Climate Action Could Accelerate Growth and Improve Living Standards in Uzbekistan: World Bank Group Report
Tashkent, Uzbekistan (UzDaily.com) – Climate adaptation and decarbonization of Uzbekistan’s energy-intensive economy could help the country achieve its development goals and improve living standards of its people, says the World Bank Group’s Uzbekistan Country Climate and Development Report (CCDR), released today.
The ecological disaster of the drying Aral Sea, once the fourth largest lake in the world, epitomizes the pressing development challenges in large parts of Uzbekistan. Water scarcity, droughts, extreme heat, rainfall volatility, dust storms, and other climate change consequences pose additional sources of vulnerability to society and the economy, exacerbating the already high cost of degradation of natural resources.
Climate will affect the people of Uzbekistan in multiple ways and by 2030, at least 8 million people will be residing in very high climate risk areas across the country. Without action on climate adaptation, the domestic economy is predicted to be 10% smaller by 2050 than it could have been without climate effects, resulting in significantly lower employment and household incomes.
Decarbonizing the economy by 2060 will require a focus on the energy sector, which is responsible for about 75% of Uzbekistan’s GHG emissions. Reducing dependence on depleting natural gas reserves through energy efficiency and renewable energy scale-up will contribute to the country’s energy security. Reliance on fossil fuels also exacerbates air pollution, which is amongst the top 10 risk factors contributing to death and disability in the country.
“Without action on climate, Uzbekistan will not be able to achieve its bold development goals and will, instead, face significant negative impacts on its economy and the well-being of its people,” said Tatiana Proskuryakova, World Bank Regional Director for Central Asia. “The CCDR proposes a set of urgent actions to advance climate adaptation and decarbonization, accelerating the transition to a green economy and underpinning the country’s long-term growth prospects.”
Effective action to adapt to climate change can unlock a triple dividend for Uzbekistan by reducing adverse impacts, such as from climate change-induced land degradation; generating economic benefits, such as greater food security and healthier landscapes; and environmental benefits by sequestering carbon and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the CCDR notes.
Key recommendations of the report include:
Economy-wide reforms: The government should accelerate the current reform program to improve business dynamism and the investment environment, as well as strengthen the private sector to lead the way in a green transition. It is recommended to establish monitoring, reporting, and verification systems to facilitate the scale-up of climate projects. Strengthening financial and investment regulations will also be critical for promoting green investment and climate risk management. The government also could strengthen market incentives to reduce emissions, such as a carbon tax.
Energy sector: Transitioning to a greener growth model and improving energy security in Uzbekistan requires promoting energy-efficient technologies, eliminating gas, electricity, and heating subsidies, and prioritizing domestic gas use for power generation and industry. Developing a competitive renewable energy sector and investing in energy infrastructure development are also critical.
Water resources and irrigation management: Enhancing water resource management to cope with climate change in Uzbekistan involves promoting water-saving technologies and climate-aligned agricultural policies, transferring irrigation management to the private sector, introducing flexible water allocation mechanisms, and modernizing irrigation infrastructure and accounting systems.
Agriculture and land resources management: To attract investments in climate-smart agriculture, it is important to strengthen the land tenure security of local farmers, improve soil conservation practices, scale up climate-smart agriculture, and develop a clear roadmap underpinned by an investment plan to implement these actions.
Air quality, urban development, and public transport: Uzbekistan will benefit from developing a national program for air quality improvement, green city master plans, urban mobility, and efficient public transport delivery that will curb GHG emissions, reduce congestion, and support climate adaptation measures.
Human capital development: Uzbekistan will need to continue to strengthen its social protection system to safeguard the most vulnerable groups from climate-related risks and expand on the quality of foundational and technical skills through education and training opportunities to prepare people for jobs generated by a green economy.
Significant investments will be needed for the decarbonization and adaptation agenda. It is estimated that Uzbekistan would require around US$60 billion to mitigate adverse climate impacts on labor productivity, roads and bridges, livestock, and irrigation sectors alone. Additionally, around US$340 billion would be needed by 2060 for replacing aging energy infrastructure and decarbonization measures. A large part of these investments can be carried out by the private sector.
"Meeting Uzbekistan’s ambitious climate targets and commitments to green its economy will require large-scale private investment in cleaner technologies to reduce the carbon footprint and increase climate resilience," said Wiebke Schloemer, IFC Regional Director for Türkiye and Central Asia. “Advancing the government’s economic reform agenda is key to making this happen, and enabling both domestic and foreign firms to benefit from the opportunities the green transition offers.”
Public and private investments in climate adaptation and decarbonization in Uzbekistan are expected to have high returns. For instance, the use of integrated landscape management and climate-smart technologies in agriculture could raise crop production by US$4.6 billion over a 10-year period and save over 1.8 billion cubic meters of water annually.
Decarbonization will also bring substantial benefits across the infrastructure sector, estimated at more than US$178 billion over the period of 2023 to 2060, including US$112 billion of avoided costs of pollution, accidents, damage in the residential, power, industry, and transport sectors, as well as US$66 billion of fossil fuel import savings. Furthermore, decarbonization measures may cut air pollution mortality by almost 90% and create a substantial number of jobs in the power and other sectors.