expert knowledge, which will help achieve our climate objectives.

Olga Pilifosova, the representative of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Secretariat, has commended on the great work of CAREC in uniting the countries of the Central Asian region and wished success in achieving specific results in climate change adaption.

Torsten Brezina, GIZ Program Regional Coordinator, emphasized that transboundary cooperation between the countries of the region will allow for current climate change challenges to be met. He assured that GIZ will remain a reliable partner in supporting the efforts of the CA countries in tackling current climate change challenges.

Saule Sabiyeva, Director of the Department of Climate Policy of the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of the Republic of Kazakhstan, highlighted the paramount importance of the unification of the region in today’s current realities. Today, the Central Asian region faces negative consequences of climate change and the climate change damage for the countries of Central Asia will amount to 1.3% of GDP a year, the yield capacity will decline by 30%, and the water level in the Amudariya and Syrdariya rivers will decrease by 15% by 2050 if no joint efforts to confront climate challenges are undertaken. 

Azamat Temirkulov, Deputy Minister of Natural Resources, Ecology and Technical Supervision of the Kyrgyz Republic, drew the participants» attention to the fact that the whole world is a witness to important historical events.

We live in a time when the fate of the planet depends on us. This has never happened in the history of mankind before, and we need to realize our responsibility,” said Azamat Temirkulov. He expressed his satisfaction that all the five countries of the region had come together in tackling climate problems, created a unified Pavilion of CA, developed a joint regional statement and reached a common position in combatting climate change.

Kurbonzoda Abdullo Khabibullo, Director of the Agency of Hydrometeorology of the Committee for Environmental Protection of the Republic of Tajikistan, stated that the problem of the melding of glaciers, one the main fresh water source in the region, may have negative consequences and should be the center of attention of the international community and the region. He also noted that the regional statement on behalf of the governments of the CA countries has become a good tradition, emphasizing the unity of the region in the international arena.

Obidzhon Kudratov, the First Deputy Minister of Ecology, Environmental Protection and Climate Change of the Republic of Uzbekistan, stressed that problems of climate change, water resources, flora and fauna of the region are interrelated and integrated into one ecosystem of the region. He noted that Uzbekistan favors regional cooperation in the sphere of climate change and stated his commitment to continue joint work on projects and programs for the benefit of the region.

Central Asia in the Context of the Progress Toward Achieving the Goals of the Paris Agreement

Global Stocktake (GST) on achievement of the goals of the Paris Agreement has become historical for UNFCCC COP28. This year, the countries began to take stock of the Paris Agreement implementation for the first time since its adoption. 

According to IPCC, keeping global warming at the level of 1.5oC is possible in modern realities given the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions by 60% below the 2019 level by 2035.

Based on the GST results, it was recommended that the countries update their NDC by 2030 and present new goals for 2035. Moreover, in addition to revised 2030 target indicators for emissions, the outcome of COP28 states that the next round of NDC should strengthen current efforts to reduce emissions and include efforts on a fair transition and losses and damages to adaptation plans and priorities. NDC should reflect transformation in many sectors, including clean energy, nature conservation, automobiles, and many more.

What is a current situation with NDC in the countries of Central Asia today? Kazakhstan plans to achieve the carbon neutrality by 2060, Kyrgyzstan – by 2050. Tajikistan intends to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60-70% of the 1990 level by 2030. Turkmenistan undertakes efforts to implement mitigation and adaptation measures. In 2022, following the decree of the President, Turkmenistan adopted a nationally determined contribution (NDC) to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. Uzbekistan plans to reduce greenhouse gas emission per unit of GDP by 35% by 2030 and double indicators of the economic energy efficiency.

Can the countries of the Central Asian region raise the threshold of their ambitious plans to achieve the carbon neutrality? It will be clear when the governments of the Paris Agreement member states start preparing for the next round of NDC in 2024.

Based on the UNFCCC COP28 results, we expect to see a series of global and regional workshops and sessions on capacity building aimed at helping the countries update their NDC. The UN General Secretary is expected to hold a special event in 2025, where countries will present their new commitments to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Furthermore, negotiation participants agreed that presidents of COP28, COP29 and COP30 will collaborate in developing the Road Map to Mission 1.5. The road map for the next two years is aimed at expanding international cooperation to increase NDC ambitiousness and incentive funding.

