Central Asia’s ecologists report on climate change at Copenhagen summit

Central Asian countries presented reports at the 15th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which opened in Copenhagen on Dec. 7.

Madi Asanov

2009-12-12

ASTANA ― Central Asian countries presented reports at the 15th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which opened in Copenhagen on Dec. 7.

President Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan said that emissions of greenhouse gases in his country, which has ratified the Kyoto Protocol, will have to be cut by 25 percent by 2020 and a further 25 percent by 2050. Levels of greenhouse gas emissions in the region are not particularly high, however. The most pressing problem facing the former Soviet republics is the shortage of water resources.

Uzbek experts predict that an increase of one or two degrees centigrade in the average annual air temperature will lead to a reduction in cotton harvest yields, while а deterioration in the quality of drinking water and water shortages will result in the greater incidence of infectious disease in the country.

Glacial melting in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan poses a serious environmental threat to the region. Kyrgyzstan’s Second National Report to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change stated that the volume of its glaciers had diminished by 15 percent over the past 30 to 40 years.

“While the volume of water runoff in Kazakhstan was 120 cubic km 30 years ago, it now amounts to about 100 cubic km, and scientists forecast that it will decrease by a further 30 cubic km over the next 20 or 30 years,” said Kazakh Agriculture Minister Akylbek Kyrishbayev.

One of the most acute problems in the region requiring urgent action is the fact that 60 percent of the Aral Sea has evaporated. Millions of Uzbek, Kazakh and Turkmen citizens live in the risk zone. The president of Kazakhstan stated in April that his country had spent about US$2 billion on efforts to save the Aral Sea. Before it began shrinking, the Aral Sea was the world’s fourth-largest salt-water lake, but scientists now believe it cannot be saved.

Central Asian ecologists are hoping that the summit will lay the foundations for international and regional policy on climate change through 2050 and come to an agreement under which the countries of the region will pool their efforts to pursue their own interests and resolve their economic problems.

[UNCCC.org, UNESCO.kz, Carecnet.org, CA-news.org]

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