Immediate action is needed to step up climate adaptation in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

With mounting costs of adaptation, immediate action pays off, says new UNDP report. But region is best placed to intensify its adaptation work.

December 5, 2018

Poland -  Climate change impacts in Eastern Europe and Central Asia currently cost billions of dollars in lost productivity and could keep mounting over the next few years, according to a new report released at the climate summit.  

“New risks from climate change threaten to derail (…) advances and challenge national efforts to reach targets outlined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Paris Agreement, Sendai Framework and other international accords,” according to the foreword of Climate Change Adaptation in Europe and Central Asia”, produced by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The report shows climate change is already being felt heavily across the region, including floods and droughts in the Western Balkans and south Caucasus and rising Black Sea levels. In the last fifty years, glaciers in Central Asia are estimated to have receded by 25 per cent, and an equal amount is expected to disappear in the next 20 years.

In the Russian Arctic, the permafrost has been receding, and seasonal thaw depths are projected to increase 30 to 50 centimetres, increasing the risk to biodiversity, as well as putting infrastructure and buildings at risk of collapse.

Together, these changes will result in adverse socio-economic impacts and will affect people’s health, well-being, livelihoods, and quality of life. For example, Turkmenistan estimates losses in agricultural crop production at over US$ 20 billion over 15 years if the critical adaptation measures in the water and agriculture sectors are not implemented. 

The region is also home to 15 percent of the world’s migrants. Changes in climate conditions could mean an acceleration of out-migration trends, the report points out.

The economics of adaptation

There remains a large gap in funding for climate change adaptation across sectors and countries. The cost of climate change adaptation globally far outstrips current funding, with recent UN reports indicating the global costs of adaptation ranging from US$140 billion to US$300 billion by 2030, and between US$280 billion and US$500 billion by 2050.

For instance, without proper adaptation measures, climate hazards could cost the people of Georgia between US$10 and $12 billion from 2021 to 2030. The estimated cost of adapting to climate change in Georgia over the same time-period is estimated between US$1.5 billion and $2 billion.

The report also shows successful adaptation is within reach. “Low-carbon, climate-resilient development is going to look very different in Europe and Central Asia than it does in other parts of the world,” the report states.

“With growing economies, strong local capacity, access to high-tech resources, and growing institutional resilience, the region has all the requisite ingredients to succeed in its goals of eradicating poverty in all its forms, accelerating the transition to sustainable development, and making sure the people of the region are able to withstand crises and shocks”.

The report offers a broad range of successful adaptation measures and initiatives. An EU-funded project to protect the peatlands in Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine has been helping to keep over 130 million tonnes of CO2 in the ground while creating livelihoods for thousands of people working in farming or tourism.

In Turkmenistan, approximately 60,000 farmers and shepherds improved their resilience to climate-induced water scarcity by adopting efficient on-farm water and land-use technologies, while at the national level the project accelerated policy reform in the water and agriculture sectors. 

Meanwhile, climate information and early warning systems were advanced in Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Moldova and Uzbekistan, are protecting lives and valuable productive infrastructure from floods and providing farmers with value insights on when to plant and when to harvest and informing improved evidence-based decision making for leaders across the region.


Full Publication: Climate Change Adaptation in Europe and Central Asia: Adapting to a changing climate for resilient development and Executive Summary:

Contact Information:
Natalia Olofinskaya
Regional Technical Specialist