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Meeting the Climate Crisis in Afghanistan 

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The Pulse | Environment | South Asia

Meeting the Climate Crisis in Afghanistan 

As the dilemma on recognition and assistance remains unresolved, Afghanistan will be subjected to a vicious cycle of conflict with climate change acting as a threat multiplier. 

Meeting the Climate Crisis in Afghanistan 
Credit: Photo 266389293 | Afghanistan Climate © Voyageviewmedia |

One of the immediate impacts of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021 was the country’s exclusion from the global climate change conversation and the blocking of its access to key U.N. climate funds, including the Green Climate Fund (GCF). The Conference of the Parties (COP) Bureau of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) decided in 2022 to not recognize any Taliban institution as a focal point in Afghanistan, thereby divesting the Taliban-run National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) of Afghanistan of any legal status. 

Before the Taliban’s takeover, Afghanistan’s climate plan estimated that the country needed $20.6 billion to fund climate adaptation and emission-cutting initiatives between 2021 and 2030. The resource-dry GCF had approved nearly $18 million for a sustainable energy project in Afghanistan. That project was put on hold, pending a “full review of current and emerging risks,” according to the GCF. In addition, the erstwhile civilian regime had sought $750 million for various projects, such as improvements in irrigation and the deployment of rooftop solar panels in Kabul. They, too, have been deferred.

The NEPA has made several appeals for Afghanistan’s inclusion in the COP process and to restart 32 climate change-related projects worth $824 million postponed by donor institutions. In a recent meeting in April 2024, it also outlined smaller projects that it plans to undertake within its limited capacity.

Most of the international community tends to steer clear of any proposed inclusion of the Taliban in the COP process, which may inadvertently grant recognition to the regime. However, the United Nations and the European Union have continued to implement small projects to confront climate change, boost agriculture, and improve food security in Afghanistan. 

The UNDP is implementing a solarization initiative aiming to tackle Afghanistan’s energy challenges. The country imports 75 percent of its electricity, which is barely enough to cover 40 percent of its needs, forcing health facilities among others to be without power for more than six hours every day. The situation is worse in more remote provinces where such shutdowns can last 12 hours a day. The UNDP project has benefited hospitals, health centers, schools, and small farmers in Kabul and Kapisa provinces.

In July 2023, the EU announced a donation of 7.6 million euros to address climate change and food insecurity in the country through an agricultural project to be implemented by the British non-profit Afghanaid in Badakhshan, Daykundi, Ghor, Jowzjan, Samangan, and Takhar provinces. Afghanaid lays special emphasis on implementing a women-centric climate action plan by training women in preparing bio-briquettes and gabion baskets, and involving them in kickstarting reforestation and nurturing drought-resistant home gardens.       

Since September 2023, an EU-funded 3.3 million euro climate adaptation project in Afghanistan is being implemented by the Norwegian Afghanistan Committee (NAC). The project, which will last for three years, will enhance the capacities of local communities in seven provinces – Badakhshan, Daikundi, Faryab, Ghazni, Kapisa, Paktia, and Takhar – to take up climate-smart agriculture, livelihood diversification, and efficient and sustainable natural resource management. The NAC, in collaboration with Chr. Mikkelsen Institute (CMI) and the NEPA, recently concluded a successful three-day climate dialogue and symposium on the consequences of climate change in Afghanistan, where community members from rural Afghanistan were invited to discuss the impacts of climate change and share their recommendations. 

The Aga Khan Development Network’s women-led climate resilience projects include growing micro-forests to support communities in combating climate change while supporting them in earning livelihoods in the provinces of Badakhshan, Baghlan, Bamyan and Takhar. 

Between 1950 and 2010, the average annual temperature rose by 1.8 degrees in Afghanistan, which is about twice the global average. Currently, the country is experiencing its worst drought in 30 years, affecting 25 out of 34 provinces in the country, where around 80 percent of people depend on agriculture for a living. Changing weather patterns and erratic and unseasonal rains on parched land have led to at least three flash floods ravaging many provinces between July 2023 and April 2024. Food insecurity and malnourishment remain widespread, affecting as many as 40 million people, including close to 8 million children. International isolation of Afghanistan and the Taliban’s incapacity to respond have unveiled specters of looming crises that will spill over into the region and beyond.

The EU and UNDP projects may make a difference in the lives of Afghans, but they are limited to only one-third of the country’s provinces. The country needs a much larger and immediate range of international interventions in terms of enhancing the capacities of Afghans to act in the face of climate change. Like any other country, the primary respondent to climate change challenges will have to be the people of Afghanistan and the de facto government of the country. The international community has a responsibility to provide them with the necessary assistance they need as climate stress is leading to food insecurity, impacting public health and leading to climate migration. As the dilemma on recognition and assistance remains unresolved, Afghanistan will be subjected again to vicious cycle of conflict with climate change acting as a threat multiplier.