In addressing the United Nations General Assembly via videoconference in September 2020, Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev told the world body that climate change poses “a great threat to the sustainable development of Central Asia.”
Five months later, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a United Nations Security Council session that “climate change is a threat to our security” and stressed the importance of helping vulnerable countries "adapt and build resilience".
The parallel thinking of these two leaders is not at all surprising. Uzbekistan has long been committed to identifying and proactively addressing climate change’s causes and outcomes at national, regional and global levels and has been a party to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) since 1993. UK, for its part, passed the world's first legally binding national commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions in 2008. The Climate Change Act, which calls for net zero emissions by 2050, was passed by an overwhelming majority (463 to 3) in 2008.
Both leaders agree that adapting to the negative impacts of climate change in Uzbekistan and around the world requires a whole-of-society approach with practical action on the ground supported by policy commitments. There is also a need for innovative partnerships reaching across borders, exemplified by the ongoing collaboration between the UK and Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan’s climate change concerns are driven mostly by geographic vulnerabilities. Warming trends have reduced the nation’s snow cover and increased evaporation, putting the double landlocked country at increased risk of running out of water. The situation is particularly severe in the Karakalpakstan region and in the far-eastern Fergana valley, where drought, desertification, and extreme seasonal weather, all worsened by climate change, threaten basic well-being and food security. Careful preparations are needed to counter these pressing concerns.
We at UNDP are pleased to be working with the United Kingdom, through its Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, to support Uzbekistan’s climate priorities. One such joint initiative is being implemented this year across Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to enhance policy action for climate security in Central Asia through supporting more robust and coherent climate change action. Uzhydromet, the national hydrometeorological service and the body responsible for coordinating actions to fight climate change, is helping to coordinate the £504,215 initiative, called ‘Policy Action for Climate Security in Central Asia’.
This multifaceted project seeks to improve the quality of national-level research into climate change, create greater public awareness of this issue, and prepare Uzbek delegates for the November 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), to be held in Glasgow in the UK . With the project’s assistance a joint delegation from the three participating Central Asian nations will be able to put forward ambitious climate action proposals, with benefits reaching far beyond Uzbekistan and Central Asia.
A training held within this initiative gave Uzbek delegates more insight into and understanding of climate change policy frameworks including the UNFCCC, the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement. In parallel, they were trained in methods of effective negotiation, and the decision-making processes required for reaching global climate agreements.
In addition, with UK financial support, a series of trainings are planned for government specialists. Webinars held by the Climate Security project have considered the impact of climate change on women’s opportunities and livelihoods, and have given Central Asian youth a platform to share concerns and ideas on mitigation and adaptation. Furthermore, a multi-channel awareness-raising campaign will soon be launched across Uzbekistan, making adults, children and influencers aware of climate change’s challenges and solutions, and empowering them to take action in their own lives.
Climate change addressed through a coordinated approach
The United Kingdom, through its Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, also is working with UNDP to support the development of gender-sensitive climate change adaptation plans for the health, agriculture, water, emergency and housing sectors. The FCDO also is a key partner in supporting Uzbekistan’s efforts to achieve its Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement, and its National Adaptation Plan. One important initiative under this umbrella involves Uzbekistan’s Strategy on Transition to a Green Economy by 2030.
UNDP is addressing long-term human insecurities related to Uzbekistan’s climatic extremes and made worse by global warming, such as the impacts desertification and insufficient irrigation water have on agriculture. Advances made so far in 2021, ahead of Uzbekistan’s harsh summer months, have included creating an early warning system for drought and other extreme weather events, and over 15,000 farmers and homeowners in Karakalpakstan adopting climate-resilient practices.
Climate change has been a cross-cutting focus in UNDP Uzbekistan’s project portfolio, including afforestation works both on and around the former Aral Sea, and initiatives to maintain the unique flora and fauna of mountain forests. Climate change mitigation approaches applied in Uzbekistan not only draw on what has worked successfully on a global scale, but can also inspire other nations facing similar challenges.
Broader support to UNDP initiatives in Uzbekistan
As our fourth largest government contributor to core funding (US$70 million in 2020) the United Kingdom is a vital partner in all of UNDP’s work across its six interrelated signature solutions in Uzbekistan and around the world, namely: eradicating all forms of poverty, improving governance systems, building resilience against crises, supporting the environment, promoting sustainable energy for all, and working for full gender equality, everywhere . Furthermore, the United Kingdom contributes generously to two Multi-Donor Trust Funds (MPTFs) that are supporting UNDP’s work in the country: the Peacebuilding Fund and the COVID-19 Response and Recover Fund.
Since 2018, the UK’s non-core contributions to UNDP in Uzbekistan has totalled $1.4 million. Much of this has gone to strengthening the capacity and transparency of governance institutions, but significant support also has gone to promoting the empowerment of women, gender sensitive training of civil servants and improving the business sector. By promoting legislative change, UK-funded projects also are protecting the rights of all population groups and particularly the most vulnerable by increasing their engagement in governance processes, and strengthening access to digital public services.
For example, the UK has contributed to empowering women within Uzbekistan’s growing small business sector, and strengthening their role in government. This project is promoting institutional and cultural change at regional offices of the Women’s Committee, the State Statistics Committee and the Ministry of Employment and Labour Relations. Meanwhile from 2017 to 2020 the UK worked with us to support the expansion of digitalized public services, laying a groundwork for our current project on improving public service delivery.
The UK’s generous financial contributions to our core operating budget, as well its support to a wide range of projects, have greatly facilitated our work to improve the lives and livelihoods of the people of Uzbekistan. We look forward to continued collaboration on the road to 2030 and beyond to full sustainable, economic and social development in Uzbekistan, leaving no one behind.