Transparency as a Tool to Control Implementation of the Paris Agreement

“Well-structured national transparency systems in Central Asia can be a catalyst to improve domestic policies, optimize climate actions, and strengthen support of international climate finance,” believes Zafar Makhmudov, CAREC Executive Director.

Fatima-Zakhra Taibi, Senior Adviser to the UNEP Copenhagen Climate Center (UNEP-CCC), emphasized the crucial importance of greenhouse gas emission reduction in preventing the global temperature rise as part of the Paris Agreement. According to her, an enhanced transparency framework is a key international tool to track implementation of climate actions by countries.

Oleg Bulany, ICAT Senior Officer, noted that the countries are off track in implementation of the Paris Agreement. He believes that there is a gap between the stated goals and their implementation, while transparency is the tool, which will help bridge this gap. He emphasized a significant role of the expert potential in ensuring transparency and informed the audience on creation of an expert network in the Central Asian region.

One of the key international pillars of the Paris Agreement is the enhanced transparency framework, set forth in Article 13, which requires that the countries submit national greenhouse gas inventories and information needed to track the progress in implementing and achieving their nationally determined contributions (NDC) and urges them to provide information on climate change and adaptation along with information on technology transfer, capacity building and the needed and received support.

Support of transparency has increased in the countries of Central Asia and Caucasus in the recent years. GEF capacity building initiatives through FAO CBIT national projects, the ICAT/CAREC ReCATCH regional project, and the CBIT-GSP global initiative to ensure transparency are aimed at supporting the parties not included in Annex 1, in building their capacity to create and manage a reliable and transparent structure, which will allow for effective implementation of the Paris Agreement and help countries to transition to new reporting requirements within the framework of the Enhanced transparency framework (ETF).

The countries of Central Asia and Caucasus reached this stage, when national, global and regional projects on capacity building to ensure transparency entered their implementation stage bringing along lessons learned and achievements that allow for future activities.

UNFCCC COP28: Position of the CA Countries on the Success Scale

According to international expert Alexey Kokorin, COP28 will be successful for the countries of Central Asia, if the decision of the Loss and Damage Fund allows the CA countries to be its effective participants. In general, COP resolutions consider specifics of the CA countries (mountains, glaciers, water shortage). The active work of the Central Asia Pavilion and regional statements have demonstrated the readiness of the region to be an effective participant in tackling climate problems and fostered partner relations with a large number of organizations ranging from international financial institutions to NGOs.

The Loss and Damage Fund became fully operational on day one of the climate summit in Dubai. The Fund was created to help climate-vulnerable countries to cope with consequences of climate change, which go beyond those that people can adapt to.

A number of countries also allocated about 700 million dollars to replenish the Fund, although vulnerable countries can incur 580 billion dollars worth of damages caused by climate change already by 2030.

Although losses and damages were included in the Global Stocktaking decision, they were not adequately recognized as the third pillar to combat climate change along with climate change mitigation and adaptation. Experts believe that this is a serious drawback for vulnerable communities and developing countries, which are facing the brunt of the growing impact of climate change.

At the same time, countries should step forward by making larger scale commitments to satisfy the needs of communities vulnerable to climate change and mobilize innovative sources of finance such as fossil fuel and maritime taxes. Moreover, countries should include detailed sections on losses and damages in their next round of NDC and provide cost estimates, whenever possible, to ensure predictable and adequate funding.  

In general, following the criteria described by expert Alexey Kokorin, we can conclude that the UNFCCC COP28 was successful for the countries of Central Asia. The work fo the CA Pavilion has demonstrated not only the countries» readiness to unite, but also showed the already achieved results: a joint Regional Strategy on Climate Change Adaptation in Central Asia, joint regional statements, a busy agenda of the CA Pavilion comprised of 44 events covering a wide range of topics including a discussion of the main issues of the global agenda in the context of the Central Asian region. These include low-carbon development in CA, preservation of mountain ecosystems and glaciers, green project pitching and climate finance, mitigation and adaptation in the region as well as creation of national transparency systems, transboundary cooperation within the framework of Nexus projects, the role of the civil society in facing climate challenges, etc.

