Thursday, May 23, 2024
 
 

Uzbekistan to mobilize investment in environmental protection, sustainable development

Interview with Uzbekistan's Minister of Ecology, Environmental Protection, and Climate Change, Aziz Abdukhakimov
Government of Uzbekistan
Aziz Abdukhakimov, Uzbekistan’s Minister of Ecology, Environmental Protection, and Climate Change

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NE Global sat down for an interview, in the Uzbek capital, during the 3rd Tashkent International Investment Forum (TIIF) with Aziz Abdukhakimov, Uzbekistan’s Minister of Ecology, Environmental Protection and Climate Change. The Minister presented various initiatives of his ministerial agenda and some cooperation plans with the EU and a key partner country such as  Italy.  The event gathered more than 2500 participants from 93 countries, providing a platform for global dialogue and exchange of best practices in the investment sphere. As a result of the TIIF, agreements totaling $26.6 billion were signed, which testifies to high investor interest in Uzbekistan and to the success of the Forum.  For comparison, 167 documents worth $11 billion were signed at TIIF in 2022, which demonstrates a significant increase in investor interest in the country.

NE Global: How do you see the steps forward in the cooperation between Uzbekistan and Italy as an important partner?

Aziz Abdukhakimov: The partnership between Uzbekistan and Italy has steadily progressed over the years, focusing on economic, social, and environmental issues.

On June 7-9, 2023, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev made a historic visit to the Italian Republic. The visit was aimed at strengthening the ties between Uzbekistan and Italy and exploring opportunities for cooperation in various fields.

During his stay in Rome, President Mirziyoyev held productive discussions with Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. The talks covered a wide range of issues, including trade, investment, culture, and education. The two leaders signed a Joint Declaration, which aimed to establish a strategic partnership between their countries. The declaration outlined the areas of cooperation, including the promotion of trade and investment, cultural exchanges, and cooperation in the fields of science and technology.

The visit was highly successful and marked a new chapter in the relationship between Uzbekistan and Italy. The two countries have a long history of cultural and economic ties, and President Mirziyoyev’s visit was an important step towards strengthening these ties further.

Furthermore, Italy has been actively supporting Uzbekistan’s ambitions in promoting economic growth and trade relations. Over the past five years, the number of Italian businesses operating in Uzbekistan has doubled, with ventures in textile, mining, metallurgy, petrochemicals, electrical industries and building materials production. The two countries have a shared commitment to strengthening collaborations in education, archaeology, and environmental challenges, with a particular emphasis on sustainable development.

Italy has been a crucial partner for Uzbekistan in the area of environmental protection. Countries have been working together to address environmental issues such as water scarcity, desertification, and air pollution. Italy has provided technical assistance to Uzbekistan for the development of renewable energy sources, clean production technologies, and sustainable urban planning.

We see Tourism as another area of cooperation; given the fact that both countries have plenty of tourist attractions, ranging from stunning landscapes to a rich cultural heritage, it makes for an ideal area of cooperation. By working together, we can promote our unique and diverse offerings to a larger audience, thereby attracting more tourists to our countries. This will not only help in boosting our respective economies but also foster cultural exchange and deepen our bilateral ties.

NEG: How do you see the cooperation in your field between Uzbekistan and European Union?

AA: Uzbekistan and the European Union collaborate significantly and diversely in the environmental sector. The EU supports Uzbekistan’s reform agenda through technical and financial assistance and engages with our institutions on all areas of interest, with focus on the environment and climate change issues, biodiversity conservation and restoration activities. I would like to give few examples of environmental collaboration:

The EU has contributed over five million euros to the UN Multi-Partner Human Security Trust Fund for the Aral Sea Region, underscoring a high level of commitment to mitigate the negative consequences of the disaster. Furthermore, 27,000 trees were planted on the dry seabed of the Aral Sea as a gift from 27 EU Member States to the people of the Republic of Karakalpakstan. This initiative aimed to support the attempts of the Government of Uzbekistan to transform the Aralkum desert and neighbouring settlements in Karakalpakstan into a forest.

In addition, Uzbekistan received a nine million euros grant to support the remediation of former uranium tailings in the framework of the Environmental Remediation Account for Central Asia (ERA), set up on the initiative of the European Union and managed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

On May 1st, 2024, the Government of Uzbekistan and the EU launched a joint initiative on Technical Assistance for Sound Management of Hazardous Chemicals. The project grant budget is four million euros and is funded by the EU. It focuses on enhancing the effectiveness of mechanisms and tools for managing hazardous chemicals and related wastes and reducing the use of dangerous pesticides in agriculture.

