The possibility of global temperatures exceeding the Paris Agreement 1.5°C target is rising every year. We already face the impact of climate change through often extreme weather conditions which threaten ecosystems and risk livelihoods. Yet, current plans to reach net-zero emissions targets do not go far enough to achieve the 1.5C target in time.

To meet this target, countries must explore new systems which also tackle the withdrawal of existing CO2 in the atmosphere. Decades of over-farming, monoculture practices, and conversion of grassland to cropland have dilapidated fertility and carbon levels of the soil in the so-called Eurasian dry land belt. Global demand for carbon sequestration poses a new opportunity for regions in Eurasia to establish systems of carbon farming and trading which can commodify carbon sequestered in the dry land belt. This can contribute to global action for combatting climate change and help increase resilience of local lands and farming communities against consequences of global warming. Furthermore, the carbon sequestered in these regions could provide scope for countries and private enterprises to reach their net-zero emissions targets by investing in carbon rents and offsetting future emissions. Thus, Eurasia presents a unique environment for conducting a multi-dimensional commercial ecosystem to undertake emissions offsetting initiatives.

To discuss the establishment of such offsetting systems, IIASA co-organized the exploratory inaugural Dialogue on Scaling up Climate Action in Eurasia: Carbon Farming and Trading, alongside the BRICS Competition Law and Policy Center, TALAP Center for Applied Research, National ESG Club, and Green Finance Center (GFC), which took place on 3 October 2022 at the Astana International Financial Center (AIFC), Kazakhstan. The dialogue connected key stakeholders in the discussions including regional politicians, private sector stakeholders, and scientists to identify the main opportunities and challenges of implementing a carbon market in Eurasia with a central carbon exchange platform established in Kazakhstan.

IIASA Director General Albert Van Jaarsveld delivered his opening remarks on IIASA's research on carbon sequestration and the importance of net negative emissions in combating climate change. He highlighted IIASA's established reputation for systems analysis of human-Earth systems under climate change pressures, including the contributions of William Nordhaus, recipient of 2018 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, who began his research on the economics of climate change at IIASA in the late 1970s.

Next, Michael Obersteiner, Director of the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, and Principal Research Scholar in the IIASA Advancing Systems Analysis (ASA) Program, presented novel tools for evaluating and coordinating policy actions of multiple countries in meeting the Paris Climate Agreement targets using modeling and machine learning. He presented the positive expected growth in the demand for carbon offsets in the next decade and the economic prospects of carbon farming combined with technological sequestration methods over time. Obersteiner concluded by re-emphasizing the longevity and expected growth of the carbon farming industries and stressed the importance of Eurasia’s participation in its future.

The event was supported by the Ministry of Trade and Integration, and the Ministry of Agriculture, of the Republic of Kazakhstan (RK) and attended by Serik Zhumangarin, Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Trade and Integration of RK. Throughout his time in government, Serik Zhumangarin has represented several ministries from Economic Development and Trade to Protection and Promotion of Competition. In his talk at the event, he stressed the importance of integrating the agricultural industries in emissions reducing activities and providing farmers with the opportunity to earn revenues from carbon sequestration. Zhumangarin further pointed toward the 80 million hectares of unusable land in Kazakhstan which can be repurposed for carbon sequestration. He concluded by reinforcing the potential of Kazakhstan to becoming a key player in carbon farming markets in Eurasia, as well as its broader interests in global agenda of tackling climate change.

As part of extended IIASA delegation, Pradeep Monga, former Director of Energy Branch at United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Vienna also presented on the importance of developing nature-positive mechanisms of climate resilience and establishing inclusive carbon exchange platforms delivering prosperity to local youth, communities, and enterprises.

Advancing Systems Analysis (ASA) Program Director, Elena Rovenskaya moderated a panel session on new technologies for carbon farming and increasing the resilience of rural communities against climate change. ASA researchers have produced extensive research into the areas of net-negative emissions, emissions trading markets, and the climate-related risks for small-scale farmers. ASA's experience in inter- and trans-disciplinary methodological research, as well as its principle to mobilize shared scientific tools for systems-wide analysis is therefore well-suited for discussions on carbon farming in the Eurasian dryland belt.

Overall, the dialogue provided excellent food-for-thought on commodifying carbon sequestration systems and expanding the horizon for Eurasia to play a central role in hosting such trading platforms. The long-term scope of carbon sequestration and the focus on Eurasian regions gives motivation and inspiration for IIASA to continue its research on this front in line with its ambitions of greater international integration and policy impact.

Watch the recorded stream of the event here.

Read more on the participants of the event here.

Elena Rovenskaya moderating her panel discussion “Towards a carbon market in Eurasia” © IIASA
Elena Rovenskaya moderating her panel discussion “Towards a carbon market in Eurasia” in the company of panelists Alexey Ivanov (center), Director of BRICS Competition Law and Policy Centre; and Saule Moldabaeva (left), Director of the Department of Strategic planning and Analysis, Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
Serik Zhumangarin delivering his presentation on the prospects of Kazakhstan in carbon capture. © IIASA
Serik Zhumangarin delivering his presentation on the prospects of Kazakhstan in carbon capture.
Photo from the event © IIASA
Michael Obersteiner in his keynote presentation in the company of Aidar Kazybayev (right), Chairman of the National ESG Club, CEO of AIFC Green Finance Centre; and Pradeep Monga (left).
Photo from the event: An open discussion between members of Panel 1 on the growth in demand for carbon sequestration. © IIASA
An open discussion between members of Panel 1 on the growth in demand for carbon sequestration.

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