9 October 2019

Almaty

Hon. Yerlan Nissanbayev, Vice - Minister of Ecology, Geography and Natural Resources,

Ms. Schmidt, Deputy Consul-General of Germany in Kazakhstan,

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

It is with great pleasure to welcome you all to the Central Asia Regional Trialogue on Land Degradation, Biodiversity and Climate Change.

First, I would like to thank the Ministry of Ecology, Geography and Natural Resources of the Republic of Kazakhstan for hosting this Trialogue in Almaty.

Honorable Vice -Minister, we very much appreciate the excellent collaboration with your Ministry and your colleagues in preparation for this important event.

Our meeting today is part of UNDP's Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Network that is funded by the Governments of Germany, Norway and Sweden. We are grateful to our donors.

The meeting in Central Asia is important, as our countries host rich biodiversity.

The mountains of Central Asia, for example, are designated as one of the global biodiversity hotspots, encompassing a large number of endemic and endangered species and providing water, food, fuel, animal feed and other key resources for local populations.

Central Asia and Azerbaijan are facing a common challenge of land degradation and desertification. Natural landscapes and traditional fallows have rapidly been converted to agricultural and industrial landscapes, following the dissolution of USSR and disintegration of collective farms. Although estimates vary and are imprecise, land degradation is claimed to be extensive, ranging from 4-10 % of cropped land, 27-68 % of pasture land as much as 8 % of forested land. In total, as much as half of land area is degraded across each country.

Annually this figure increases, resulting in loss of humus, drop in agricultural productivity and biodiversity, continued release of GHGs through wind and water erosion, loss of carbon sequestration capacities by soil. According to the World Bank, annually 50-100 tons of soil matter is lost per ha from highly degraded agricultural lands in Central Asia.

Available expertise reports provide that 62.3% of all land and 68.9% of agricultural land in Central Asian countries suffers some level of erosion - of this 48.7% suffer high and medium level of erosion. According to the analyses taken from the UNCCD national action plans in average in 2014, 68% of each country’s agricultural lands are subject to erosion.

In Kazakhstan, as we heard from the Ministry, we are also facing these challenges.

UNDP partners with the government to implement a number of projects in the area of biodiversity and ecosystem services aimed at mitigating land degradation and climate change in Kazakhstan.

To-date, our work in Kazakhstan materialized into a number of results such as: rehabilitation of degraded pasture ecosystems —  an area of 247 000 ha, with 4000 hectares afforested with drought resistant plants, restoration of irrigation systems on 148 000 ha of previously abandoned land, introduction of solar and wind energy for irrigation of 10 000 ha in the Aral Sea region. We also supported the establishment of protected areas covering 2,5 mln ha of Kazakhstan’s territory.

However as we know this is not sufficient. With existing efforts, and business as usual, we risk to miss climate targets, which Kazakhstan has set at min 15%.

We need to raise our ambitions.

A recent UN report reveals a gap between existing commitments made by governments on climate change, and the action we need to be taking to avoid its worst effects.

What concerns Central Asia, we are all aware of the Aral Sea shrinking and spread of desertification.

Without long-term development solutions and sustainable choices, the future of economic development in particular of agriculture here is threatened. It is up to us though to change this. Therefore this meeting is important.

We are honored to have policymakers, scientists and practitioners from the Central Asia and Azerbaijan to deliberate on region-specific challenges and opportunities in Land Degradation, Biodiversity, Climate Change, and move towards building a common agenda for action both at policy and programme levels.

Solutions built through such trilateral collaboration are the most sustainable and reflect the spirit of SDGs

And I am speaking not only about Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15 and its specific Target 15.3, calling countries to combat desertification, restore degraded land and soil, including land affected by desertification, drought and floods, and to achieve a land-degradation-neutral world.

We need to look at interlinkages with other goals, on climate policies, energy, governance but most important partnerships.

In UNDP we offer to our countries global knowledge around SDG integration and help mobilize partnerships through a network of accelerator labs. Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan launched them. In Kazakhstan we are soon starting a green financing platform that aims to leverage partnerships for green business development.

We believe that only public funding will not be sufficient to achieve SDGs.

Development banks and private sector have a big role to play and we aim to demonstrate here in Kazakhstan concrete examples

One of them is planned to be launched with a private company to invest in afforestation.

I am very much looking forward to other experiences to be shared by Kazakhstan and all other countries participating as well as our global experts

I have no doubt that, with the world watching, together we can ensure our countries helps deliver on those global goals. Let’s build a future where Central Asian countries step into a world where rising harm to the environment is only taught in history class. The decisions we now make can turn this into a reality.

I thank you for your attention and look forward to the productive and successful meeting.

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