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In Tajikistan, a Step Towards Methane Reduction

April 22, 2024

Spotlight on Tajikistan

Why should a country that produces statistically little methane care about lowering its methane emissions? For Tajikistan, a country that produced roughly 5.5 Million MtCO2e (million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent) in 2019—compared to the 22 Million MtCO2e from coal mines alone in India, for example —it might be a fair question. 

Tajikistan, a landlocked country nestled in the heart of Central Asia, is heavily dependent on agriculture; the majority of the population relies on the agriculture sector for their livelihoods, and a significant portion of the country's land is dedicated to agriculture. As such, the shifting climate is having deep impacts on the sector: glaciers are melting, droughts and floods are becoming more common, and farmers are struggling to plan and manage effective irrigation. 

So, why focus on methane, both in Tajikistan, and globally? Because methane is a powerful and short-lived greenhouse gas (GHG), trapping 80 times more heat in the atmosphere over 20 years than carbon. For a country like Tajikistan, global greenhouse gas emissions— including methane—are affecting the lives and livelihoods of millions of people. 

Developing a Long-term Strategy for Methane Mitigation

When USAID’s Comprehensive Action Against Climate Change Initiative (CACCI) began work in Tajikistan, it became a test case of what the program’s mission—to support tailored climate plans for low- and middle-income countries—could look like in practice. 

“First, we needed to understand how CACCI could best support work in the country,” says Suresh Babu, Senior Research Fellow and Head of Capacity Strengthening at the International Food and Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), which implemented CACCI’s work in Tajikistan. 

To that end, CACCI brought a National Coordinator on board to coordinate Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) work in the country, someone who would work—day after day—with the Committee for Environmental Protection, Tajikistan’s equivalent of the Ministry of the Environment. Next, a series of visits to key climate actors were made, including the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Energy and Water Resources, the Ministry of Forestry, and national research institutions like the Tajik Academy of Agricultural Sciences. “We took stock of what everyone was doing,” says Babu. “There was so much going on, but little coordination within the country.” CACCI acted as a convener, bringing these disparate players together as a convener.

The Global Methane Pledge

The Global Methane Pledge was launched at the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) and represents the single largest methane reduction initiative in history, aiming to reduce methane emissions by at least 30 percent by 2030, from 2020 levels. 

A year later, as COP27 approached, CACCI had honed in on methane as a key focus point for their work, understanding it as a critical dimension of reducing global emissions and impact. “Methane is taken seriously on a global level,” says Babu. “But it needed to be nationally recognized and taken seriously in Tajikistan, to be connected to global platforms.”

So, at COP27—with Senator John Kerry, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate in attendance—Tajikistan hosted its first-ever country pavilion, supported by CACCI. While there, Senator Kerry met with Tajikistan’s Minister of Environment, discussing priorities, including potential participation in the Global Methane Pledge.

But Tajikistan didn’t have data on its methane emissions, or a specific incentive to join the pledge. “We didn’t have the evidence, the information,” says Babu. That’s when IFPRI undertook a methane assessment, producing a report indicating the benefits of joining the global pledge, as well as the direct benefits to Tajikistan’s own agricultural economy, including improved air quality, reduced health risks from air pollution, enhanced energy efficiency, increased energy security, and the development of sustainable technologies and industries that foster economic growth and job creation. 

“Building trust is the process,” says Babu, and this was just the start. After developing the report, CACCI worked to bring stakeholders together, including at a workshop in Tajikistan’s capital, Dushanbe, in July 2023. These stakeholders included the Development Coordination Council on Environment, represented by key donor organizations, the sectoral ministries, and climate sector NGOs.

Two months later, the study’s key insights and recommendations were presented at another event in Dushanbe, one attended by 26 policy representatives from Tajikistan’s ecology, energy, agriculture, irrigation, forestry, and meteorology sectors. Study team members presented the assessment results, and participants agreed on the need for designing sector-specific methane reduction strategies, while acknowledging the potential benefits of joining the Global Methane Pledge.

Building Momentum

Because irrigation and maintaining steady water resources were key challenges in Tajikistan’s agricultural sector, IFPRI started to work on additional documentation that would highlight ways to integrate the agricultural food system with climate change policies. “Tajikistan was our test case,” says Suresh. “First, we wanted to understand the intersections of agricultural themes and how they are tied to the [country’s] Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).”

This work led to a paper that focused on key agriculture outcomes—including irrigation, and food and nutrition security—soil fertility, land, agricultural information and knowledge systems, and, finally, sustainability. The resulting report, which considered different approaches to address climate risks, was a milestone in the ongoing process of tackling the challenge step by step. One key piece that was illuminated was the need to address agricultural waste—a key producer of methane. “Waste wasn’t treated properly” previously, explains Babu.

Then, in February of 2024, CACCI set up a meeting in the wake of COP28 to determine key next steps. These meetings led to a general consensus to join the Methane Pledge. Working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Finance, Tajikistan’s Committee for Environmental Protection officially signed on in March 2024.

What’s next?

Joining the pledge was just the first step. Specific interventions on methane are now on the table, and the NDC Secretariat can identify key interventions, while those in Tajikistan can work locally to mobilize donors for investment. “It’s developing evidence, building trust, all in one process,” says Babu. 

With ongoing research, including documenting the integration of agricultural production in Tajikistan with climate policy, the next steps are numerous. “A key next step might be looking at specific interventions on irrigation and water resources,” says Suresh. “We will take the policy to the field!”

This blog post is based on Babu, S., & Srivastava, N. (2024). An evidence-based approach to climate change in Central Asia: Tajikistan and the Global Methane Pledge. International Food Policy Research Institute.

CACCI recognizes the commitment of the Committee for Environmental Protection and the Tajikistan USAID Mission for their contributions and support of CACCI’s implementation, and for the consultative meetings and leadership in chairing the workshops. Thank you to USAID for providing leadership for the donor coordination council in Tajikistan that facilitated the knowledge flow among the multi stakeholder groups for climate action and in working to strengthen the climate change policy system.

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