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Climate Change and Security in the South Caucasus Republic of Armenia, Republic of Azerbaijan and Georgia: Regional Assessment

30 Nov 2017

Climate change in the South Caucasus countries is clearly evident. Recent research confirms that average annual air temperatures are steadily increasing and extreme weather events, such as storms and heatwaves, have been intensifying over the last few decades. The South Caucasus countries are prone to a range of hazards such as landslides and floods, all of which are exacer bated by climate change, and which result in serious damage to infrastructure, casualties and economic losses.

At the political level, the South Caucasus countries are well grounded in global climate change politics. All three are NonAnnex I Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and, as such, support international efforts to hold the increase in the global average temperature below 20C – a global target set at the Conference of Parties in Paris in December 2015. All three countries have submitted their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to the UNFCCC, setting concrete emission reduction targets and committing to adaptation plans.

Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia have all developed national security strategies. Although none of them consider climate change as an explicit threat to national security, protection against natural and man-made disasters as well as the implementation of sound environmental practices, are recognized as important factors in ensuring people’s safety, and on a larger scale, national security. The INDCs for Armenia and Georgia highlight the climate change threats to the security of such economic sectors as agriculture.

Climate change is gaining increasing attention among decision makers in the region in the development of national strategies and programmes related to poverty, sustainable development and renewable energy. Food security, the loss of biodiversity and the vulnerability of water resources are concerns across the region. A number of strategies and programmes have been implemented, but only a few included climate change adaptation measures, and climate change remains largely the concern of those involved in environmental protection. 

Adequate climate change adaptation measures are lacking in the planning of other important economic activities in sectors such as energy, health or tourism in all three South Caucasus countries. Furthermore, climate change is not taken into account in important technical and financial measures such as construction standards or insurance schemes, and the impacts of climate change on most vulnerable groups, such as women, are not sufficiently considered in adaptation planning. None of the South Caucasus countries has passed legislation on climate change targeted to stimulate the development of adaptation measures. 

Climate change disruptions in the hydrologic system are likely to result in tensions between upstream and downstream water users if water management fails to take these prospects into account. The water-agriculture-energy nexus is critical, particularly in coordinating between sectors at the national level and between upstream and downstream countries. There are currently no signed water treaties between any of the three neighbouring countries, but significant progress has been achieved in the preparation of bilateral agreements. 

Recent political developments are likely to influence the current situation. Georgia ratified an Association Agreement with the EU, which requires co-operation across a number of sectoral policies, including climate change adaptation measures. And the Eurasian Economic Union, of which Armenia is a signatory, primarily aims at economic integration of its member states 1 by providing the framework for common transport, agriculture and energy policies but not necessarily directly addressing co-operation on climate change aspects of these policies.

The economies of the South Caucasus countries remain fragile, and most of the climate change adaptation activities to date have been supported by external donors. Some national measures have been taken in Azerbaijan, where the Government invested in flood prevention activities, remediation and reforestation, but these remain few and far between. 

Climate change affects the whole region, which includes extensive mountain ecosystems and remote coastal zones. The climate change implications for human security are likely to become more prevalent over time. 

Ongoing institutional and municipal reforms may provide possibilities for concrete climate change adaptation measures to be implemented outside the region’s capitals, but a lack of co-ordination between central administrative bodies and local municipalities and a gap in the knowledge and resources needed for climate change adaptation are challenges to progress. 

Security risks induced by climate change are of national and regional concern. This assessment of climate change and security hotspots – based on the latest research findings and consultations with national experts – identifies areas where climate change has the potential to undermine socioeconomic systems, threaten infrastructure or livelihoods, or compromise security by exacerbating political or social tensions. These areas include: Regional/transboundary and National.

This study recommends that the Governments of the South Caucasus countries take swift actions from the local to the regional level to tackle the impacts of climate change and the implications for security. Some of the proposed areas of intervention, including those matching the priorities of the Environment and Security Initiative, will need strengthened transboundary co-operation as well as more consistent and targeted international support.

Status: Completed

Type: Staff Publications

Author: Ieva Rucevska, Nino Malashkhia, Trine Kirkfeldt, Hanne Jørstad, Valentin Yemelin, Mahir Aliyev, Zsolt Lengyel

Year of publication: 2017

Publisher: UNDP, UN Environment, OSCE, UNECE, REC

Tags: Armenia Azerbaijan Caucasus climate change Georgia South Caucasus

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