In Dasht-e-Dehkhaw in Badakhshan, Afghanistan, the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH), together with the local community, planted 3,500 trees to help stabilise a dangerous slope and protect the village below from deadly landslides and rockfalls. These trees are also part of the solution to an even bigger threat looming over this community. As they grow, these trees take CO2 out of the atmosphere, acting as a natural carbon sink to help tackle the climate crisis.
Afghanistan is one of the countries in the world most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. As temperatures continue to rise, extreme weather events and natural disasters are set to worsen, intensifying the vulnerability of a population dealing with decades of conflict, displacement and instability. In this context, bold climate action, multiplying efforts such as the tree plantation in Dasht-e-Dehkhaw, is an urgent priority.
The Aga Khan Agency for Habitat and Arup are working with Afghanistan’s National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) to define a new national commitment for climate action across Afghanistan. Through a project funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), AKAH and Arup are working with NEPA and UNDP Afghanistan to revise Afghanistan’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), defining the country’s goals and actions for reducing national greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change. NDCs are the core of each country’s commitment to the Paris Agreement. These plans are to be updated every five years and AKAH and Arup are leading the first update of Afghanistan’s NDC.
The goal is to develop a stronger and more inclusive national climate action plan with ambitious targets for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Beyond reviewing and enhancing existing targets, policies and measures, AKAH and Arup are looking at incorporating new sectors and, most importantly, building political will and societal ownership of this critical plan through broad, inclusive whole-of-society engagement. Ezatullah Sediqi, Technical Deputy of NEPA, highlights the importance of broad engagement: “We can fight the negative effects of climate change by disseminating adaptation and implementation [knowledge].”
To ensure that the NDC is informed by government and citizen voices, AKAH and Arup are engaging a wide range of government line departments, private sector stakeholders, Afghanistan chambers of commerce, vulnerable groups, women representatives, youth groups and universities, and both national and international NGOs and civil society organisations.
In February and March AKAH and Arup together with NEPA and UNDP organised three national consultations with participants across government, private sector and civil society to review the current NDC, and two provincial and sub-national consultations are planned. In the national consultations 100 participants discussed the key climate change priorities for Afghanistan and their own role and relevant policies, plans and actions to address these priorities. Another round of consultation and dialogue is planned to build understanding and ownership of the revised NDC across all stakeholders. “For AKAH, being part of the NDC review is an incredible opportunity to amplify our collective efforts to tackle climate change and we hope that this consultative process will build buy-in and incite action from a wide range of government, private sector and civil society actors,” said Shodmon Hojibekov, CEO, AKAH in Afghanistan.
AKAH is working in over 750 communities like Dasht-e-Dehkhaw to reduce disaster risk and help people adapt to climate change, making their homes and villages safer and greener. AKAH is also committed to becoming carbon neutral in its own operations by 2025. Limiting climate change and building resilience to its impacts in Afghanistan will require an ambitious national climate action plan, mobilising the efforts of all segments of society and government.