Measuring the Capacity for Adaptation to Climate Change in Central Asia

Rahat Sabyrbekov a, b*, Indra Overland c

a OSCE Academy, 1A Botanichesky pereulok, Bishkek, 720044, Kyrgyzstan
Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Harvard University, 1730 Cambridge Street, MA 02138, Cambridge
Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, PB 7024 St. Olavs Plass, OSLO, 0130, Norway


Indra Overland:

August 12, 2023


Climate change poses a formidable threat to the Central Asian region, exacerbating preexisting vulnerabilities and necessitating enhanced adaptation efforts. The economic and environmental costs of these changing climatic conditions are substantial, compelling governments to bolster their adaptive capacity. In this study, we employ the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) adaptation framework and high-quality data to quantitatively measure the capacities of the Central Asian countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change. Our primary objective is to compare the adaptation progress in the Central Asian countries with that of countries outside the region. The results of our analysis indicate that, despite announced adaptation strategies, Central Asia lags behind in this critical area. Several factors contribute to the low scores for adaptation in the region, including heavy reliance on fossil fuels, resource-intensive economies, and limited innovation capacity. This deficiency in adaptive readiness leaves the Central Asian countries ill-prepared for the impending consequences of climate change. Urgent action is imperative for policymakers to address this disparity, formulate effective adaptation strategies, and safeguard the region’s future resilience.

Download the Paper

Available in English

For citation: Sabyrbekov, R., Overland, I., (2023). Measuring the Capacity for Adaptation to Climate Change in Central Asia. Central Asian Journal of Sustainability and Climate Research


Aaheim, A., & Aasen, M. (2008). What do we know about the economics of adaptation? (Vol. 150). Centre for European Policy Studies.

Adger, W. N., Arnell, N. W., & Tompkins, E. L. (2005). Successful adaptation to climate change across scales. Global Environmental Change, 15(2), 77–86. gloenvcha.2004.12.005

Adger, W. N., Huq, S., Brown, K., Conway, D., & Hulme, M. (2003). Adaptation to climate change in the developing world. Progress in Development Studies, 3(3), 179–195. https://doi. org/10.1191/1464993403ps060oa

Alam, M., & Huq, S. (2019). Measuring Status of Climate Change Adaptation: An Assessment Framework. In M. Alam, J. Lee, & P. Sawhney (Eds.), Status of Climate Change Adaptation in Asia and the Pacific (pp. 13–26). Springer International Publishing.

Barnes, M. L., Wang, P., Cinner, J. E., Graham, N. A. J., Guerrero, A. M., Jasny, L., Lau, J., Sutcliffe, S. R., & Zamborain-Mason, J. (2020). Social determinants of adaptive and transformative responses to climate change. Nature Climate Change, 10(9), 823–828. 0871-4

Blondin, S. (2023). The Dual Relationship Between Human Mobility and Climate Change in Central Asia: Tackling the Vulnerability of Mobility Infrastructure and Transport-Related Environmental Issues. In R. Sabyrbekov, I. Overland, & R. Vakulchuk (Eds.), Climate Change in Central Asia (pp. 111–122). Springer Nature Switzerland.

Buylova, A., Fridahl, M., Nasiritousi, N., Overland, I., & Reischl, G. (2022). Climate action in the making: Business and civil society views on the world’s first carbon border levy. Climate Action, 1(1), 17.

Cherchye, L., Moesen, W., Rogge, N., Van Puyenbroeck, T., Saisana, M., Saltelli, A., Liska, R., & Tarantola, S. (2008). Creating composite indicators with DEA and robustness analysis: The case of the Technology Achievement Index. Journal of the Operational Research Society, 59(2), 239–251.

CRED. (2023). The International Disaster Database, Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters. UCLouvain.

Daloz, A. S. (2023). Climate Change: A Growing Threat for Central Asia. In R. Sabyrbekov, I. Overland, & R. Vakulchuk (Eds.), Climate Change in Central Asia (pp. 15–21). Springer Nature Switzerland.

Dun, O., Klocker, N., Farbotko, C., & McMichael, C. (2023). Climate change adaptation in agriculture: Learning from an international labour mobility programme in Australia and the Pacific Islands region. Environmental Science & Policy, 139, 250–273.

Ford, J. D., Berrang-Ford, L., Biesbroek, R., Araos, M., Austin, S. E., & Lesnikowski, A. (2015). Adaptation tracking for a post-2015 climate agreement. Nature Climate Change, 5(11), 967–969.

GCF. (2023). Open Data Library.Projects. Green Climate Fund. Dataset. https://data.greenclimate. fund/public/data/projects

Gerlitz, L., Vorogushyn, S., & Gafurov, A. (2020). Climate informed seasonal forecast of water availability in Central Asia: State-of-the-art and decision making context. Water Security, 10, 100061.

Green Climate Fund. (2023). Date of address 17.05.2023.

Gupta, J., Termeer, C., Klostermann, J., Meijerink, S., van den Brink, M., Jong, P., Nooteboom, S., & Bergsma, E. (2010). The Adaptive Capacity Wheel: A method to assess the inherent characteristics of institutions to enable the adaptive capacity of society. Environmental Science & Policy, 13(6), 459–471.

