A proposal put forward by President Nursultan Nazarbayev at the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly to establish an international centre for the development of green technologies and investments in Astana on the basis of the EXPO 2017 exhibition infrastructure is a logical continuation of Kazakhstan’s initiatives in the field of green economy.
As is known, the Kazakhstan 2050 Strategy and the Concept of the Transition of Kazakhstan to Green Economy approved by a presidential decree in 2013 identified priorities for implementing green, low-carbon technologies and for reducing the carbon intensity of the national economy. The concept sets an objective to raise the share of renewable energy sources (RES) in the total energy balance of the country to 3 percent by 2020 and 50 percent by 2050, which will result in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction in the energy sector. Achievement of the objectives and implementation of the international obligations in the framework of the implementation of the UN Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) have been updated in preparation for a new climate agreement, which is expected to be adopted in December 2015 in Paris.
The need for comprehensive actions on climate change mitigation and carbon emissions (CO2) reduction at the national level has been actualised due to a growing trend of energy efficiency and diversification of energy supply sources in almost all sectors of the economy. On the other hand, in accordance with the UNFCCC’s recommendations, regulation of greenhouse gas emissions at the international level, introduction of standards and technological green requirements for implementation of international projects are to be strengthened. These requirements are also supported by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Currently, 127 countries, including European Union (EU) nations, have introduced their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) on combating global climate change. Among them, the share of 32 developed countries accounts for about 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). Having taken on national commitments, the international community members identified their own goals towards a new climate agreement adoption in December of this year that will replace the Kyoto Protocol. The objectives and measures on emission reduction of the submitted national INDCs show an overall picture of the scale of the planned national efforts on combating climate change by 2030.
Developed and submitted by countries, INDC towards the climate summit in Paris can be changed in scale, but should include, directly or indirectly, obligations associated with the development of the energy sector. The first estimates of the submitted INDCs demonstrate that, for example, the U.S. commitments on reduction of net GHG emissions from 26 percent to 28 percent by 2025 (relative to the level of 2005) will provide for a large-scale emissions reduction while maintaining the increase of economic growth by one-third above the current level.
The EU’s commitments to reduce GHG emissions to at least 40 percent below the 1990 level by 2030 bring such reduction in the energy sector to a rate double that of 2000. As a result, the EU’s energy will be characterised as the one with the lowest carbon intensity. Emissions in Russia related to energy for the period from 2013-2030 will fall slightly. By 2030, Russia can achieve the established goals on emissions reduction. Commitments of Mexico, by contrast, show that GHG emissions will increase slightly, while the country’s economy will grow at a faster pace. China announced its intention to reach a peak in CO2 emissions by around 2030 (if not earlier), which is an important change in decision, taking into account the average rate of economic growth since 2000.
In general, the INDC scenario growth of global emissions from the energy sector will slow down, but reaches its peak by 2030. The link between global economic growth and GHG emissions will be significantly weakened: for the period from 2013-2030, the economy will grow by 88 percent while CO2 emissions from the energy sector will increase by 8 percent (reaching 34.8 gigatonnes). By 2030, renewable energy is projected to become the leader in the production of electricity, as the average annual investment in the development of renewable energy sources (excluding hydropower) increases by 80 percent compared to the level observed in 2000.
Currently, scientists in many countries are studying the process of decarbonisation to address climate change. Thus, according to Director of the Earth Institute of Columbia University Jeffrey Sachs, the global decarbonisation process will be long and complex and will require detailed planning with periodic adjustments as technology advances. In this regard, the G7 countries have also made a historic breakthrough announcing their readiness “to develop long-term national low-carbon strategies” to ensure a decarbonated future.
Country strategies involve regulation and comprehensive measures on “purification” of the national economies from carbon through a sharp emission reduction, an innovative green technology introduction, including renewable energy, and a carbon market development to support the level of global warming within 2° C.
It is obvious that the main role in achieving the climate objectives and in the formation of the low-carbon economy at the global level should be played by reduction of consumption/combustion of carbon-contained fossil fuels in most countries. At the same time, regional and national specifics of transition to a low-carbon economy and its final format will vary depending on initial socio-economic, resource and other features of regions and countries.
Kazakhstan has the potential to reduce the carbon intensity of its GDP (emissions exceed the limit values for Europe on solid particles by more than 10 times, on nitrogen oxides by 20 percent, on sulphur oxides by more than 2.5 times) and to move towards low-carbon development. Estimated contributions of the country on emissions reduction, presented at the most recent Council on Transition to Green Economy under the President of Kazakhstan held in September 2015, assume a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 15 percent from 1990 by 2030. It is certainly an ambitious goal, but taking into account the implementation of already-approved strategic development documents such as the Strategic Development Plan until 2020, Energy Development Concept until 2030, the Concept of the Gas Sector Development until 2030 and the others, it is achievable.
In addition, implementation of the Concept of Transition of Kazakhstan to Green Economy, the Concept of the Gas Sector Development until 2030, renewable energy development and adoption of the Programme of Development of Forest Sector of Kazakhstan till 2020, all create additional conditions for implementation of national commitments on greenhouse gas emissions reduction.
To solve the problem of emission reduction at the national and regional levels and to increase the competitiveness of the country, it is necessary to evaluate the potentials of different low-carbon technologies use and to identify barriers and challenges that must be overcome in the business sector. This, in turn, will require fundamental and applied research across the entire spectrum of macroeconomic development issues, as it is necessary to take into account macroeconomic factors such as structural changes in the national economy, the situation with oil and gas prices, introduction of new technologies to the manufacturing sector and agriculture, intensive development of forestry and others.
Therefore, the announcement of the national targets on emissions reduction first demonstrates Kazakhstan’s commitment to strengthen global cooperation in the field of adaptation to climate change and support the adoption of a new climate agreement, and, second, leads to the development and adoption of a coherent strategy of transition to low-carbon development in the country.
The author is a professor, director of the Green Academy Scientific Research and Education Centre and member of the Council on Green Economy under the President of Kazakhstan.