Side Event at CMS COP14
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the European Union (EU) co-hosted a side event titled 'Innovative Climate Change Modeling for Biodiversity Conservation in Northeast Afghanistan and Beyond into Central Asia' at the 14th meeting of the Conference of Parties (CoP14) to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), which took place in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, on 12-17 February 2024.
WCS, in collaboration with the Aga Khan Foundation, the University of Central Asia, Research Organization for Development, the Centre for Climate System Research at Columbia University, and local communities, spearheaded a groundbreaking climate change vulnerability assessment in the Panj-Amu River basin of Northeast Afghanistan from 2019 to 2022. With support from the European Union and leveraging robust climatic models, WCS and its partners crafted a sophisticated tool predicting climate risks for the next century. This tool provides valuable insights into the conservation of critical ecosystems, rivers, and key wildlife species, including numerous CAMI/CMS migratory species.
Building on the success of this initiative, we propose expanding the application of this tool to cover the entire Central Asian river basin. This expansion holds the potential to bolster the resilience of migratory species, inform landscape conservation and protection efforts, influence policy decisions, and maintain ecosystem integrity, with a particular focus on connectivity.
During this event, we introduced the tool, delved into how the experiences gained from the Afghanistan project can contribute to shaping the future of conservation throughout Central Asia, and explored the unique challenges faced by migratory species in the context of a changing climate.
Mr. Hans Stielstra, Deputy Head of Unit, Natural Capital and Ecosystem Health, DG ENV, European Commission, highlighted the EU’s commitment to the global climate and biodiversity objectives established over the last decade, notably for the 2015 Paris Agreement and the 2022 Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. This EU commitment also includes domestic policies focusing on climate mitigation, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and restoration of degraded ecosystems. He added that cooperation and partnerships, including those with the Central Asian region, reflect the EU’s holistic approach, integrating climate, biodiversity, human development, health, security, and migration issues. Mr. Stielstra concluded that climate modeling emerges as a pivotal tool, providing objective data, facilitating stakeholder engagement, and shaping informed and inclusive environmental policies.
Mr. Sorosh Poya Faryabi, Senior Technical Adviser, WCS Afghanistan, explained that as part of the EU’s long-standing support in the Panj-Amu River Basin in the northeast of Afghanistan, WCS implemented a 46-month holistic action addressing climate change through sustainable energy and ecosystem management. The Basin covers 14% of the area of Afghanistan, and it is a vital source of water for millions of people both in Afghanistan and in neighboring countries Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. As part of the project, WCS and partners, including local governments, research institutions, and communities, undertook a first-of-its-kind climate vulnerability assessment of the river basin, which is now available on an online platform: https://adaptafghanistan.com. The platform provides access to over 1,000 spatial data layers related to climate, natural hazards, ecosystems, biodiversity, hydrology, and local communities. The result of this work has supported local communities, including women and youth, in the development of 24 localized management plans to increase their and their ecosystems' resilience to cope with the current and future climatic shocks. Mr. Poya Faryabi concluded by highlighting that this tool is adaptable and scalable, making it a valuable tool for future initiatives beyond into Central Asia.
Moderator: Dr. Justine Shanti Alexander, Country Director, WCS Mongolia programme
Dr. Baxtiyor Pulatov, Director of the Research Institute of Environment and Nature Conservation Technologies, under the Ministry of Ecology, Environmental Protection and Climate Change of the Republic of Uzbekistan, welcomed the presentation, which highlights neighboring countries' progress and emphasises commendable achievements. He noted that Uzbekistan, like other Central Asian countries, acknowledges climate change's impacts and takes concrete steps to mitigate climate change and conserve biodiversity, including through tree planting. He added that climate modeling can play a critical role in water resource management amid scarcity concerns. In Uzbekistan, inter-ministerial cooperation under the President's leadership fosters comprehensive environmental strategies for biodiversity conservation, land restoration, and water management, reflecting a multifaceted approach. Dr. Pulatov concluded that Uzbekistan's collective efforts are crucial in conserving shared landscapes and river systems.
Ms. Doreen Robinson, Head of the Biodiversity and Land Branch, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), emphasised UNEP’s approach to policy, which is ensuring that policy aligns with core principles, including being fit for purpose, technically sound, based on the best evidence and science, with political relevance, and immediately implementable. She noted that engaging society and decentralising decision-making are essential. Central Asian projects like 'Vanishing Treasures' embrace these principles, also integrating local involvement. She added that balancing regulations with incentives are vital for driving behavioral changes conducive to sustainability. Ms. Robinson concluded by highlighting the importance of bridging environmental issues with broader developmental agendas, ensuring policies resonate across diverse contexts for sustainable progress.
Dr. Ranjini Murali, Researcher, Humboldt University Berlin, and Senior Conservation Scientist, Snow Leopard Trust, underscored the necessity of understanding human-wildlife conflict amidst climate change. Climate change affects resource availability, such as water and forage, impacting both wildlife and human needs. She noted that the WCS tool could be crucial to focus conservation efforts by identifying these future conflict hotspots. Context-specific initiatives, considering socio-economic and ecological dynamics, are vital for resilient, climate-smart programmes. For instance, alternative, livelihood models are often germane to build climate resilience. However, in pastoral systems, excess money is often invested back into livestock, which could further increase vulnerability. Dr. Murali concluded that system-relevant, multi-pronged interventions are needed to minimise conflicts and create resilient socio-ecological systems under climate change.
Mr. Olivier Langrand, Executive Director, Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), explained that CEPF is a dedicated fund aiming to conserve biodiversity in global hotspots, including Central Asia. Over 23 years, CEPF has invested USD 300 million in over 2,700 civil society organisations, including local organisations, across 112 countries. The focus areas include managing key biodiversity areas, conserving priority species, establishing corridors, and integrating biodiversity into production landscapes. Projects address climate change impacts, such as grassland degradation and decreased forest productivity, with solutions such as improved management practices and promoting renewable energy. Notably, projects in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan tackle changing species pattern distributions. CEPF emphasises long-term funding and partnerships to combat climate change's effects effectively, leveraging nature-based solutions funded by the Green Climate Fund and the EU.
WCS positions at CMS COP14
Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment in Afghanistan