Issue Number: 10/2008, Issue Date: 2008.06.25
This issue analyses the challenges posed by climate change for the Europe and CIS region.
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James Hughes and Ben Slay
Issue Number: 10/2008
Issue Title: Climate Change
Europe and Central Asia are no different from other parts of the world: they face challenges of climate change mitigation and adaptation, and of introducing the institutional frameworks needed to attract carbon finance under the Kyoto Protocol. But some of the climate change implications for this region are different. Many of these countries stand outside the international definitions determining who is, and is not, obliged to reduce carbon emissions. Thanks to their sudden and sharp reductions in production and energy use in the 1990s, many of these states experienced large declines in greenhouse gas emissions, even without significant mitigation efforts. Yet, some of the region’s poorest countries continue to emit very large amounts of greenhouse gases per dollar of GDP.
The Central Asian countries are particularly vulnerable to climate change, as melting glaciers pose long-term threats to water supplies on which some 55 million people, irrigated agriculture, and hydroelectricity infrastructure depend. Rising temperatures and aridity could worsen problems of desertification, land degradation, and falling crop yields. As one of the world’s largest ‘carbon sinks’ in terms of forest cover and soil sequestration, Russia could likewise benefit from reforms to global governance mechanisms that would reward carbon sequestration as well as reductions in carbon emissions. However, Russia could also be one of the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, as melting permafrost is releasing methane and destroying housing and transport infrastructure.
This issue of Development and Transition presents the challenges posed by climate change for the region. Andrei Belyi points out that, while Russia’s vast expanses provide ideal conditions for biofuels, renewable energy constitutes less than 1 percent of the national energy balance. An inadequate legal framework, administrative barriers, and public indifference continue to limit prospects for renewables in Russia. Jeffrey Chanton and Katey M. Walter explain how warming temperatures are ‘unplugging’ Siberia’s deep freeze of stored carbon and methane–with potentially disastrous climate-change consequences. The best form of mitigation in Russia, argues Roderick Kefferpütz, would be investments in energy efficiency. In addition to reducing Russia’s carbon footprint, these would increase Russia’s economic competitiveness.
Renat Perelet observes that melting glaciers, the desiccation of the Aral Sea, and this past winter’s collapse of Tajikistan’s electricity infrastructure underscore the links between climate change, water, energy security, and development in Central Asia. Edil Bogombayev and Ularbek Mateyev argue that biofuel usage should be increased, to improve access to electricity and soil quality in Kyrgyzstan’s mountainous regions. Gennady Doroshin explores the links between boosting renewables and regulatory reform in the power sector–and describes reforms under way in Kazakhstan. Susan Legro, Darko Znaor, and Seth Landau focus on the significance of agriculture in an EU accession country like Croatia, both as a source of reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and as an area for adaptation.Thomas Legge argues that short-term tensions between food and fuel should not divert attention from biofuels’ potential in the region as a whole. Marina Olshanskaya and Ben Slay describe how stronger legal and regulatory institutions are needed before the promises of carbon finance can be realized. Gábor Takács assesses carbon finance projects in the region and finds that they have yet to generate significant development benefits. In sum, while it is clear that the climate change implications for this region are immense, the issues of mitigation and adaptation pose equally huge policy challenges.
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