Overview on climate change and implementation of the UNFCCC activity in the Central Asian region

Publication date: 17 November 2017

From 13 to 17 November CAREC participated in the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is being held in Bonn, Germany. CAREC makes efforts to support the Central Asian countries in the global climate processes. For your attention, a review on climate change and UNFCCC activities implementation in the region has been prepared.

Climate change challenge to humanity at the global level

According to the report of the IPCC, since 1950, there are changes associated with extreme weather and climate events. Warming of the atmosphere and ocean, reducing the number of cold days and nights and increase of warm ones, and as a consequence the snow cover reduction and melting of glaciers and rising global sea level is being observed. Moreover, in some regions has increased the precipitation frequency and intensity.

Climate change intensifies the existing risks and creates the new risks for natural and social systems. Climate change affects various natural processes and is the cause of natural disasters. For instance, the rapid glaciers melting in the chain leads to the mudflows, landslides and floods intensity. Also to natural disasters associated with climate change include droughts, heavy rains, frost and hurricanes. The relevant socio-economic risks are unevenly distributed and, as a rule, they affect the most vulnerable populations in the least developed countries.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change as Global Platform

The UNFCCC entered into force on 21 March 1994 and was signed by 197 countries of the world. This agreement constitutes the common principles for joint action to hamper the climate change on the planet. The main objective of the UNFCCC and its related legal instruments is to stabilize the greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent "dangerous anthropological interference with the climate system" on the planet.

Since 1995 the parties to the UNFCCC hold annual Conference of the Parties (COP) to assess their progress, monitoring the implementation of their commitments and continue negotiations on how best to deal with the climate change. The conference of the parties (COP) is the Supreme legislative body of the UNFCCC.

In December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, the Kyoto Protocol to the Convention was agreed upon. It included commitments and individual legally binding emission reduction targets for the developed countries, since they are responsible for the largest share of the current and historical greenhouse gas emissions. Since the entry into force of the Protocol in 2005, the Meetings of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP) have been held jointly with the annual UNFCCC COP to review the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol.

On 4 November 2016, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, adopted at the UN COP 21 Conference in Paris in 2015, entered into force. Meetings of representatives of the participating countries in the Paris Agreement (CMA) will also be held in parallel with the UNFCCC COP.  

The UNFCCC established two standing subsidiary bodies, namely the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) to support the COP. SBI and SBSTA also serve as CMP and CMA. In addition, there are institutional mechanisms and specialized bodies such as the Adaptation Committee, the Standing Committee on Finance, the Executive Committee on Technology and many others.

Since 2016, the Parties have been developing a set of rules for the Paris Agreement through the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA), SBI and SBSTA, with the participation of various official bodies and overseeing the COP. Thus, in accordance with the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol, a complex architecture for the global climate management was developed, which is currently is developing under the Paris Agreement.

Structure of the UNFCCC bodies and Kyoto Protocol. Source: http://bigpicture.unfccc.int/

All five Central Asian countries have signed the Paris Agreement and provided their preliminary commitments related to climate change (INDC). Currently, the Agreement has been ratified in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

The climate change issue in Central Asia: status, projection, consequences

Central Asia, characterized by a sharply continental dry climate with significant seasonal and diurnal fluctuating temperature and uneven distribution of precipitation, is one of the region’s most vulnerable area to climate change. 


The World Bank has provided the highest level of vulnerability for four out of five Central Asian countries among 28 countries of Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia, recognizing Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan as the most vulnerable. 

At the same time, climate observations confirm that the increase in the average annual temperature in Central Asia since the 1950s has outpaced global mean values. During the period between two thirty-year climate control periods (1942-1972 and 1973-2003), the temperature increased by 0.65 ° C. For example, in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, the average annual temperature over the past 100 years has increased by 0.8-1.3 ° C. Throughout the region, warming in the winter months is more marked than in other seasons.                

Precipitation is distributed unevenly throughout the region, and their frequency varies by season. The average annual precipitation in the last century was from 60 to 1180 mm in different settlements of the region. It is projected that climate change will lead to precipitation increase in the north of Central Asia and decrease in the south. It is also most likely that the winter precipitation will increase, and the summer precipitation will decrease. According to the spatial data studies for the period from 1960 to 2013, significant increase in precipitation in the winter season was observed (0.11 mm per year). At the same time, frequent droughts of the spring, summer and autumn periods will be observed.

The climate change of the last 100 years, especially since the 1950s, had a negative impact on glaciers, snow cover and permafrost. More than 46 glaciers in the region are currently melting. At the same time, an essential part of small glaciers with an area of less than 0.5 km2 have completely melted. Over the past 50-60 years, from 14% to 30% of the glaciers of the Tien Shan and the Pamir have disappeared. 


