Uzbekistan takes systemic measures to adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change

09.08.2021 12:05

Tashkent, Uzbekistan ( -- Currently, climate change is one of the main challenges of our time that humanity faces. Its consequences are global and unprecedented in scale. Experts predict a further increase in global warming trends, entailing a set of interrelated problems of food, environmental, water, energy and, ultimately, economic security.

Recently, this issue has become more relevant among the world community. As UN Secretary General António Guterres noted, no country in the world is immune from the climate crisis. In this regard, he called for the consolidation of the efforts of the international community to combat climate change. If not decisive action is taken today, then the subsequent adaptation to climate change will require a lot of effort and expense.

According to UN data, over 1.2 million people have died as a result of natural disasters over the past 20 years. The economic damage caused amounted to about US trillion. In turn, on a global scale, climate change and its consequences in the next 30 years will cost the world economy US trillion. It is predicted that by 2050, due to the impact of climate change, the growth of world GDP will decrease by 3%.

Uzbekistan and other states of Central Asia are among the countries most prone to environmental disasters. As the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev noted, today every country feels the destructive effects of the consequences of climate change, and these negative consequences directly threaten the stable development of the Central Asian region.

According to World Bank experts, if by the end of the 21st century, while maintaining the current rates, the average temperature in the world will rise by 4 degrees Celsius, then in Central Asia the increase will be 7 degrees. At the same time, the greatest increase in air temperature is expected in the Aral Sea region.

In these conditions, the countries of Central Asia remain vulnerable to such dangerous phenomena as floods, breakthroughs of mountain lakes, landslides, mudflows, avalanches, dust storms.

As a result of global climate change over the past 50-60 years, the area of glaciers in Central Asia has decreased by about 30%. According to calculations, until 2050, a decrease in water resources in the Syrdarya basin is expected - up to 5%, in the Amudarya basin - up to 15%. By 2050, a shortage of fresh water in Central Asia could lead to a drop in GDP in the region by 11%.

Analyzes show that climate change will further exacerbate water shortages in Uzbekistan, may lead to an increase in the duration and frequency of drought, as well as the formation of serious problems in meeting the economy’s demand for water resources. If in the period up to 2015 the total water deficit in Uzbekistan was more than 3 billion cubic meters. m, then by 2030 it may reach 7 billion cubic meters. m., by 2050 - 15 billion cubic meters. m. Over the past 15 years, the provision of water per capita has decreased from 3,048 cubic meters. m. up to 1,589 cubic meters. m.

At the same time, the population of the republic is increasing by an average of 650,000 – 700,000 people a year. By 2030, the population of Uzbekistan will be 39 million people, and their demand for high-quality water is expected to increase from 2.3 billion cubic meters. m up to 2.7 - 3.0 billion cubic meters. m (by 18-20%). This will lead to an annual increase in water demand in the utilities sector.

In such conditions, the republic is taking systemic measures to adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change.

In particular, over the past 4 years, a number of conceptual documents have been adopted - "The concept of environmental protection until 2030, the Strategy for the transition of the republic to a “green” economy for the period 2019-2030, the Strategy for the management of solid household waste for the period 2019- 2028, Concept for the Development of Uzbekistan’s Water Economy for 2020-2030”, Concept for Providing Uzbekistan with Electricity for 2020-2030, “Concept for Development of the Hydrometeorological Service of the Republic of Uzbekistan in 2020-2025”, “Strategy for Water Resources Management and Development the irrigation sector in the Republic of Uzbekistan for 2021–2023”.

In these documents, the main priorities of Uzbekistan for mitigating the effects of climate change are defined:

1) reduction of emissions of pollutants into the atmosphere;

2) rational use of water resources; 

3) the introduction of new, environmentally friendly technologies in various sectors of the economy;

4) increasing the share of renewable energy sources; 5) increasing the coverage of the population with services for the collection and removal of solid household waste.

In order to improve the system of public administration in the field of environmental protection, institutional reforms have been carried out. On the basis of the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources, two independent ministries have been formed - agriculture and water management, the State Committee of the Republic of Uzbekistan for Ecology and Environmental Protection, the Center for Hydrometeorological Service of Uzbekistan, and the State Committee for Forestry have been created.

The development of the ecological culture of a wide range of the population, in particular the younger generation, plays an important role in increasing the efficiency of environmental protection measures. An important step in this direction was the creation in 2008 of the Ecological Movement of Uzbekistan, designed to consolidate the efforts of civil society in this direction. Subsequently, the Eco-Movement became the Ecological Party, which made it possible to raise the environmental agenda to the level of political discussions.

The country is taking measures to improve the energy efficiency of the economy, reduce the use of hydrocarbons, and increase the share of renewable energy sources. Thus, by 2030, it is planned to double the energy efficiency indicator and reduce the carbon intensity of GDP, ensure access to a modern, inexpensive and reliable energy supply for 100% of the population and sectors of the economy. In the economy of Uzbekistan in 2020-2022 through energy efficiency measures, it is planned to save 3.3 billion kWh of electricity, 2.6 billion cubic meters of natural gas and 16.5 thousand tons of oil products. Modern mechanisms and standards in construction will be introduced, compensation for the installation of energy efficient equipment will be provided.

The technical potential of renewable energy sources in the Republic of Uzbekistan is 180 million tons of oil equivalent, which is more than three times higher than its annual energy demand. At the same time, the share of renewable energy sources is only 10% of the total volume of generated electricity, the remaining 90% falls on traditional sources. For a more efficient use of the existing potential, Uzbekistan plans to increase the share of renewable energy sources to 25% by 2030.

At the same time, measures are being intensified to combat the depletion of water resources.

