EU’s chief diplomat spoke on the prospects of “green” cooperation with Central Asia

EU’s chief diplomat spoke on the prospects of “green” cooperation with Central Asia

Next week in Berlin on the sidelines of the Green Central Asia conference a new EU climate initiative will be launched for five regional countries and Afghanistan.

The forum, organized by the Ministry of foreign affairs of Germany, will be attended by heads of foreign ministries of Central Asian countries and representatives of Afghanistan.

Josep Borrell, the EU High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Vice-President of the European Commission, shared his opinion on the upcoming event and prospects for developing cooperation with the Central Asian region in the name of a green future in his op-ed.

Borrell stressed that climate change is one of the biggest geopolitical challenges we face. It poses problems of redistribution, inside the EU and beyond, such as instability and migratory pressures, problems of social justice. At th same time, the burden of “these multi-faceted threats cannot be left only to climate specialists”. It must be at the centre of foreign policy.

Expressing Europe’s readiness to lead the global fight against climate change, Borrell mentioned the so-called “Green Deal” adopted in December 2019, which commits the EU to become a carbon-neutral by 2050.

“But the EU is only responsible for 9% of global emissions, so we need others to join us,” the High Representative said.

According to him, the Berlin Ministerial will be “a good opportunity to reconfirm the EU’s commitment to strengthen cooperation with Central Asia”, relations with which “have entered a new phase”.

In this context, climate change is a top priority for the interregional partnership. The increase in average annual temperatures in the region by 0.5 degrees Celsius over the past three decades, droughts and water scarcity have disrupted entire ecosystems, Borrell recalled, citing the disappearance of the Aral sea as an example of the negative consequences of climate change.

What experience is the EU ready to share with Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in adapting to a changing climate? There are many developments that are useful for Central Asian countries, such as the emissions trading system, and various know-how in the field of clean renewable energy sources. In addition, the EU provides over 40% of the world’s public climate finance.

To date, Central Asia has already benefited from a number of projects funded by Europe. For example, one of the main regional initiatives is the EU-Central Asia Platform for Environment and Water Cooperation, established in 2009, with the next meeting of its Working Group scheduled for 12-13 February in Brussels.

Another important European initiative is the Central Asia Water and Energy Programme (CAWEP). This programme has facilitated dialogue among Central Asian governments on common water resources management such as the Aral Sea basin, through support to regional organizations such as the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea (IFAS). The next phase of this programme will see the inclusion of Afghanistan, a key riparian state of the Amu Darya.

Along with water issues, the EU has also been making efforts to decontaminate uranium deposits in Central Asia for almost a decade, investing 14 million euros to support plans with the Kyrgyz Republic, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan on seven priority sites of the Fergana valley’s uranium legacy.

“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”, the EU foreign policy chief concluded.

Former foreign minister of Spain, Josep Borrell assumed the post as EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President of the European Commission on 1 December 2019 for a five-year term.