The glaciers melting rate in Central Asia, which is the main reserve for feeding rivers and the most important source of fresh water, is 0.2-1% per year.

Rapid melting of glaciers and decrease in the level of snow cover in winter affect the region’s hydrology. Melt waters of seasonal snow cover and glaciers are the predominant source of river supply and provide about 80% of the total runoff in Central Asia. Despite the short-term increase in runoff due to the glaciers melting, in the long term, assessment of the region's water resources, taking into account climate change, shows that none of the climatic scenarios depicting warming, consider the increase in available water resources. 


According to forecasts, by 2050 the volume of runoff of the Amudarya and Syrdarya basins, the main rivers of the Central Asia, will decrease by 10-15 and 6-10%, respectively.

According to the IPCC forecasts, by 2100 the global temperature increase can reach from 1.5 ° C to 4.8 ° C relative to the pre-industrial level. For Central Asia, by the years 2030-2050, according to the climate change scenarios, an increase in temperature to 1-3 ° C is expected. Such increase in temperature can lead to the serious consequences for the people and ecosystems.

Climate change contributes to an increasing risk of the extreme weather events and climate-related hazards, such as heavy rainfall, droughts, floods and mudflows, periods of extreme heat, dust storms and forest fires. In Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, due to their location in the steppe, semi-desert and desert areas, prolonged droughts and strong winds are common, which affect the agricultural land yield. For the mountainous countries - Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as south-eastern Kazakhstan, mudflows and floods risks are high. Over the past ten years, a series of glacial floods have occurred in this area's mountains.

According to the interim report of the Asian Development Bank, the average damage from the climate change impact in Central Asia is estimated in 2010 as 1.5 million US dollars per year, however, by 2050 expected increase to 547 million US dollars per year, and by 2100 - 1,796 million US dollars. The economic consequences of reducing river flow and the availability of irrigation water in the agricultural sector are related to the crop production decrease, which by 2100 will be: for Kyrgyzstan - 103 million US dollars, for Tajikistan - 177 million US dollars.

Agriculture, energy, water and land resources, biodiversity and human health in Central Asia will be affected by the climate change. Taking into account that agriculture in Central Asia is one of the most important economy sectors, natural disasters caused by climate change pose a serious threat to the food security of both the region and neighbouring countries importing products. A great deal of damage associated with changes in the seasonal river flow dynamics will be inflicted on the irrigated agricultural production sector, which uses more than 80% of the region's water resources. And the cereals yield in the Central Asia can be reduced to 30%. In addition, the lack of river flow will affect the functionality of hydropower facilities and, consequently, the Central Asian countries energy security, which depend on the hydropower resources. The climate change exacerbates desertification and land degradation effects, poses a threat to biodiversity and causes a shift in the plant areas, increases social risks and affects environmental health factors - clean air, safe drinking water, food in sufficient quantities and reliable shelter.

Regional cooperation on climate change

Being the Parties to the UNFCCC, the CA countries regularly submit their National Climate Change Communications, conduct national inventory of greenhouse gas emissions and sinks, vulnerability and adaptation assessments, and formulate measures to mitigate the climate change and contribute to capacity building and awareness raising. However, despite the fact that the climate change issue and its consequences are common for the entire region, there is currently no operational regional action program for mitigation and climate resilience in the Central Asia.

In 2010-2014, the UNDP Project "UNDP Central Asian Multi-Country Program on Climate Risk Management" was implemented. The regional component of the program included strengthening the human resources capacity to manage the climate change risks; dissemination of knowledge and lessons learned from changes in national development processes to include risks and opportunities associated with climate change; increase knowledge and awareness level of the glaciers degradation in the Central Asia. The program also included national projects in each country of the Central Asia.

A regional platform for knowledge sharing and discussion of the climate issues is the Central Asian Knowledge Forum on Climate Change, organized by the World Bank in 2013.


The Regional Environmental Centre for Central Asia (CAREC), through its Climate Change and Sustainable Energy Program, also contributes to the promotion of climate cooperation in the Central Asian region. An example of the regional cooperation is the preparatory work organized by CAREC before the Conference of the Parties in Paris in 2015. 

CAREC, with the support of donors, held a regional conference on climate change, which resulted in identification of priorities for adaptation, mitigation and capacity building, which are of a general regional nature and attract the interest of all five Central Asian countries. The result of the Paris process was the participation of the region countries in the parallel session of the Conference of the Parties (December 4, 2015, Paris), at which opportunities for joint regional actions for implementing the global climate agreement were announced.

