Could COVID-19 kickstart a “green” recovery in Uzbekistan?

February 26, 2021

UNDP Uzbekistan

Launching a new green economy will require everyone’s input, and that includes you! There’s more information below on how you can get involved.

A hundred and fifty years ago Fyodor Dostoevsky recognized that human efforts that do not take nature into consideration will never succeed. “Nature doesn't ask your permission,” he wrote. “It doesn't care about your wishes, or whether you like its laws or not. You're obliged to accept it as it is, and consequently all its results as well.”

The 2020 UNDP Human Development Report (HDR) calls for a reimagining of development in the wake of the coronavirus – not just because it is a good idea, but because our very survival may depend on it. According to the report, until now development has relied too heavily on fossil fuels and linear models of production and consumption. The resulting benefits have often been ephemeral, putting at risk the lives and livelihoods of those affected by a deteriorating environment. 

With a vaccine on the horizon, many countries are now considering their recovery strategies.  One approach being called for is to invest heavily in a green economy, a course of action reflecting the triple bottom line that offers equal benefits to the social, environmental and financial sectors.

The COVID-19 recovery process is a chance to introduce a new economic package to support an economy working closely with the environment, rather than against it, while providing decent, better jobs. Indeed, recovery strategies present an opportunity to choose a new human development journey in balance with the planet, rather than returning to old models that have caused so much harm to the environment. Ultimately, according to the 2020 Human Development Report, those countries that forge new, more sustainable paths will be stronger, more resilient, and much more prosperous than they could have ever imagined before the pandemic.

In recent years Uzbekistan has worked to balance its increasing population and urbanization with new efforts to ensure the sustainable use of available natural resources, decouple growth from carbon emissions, and mitigate the impacts of climate change. Uzbekistan’s different regions have increasingly worked to solve their individual environmental challenges, for instance the often overreliance on water sourced from outside the country.

COVID-19 has presented new challenges in every region and for every person in Uzbekistan. These  are being carefully monitored by UNDP, the Center for Economic Research and Reforms, and the Ministry for Mahallas and Family Affairs. When we look for common solutions, now is an opportunity to put a new “norm” in place – one that is green and digital, and which benefits the economy, the environment, and all parts of society. In other words, a green economy.

What is a green economy?

A green economy sustains the needs of a society while using available resources efficiently, generating low or no carbon emissions, and making sure everyone is included. There is economic growth in a green economy, but it is driven by public and private investments into activities that support society, and into infrastructure and assets that allow for reduced carbon emissions and pollution, enhanced energy and resource efficiency, and prevention of the loss of biodiversity and ecosystems.

The idea of a green economy is to improve both human well-being and social equity by achieving sustainable development that provides for present needs without compromising future opportunities. It is built on stable jobs, accessible to all, which produce ‘green’ products and services.

The intention of the Government of Uzbekistan to transition to a green economy has been there since the signing of Uzbekistan's Development Strategy for 2017-2021, which included a commitment to a twofold increase of energy efficiency indicators and a decrease in the carbon intensity of the GDP. Specifically, it sought an increase in the energy efficiency of industrial enterprises by at least 20 percent, and the greater use of drip irrigation technologies with an anticipated 20-40 percent increase in crop yields.

In 2019, the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan took this a step further, promising additional green economy reforms for 2019-2030, in line with obligations under the Paris Agreement on climate change. Included in the official resolution are provisions to improve energy efficiency, develop renewable energy sources, preserve more natural ecosystems, and establish financial and non-financial support mechanisms to encourage the growth of a green economy.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on the country, it has also provided an enormous opportunity to further implement national commitments as Uzbekistan rebounds and reinvests. One group which will play a critical role in building this new economy, and who have much to gain from it, is returning migrant workers. With their skills and experience gained outside Uzbekistan these individuals can step into green jobs, like digitizing public services and social support delivery, installing new infrastructure in rural areas, and creating new businesses. Moreover, as this versatile workforce once provided remittances which were important for their families and the national economy, new jobs are required to replace this income.

Promoting a new paradigm in policy and planning

Creating and sustaining a green economy will require a gradual shift in development thinking, and must result in the necessary prioritizing of funding for green projects, while adopting environmental considerations across all aspects of policy. For such a paradigm shift to succeed, business projects need to collaborate across all levels – big and small, national and international, private and non-profit.

We need to move beyond the traditional line of thought that there is a trade-off between economic progress and environmental sustainability, and realize instead that there are significant opportunities within a green economy for investment, growth and security. The mechanisms which deliver a green economy, such as renewable energy, support for green business and technology, and the education of a skilled and agile workforce, are just a few of the immediate benefits of this approach.

While many options and approaches for recovery from COVID-19 are being considered, Uzbekistan and its people would greatly benefit from a transition to a green economy. UNDP is fully on board and will work closely with the Government and all stakeholders to help the country build forward better in the wake of this long and difficult pandemic.

Green recovery based on renewable energy, green jobs, and improved agriculture

In support of the Government’s commitment to an economic transformation, UNDP is assisting Uzbekistan’s green growth in three directions:

-        Accelerating the transition to renewable energies. UNDP has already begun working with Uzbekistan’s public and private sectors to reduce their emissions, through increasing their energy efficiency, and enhancing their use of renewable, clean and affordable energy. This is exemplified by our work to introduce renewable energy into homes in the Bukhara, Tashkent, Fergana, Andijan and Namangan regions, using funding from the Global Environment Fund. Constructing new environmentally-friendly homes and installing features to limit their carbon footprints has created green jobs.

-        Reorienting business and finance towards sustainable development. UNDP will help put in place policies to limit carbon emissions from key sectors, including energy, transport, agriculture, forestry, manufacturing and construction. Models for new green jobs will be created, particularly for marginalized women, people who are informally employed and other vulnerable groups, while entrepreneurs will have access to innovative training. UNDP is supporting the implementation of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, and exploring market-based incentives for the sustainable management of Uzbekistan’s natural resources. There are also plans to launch a monitoring system that will push the economy towards climate neutrality.

-        Reconsidering our relationship with nature. In Uzbekistan’s agriculture sector UNDP supports practices to minimise land degradation, which both protect the environment and improve crop yields. Together with the European Union, UNDP will support the Government’s efforts to improve inefficient agricultural practices and apply ‘climate-smart’ Uzbek agricultural knowledge. Another objective is increasing the number and size of natural protected areas, and introducing a system for their patrol and protection.

One area in which all tenets of green economy have already been brought together is the Aral Sea region. Here, UNDP’s SDG Integration Initiative and Accelerator Lab are working with numerous regional stakeholders to pilot the systems approach, and various innovative means of addressing the region’s unique environmental and livelihood challenges.

Building a greener future for Uzbekistan will need to be a collaborative process:
We want to hear from you!

If I may now return to Fyodor Dostoevsky and his ideas on what motivates human behaviour, he once said that “the mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.” 

If Dostoevsky were here today, we believe he would consider supporting a country’s emergence from a pandemic and into a prosperous green economy to indeed be a reason to be alive. UNDP has made all information about COVID-19’s diverse impacts in Uzbekistan available online. If you are an entrepreneur, an original thinker on socio-economic matters, or anyone with ideas for building Uzbekistan forward in a better and greener way, we want to hear from you! Please email your proposals, concepts and ideas to