Taliban in it, funding? A former Afghan official fears the climate …
By Annie Banerji
NEW DELHI, October 4 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – From creating a national carbon inventory to securing more than $ 90 million for green projects, Afghanistan’s gains in the fight against global warming climate could be compromised with the ruling Taliban, a former senior Afghan climate official mentioned.
Samim Hoshmand said key programs, including a $ 21.4 million rural solar power project backed by the International Green Climate Fund (GFC), were in limbo after the militant Islamist group captured the capital Kabul on August 15.
Hoshmand, who was director of climate change at the National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) before the takeover, helped develop a national climate action plan and inventory shows.
“These are all activities which I fear could be threatened,” he said by telephone from a village outside the capital of Tajikistan, Dushanbe, where he fled after receiving reports. death threats from environmental offenders released from the Taliban.
Other green projects that could be affected include a $ 36 million effort supported by the Global Environment Facility and other donors to boost renewable energy, make agriculture and forestry more climate resilient. and protect ecosystems, Hoshmand said.
He described securing funds for the projects as a huge achievement because “these funding mechanisms are painfully slow and almost impossible (to access) for fragile countries like ours”.
Yannick Glemarec, executive director of GFC, confirmed that continued cash disbursements for the Afghanistan project fund – created to provide rural areas with clean energy via solar mini-grids – had been “on hold” in the awaiting a risk assessment.
“Whenever you have a change in the political landscape, you have to carefully consider what that means in terms of risk,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Hoshmand, a former UN climate negotiator, said without foreign support Afghans could be pushed into more hunger, poverty and conflict in a country already struggling with severe weather extremes, from crippling droughts to flash floods.
Afghanistan is “one of the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change in the world,” the World Bank noted.
Hoshmand said if making a living becomes more difficult due to extreme weather conditions and help is not available, the country could see its losses worsen.
“When people face a natural threat and are hungry, they can do anything to survive. They can cut down jungles, destroy ecosystems, deplete natural resources,” he said.
“That’s what really concerns me.”
Hoshmand, 30, was also tasked with enforcing an international ban on the use of ozone-depleting substances such as certain refrigerants used in refrigerators and air conditioners.
This now makes him a target among illegal traders, some of whom he helped put behind bars but who were freed by the Taliban as they swept through major Afghan cities.
Faced with threats, Hoshmand fled to neighboring Tajikistan wearing nothing but clothes on his back and leaving behind years of hard work, including preparations for the COP26 climate summit which begins on October 31 in Scotland.
“I was perfectly prepared for COP26,” he said. “But suddenly everything changed, and I became like nothing.”
“I am looking for a job just to survive, to feed myself,” he said.
With Afghanistan’s environmental agency now closed, he said the country was unlikely to be represented at COP26 talks, where he planned to submit updated climate commitments.
Whoever is responsible, Afghanistan needs help to deal with climate threats, he said.
He urged foreign donors to look beyond politics and engage the Taliban for the sake of the more than 30 million Afghans, who face increasing risks of internal displacement due to the harsh weather.
Without international help to promote clean energy, he warned that the Taliban could resort to increased use of Afghanistan’s highly polluting coal reserves to save the cash-strapped economy.
“The current government has no money to pay the salaries of its employees. How can they save anything for climate change?” Asked the former negotiator.
Afghanistan imports most of its electricity from neighboring countries, including Iran, producing only a small portion domestically, according to its main electricity supplier.
With few clean industries, Afghanistan accounts for far less than 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, but suffers severe consequences from drought and other extreme weather conditions.
The international community must engage with the Taliban government and “provide them with incentives to build renewable energy resources,” he said.
“If we leave them alone, they will definitely (lean on the coal).”
(Report by Annie Banerji @anniebanerji, supplemental report by Beh Lih Yi, edited by Laurie Goering; please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, which covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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