Joining Forces, Harmonizing Efforts: President Mirziyoyev Delivers Strong Message at the Partnership for Green Growth (P4G) Summit
On May 30, President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev took part in the Second International Summit "Partnership for Green Growth and Global Goals - 2030" (P4G), held in virtual format.
The year 2021 is crucial in many ways. Countries are busy preparing green, sustainable and inclusive post-COVID 19 recovery plans, and later this year the crucial COP26 Climate Summit is taking place in Glasgow, the world's “last best chance” to avert climate catastrophe, in the words US Envoy for Climate John Kerry.
As a stepping-stone to the COP26 Climate Summit, the two-day forum Partnership for Green Growth and Global Goals – 2030 (P4G) was held in virtual format on the theme of “Inclusive Green Recovery Towards Carbon Neutrality”, with as main agenda points achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals and implementing the provisions of the Paris Climate Agreement.
In his intervention at the P4G Summit, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev outlined key directions and proposals to move towards a green recovery and a green economy, putting particular emphasis on the necessity of international cooperation.
President Mirziyoyev took the opportunity of this platform to thank the international community for the support provided at the UN for the adoption, on May 18, of a special resolution declaring the Aral Sea region a zone of environmental innovations and technologies. It is well known that the environmental, climatic, socio-economic consequences of the Aral Sea disaster are felt to this very day and threaten the sustainable development of Uzbekistan and surrounding countries. International cooperation (in the form of technology and knowledge transfer) and sharing of best practices (institutional, scientific, etc) are critical to overcome the negative effects of the Aral Sea disaster.
Uzbekistan has been able to successfully mobilize international interest and resources to the cause of the Aral Sea through the establishment of the UN Multilateral Trust Fund for the Development of the Aral Sea Region in 2018. This Trust Fund provides a unified platform for all involved stakeholders and is tasked to enable close cooperation between development partners, international financial institutions, civil society, and also bilateral and multilateral donors. To date, governments such as Norway, Finland, Republic of Korea, Japan, UAE, EU have pledged contributions to the fund.
Furthermore, concern was expressed by the Head of State about the reduction in the flow of transboundary rivers and biodiversity in the Central Asian region. Water, as we know, is an enabler of development, necessary for agricultural production (to sustain growing populations of the region) or generate electricity. Water can also, however, be the cause of inter-state conflicts as recent events between Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have painfully shown.
While the roots of the challenges surrounding the flow of transboundary rivers can be traced back to the Soviet times (an era characterised by water mismanagement), Uzbekistan under the leadership of Pr. Mirziyoyev has succeeded in de-securitizing the issue of water cooperation which was previously often a thorny issue in Central Asia. We can point to two examples:
The Kazakh-Uzbek joint working group on environmental protection and water quality of the Syrdarya river basin was established in 2018 and meets on an annual basis.
A few days ago, during the visit of Foreign Minister Kamilov to Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan signed an agreement on the establishment of a joint Uzbek-Turkmen intergovernmental commission for water management issues.
Concerning biodiversity, Uzbekistan has attached great importance to increasing the surface of protected areas. The July 2020 release of the World Database of Protected Areas showed that the surface of protected areas in Uzbekistan has increased by 36% since its previous update well over two decades ago. The Government of Uzbekistan has committed to increase the total protected areas coverage to 12% of its territory by 2028, as outlined in the recently adopted National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan and the Biodiversity conservation strategy for the period 2019-2028. Moreover, Uzbekistan has 27,000 unique and endangered species across greatly varied environments, according to UNDP figures. Some endangered species include snow leopards, Bukhara deer or Saiga antelope, listed in Uzbekistan’s National Red Book, which contains information about rare and endangered species of flora and fauna.
President Mirziyoyev also reiterated Uzbekistan’s commitment to fulfilling its commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 under the Paris Agreement. As per its NDC plan, Uzbekistan intends to decrease emissions of greenhouse gases per unit of GDP by 10% by 2030 from 2010 levels.
Here again we see efforts to institutionalize international partnerships. In the context of the EU green deal, the European Commission has announced a EUR 8 million support programme to boost sustainable energy in Central Asia. The new ‘Sustainable Energy Connectivity in Central Asia’ (SECCA) programme is the first targeted programme in years in Central Asia to focus on sustainable energy through a regional approach. The programme intends to strengthen public capacity (institutional, human and financial), improve data and modelling, and identify bankable projects.
Uzbekistan also recently became a member of the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI). To ensure close and effective collaboration, a GGGI country office will be established in Tashkent in the near future. One of the very first projects to start the GGGI Uzbekistan programme is a 3-year project funded by the Korea International Cooperation Agency under the name of “Green Rehabilitation Investment Project for Karakalpakstan Republic to address impacts of the Aral Sea Crisis” which will be implemented beginning July 2021, meant to increase the resilience of livelihoods in the most affected areas of the Aral Sea disaster.
Lastly, it was noted by the President that the widespread introduction of green technologies and the implementation of projects in the field of green energy in Uzbekistan will allow increasing the share of renewable energy sources in the energy mix in the coming decades.
Uzbekistan is undergoing overall greening of the energy sector through the expansion of renewable sources of energy. By 2030, renewables should account for at least 25 per cent of the total volume of electricity generation in Uzbekistan.
To this end, last year the Uzbek government announced the construction of the country’s first national solar photovoltaic power plant in the vicinity of Navoi City. It is expected to produce enough electricity to power over 31,000 households. In parallel, in April the Uzbek Energy Ministry announced the signing of a new Presidential Decree on measures for the development of hydrogen energy in Uzbekistan. Wind energy and hydropower also have considerable potential for expansion.
In conclusion, initiatives such as those raised by President Mirziyoyev at the P4G Forum help keep the momentum alive towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement, which must go hand-in-hand. The crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has unequivocally shown the importance of maintaining the balance between human activities and nature; between short-term development needs and building a green and sustainable future in the long-term green.
Alberto Turkstra, Project Manager, Diplomatic World Institute & Co-Founder, Brussels-Uzbekistan Friendship Group