ECOJER International Congress “Shaping a Sustainable Future”
Plenary Session on “International cooperation in the fight against climate change”
3 June 2021
Your Excellencies –
Deputy Prime-Minister Roman Sklyar,
Minister Magzum Mirzagaliyev,
I am honored to be with you here, at the first ECOJER International Congress, to join our efforts in the fight against climate change – one of the major contemporary challenges that humankind is facing.
Climate change is impacting all countries. According to the UN estimates, we lost 1.23 million lives during 7,348 major disasters recorded within the last 20 years in the world. These events affected 4.2 billion people with a result of US$2.97 trillion in global economic losses. Additionally, the World Disasters Report shows that almost 85 percent of all disasters were caused by extreme weather and climate-related events over the past decade.
In Kazakhstan, climate change is taking its toll on the agricultural sector, water resources, grazing lands, and forests in the country. More than 50 percent of the current glacier mass is expected to be lost by 2100, and climate-related disasters such as mudflows, floods, and droughts have increased in frequency and scale, a trend expected to continue in the next decade. Climate change is projected to cause a steep decrease in water resources (up to 22 percent) by 2100, leading to water stress in all of the country’s eight basins. Kazakhstan is a major supplier of wheat, but yields are expected to decrease by between 13 and 49 percent by 2050.
On top of these risks, this event takes place at an unprecedented time, when almost every country in the world has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, while this moment presents enormous challenges, it also provides an opportunity to rethink our development strategies, so that they are equitable, resilient and climate responsive. As we discuss recovery strategies in, hopefully soon, a post-COVID environment, it is also an opportune moment to revisit our understandings of risks undermining the relationships among nature, economy, and social systems. This requires new tools and approaches to renew partnerships and governance models for the future among institutions, businesses, and communities.
Kazakhstan has proven its capabilities to take a leap forward in its development pathways. This year, Kazakhstan celebrates 30 years of its independence. Looking back, we are very proud to witness the force and the speed of Kazakhstan’s development within just three decades, reaching High Human Development status, ranking 51st out of 189 countries in 2019. Undoubtedly, past achievements create both a strong platform and momentum for future development.
However, at the same time, the environmental indicators of Kazakhstan, such as fossil fuel energy consumption, carbon dioxide emissions, and forest and land degradation remain suboptimal. With the additional stress that the socioeconomic impact of COVID-19 causes, Kazakhstan may lose some of its hard-won human development gains, if it fails to tackle three central challenges of the Anthropocene — fighting with climate change, protecting biodiversity, and ensuring wellbeing for all.
Amidst pressures on the socioeconomic as well as environmental front, this is also an opportune moment to search for the next leap forward in Kazakhstan’s development pathway after its 30 years of independence which records enormous progress so far. Maintaining success into the next 30 years requires a paradigm shift in how natural assets are put in use for a sustainable growth trajectory. I have no doubt this is possible given Kazakhstan’s huge strength with its human capital and rich ecological diversity.
Ambition to combat climate change in a post-COVID economic recovery environment cannot follow a "business as usual" path. Recovery and the transition to a sustainable, socially just, resilient, and climate-neutral economy can and should go hand in hand. It requires a green consensus, among all stakeholders: from governments to the private sector, from local communities to youth for “building forward better”.
Allow me to share just a few elements which I think are important for such a renewed strategy based on our experience as UNDP.
First, communities should be at the heart of our actions. This is possible through an integrated perspective on local development. Climate change has amplified the vulnerability of communities around the globe, exacerbating inequalities. Those least responsible for the climate crisis are more exposed, more vulnerable, and will shoulder more of the burden, from depressed crop yields to increasing disasters to potential conflict. Climate change affects the poor more and faster and how we cope with this intersection between vulnerabilities, inequalities, and unsustainability will define our future.
It’s possible to turn this around: Through our experience, we have witnessed how climate action contributes to local development. Nature-based solutions could be an engine to support local economic growth while preserving the critical commitments around biodiversity. We have already seen many examples through our work where those efforts could also turn into tangible and valuable economic assets for communities such as projects on ecotourism development in East and South Kazakhstan. The 2nd phase of the Eco-Damu micro-credit schemes for communities living around the protected areas will be launched soon as an example of a sustainable financing mechanism.
Such initiatives are possible with good plans that provide integrated solutions. Thirteen regions in the country have benefited in the past from such low-carbon urban development plans. Just an example, in East Kazakhstan such plans allowed us to rehabilitate the pasture lands for an area of 247000 hectares. There are further opportunities to grasp, and we are ready to work with our counterparts on this.
My second point is about the new opportunities with the private sector, which could be facilitated through new financial instruments. This can be accelerated, scaled up, and strategically invested in the biodiversity and energy sectors- both for efficiency and renewables. The best example is our work with DAMU in the form of a new financial mechanism for low-carbon projects in the form of energy efficiency subsidies. These attracted more than 100 projects from businesses, 37 of which got financing in the amount of 4.7bn tenge. This has shown us that, 1 tenge of subsidy mobilizes approximately 10 tenge of private investments, creating green jobs within the energy service projects. Similar examples exist for renewables.
We have other examples of fruitful partnerships with the private sector leveraging new investments in the green economy. Our partnership with the Bitfury blockchain company to support afforestation through a carbon offsetting mechanism, and recently kicked-off project with ENI to support renewable energy solutions in a school in Turkistan are the most recent examples.
My third point is on the need to integrate sustainability principles in the medium- and long-term development strategies by way of stimulating green opportunities in the country. As the country is going through a reform process for its public sector, a holistic perspective on economic development- urban as well as rural- is needed. With the right policy mix, the green economy presents enormous opportunities for innovation, which can be fostered through targeted research and development that should permeate to industries. This also means investing in new skills to bridge the gap between education and industry to upgrade the human capital to support a knowledge-based green transition.
Kazakhstan has introduced a green economy concept 8 years ago to initiate a structural transformation and is working on a low carbon development strategy and announced an ambitious target of a net-zero economy by 2060. This shows a great commitment which is critical. But we have seen in the past the challenge of underinvestment that created a gap between policy and implementation. Therefore, as mentioned before, a holistic financing strategy to support implementation and incentivize public-private partnerships for green investments is crucial.
UNDP, together with the Ministry of Industry and Infrastructure Development will soon be launching a green finance accelerator to support such a perspective for innovative financing instruments towards green bonds, factoring, and other mechanisms- building on many other examples of past good collaboration.
Of course, the global nature of the climate crisis requires international cooperation. Kazakhstan has time and again demonstrated that it is a valuable partner in international cooperation against such global challenges which are reflected in international agreements such as Paris Agreement, Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and Agenda 2030. Coming CoP26 is another opportunity to show that we are committed and ambitious to take bold action on climate change.
And as a global organization, UNDP provides direct support to over 100 countries, including Kazakhstan, to enhance climate action in line with UNDP’s Climate Promise. With all the concrete examples and potentials to scaling up critical work in the country, and with our global outreach and shared commitment to international cooperation, UNDP remains committed to continuing its fruitful cooperation with the Government of Kazakhstan and all other partners to support sustainable development.
For this, we must unite our forces to build forward better and to achieve all SDGs without leaving anyone behind. I see this Congress serving that purpose by bringing together heads of government agencies and businesses, as well as experts and representatives of the environmental community. I sincerely hope that the ECOJER International Congress, held on the eve of World Environment Day, will become an annual platform for such an exchange and dialogue.
You can count on us to be there to support all efforts for a sustainable future. Thank you for your collaboration.
 Kazakhstan. Biennial Reports (BR). BR 3. National Commu nication (NC). NC 7. | UNFCCC