A high-level ministerial conference in Berlin launched on Tuesday (28 January) the ‘Green Central Asia’ initiative, intended to support regional integration between the five Central Asian countries and Afghanistan.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who hosted the conference, stressed that the states of Central Asia and Afghanistan were particularly affected by climate change. High officials from Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan took part in the conference.
“If climate change knows no borders, then our answer to it also must not know any borders”, he said. The security impact of climate change, he said, was a priority of the German stint as the non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, and Berlin had already gathered a “group of friends” of 48 nations, among them Afghanistan.
“I would be delighted to see the nations of Central Asia joining this group of nations on climate and security too. Your experience of the region would be very valuable”, Maas said.
He argued that the foundation for such an endeavour could be found in the EU-Central Asia Platform for Environment and Water Cooperation, which is now 10-years old.
The issue of water, which had been a bone of contention, has been turned into a potential for cross-border cooperation, he said, commending the first summit of the Central Asian leaders in 2018.
He said that a very important principle for tackling complex issues was networking, and stressed the presence at the conference of German institutes such as the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, or the German Research Centre for Geosciences.
“We believe in the huge potential of your countries and their young population. We have a high interest in sustainable stability and high growth in the entire region”, Maas stressed.
He mentioned no figures but said the next step was the second Berlin Climate and Security Conference on 15 and 16 June. The first such conference took place on 4 June 2019.
EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell, who attended the conference, praised his hosts for the initiative. He recalled that the EU adopted last year a new Strategy on Central Asia, emphasising the positive dynamics in the region and the new opportunities for cooperation.
He also highlighted the recently presented “European Green Deal” which he said he liked to call ‘European Green Will’ “because it is a matter of will”.
Borell also said that the EU had adopted Conclusions on EU Climate Diplomacy last week. “We are going to give a big priority to working with those that account for the greatest emissions, and with the most vulnerable countries, and many of them are in Central Asia”, the Spanish diplomat said.
“We expect to launch later this year a new EU project, aligned with Germany’s “Green Central Asia” initiative, that we are going to discuss today. We will focus on strengthening the ability of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to address the security implications of climate change in the Fergana Valley,” Borrell said.
The EU foreign affairs chief also said the EU has been engaged for almost ten years in supporting a regional programme to find sustainable solutions for uranium legacy sites.
“Floods and landslides are more and more frequent because of climate change. If nothing is done, they will trigger the disastrous spread of toxic and radioactive waste from uranium legacy sites into the region’s trans-boundary rivers. This can be an extraordinarily grave natural disaster,” Borrell said.
The former Soviet republics, and Kazakhstan in particular, have a very heavy legacy from Soviet times, when little consideration was given to the ecological aspects of uranium mining, and there is also the now-closed nuclear weapons test site of Semipalatinsk in northeast Kazakhstan.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]