The ultimate goal of this cooperation is to strengthen Uzbekistan’s capacity to meet its national obligations under the Paris Agreement, implement national policy priorities, and support sustainable socio-economic development with a focus on rational resource use.

In conclusion, Uzbekistan and the EU have a strong and evolving environmental cooperation that addresses the triple planetary crisis and promotes sustainable development.

NEG: We are now at the third edition of the investment forum here in Tashkent. How do you evaluate the the steps forward made your country in your field?

AA: It’s been well recognized that Government of Uzbekistan has made great efforts towards environmental protection and sustainable development. The country has taken significant steps towards achieving its green growth objectives, which are outlined in the Green Growth Strategic Framework Programme and Action Plan. The ultimate goal of this plan is to transition to a green economy by 2030.

Over the years, positive trends towards green growth have been identified in Uzbekistan. The country’s carbon, energy, material, and water productivity has increased, resulting in fewer emissions and more efficient energy and resource use, while still experiencing economic growth. This is a significant achievement for a developing country.

Uzbekistan is also making progress in increasing the proportion of forest and protected natural areas in its total land area. This is a crucial step towards preserving the country’s biodiversity and protecting its natural resources. Investing in Nature is another key area we are discussing with partners. With the support of UNDP, we have conducted studies on Biodiversity Finance (BioFIN), and preliminary studies have shown great investment opportunities and needs. Therefore, we are committed to further mobilizing investment in biodiversity conservation and eco-tourism development.

Overall, Uzbekistan has taken significant steps towards promoting sustainable development and environmental protection. The country’s efforts towards green growth are commendable, and it is anticipated that Uzbekistan will continue to make progress towards achieving its objectives.

NEG: Which areas at global level do you see as a priority at the moment?

AA: Uzbekistan, being one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, has identified several priority areas at the global level:

Climate Action and Carbon Neutrality: Uzbekistan is aiming for carbon neutrality by 2060. This involves reducing greenhouse gas emissions, particularly in the energy sector, which accounts for about 75 percent of the country’s emissions.

Adaptation Measures: Given the significant climate risks, including water scarcity, droughts, extreme heat, rainfall volatility, and dust storms, adaptation measures have become a priority. These measures are seen as worthwhile investments, with benefits two to three times higher than the costs.

Private Sector Development: Accelerating the development of Uzbekistan’s private sector is critical to absorb the costs and take advantage of the opportunities of the green transition.

Social Protection Policies: Climate mitigation and adaptation policies need to be complemented with carefully designed and well-implemented social protection policy packages to protect vulnerable groups from harm and to win broad support for policy goals.

Biodiversity Protection: Aligning its national biodiversity policy with global targets, such as restoring 30 percent of degraded ecosystems globally by 2030, stopping the extinction of known species, and reducing the risk from pesticides by at least 50 percent by 2030.

In conclusion, Uzbekistan’s environmental priorities align with its commitment to sustainable development and its efforts to mitigate the impact of climate change. These priorities not only address the country’s environmental challenges but also contribute to its economic growth and the well-being of its people.

NEG: Can you present here an innovative initiative of your ministry for this year?

AA: Recognizing the urgent need to address environmental sustainability, the establishment of the Green University is being hailed as one of the most innovative initiatives in higher education. This pioneering institution aims to revolutionize the way we approach education by integrating principles of environmental stewardship, renewable energy, and eco-friendly practices into every aspect of its operations and curriculum. From its cutting-edge green architecture and campus infrastructure to its interdisciplinary programs that emphasize sustainability, Green University is poised to become a model for universities worldwide, shaping future generations of environmentally conscious leaders and problem-solvers. By prioritizing environmental responsibility and promoting a culture of sustainability, this trailblazing initiative is paving the way for a greener, more sustainable future.

The Scientific Research Institute of the Environment and Environmental Technologies at the Central Asian University for the Study of the Environment and Climate Change (Green University) implements projects “Conducting an inventory of the flora and fauna of the dried bottom of the Aral Sea based on artificial intelligence technologies and creating a constantly updated digital database,” “Developing a model for predicting the conditions of formation and distribution zones of dusty storms for the Aral Sea region,” and “Creation of a bioengineered wastewater treatment plant from various enterprises.”

These projects include an inventory of the flora and fauna of the bottom of the dried-up Aral Sea, the development of a non-stationary model (capable of adapting to changes in various climatic and environmental conditions) to predict the conditions for the formation and spread of dust and sand storms from the bottom of the Aral Sea and nearby regions, the use of remote sensing of the Earth and modern technologies in the study of formation mechanisms, the development of new construction criteria social and industrial facilities, taking into account the environmental situation in the region, creation of early warning software for the formation and spread of dust storms, improvement of the quality of wastewater treatment of enterprises.

 

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