More than 270 speakers presented at the CA Pavilion. These included representatives of state agencies of the countries of Central Asia, Andorra, Nepal, Bhutan, Kenya, Germany, Finland, and other countries, heads and climate change experts from international organizations, businesses and the non-government sector.

Representatives of more than 30 international organizations such as Green Climate Fund, Adaptation Fund, IPCC, German Technical Cooperation Agency (GTZ), European Union, OSCE, US Agency for International Development, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, World Bank, UNDP, FAO, UN WFP, IOM, Global Green Growth Institute, the Mountain Partnership, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, the Kazakh-German University, etc., took an active part in the work of the Central Asia Pavilion.

Traditionally, in addition to the main activities, more than 30 meetings were conducted in the negotiation room of the CA Pavilion, which allowed to establish new partner relations and expand cooperation both inside and outside of the region.

But most importantly, the CA Pavilion has become a much-in-demand platform, where the most significant climate issues of the region were discussed in the global context and Central Asia has seamlessly joined the mainstream of the UN global climate forum. The Central Asian governments are determined to address environmental issues on the global level.

The Solidarity and Unity In the Face of Challenges of the Triple Planetary Crisis high level meeting has demonstrated adherence of the countries of the region to strengthening regional dialogue, enhancing representation of Central Asia on international platforms and creating a joint framework for actions.

The states of Central Asia have already taken certain steps to confront climate challenges. The countries have joined the Paris Agreement and pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Erlan Nysanbayev, Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources of the Republic of Kazakhstan emphasized that climate change invariably leads to economic losses, and worldwide, for example, they account for 2% of the GDP.

Confronting the triple planetary crisis, Kazakhstan is taking not only strategic, but also practical actions. The country is planting 2 billion trees in order to address problems of desertification, soil degradation, decrease of biodiversity, reduction of greenhouse gases. A large network of nature preserves covering 10.7% of the country’s territory was created.

Addressing the problem of environmental pollution, Kazakhstan has identified top-50 polluters, which were legally obligated to implement new technologies in order to reduce emissions.

Melis Turgunbayev, Minister of Natural Resources, Ecology and Technical Supervision of the Kyrgyz Republic, emphasized that the triple planetary crisis affects mountainous countries, including Kyrgyzstan. He noted that the temperature rise in the Republic leads to such negative consequences as drought, temperature fluctuations atypical for the time of the year, as well as glacier melting. The Kyrgyz Republic has developed modern glaciation, and all mountain ridges have climate change hotspots.

Melis Turgunbayev noted that there is a need to strengthen regional cooperation by building a constructive and fair dialogue aimed at sustainable development of transboundary water resources, ensuring food security and sustainable agricultural development in the region.

Azis Abdukhakimov, Minister of Ecology, Environment and Climate Change of the Republic of Uzbekistan, brought up problems important for the region on the triple planetary crisis level such as air pollution, biodiversity loss on the upper Aral Sea territory, where only salt and dust storms occur.

Underlining the scale of the problems common for the region, he noted that more than 30 out of 70 million people residing on the territory of the Central Asian region, are affected by air pollution.

Aziz Abdukhakimov expressed his opinion that unification of the CA countries is critically important for voicing the region’s position, interests and ideas on various international UN platforms.

He believes that the CA countries should join the mechanism of the recently created Loss and Damage Fund at the current Conference of the Parties. This is good tool, which can help attract financial resources to the region in order to compensate for damages caused by climate change. To do that, the CA countries need to consolidate their efforts and become visible in voicing the problems of the region.

The share of the Central Asian Region in the global greenhouse effect is insignificant and most likely accounts for less than one hundredth, however, similar to small island states, the region is most affected by global warming. The temperature rise in the Central Asian region is higher than globally, which has a negative impact on the countries» economy and agriculture. At the same time, the countries of the region do not yet have sufficient financial capabilities to respond to climate challenges. The Loss and Damage Fund could render a good support toward sustainable climate development of the region.

Zafar Makhmudov, Executive Director of the Regional Environmental Centre for Central Asia (CAREC), in turn, noted that CAREC is ready to implement the initiative to create a Central Asian Negotiation Group to participate in negotiation processes of the UNFCCC Conference to the Parties. He expressed hope that such group will participate in negotiation processes already during the next 29th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC.

Zhanna Khusainova

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