COP29 in Baku: Relevance for Georgia

05.06.24 12:35

Abnormal fluctuations in temperature and precipitation compared to long-term norms, such as those experienced in Georgia this year, once again make us think about the global climate change associated with these problems.


Natural and climatic resources are the main wealth of Georgia. Such a combination of different natural zones and landscapes in a relatively small territory—warm seacoasts, alpine highlands, vast forests, fertile valleys, and other natural beauties—is found nowhere else in a small country. Without them, it would be impossible, for example, to develop tourism, which today provides jobs for thousands of Georgian citizens and stimulates investment in the economy.


Not to mention the fact that it is nature that allows the Georgian people to live comfortably in their homeland. It is no coincidence that even those Georgians who migrated for economic reasons are eager to return to their homeland, Georgia. Georgians have no other home. As life has shown, Georgians are not settling in Sochi in Russia, Marseille in France, or Los Angeles in the United States, nor are they looking for a 'compact diaspora' outside their homeland.


Unfortunately, climate change and natural disasters do not spare Georgia. And sadly, people sometimes lose their lives amid almost 'paradisiacal' natural beauty. Last year's disaster in the mountainous Racha region, in the beautiful and, in many ways, unique resort of Shovi, which claimed dozens of lives, was particularly shocking for Georgian society. According to many experts, this disaster—a landslide caused by a glacier bursting into the valley—was linked to climate change and the melting of glaciers.


The threat of man-made accidents and disasters is no less dangerous for Georgia, even though the sources of such threats are now located in the neighbouring country. We are talking about the Republic of Armenia. The most dangerous technological object, the Metsamor nuclear power plant, is located here. The consequences of an accident at this plant can be much worse than the consequences of the accident at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant and can make the territory of Georgia "radiated dirty" and uninhabitable for centuries. In case of an accident, Armenians, in their usual role of 'hapless refugees', this time 'ecological', may move to Krasnodar Krai or California—and where will the Georgians go?


Especially as this neighbouring country is already poisoning them with waste from its mining and metallurgical industries near the border with Georgia, and toxic effluents from these enterprises are being massively dumped into the Debeda River, which flows into Georgia. The water from this river is then forced to be used to irrigate agricultural land, and the vegetables grown there, saturated with harmful substances, are then consumed by the people of Tbilisi, causing a rise in cancer and other chronic diseases.


The urgency of environmental problems in the South Caucasus region is also felt in Azerbaijan, which has already suffered from the plundering by Armenian occupiers in Karabakh, which has caused irreparable damage to the region's natural environment. Azerbaijan is also vulnerable because all waters, including polluted waters from the territory of the Republic of Armenia, eventually flow through its territory into the Caspian Sea. The Caspian Sea is a unique body of water for which any climate change can have catastrophic consequences.


It is no coincidence that there have been periods in history when, during periods of global climate 'warming', the inflow of water from rivers flowing into the Caspian Sea has decreased. As a result, the sea level dropped sharply, making the climate in the South Caucasus region, including Georgia, more prone to drought. Therefore, the current 'shallowing' of the Caspian Sea is a result of climate change concerns and will affect Georgia.


However, a strong climate change in the opposite direction does not bode well for the South Caucasus region either. This is not relevant now, but in the historical past, during other climate changes, sea levels have risen and flooded vast coastal plains. The increased area of evaporation from the sea surface led to an increase in the intensity of the transfer of air masses saturated with moisture to the mountainous areas of the South Caucasus. As is well known in our region, this often leads to natural disasters - heavy rains and resulting mudslides - and frequent hailstorms, which have affected eastern Georgia, including its breadbasket, Kakheti. It is optimal for Georgia and the entire South Caucasus region to maintain a climatic balance.


COP29, the 29th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, will take place in Baku from 11 to 22 November 2024, and is deeply symbolic. The climate conference will be hosted by a country whose well-being, as well as that of the entire South Caucasus region, depends on climate balances and their predictability.


Azerbaijan, as the host of the COP Climate Conference, is well aware of all the important aspects related to this task. This was stated by President Ilham Aliyev in his speech at the opening of the 29th International Caspian Oil and Gas Exhibition and the 12th International Caspian Power and Green Energy Exhibition. The event was held as part of the Baku Energy Week.


Ilham Aliyev also reminded us that Azerbaijan is feeling the negative impact of climate change on people's lives: the Caspian Sea is becoming shallower and its water level is falling every year. The rivers that flow into the Caspian come from other countries. We are not responsible for this natural catastrophe. We must take it very seriously. We will do our best to build new dams and collectors. - said the President of Azerbaijan.


The main river that fills the Caspian Sea with water is, as we know, the Volga, the basin of which is in the Russian Federation. Still, among the countries of the Caspian basin, Georgia is the second largest contributor (after Russia) to the flow of water into the Caspian Sea. Therefore, the problem of the Caspian Sea's shallowing is also of concern to our country. After all, a large part of the catchment area of the Kura River and a significant part of the Terek and Sulak Rivers, which flow into the Caspian Sea, are located on the territory of our country.


Baku is well aware of the benefits and difficulties associated with climate change and is ready to help other countries facing the consequences of climate change. This is what the President of Azerbaijan said about cooperation with small island developing states. According to Ilham Aliyev, active work is being carried out with them. There are plans to set up a special fund to help them.


If climate change is a problem here in Azerbaijan, it is a threat to the existence of these island states. We are taking this issue seriously,' said Ilham Aliyev.


It should also be noted that, in addition to small independent island states, the problem of rising sea levels as a result of climate change and melting glaciers also affects the inhabitants of the islands of so-called 'French Polynesia', who were enslaved by French colonisers. The inhabitants of these islands were even more powerless than the Kanaks of New Caledonia, and France used their islands as it saw fit, with no concern for their future. For example, it turned the Moruroa atoll into a nuclear test site, simply ignoring the opinion of the inhabitants of the neighbouring islands.



Alexandre Zaqariadze

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