Gap Analysis on Adaptation to Climate Change in Central Asia
Due to its already precarious climatic situation, which is characterized by scant precipitation, widespread aridity, highly continental conditions, and unevenly distributed resources, the Central Asian region is particularly threatened by climate change, which will exacerbate the already difficult situation. Adaptation is defined as responses (preventative/preparatory/reactive) to the climate change risks, which moderate harm or exploit beneficial opportunities. All the five Central Asian states have programmes and legislation for environmental protection in place. However, multilevel gaps still remain, and implementation is not guaranteed due to the fact that the five republics are developing and emerging countries, whose demand for resources like energy and water are growing. One example gap is that the countries’ strategic development and economic growth plans are not coordinated with environmental considerations and adaptation plans. This results in diverging and contradictory objectives and policies. In addition, the policy discussion on climate change mitigation prevails, while little attention is given to adaptation, eventhough it should be an essential instrument in Central Asia. This situation is due to several factors, including capacity and awareness gaps, the high cost of adaptation measures (competing with the other development priorities), limited funding, lack of local experience on climate change modeling, and the use of diverging models and predictions, which are difficult to compare. The uncertainty inherent in climate change forecasts generally also plays a role.
This regional desk study “Gap Analysis on Adaptation to Climate Change in Central Asia” was conducted by the Regional Environmental Centre for Central Asia (CAREC) within the Asia-Pacific Adaptation Network (APAN) (March 2011). The report systematically examines all the major relevant adaptation sectors, including water and agriculture, forests and biodiversity, public health, disasters and extreme events, urban areas, energy, industry, transport, and oil and gas. In spite of the differences between the five republics, two overriding priority areas for adaptation are identified, which are key to the entire region. These are water and agriculture. In the water-energy nexus, the interdependence of the five Central Asian republics becomes apparent, since the cooperative trade-off of unequally distributed resources, which was in place during the Soviet era, is no longer a contributor. This affects the energy security of the upstream countries, and the agriculture of the three down-stream republics, all of which are forced to import the bulk of their water demand, which is growing in inverse proportion to supply, while agriculture remains a major economic sector with intense water use.
The impacts of climate change and vulnerability on the water and agriculture sectors are identified to include: water deficits and deterioration of water quality, reduced access to drinking water, changed hydrographic regimes, glacial melting and reduced snow reserves, desertification, land degradation, salinisation, increased deforestation, loss of biodiversity, endangered ecosystems, displacement of climatic zones/of land use/ and of the habitats of flora and fauna, negative repercussions on the economy and employment rates, especially for the agriculture and energy sectors, insufficient water supply for irrigation, decreased crop yields (up to 50%), reduced pasture productivity/feed capacity/animal production, threats to food security, increased regional/transboundary tensions and potential conflicts (due to the water-energy nexus), and increased natural disasters (temperature extremes, torrential rainfall, hailstorm, mudflow, landslides, avalanche, flood, drought and earthquake).
The report concludes that over the last few years there has been a significant progress made on adaptation in the region – vulnerability areas identified, adaptation measures proposed, concepts of national adaptation plans drafted, and a certain pool of “good” adaptation practices formed. However, it is proposed to focus the further activities on 1) Improving the quality of the proposed measures (eliminating the gap between the needed and proposed measures). 2) Enhancing the adaptation enforcement (eliminating the gap between the proposed measures and activities on the ground). In addition to water and agriculture, the sectors that require further research and policy action are public health, and forests and biodiversity.