Five Actions to Address Climate Change in the CAREC Region

The countries of the CAREC region need to work together to minimize the impacts of climate change and reduce emissions. Photo: Joel Heard
The countries of the CAREC region need to work together to minimize the impacts of climate change and reduce emissions. Photo: Joel Heard

By Eugene Zhukov, Xinglan Hu (胡杏兰), Kristian Rosbach, Kenzhekhan Abuov

No country can fight climate change alone. The countries of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) program should take coordinated action to combat the increasing impacts of climate change and find sustainable solutions.

Climate change-related disasters such as floods, droughts, heat waves, and tropical cyclones are happening more frequently, leading to losses of human life, large-scale displacement, and jeopardized livelihoods. Countries in the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) program region are heavily affected by climate change and need to take joint actions now. 

For example, in Pakistan, the unprecedented floods in 2022 affected more than 30 million people with nearly 2,000 lives lost. In Central Asia and the Caucasus, people are highly vulnerable to flooding and droughts. This puts the sizable number of workers in agriculture, fisheries, and forestry—the productive sectors considered most at risk from climate change and extreme weather events—at risk. 

In particular, climate change-induced agricultural water stress is affecting rain-fed agriculture in northern Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and western Turkmenistan. In Azerbaijan and Georgia, the extreme weather events alternating between heavy rainfalls and droughts are aggravating vulnerability to natural hazards.  Flooding of urban infrastructure, soil erosion, droughts, and extreme heat are having an impact across societies through food security and health problems.

In the People’s Republic of China, natural hazards incurred about $47.5 billion in direct economic losses in 2019 alone, with disasters ranging from floods, typhoons, drought, earthquakes, and geological disasters to forest and grassland fires, hailstorms, low temperatures, and snow disasters. 

 Climate change affects water resources and air pollution that know no borders. No national actions alone can effectively address these challenges. Regional actions, aligned with the Paris Climate Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals, are needed. The CAREC Program, a partnership of many countries and development partners, provides a platform for these actions. 

The accelerating impacts of climate change demand that we intensify and sustain our coordinated efforts in the CAREC region.

For a regional approach to address climate change, the following actions are needed:

Develop a climate-smart agriculture system. Countries in the region need to improve the productivity of the agriculture sector by applying modern technology aligned with international best practices to reduce greenhouse emissions. These include using digital technology, development of agriculture and agrifood value chains, improved use of water resources, and the development of an efficient trading system for agricultural inputs and outputs in the region.

Support the transition to a low-carbon energy system. Many countries in the region are improving their energy access and security. They must also meet future demand while managing the transition to clean and renewable energy sources. These include investments in improving interconnectivity in power grids to facilitate regional electricity trade, transfer of technology on clean and renewable energy, and exploring the application of the Energy Transition Mechanism in the region.

Reduce carbon footprint in transport. Transport accounts for a large portion of carbon emissions in the region. Countries should promote regional cooperation, through the CAREC program, in green and resilient transport by applying climate-smart and efficient technologies to reduce carbon emissions. These include upgrading railway lines through electrification of rail sections, incorporating climate-resilient components in new road and road rehabilitation projects, and developing air transport with lower emissions.

Promote green trade. Trade should be used in the region to address climate change. This includes increasing access and incentivizing trade of environmental goods, mainstreaming multilateral climate agreements in regional arrangements, digitizing trade processes and promoting cross-border paperless trade, investing in smart and resilient border infrastructure facilities, and accelerating diversification to reduce heavy reliance on export of commodities. They should also assess the impacts of the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism to facilitate sustainable trade with the European Union.

Strengthen disaster risk management. Countries in the region should cooperate to develop early warning and detection systems, including cross-border meteorological and climate monitoring, sharing of data, as well as piloting disaster risk transfer facilities to improve financing.

 The accelerating impacts of climate change demand that we intensify and sustain our coordinated efforts in the CAREC region. This is necessary to build resilient foundations for sustainable development. We must act firmly and act now.

The proposed regional actions are embedded in the CAREC Vision on Climate Change to be endorsed by CAREC Ministers at the 22nd CAREC Ministerial Conference at the end of November in Tbilisi, Georgia.