Towards net-zero economies in Central Asia: seizing opportunities for transition while managing climate risks
The Central Asian countries of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan each have a largely untapped renewable energy potential for transitioning to a net-zero economy. Yet, countries’ net-zero transitions are not happening in isolation; they need to account for simultaneous and interconnected threats like climate change, geopolitical volatility and cyber fragility.
Two complementary ODI reports assess the opportunities, co-benefits, and risks to, and arising from, transitioning to net zero economies with a focus on the energy sector. Together, they highlight a series of recommendations aimed at helping these three countries maximise opportunities and co-benefits of such transition, while mitigating climate risks and other threats.
All three countries – Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are already experiencing the effects of climate change in the form of heat waves and shifting river flows. The progressive depletion of water and hydrocarbon reserves (along with growing populations and expanding economies) makes it crucial for these countries to increase their share of non-conventional renewable energy (RE) sources – such as solar, wind and small hydropower – in the energy mix.
In Opportunities and co-benefits of transitioning to a net-zero economy, some of the main opportunities of harnessing the potential of renewables include:
- Reduced pressure on national energy infrastructure, as well as improved energy access, particularly in rural areas, across all three countries.
- Increased power generation capacity to meet growing internal demand and export surplus energy to other countries.
- Opportunities for reducing climate risks by diversifying generation types and improving portfolio resilience.
The co-benefits of pursuing net-zero energy in all three countries are equally valuable:
- Substantial reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
- Better air quality and fewer adverse impacts on human health and well-being.
- Creation of jobs in the construction and operation of renewable energy systems.
The effective realisation of these opportunities and co-benefits of net-zero, however, will only materialise if the increased RE generation helps these countries achieve risk-informed energy security. Doing so will require the proactive management of climate risks and other threats in the design, construction, and operation of RE infrastructure.
In this context, the report on Managing climate risks to protect net-zero energy goals offers a preliminary screening of regional climate change risks to electricity generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure in the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
Some of the key conclusions of this report include:
- Climate projections for the 2050s indicate potential increases in mean annual maximum temperatures of between 1.8 to 2.2°C for most of the region. Warming temperatures and potential precipitation shifts are and will continue to impact glaciers and river discharges.
- Renewable energy infrastructure is a significant investment, with the expected lifetime of utility scale solar ranging from 25 to 40 years, wind farms around 25 years and hydropower plants around 80 years. Climate risks that could occur within the expected lifetime of the infrastructure need to be assessed and managed. Infrastructure also needs to be resilient to other evolving threats like cyber-attacks and challenges like increasing demand.
- An individual generation or transmission infrastructure is part of the larger regional water-energy system; climate risks are transboundary and can propagate through the whole system. It is not enough to manage climate risks on an individual infrastructure basis.
- New regional climate risk management policies, practices and insurance facilities are needed to assist individual countries and the region’s transmission system weather compound risks and deliver opportunities and co-benefits.
This report also offers seven key recommendations so governments in Central Asia can better manage risks while transitioning to net zero.
Meet our researchers
Director of Global Risks and Resilience programme
Senior Transition Risk Analyst
Global Risks Analyst
Senior Climate and Disaster Risk Finance Specialist