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His Excellency Prince Mostapha Zaher

Afghanistan

National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) Represented by

His Excellency Prince Mostapha Zaher

Director-General a.i., Member of the Cabinet, Member of the Council of Ministers
His Excellency Prince Mostapha Zaher is Afghanistan’s National Designated Authority (NDA) to the Green Climate Fund. As Director-General a.i. of NEPA he serves as the main contact point between the Government of Afghanistan and the GCF. In 2010 he was named a Champion of the Earth by UN Environment for his efforts in promoting sustainable development and environmental protection in Afghanistan. The GCF had the opportunity to sit down with Prince Zaher during his recent visit to the GCF Secretariat in Songdo, Republic of Korea, where he was accompanied by the Deputy Minister of Programmes with the Afghan Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD), Hon. Ahmad Shaheer Shahriar, and the Minister Counsellor with the Embassy of Afghanistan in Seoul, Hon. Gulmat Khan Zadran.

Your Excellency, share with the GCF a game-changer programme that would represent a paradigm shift in Afghanistan?

The Afghan Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD) has worked with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to develop a project proposal that is focused on sustainable energy access in 17 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. This project aims to introduce 25 mini energy generation stations using hydro and solar power to help communities transition from coal, firewood and diesel fuel to more environmentally-friendly methods. In and of itself, this project will not bring a sudden paradigm shift. Rather, it is the beginning of the shift that is needed in Afghanistan and one that is very much a part of my country’s orientation towards clean energy generation in the long term.

As a Least Developed Country (LDC), the benefits of such a programme are numerous. It will empower rural communities, including women, by introducing clean cooking stoves and solar hot water heaters, as well as help reduce deforestation. It will offset some 18 million tons of carbon dioxide, and support the development of Afghanistan’s green economy by providing opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises. We are now seeking support from the GCF Project Preparation Facility (PPF) to help conduct feasibility studies and assess the design of the 25 sites.

What are the major challenges and opportunities in realizing Afghanistan’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC)? 

One challenge is terrorism and the overall security situation in Afghanistan. Instability brought about by terrorism hampers our development and progress. If we cannot access certain areas of the country because of security-related issues, it will be a challenge to conduct studies and other assessments that may be necessary to design a green energy programme. But we are hopeful—the security situation is a short-term challenge and my Government is doing everything possible to provide the necessary security for the people, our partners and stakeholders.
 
A second challenge is climate change. We are already seeing the impacts like drought, irregular weather patterns, floods, avalanches and landslides. More importantly, satellite imagery shows an alarming and accelerated glacial melts in the Himalayan-Hindu Kush Range as well as in the Pamirs of the Wakhan District, situated in the extreme north-eastern part of the country.
 
Afghanistan had experienced a seven-year drought from 1996-2003 that fortunately has ended—for now. Over 80 per cent of the Afghan economy is directly involved in the agricultural sector. You can appreciate the trickle-down effects that insufficient rain and snowfall have on our economy and society. This includes emigration and internal migration of our young people who either see no future in agriculture and decide to leave the country altogether or those who stay but move to urban areas to find a better life.
 
But these challenges are also opportunities. Afghanistan’s implementation of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change has received the highest level of commitment from both Their Excellencies the President and the Chief Executive of Afghanistan, and we remain highly optimistic that with the support of the Green Climate Fund, we will be able to implement our INDC successfully and in the interest of the Afghan people.

Afghanistan is strengthening its engagement with the GCF. What are your priorities in this partnership? 

First and foremost, we want to see a GCF project in Afghanistan, and we are using the PPF to help improve our project proposal to increase the chances of it being brought forward for review by the GCF Board. A second priority is establishing effective communication between the NDA and the GCF Secretariat. Personally, I want to see the NDA more connected to our stakeholders in Afghanistan and abroad. We see our embassy in the Republic of Korea as a key conduit in this relationship so we can fully unleash the engagement potential of the Fund and utilize the different support mechanisms that are in place. Related to this is strengthening engagement with the private sector, and we hope the GCF Private Sector Facility (PSF) will be an avenue for us to do so. Building public private partnerships is a priority of the President of Afghanistan, and as the NDA we want to explore this to the fullest.
 

Quote

“We cannot lose sight of the fact that our Mother Earth is the only home we have. It is a tiny precious blue dot in our solar system. We have to look after our home and think of future generations. It is our moral obligation to leave the planet in a better condition than we found it.” --- His Excellency Prince Mostapha Zaher