As part of the implementation of the Water Resources Management Strategy of Uzbekistan for 2021–2023, it is planned to actively introduce water-saving technologies, including drip irrigation. Thus, it is planned to bring the introduction of water-saving irrigation technologies from 308,000 hectares to 1.1 million hectares, including drip irrigation technologies - from 121,000 hectares to 822,000 hectares.

Uzbekistan pays special attention to measures to minimize the consequences of the drying up of the Aral Sea. Desertification and land degradation in the Aral Sea zone occurs on an area of about 2 million hectares. By creating protective green spaces on the drained bottom of the Aral Sea (1.5 million hectares have been planted), Uzbekistan is increasing the territory occupied by forests and shrubs. Over the past 4 years, the volume of afforestation in the republic has increased by 10-15 times. If until 2018 the annual volume of forest creation was within the range of 47-52 thousand hectares, in 2019 this figure increased to 501 thousand hectares, in 2020 - up to 728 thousand hectares. Similar results were achieved, among other things, by expanding the production of planting material. So, in 2018, 55 million seedlings and seedlings were grown, in 2019 - 72 million pieces, in 2020 - 90 million pieces.

The State Program for the Development of the Aral Sea Region for 2017-2021 was adopted, aimed at improving the conditions and quality of life of the population of the region. In addition, the Program of Comprehensive Social and Economic Development of Karakalpakstan for 2020-2023 was approved. In 2018, the Aral Sea International Innovation Center was established under the President of the Republic.

Uzbekistan is taking active steps to inform the international community of the consequences of the drying up of the Aral Sea, as well as to unite the efforts of the Central Asian countries to combat the consequences of this catastrophe. In 2018, after a ten-year break, a meeting of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea was held in Turkmenistan. In the same year, on the initiative of the President of Uzbekistan, the UN Multi-Partner Trust Fund for Human Security was created for the Aral Sea region.

On October 24-25, 2019 in Nukus under the auspices of the UN, a high-level international conference "Aral Sea Region - a zone of environmental innovations and technologies" was held. At the suggestion of S. Mirziyoyev, on May 18, 2021, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a special resolution declaring the Aral Sea region a zone of environmental innovations and technologies.

The initiative of the head of Uzbekistan was positively received by the world community, as evidenced by the fact that about 60 states of the world were co-authors of the resolution. The Aral Sea region became the first region to which the General Assembly has granted such a significant status.

The UN predicts that global climate change will only exacerbate water problems, as well as increase the frequency and severity of floods and droughts. By 2030, the global water scarcity on the planet could reach 40%.

Against this background, Uzbekistan stands for cooperation in the field of water resources on the basis of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, mutual benefit and good faith in a spirit of good neighborliness and cooperation. Tashkent considers it necessary to develop mechanisms for joint management of the region’s transboundary water resources, ensuring a balance of interests of the Central Asian countries. At the same time, the management of the water resources of the basins of transboundary watercourses should be carried out without prejudice to the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

In addition, it is important to strengthen the existing regional institutional and legal mechanisms for joint management, as well as resolve emerging disputes through negotiations and consultations, taking into account the combination of geographical, climatic, environmental and demographic factors, as well as the socio-economic needs of the states of the region. The implementation of the above measures should contribute to resolving the existing differences in views on the use of water resources in Central Asia, and, as a consequence, strengthening confidence between the countries of the region.

Uzbekistan has become an active participant in global environmental policy by joining and ratifying a number of international conventions and relevant protocols in the field of environmental protection. An important event was the accession of Uzbekistan (2017) to the UN Paris Agreement on Climate, within the framework of which commitments were made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere by 2030 by 10% compared to 2010.To achieve this goal, at present, a National Low-Carbon Development Strategy is being developed, and the issue of achieving carbon neutrality in Uzbekistan by 2050 is being worked out.

The proactive international activities of Uzbekistan require special attention. President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, speaking at international forums, puts forward popular ideas and initiatives aimed at strengthening international and regional cooperation on key aspects of the global agenda, in particular with regard to climate change issues.

Thus, the Head of Uzbekistan in his speeches at the 75th session of the UN General Assembly, summits of the SCO, the Organization for Economic Cooperation, the first summit of the OIC on science and technology, the Consultative Meeting of the Heads of State of Central Asia called for uniting efforts to resolve issues related to climate change, as well as create specific effective mechanisms for regional cooperation in this direction.

At the SCO summit in Bishkek (on 14 June 2019) Shavkat Mirziyoyev proposed to adopt the SCO Green Belt program in order to introduce resource-saving and environmentally friendly technologies in the countries of the organization. At the 14th Summit of the Economic Cooperation Organization (on 4 March 2021), the President of Uzbekistan came up with an initiative to develop and approve a Medium-Term Strategy aimed at ensuring energy sustainability and widely attracting investments and modern technologies in this area.

At the third Consultative Meeting of the Heads of State of Central Asia, held on 6 August 2021 in Turkmenistan, the President of Uzbekistan called for the development of a regional program "Green Agenda" for Central Asia, which will contribute to the adaptation of the countries of the region to climate change. The main directions of the program can be the gradual decarbonization of the economy, the rational use of water resources, the introduction of energy-efficient technologies into the economy, and an increase in the share of the generation of renewable energy sources.

In general, against the background of the actualization of the international climate agenda, the long-term policy implemented by Uzbekistan in the field of environmental protection, maintenance of ecological balance and rational use of water resources is timely and should contribute to further improvement of the environmental situation not only in the republic, but also in the Central Asian region as a whole.

At the same time, in order to achieve positive results on a regional scale, it is very important to continue constructive and mutually beneficial cooperation between the countries of Central Asia. Only through joint efforts can the fragile ecological balance, disturbed as a result of rash human activities in the region, be restored.

Marat Aitov,

head of department

Institute for Strategic and Interregional

research under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan

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