In each CA country, separate projects on climate change are being implemented, and in general, climate investments in projects in this vulnerable region have increased. As of 2014, the Central Asian countries received about $ 105.09 million for adaptation projects, where Tajikistan has become the largest recipient with more than $ 77 million dollars solely for adaptation activities [23].

The issues of climate change in Central Asia are addressed in the framework of such regional GIZ projects as the Program for Sustainable Use of Natural Resources in Central Asia (2002-2015), the Ecosystem Approach for the Climate Resilience in the Highland Regions of the  Asia (2015-2019) , Sustainable Land Management Program for Climate Change for Economic Development in Central Asia (2016-2019).

An example of a large-scale regional project is the 5-year CAMP4ASB Project "Climate Adaptation and Mitigation Program for the Aral Sea Basin". The project is aimed at addressing common problems and challenges related to the climate change effects in the Central Asian countries through the increased access to the improved knowledge and data on climate change for the key stakeholders, and through the increased investment and technical capacity building.

National measures in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan is taking political measures aimed mainly at mitigating than adapting to climate change. Under the Kyoto Protocol, the country pledged to limit emissions to a level close to 1990 levels. The main legal and regulatory framework, referred to by the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan with the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions through its own efforts, is the Law on Energy Saving and Energy Efficiency, the Law on Support for the Use of Renewable Energy Sources and the Concept for the Transition to the Green Economy [25]. They set out specific targets for reducing emissions in the energy sector by 2020 and by 2030, as well as goals related to energy efficiency. The system of quota trading, created in 2014 - 2015, covers facilities and industrial enterprises, the emissions of which amount to more than 20 thousand tons per year.

Kazakhstan presented its preliminary obligations related to climate change (INDC), expressing its preparedness to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions by 15% (40,097.7 Gg CO2e) compared to the base year 1990 (267,298 Gg CO2e) by 2030. Subject to theh external assistance, including the transfer of new technologies and favourable economic conditions, Kazakhstan is ready to reduce emissions from 25 to 34% (i.e. from 66.824.5 to 90.881.32 Gg CO2e-eq) in the period 2021-2030.

Regarding the issues of the climate resilience, the developed Strategy for the Climate Resilience in Kazakhstan and the draft Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan "On Amendments and Additions to Certain Legislative Acts of the Republic of Kazakhstan on Adaptation to the Consequences of Climate Change" heve not yet been adopted at the legislative level.

National Measures in Kyrgyzstan

The general framework of the country's environmental policy, including those on climate change, has been established in the National Sustainable Development Strategy of the Kyrgyz Republic for the period 2013-2017. The legal framework for inventorying is defined by the Resolution of the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic "On measures to implement the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change" and the Law of the Kyrgyz Republic "On State Regulation and Policies in the Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks." In order to guide and coordinate actions to implement Kyrgyzstan's international obligations under the UNFCCC in 2012, an interdepartmental Coordinating Commission on Climate Change was established. Its structure includes heads of the key government departments, and the working body is SAEPF. In 2014, at the initiative of SAEPF, the Climate Dialogue Platform of Kyrgyzstan was established, the mechanisms of which allow to ensure a multidisciplinary and comprehensive regular exchange of information, knowledge and experience at the national level among all interested parties.

The proposed nationally-defined contribution of the Kyrgyz Republic highlights adaptation as a priority for the country. The process of preparing for adaptation actions was launched in the country, which consisted of two stages. At the first stage, a common document was prepared for the country as a whole - Priority directions for the climate resilience in the Kyrgyz Republic until 2017. At the second stage, key ministries and agencies, based on Priority Areas, prepared the sectorial programs and plans for the climate resilience that include assessing the current state of the sector, assessing the vulnerability and rationale for climate resilience and, in fact, assessing the required costs for their implementation. The sectorial programs and plans that have been prepared for the sectors are as follows: water resources and agriculture, emergencies, health, forest and biodiversity.

Regarding the emission reduction plans announced at INDC, the Kyrgyz Republic plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 11.49-13.75% relative to the 'business as usual' scenario by 2030. The long-term goal is to reduce GHG emissions by 12.67-15.69% relative to the 'business as usual' scenario by 2050.

National measures in Tajikistan

Tajikistan's national priorities for ensuring environmental sustainability and rational natural resources management are reflected in the National Development Strategy of the country for the period 2016-2030. Currently, the climate policy in Tajikistan is supported by the National Action Plan for Climate Change Mitigation (NAP) adopted in 2003, and will continue to be implemented within the framework of the National Strategy for Climate Resilience, which is being approved by the Government of the country. Tajikistan was one of the first countries in the region which started preparing the Fourth National Communication.

Tajikistan's preliminary commitments related to climate change (INDC) reflect the country's willingness to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10-20% (from 2.55 to 5.1 Mt CO2eq) by 2030 by its own efforts, with international support from 25 to 35% (i.e., from 6.375 to 8.925 Mt CO2 eq) by the year 2030.

