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EU and Central Asia: Tackling climate change is a priority

«Climate change is a top priority for our partnership,» High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission Josep Borrell stated.

On January 28, 2020, representatives of Central Asia, Afghanistan and the European Union will gather in Berlin for a conference organized by the German Foreign Ministry, entitled «Green Central Asia.» Josep Borrell accepted the invitation to the conference. Before the event, he wrote a statement, in which he outlined the main areas of cooperation between the EU and Central Asia for the coming years.

I was glad to accept the invitation and join Foreign Ministers from the region, for two main reasons. First, to underline how urgent the challenge of tackling climate change is and how much we need to mobilize everyone to address it.

Josep Borrell

«The science is clear: we are facing a true climate crisis. Climate change is one of the biggest geopolitical challenges we face. It poses problems of redistribution, inside the EU and beyond, and is a driver of instability and migratory pressures. It creates problems of social justice, raises tensions and poses a threat to human rights. Tackling these multi-faceted threats cannot be left only to climate specialists. It must be at the centre of our foreign policy,» the High Representative of the European Union says.

Europe is ready to lead the global fight against climate change.

In December 2019 «EU Green Deal» was adopted, which commits the EU to becoming carbon neutral by 2050. But the EU is only responsible for 9% of global emissions, so the Union needs others to join it.

«The conference is a good opportunity to reconfirm the EU’s commitment to strengthen cooperation with Central Asia. In fact, relations have entered a new phase. Last year EU Foreign Ministers adopted a new Strategy on Central Asia. We see huge potential for greater regional cooperation in Central Asia, a view which the leaders of Central Asia share,» Josep Borrell says.

In his opinion, climate change is a top priority for partnership, as Central Asia is particularly affected. Over the past three decades, average annual temperatures in the region have already risen by 0.5 degrees Celsius, droughts and water scarcity have disrupted entire ecosystems.

The disappearance of the Aral Sea is a spectacular illustration of the negative consequences of climate change.

Josep Borrell

«This is not «just» an environmental problem: it is a catastrophe for entire communities who live on its former shores. The EU can offer a genuinely regional and cross-border approach to Central Asia’s challenges — unlike some of your other partners. We have experiences to share,» he writes.

As example he cited the European emissions trading system that can help regions adjust, as they move away from coal, and know-how in clean, renewable energy sources.

As of today, the EU provides over 40% of the world’s public climate finance.

Central Asia already benefits from a range of EU-funded projects. One of the main regional initiatives is the EU-Central Asia Platform for Environment and Water Cooperation, established in 2009.

Another key EU initiative is the Central Asia Water and Energy Programme (CAWEP) which promotes regional cooperation on energy and water security. The EU has also engaged for almost ten years in efforts to decontaminate uranium legacy sites in Central Asia.

It invested €41 million to support plans with the Kyrgyz Republic, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan on seven high priority uranium legacy sites of the Ferghana valley.

«The EU encourages the countries of the Central Asia who have not yet done so — Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan in particular — to join the Helsinki Water Convention of 1992. During my mandate, I will do everything I can to scale up global cooperation on climate action. The EU is ready to do its part at home and work with partners around the world, including those that already feel the dramatic effects of climate change such as in Central Asia,» Josep Borrell says.