Study an early, necessary step in preparing for climate action
The impacts of climate change on Azerbaijan’s forests and forest communities could be severe, and the country has much to do to prepare for it, according to a new study released this spring by the Forest Law Enforcement and Governance Program (FLEG II). While the results might seem daunting, just having them in hand puts Azerbaijan ahead of many other countries in efforts to combat climate change and prepare its forests and communities to adapt to its impacts.
The report shows that not only are Azerbaijan’s forests very vulnerable to climate change but the potential negative impacts are also likely to reach beyond the forests themselves into the communities and economies that depend on forests and their ecosystem services.
“Both national and local governments should take [the impacts of climate change on forests] as an urgent important issue and include local investment as priority in local development plans,” states the FLEG II report.
Forest fires, droughts and outbreaks of pests, diseases and invasive species will all be more frequent and more intense as a result of climate change. Local communities will be forced to find new economic means and run the risk of increased unemployment and out-migration.
“Climate change is here. And we are eager to fight against its impacts on our land and on our forests,” said one forestry employee interviewed for the study by FLEG II consultant Bariz Mehdiyev.
But are Azerbaijan’s forests and forest communities ready to take on this challenge? Starting in March of 2014, Mehdiyev spent eight months participating in meetings, discussions, interviews and round tables in Baku and other pilot regions to find out. His conclusion—Azerbaijan has a lot of work to do to prepare its forests and forest communities for climate change.
In particular, the study reports that there are significant gaps in both the knowledge and capacity of stakeholders at both the local and national level. It describes poor levels of knowledge on the impacts of climate change on forests and on how vulnerable forests are to climate change. At the local level, stakeholders have a poor understanding of the existing policies, programs and projects related to climate change adaptation.
The report also outlined how both local and national stakeholders lack the necessary technical and financial capacity to prepare for the impacts from climate change, and that, in fact, there are currently very few initiatives related to forests and climate change adaptation in Azerbaijan. The country needs more resources, specialists and training to put in place forest-related adaptation measures, improved forest and pasture management and the use of best management technologies.
“Even climbing the highest peaks begins with the first step,” said Azer Garayev, FLEG II country officer for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a FLEG II Program implementing organization. “This report gives Azerbaijani officials a solid understanding of the challenges and importance of addressing climate change in Azerbaijan’s forest landscapes so they can make wise decisions when taking the necessary next steps.”
In its assessment process, FLEG II conducted close stakeholder consultations in Shamakhi, Ismayilly and Barda regions with all relevant stakeholders related to forest management both at the national and local levels. It also held additional consultations with international projects involved in similar issues.
By involving international climate change efforts operating in Azerbaijan in this activity, FLEG II strengthened its cooperation with the European Union’s Clima East Project which is supporting climate change mitigation and adaptation in Eastern Europe and Russia. Its regular meetings with Clima East experts and senior Azerbaijani officials responsible for the implementation of forestry policies in Azerbaijan helped to establish a unique format for the discussion of climate change issues which FLEG II anticipates will continue in the years ahead.