Islamabad: Undoubtedly, Asia is on its way to becoming the fastest-developing
continent in the world. Projected new trade routes, efforts to develop a
sustainable system, and the significance of green transformation in the face of
rising energy, food, and security demands. All of these are issues that deeply
concern Member States of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence
Building Measures in Asia (CICA), from North Asia to the Indian Ocean and
from East Asia to the Aegean Sea. However, how realistic are the ambitious
carbon-neutral plans countries aim for in line with their green transformation
goals? At this point, with its five dimensions, CICA offers confidence building
measures, dialogue, connectivity, synergy, and best practices for its Member
States to achieve their goals.
At the Sixth CICA Summit, among the common issues highlighted by the
distinguished Heads of State or Government and high-level representatives
were combating climate change and the significance of CICA’s environmental
dimension for future cooperation. Why is the environmental dimension so
significant for the future of the CICA region?
The CICA environmental dimension has three priority areas: sustainable
development, environment protection, and natural disaster management. Each
priority area has its coordinator and co-coordinator. For instance, Thailand is
the coordinator for sustainable development, Mongolia is the coordinator for
environment protection, where Bangladesh and China are co-coordinators, Iran
is the coordinator for natural disaster management, and Bangladesh is coordinator.
According to the updated CICA Catalogue of Confidence Building
Measures (CBMs), the Member States have specified the priorities for
cooperation in environmental areas for the implementation of the CICA CBMs,
such as sharing information on best practices concerning national policies on
environmental protection and sustainable development, exchanging
information on natural and industrial disasters in the countries, which, in their
view, may affect their neighbors. In addition, seminars, workshops,
conferences, and trainings are held within the priority areas of the CICA
environmental dimension. In general, the topics coordinating and cocoordinating countries cover are green transformation, sustainable
development, low-carbon developments, waste management, carbon markets,
natural disasters, and circular economy.
Recent history has shown that Asia is exposed to various climatic events
and natural disasters. CICA Member States were affected by sweltering
weather conditions, drought, floods in 2022, as well as earthquakes in early
2023. For example, Pakistan has had a challenging year because of floods.
According to the World Bank, at least 7 million people were displaced and over
1,700 people died as a result of this disaster. The cost of floods in Pakistan is
around 30 billion dollars.
Moreover, the World Health Organization reports that over 7.1 million
Bangladeshis were displaced by climate change in 2022. China, India,
Thailand, and the Middle East also had difficulties due to climate change last
year. Recently, the world has experienced a devastating sequence of
earthquakes in Türkiye. After the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic,
the economic damage of the climate crisis and natural disasters has been taken
into account, and the question of how fragile countries are for the future has
come to the fore.
CICA covers a broad geography, therefore observing various
environmental characteristics. Member States are taking multiple actions to
ensure sustainable development and environmental protection. The major
environmental problems in Asia include desertification, climate change, lack of
water resources, deforestation, earthquakes, and forest fires. Indeed, there are
environmentally vulnerable CICA countries. Among the most vulnerable
Member States, according to the University of Notre Dame’s Vulnerability index
score of the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative (ND-GAIN), are
Afghanistan in the 168th and Bangladesh in the 154th place. Pakistan ranks
147th, while Cambodia is in the 133rd place, and India ranks 132nd. The index
evaluates a nation’s vulnerability, sensitivity, and capacity for climate change
adaptation. There are 177 nations on the scale, and those with high rankings,
close to zero, have great climate change resilience. Highest-ranking CICA
Member States include Israel in the 14th place, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and
Türkiye sharing the 28th place followed by Kazakhstan in the 33rd place, the
UAE in the 40th, and Qatar in the 44th.
The negative economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has brought
countries closer to producing new solutions. Although developed and
developing countries have different agendas, governments are shifting their
economic targets to efficient systems aligned with sustainable development
goals. Green transformation is one of the most prominent examples of this.
Countries that aim to decarbonize their economies are investing more in green
technology, fields such as carbon capture, mitigation and adaptation, circular
economy, and water management. Along with diversifying energy sources, it is
one of the essential steps in energy security.
United Nations Climate Change Conferences are significant to raise
awareness and act together against extreme environmental events the world
has been facing in recent years. For example, Egypt, a CICA Member State,
hosted COP27 in 2022. Among the results drawn here were that nations
decided for the first time to set up funds to pay developing countries for “loss
and damage” caused by climate-related disasters. Moreover, it was important
that China and the USA, the countries with the highest carbon emissions,
decided to engage in climate diplomacy at COP27. Furthermore, COP28 will
take place in the United Arab Emirates, another CICA Member State. From this
point of view, it is a fact that the environmental theme becomes increasingly
relevant in Asia.
The initiative of Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to hold
a High-level Conference in 2024 in Astana to identify environmental challenges
among the CICA members was one of the major outcomes of the Sixth CICA
Summit. Thanks to this meeting, the CICA region and the entire world will
benefit from the potential establishment of the CICA Council for Environmental
Indeed, it will be in the interest of the CICA Member States to hold the
2024 High-level Environmental Conference, where best practices can be
shared among the CICA countries and a sustainable mutual dialogue is likely
to be ensured. As a result, the CICA environmental dimension is expected to
progress rapidly among other CBMs.
The 2024 High-level Environmental Conference is at the forefront of
priority initiatives for the CICA Kazakh Chairmanship. Kazakhstan’s goal of
being carbon neutral by 2060 sets an example for other countries in the region.
As part of the preparations for the Conference, in early 2023, CICA Secretary
General Ambassador Kairat Sarybay met with Minister of Ecology and Natural
Resources of Kazakhstan Zulfiya Suleimenova.
The Secretary General stated that the CICA Member States were
extensively introducing green technologies, pursuing the ambitious goal of
achieving carbon neutrality. In addition, within the scope of the preparations for
the Conference on environment, which is of utmost importance for the CICA
Member States, the sides agreed to arrange a series of expert meetings of the
CICA Member States to develop goals and objectives for the Conference.
There is no doubt that CICA is an evolving international organization, and
the CICA environmental dimension is developing its capabilities. With the
dialogue and support of CICA Member States, the interest in environmental
topics is increasing gradually in line with the region’s sustainable development
Dr. Ugur Turan, expert on the environmental dimension of the CICA
Secretariat. Expert had experience working in China and Türkiye as a
researcher on international organizations’ projects.