The issues of the climate resilience are priorities in the climate policy of Tajikistan. In terms of the climate resilience, a number of activities are listed in the provisional commitments, but it is stated that the own financial resources are insufficient to implement all the envisaged programs. The own efforts to implement adaptation measures are envisaged in the context of the national programs and action plans for the development of hydropower, agriculture, water management, glacier protection, and disaster risk reduction.

In view of its high vulnerability to climate change and its low adaptive capacity, Tajikistan has received international funding under the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience since 2009. The volume of financing of this program and other climate-related projects in Tajikistan is about 150 million US dollars in the form of loans, grants and funding of activities in the area of hydropower, agriculture, land use, water basin management and others. Through its work with international accredited organizations, Tajikistan has access to the Green Climate Fund. Tajikistan became the first country in which the EBRD launched the Climadapt program, a 10 million USD pilot program for the EBRD aimed at promoting adaptation to climate change.

National measures in Turkmenistan

The strategy of the economic, political and cultural development of Turkmenistan for the period until 2030 determines the national priorities of the country. In the field of climate policy, the National Strategy for Climate Change (2012) is the main document representing the policy framework for increasing climate resilience and a low-carbon development policy at the country level. The Strategy provides for measures to increase energy efficiency in all major economy sectors, on technical modernization and on introduction of the renewable energy systems in the remote and sparsely populated areas. It is aimed at increasing the share of renewable energy sources in the fuel and energy balance of the country and on the development of economic incentives for their use. Based on the strategy, the National Action Plan on Climate Change Adaptation and Reduction is being developed, which will be part of a broader green economy development plan.

It should be noted that the solution of issues in the field of climate change is taking place at the highest state level, as evidenced by the proposal of the President of Turkmenistan to create and host a Regional Centre for Technologies related to climate change in the country.

The dynamics of the economic development in Turkmenistan causes an increase in greenhouse gas emissions in the short term - by 2030 greenhouse gas emissions may increase by almost four times in relation to the 2000 base year. The government of Turkmenistan is ready to reduce the energy intensity and carbon load of such sectors as energy, industrial processes, agriculture and wastes by own efforts. With significant international assistance, including the transfer of new technologies and financial support, and given the favorable economic environment, Turkmenistan can halt the growth of greenhouse gas emissions and approach the base year level.

On the other hand, for Turkmenistan adaptation is also a priority. Consequently, integration of the adaptation measures into key social and economic development sectors and natural resources will help to reduce vulnerability and the risk of natural disasters and dangerous hydrometeorological events (drought, dust storms, floods and prolonged frosts).

National measures in Uzbekistan

Despite the lack of a focused document on climate change, there are a number of environmental strategies and programs and climate-related problems included in the development and financing programs for energy, construction, transport, water and forestry, as well as the Vision 2030 draft structural reform strategy of Uzbekistan. The strategy sets temporary goals for reducing energy intensity of GDP, energy efficiency and expanding the use of renewable energy sources, primarily solar energy. For example, in Samarkand region, with the support of ADB, the largest solar power plant in Central Asia (100 MW capacity) is being constructed.

The climate change issue is addressed in the Strategy for Water Conservation and Rational Water Use in Irrigated Agriculture, developed by the UNDP National Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Strategy and the document "Towards Sustainable Energy: The Low-Carbon Development Strategy of the Republic of Uzbekistan". Also, on the basis of the Decree of 2006, an Interdepartmental Council on Clean Development Mechanism projects was established. The Coordinating Center of the UNFCCC, GEF and Green Climate Fund and the main agency responsible for climate policy in Uzbekistan is the Hydrometeorological Service Center under the Cabinet of Ministers (Uzhydromet).

Measures and actions to prevent the negative impact of climate change and adaptation to it are integrated into the Life-Improvement Strategy, the National Program of Action to Combat Desertification and Drought in the context of the UNCCD, National Strategy and Action Plan for the Conservation of Biodiversity for the period 2016-2025, sectoral programs in the field of energy efficiency and energy conservation. Despite the integration of issues related to resilience into national programs, Uzbekistan has not yet ratified the Paris Agreement.

In the provided estimated nationally-defined contributions, the Republic of Uzbekistan, with international support, is ready to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions by 10% by 2030 from level of 2010. Also, the state is considering the climate resilience measures.

This review was compiled by a specialist of the Environmental Management Programme responsible for promoting CAREC's work with international environmental conventions -  Karina Zhanel


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12. Третье-Шестое Национальное Сообщение Республики Казахстан

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14. Третье Национальное Сообщение Кыргызской Республики

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