Last year, I attended COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt as an observer on behalf of the Climate Action Network Eastern Europe, Caucasus, and Central Asia. One main topic of the conference was “loss and damage,” and the results of the negotiations ended with an agreement on the creation of a loss and damage fund. Time will tell whether this fund will really help less developed countries like Kyrgyzstan that are vulnerable to climate change.
War in Ukraine and Kyrgyz Renewable Energy
The war in Ukraine was on everyone’s lips. Conversations focused on the negative impacts of the war on climate, energy and food. In discussions that I found fascinating, representatives from the governments of Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova, and researchers from various organizations discussed how war-related emissions, which have so far been ignored, can be dealt with under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 2015 Paris Agreement.
At the center of attention was a recently released report by the Initiative on GHG accounting of war. It is estimated that in just 7 months, the Russian invasion of Ukraine released around 33 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
I attended a side event at the Ukraine pavilion (at COP27, Ukraine had its own pavilion for the first time in the history of COP) and made a presentation about renewable energy solutions during war, focusing on the example of volunteers who made portable solar panel stations during Kyrgyz-Tajik border clashes in September 2022.
When the border conflict between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan began, the main аttacks were on power lines. Dozens of Kyrgyz villages in the Batken region in the southwest of Kyrgyzstan lost electricity, leaving about 10,000 houses and public facilities without light. The greatest vulnerabilities were border checkpoints and troops protecting the border, which were constantly in need of charging facilities. Between September 14 and 16, Kyrgyz citizens began collecting humanitarian aid for the people of Batken. The group fundraised for five solar panel stations, and information technology and engineering civil activists helped them build small-portable solar panel stations for border guards.
This case is very similar to Ukraine’s Ecoaction NGO movement, which is also fundraising for portable solar power stations for the army. Ukrainian colleagues asked me to join their side event at COP27, and I was happy to share how powerful Kyrgyz civil society is in crisis.
Meanwhile, the head of the official delegation of Kyrgyzstan, Deputy Minister of Natural Resources, Environment and Technical Supervision, Beksultan Ibraimov, spoke at the COP27 high-level segment. He said that 6.3 billion dollars will be required for Kyrgyzstan’s adaptation to climate change.
He emphasized that in the last 20 years, Kyrgyzstan has seen a 60% increase in the number of avalanches, mudflows, and floods that cause hundreds of millions of US dollars of damage. He continued: “Being emitters of 0.03% of global greenhouse gases, Kyrgyzstan is calling for climate justice… The time has come for a common decision to recognize that mountain ecosystems, with all available water, mineral and biological resources, and, of course, ambassadors of high mountain snow peaks—snow leopards—are extremely sensitive to climate change and, at the same time, are of paramount importance for the present and the future of humanity.”
Kyrgyzstan also had a large number of representatives from environmental NGOs and the youth community. They attended the People’s Plenary, as well as side events related to water, glacier, health, and air pollution issues.
Tajikistan and Glaciers
The president of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon, was the only Central Asian representative to attend the UNFCCC’s main event, and spoke at the opening of COP27. He noted that Tajikistan is a mountainous country, vulnerable to climate change, and glaciers in the country are melting rapidly. He pointed out that “Tajikistan is one of the most vulnerable countries in terms of climate in the entire region of Europe and Central Asia. Ninety-three percent of Tajikistan’s territory consists of mountains.”
“It is assumed that by 2050 up to one third of the glaciers in Central Asia will completely disappear, which will dramatically increase the risk of flash floods from the breakout of glacial lakes.”
It is worth emphasizing that Tajikistan had its own pavilion at COP27, where it organized side events related to water security, glacier issues and mountain policy of the region. Previously, at COP26 in Glasgow, five Central Asia countries had a joint pavilion, but at the 2022 conference, I did not witness a joint position or representative events from the region.
Overall, this COP was historic because of the decision to create a loss and damage fund. This decision is the first step in opening a source of financial support to the billions of people in the Global East who have contributed little to the climate crisis but are suffering enormously from it. Among them are the people of Kyrgyzstan. To claim finance from this fund, Kyrgyzstan will need to conduct more evidence-based research, like data analysis of melting glaciers, loss and damage, and climate change impacts in the country. It will also need to create an adaptation strategy.