IMF. (2023a). Financial Development Index Database. ac26-493c5b1cd33b&sId=1485894037365

IMF. (2023b). Total fossil fuel subsidies as a percentage of GDP. Dataset. Topics/climate-change/energy-subsidies#A%20Global%20Picture%20of%20Energy%20Subsidies

IPCC. (2018). Global Warming of 1.5°C: IPCC Special Report on Impacts of Global Warming of 1.5°C above Pre-industrial Levels in Context of Strengthening Response to Climate Change, Sustainable Development, and Efforts to Eradicate Poverty (1st ed.). Cambridge University Press. https://doi. org/10.1017/9781009157940

Mirzabaev, A. (2012). Climate Volatility and Change in Central Asia: Economic Impacts and Adaptation. Rheinischen Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität zu Bonn.

Mirzabaev, A. (2023). Climate Change Science and Policy in Central Asia: Current Situation and Future Perspectives. In R. Sabyrbekov, I. Overland, & R. Vakulchuk (Eds.), Climate Change in Central Asia (pp. 23–32). Springer Nature Switzerland.

Nardo, M., Saisana, M., Saltelli, S., Tarantola, A., Hoffman, A. and Giovannini, E. (2008). Handbook on Constructing Composite Indicators: Methodology and User Guide. OECD Statistics Working Papers, 2005/*3, OECD Publishing, Paris.

Overland, I., & Sabyrbekov, R. (2022). Know your opponent: Which countries might fight the European carbon border adjustment mechanism? Energy Policy, 169, 113175. enpol.2022.113175

Poberezhskaya, M., & Danilova, N. (2022). Reconciling climate change leadership with resource nationalism and regional vulnerabilities: A case-study of Kazakhstan. Environmental Politics, 31(3), 429–452.

Reyer, C. P. O., Otto, I. M., Adams, S., Albrecht, T., Baarsch, F., Cartsburg, M., Coumou, D., Eden, A., Ludi, E., Marcus, R., Mengel, M., Mosello, B., Robinson, A., Schleussner, C.-F., Serdeczny, O., & Stagl, J. (2017). Climate change impacts in Central Asia and their implications for development. Regional Environmental Change, 17(6), 1639–1650.

Sabyrbekov, R. (2019). Income diversification strategies among pastoralists in Central Asia: Findings from Kyrgyzstan. Pastoralism, 9(1).

Sabyrbekov, R., Overland, I., & Vakulchuk, R. (2023). Central Asian Climate Policy Pledges Under the Paris Agreement: Can They Be Fulfilled? In R. Sabyrbekov, I. Overland, & R. Vakulchuk (Eds.), Climate Change in Central Asia (pp. 35–49). Springer Nature Switzerland. https://doi. org/10.1007/978-3-031-29831-8_4

Saisana, M., Tarantola, S., Schulze, N., Cherchye, L., Moesen, W., & Puyenbroeck, T. V. (2005). State-of-the-art report on composite indicators for the knowledge-based economy. Knowledge Economy Indicators: Development of Innovative and Reli- Able Indicator Systems – KEI, 1–48.

Saltelli, A. (2007). Composite Indicators Between Analysis and Advocacy. Social Indicators Research 81(1):65-77

Shi, L., & Moser, S. (2021). Transformative climate adaptation in the United States: Trends and prospects. Science, 372(6549), eabc8054.

Thomas, K., Hardy, R. D., Lazrus, H., Mendez, M., Orlove, B., Rivera‐Collazo, I., Roberts, J. T., Rockman, M., Warner, B. P., & Winthrop, R. (2019). Explaining differential vulnerability to climate change: A social science review. WIREs Climate Change, 10(2).

UNEP. (2023). SGD 12. Indicator 12.2.2: Domestic material consumption, domestic material consumption per capita, and domestic material consumption per GDP. Dataset. https://unstats.

UN-Habitat. (2023). SDG Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. Dataset. (refer to “Inland Water Resources”)

United Nations. (2023). Energy intensity level of primary energy (megajoules per constant 2017 purchasing power parity GDP). United Nations Statistics Division, International Energy Agency (IEA).

UNSD. (2023a). Proportion of important sites for terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity that are covered by protected areas. Dataset. SDG 15.

UNSD. (2023b). Share of modern renewables in total final energy consumption (%). Dataset. http://

Vakulchuk, R., Daloz, A. S., Overland, I., Sagbakken, H. F., & Standal, K. (2022). A void in Central Asia research: Climate change. Central Asian Survey.

Vakulchuk, R., Isataeva, A., Kolodzinskaia, G., Overland, I., & Sabyrbekov, R. (2022). Fossil Fuels in Central Asia: Trends and Energy Transition Risks Data on the production, consumption, export and import of coal, natural gas and oil are summarised for. Central Asia Regional Data Review, 28, 1–6.

Vakulchuk, R., & Overland, I. (2021). Central Asia is a missing link in analyses of critical materials for the global clean energy transition. One Earth, 4(12), 1678–1692. oneear.2021.11.012

WIPO. (2021). Total patent applications (direct and PCT national phase entries). WIPO Statistics Database.

World Bank. (2022). World Development Indicators. Total Population [dataset]. https://data.

World Bank. (2023a). World Development Indicators Database. CO2 emissions per capita.

adaptation, climate change, climate policy, decarbonization, Energy Transition

Publication Alerts: