Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions Vital to Achieving a Green Economy, Says Energy Minister

ASTANA – The Kazakh government has announced its intention to move to a green economy, with a primary goal of reducing carbon-emitting elements of its gross domestic product.timthumb.php

That is a challenge for Kazakhstan given the country’s fossil-fuel-heavy economy, however, that effort demonstrates Kazakhstan’s desire to meet international environmental standards and develop renewable energy sources (RES). Kazakh Minister of Energy Vladimir Shkolnik recently discussed the status of that effort in an exclusive interview.

What are the indicators and benchmarks of the programme on reducing emissions?

Energy comes from the national benchmarks, which are designated [in Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s Kazakhstan 2050 Strategy]. The strategic objective for the transition to a low carbon economy is defined, as well as alternative and renewable forms of energy. Reduction of energy intensity of GDP by 2020 at least to 25 percent is a strategic aim. By 2015, this figure should be reduced by at least 10 percent. The most important instrument for the implementation of these tasks is to regulate emissions of greenhouse gases at the national level through quotas, monitoring and reporting, selling emissions and other carbon units.

How does the mechanism of distribution of quotas for greenhouse gas emissions work?

The quota system and trade of greenhouse gas emissions were introduced in our country in January 2013. According to the law, the users of natural resources are prohibited to engage in activities without obtaining quotas for greenhouse gas emissions. I mean the activities of companies in the sectors of oil and gas, energy, mining, chemical industries, greenhouse gas emissions that exceed the equivalent of 20 tonnes of CO2 per year.

In the National Plan of allocation of quotas for greenhouse gas emissions for 2014-2015, from a total of 166 plant operators, 60 represent activities in the energy field. In the current National Plan of allocation of quotas for greenhouse gas emissions, gradual transition to a more resource-efficient production of products is encouraged.

Kazakhstan will take part in the UN Climate Summit. How is the preparation going?

The problem of climate change is an international threat. Kazakhstan officially announced its own intentions to take voluntary, quantitative commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Now we are engaged in the preparation of Kazakh delegation’s participation in the global 21th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that will be held and the 11th Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, which will be held from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 in Paris. The primary intent of the forum is achieving consensus with 195 countries – parties of the UNFCCC on development and adoption of a new global agreement. It is aimed at achieving the stated objective to keep the temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius. That means countries should have specific policies and programmes to limit and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Kazakhstan is still in the process of defining its target. According to the roadmap defined by intended nationally determined contributions (INDC) [which involves intended programmes approved at a national level], we plan to bring the document to the Council for a Green Economy, chaired by Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Massimov in September. After that, we will send it to the UNFCCC Secretariat. We believe that the final decision of the Republic of Kazakhstan on INDC under the new climate agreement will be adopted, taking into account the outcome of the negotiating process that will take place in 2015.

There is a lot of talk about decarbonisation of the national economies in the world. What is its essence and what kind of plan does Kazakhstan have?

Broadly defined, decarbonisation of the economy (elimination of emissions of CO2) is the transition to a low-carbon economy with the implementation of plans on energy efficiency, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and increases in clean energy. At the present time, the 15 largest countries that produce carbon have begun to develop strategies for decarbonisation. Kazakhstan supports these initiatives. Specifically, I believe there is an urgent need to develop a country strategy on decarbonisation of the economy along with the large-scale introduction of low-carbon technologies. It is necessary to include targets for improving energy efficiency, maximum electrification, development of renewable energy, diversification of sources of energy to a possible shift from coal to gas, wherever possible. Complex measures for decarbonisation of the economy are needed to improve the environmental quality and sustainability of the national economy.

Amongst the urgent conservation measures is the development, together with the producers of electricity, heat and other large industrial companies the principles of a road map of transition to new emission standards, similar to European standards. Modernisation and installation of gas and dust filters in the generation and industrial facilities located near big cities and bringing performance to existing emission standards in accordance with the roadmap are also important. [And] if possible, conversion of existing coal-fired power plants to gas and transfer of urban transport to compressed gas in major cities of Kazakhstan until 2020, depending on the gas resources and decision-making on subsidising gas prices.

The priority area of decarbonisation is development of the carbon trade. This is an effective mechanism to stimulate actions to reduce emissions, to attract green investments. For example, in 2013 the turnover of the European market of emission permits reached 120 billion euros. According to forecasts of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, in 2016 the global carbon market will amount to 180 billion euros. Kazakhstan has significant potential for carbon, which is necessary to use, in accordance with international standards of carbon finance.

Recently, the ministry together with the Green Academy scientific and educational centre held a roundtable devoted to the improvement of legislation in the field of a green economy. According to the results, it was proposed to develop an action plan of the government until 2020 in order to reduce emissions. At what stage is this work now?

Development of the document is included in the plan of priority actions of the government for 2015 with a term of its introduction in July. The ministry developed draft amendments to some legislative acts of Kazakhstan on the transition to a green economy, which take into account the recommendation to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. We are considering expanding the horizons of the action plan up to 2030, in view of the goals at the global level.

As the head of Kazatomprom you supported renewable energy. Have you not changed your attitude to it since becoming minister of energy?

This area is still a priority for me. Despite the fact that Kazakhstan [has] traditional fuels, there is a need to develop clean technologies and energy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants. The country has launched 43 RES facilities with a total capacity of 177.52 megawatts. However, the share of renewable energy sources in generating is small. Today, 73.1 percent of facilities operate on carbon and 18.3 percent on gas. Hydroelectric power plants (excluding small HPP) make up 8 percent; RES (including small HPP) 0.6 percent.

In 2014, power generation by RES faciltiies amounted to 570 million kilowatt-hours. This is 40 million kilowatt-hours, or 7 percent more than in 2013. The field of renewable energy continues to grow. The concept of transition of Kazakhstan to a green economy predicts achieving a 3 percent share of RES in the total energy production by 2020 and 10 percent by 2030.

Until the end of 2020, it is planned to put into operation up to 106 renewable energy facilities with a total installed capacity of 3,054.55 MW. The plan includes 34 wind farms, 41 hydropower plants, 28 SES and 3 bioelectric power stations. In 2015 alone, it is planned to put into operation 10 RES projects with a total installed capacity of 145 MW in the Akmola, Almaty, South Kazakhstan, Zhambyl and Kyzylorda regions.

Implementation of the planned measures will allow Kazakhstan to become one of the leading countries in the development of green energy. Let me remind you about the upcoming mega-event for Kazakhstan – Astana EXPO 2017. It will be held under the slogan “Future Energy,” which once again underlines our focus on innovation in the energy sector.

Recently, the head of state said that the centre of Almaty should become pedestrian. How do you see this task as a former Almaty resident scholar and energy-environmentalist?

Questions on Almaty environmental protection are extremely relevant. Today, the number of private cars is three times higher than in 2000. Poor fuel quality and low technological standards for exhaust gases lead to increased air pollution and significant risks to human health. In turn, this has a negative impact on the national economy.

One of the available environmental alternatives to gasoline may be the use of gas as motor fuel for cars. Its use significantly reduces the total exhaust emissions – carbon monoxide CO, nitrogen dioxide NO2, hydrocarbons CH.

In the meantime, according to national statistics, the country has 3,765,500 vehicles registered with petrol engines. More than 70 percent of these registered cars have got environmental class Euro-2 and below. Yet on Jan. 1, 2014 environmental standard Euro-4 (reducing emissions by 40 percent compared with the standard of Euro-3) was introduced on the territory of the republic. Within the framework of the Customs Union, beginning Jan. 1, 2016 standard Euro-5 will be valid.

In your opinion, what stops environmental problems from being solved? And what will ensure the success of the environmental prospects?

The main barrier in addressing these issues, in my opinion, is an isolated attitude to ecology in the planning of production tasks and processes. Therefore, it is necessary to consider reducing the burden on nature caused by human activities to a sustainable level through sound policies, intelligent technology and intelligent management.

Kazakhstan has already made the decision to switch to a green course of economic development. The concept of the transition to a green economy is being implemented. This is one of the important tools for ensuring sustainable development of the country. The transition to a green economy will enable Kazakhstan to achieve its goal to become one of the 30 most-developed countries of the world.

At the moment, the policy of systematic transition to a green economy is being formed, as well as the council under the President of Kazakhstan. In general, all these will provide a significant contribution to the solution of environmental problems. Three pillars of sustainable development, such as environment, energy and economy should be considered in close synergy.

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