In less than one year – on June 10, 2017 – the international specialised exhibition EXPO 2017 under the theme of Future Energy will open its doors to visitors. In an interview, Rapil Zhoshybayev, the national EXPO 2017 commissioner spoke about the preparations and what guests should expect.
Regarding the way attracting participants has been going, are you sticking to the plan?
Of the 100 states and 15 international organisations expected to participate in the exhibition, 90 countries and 16 international organisations have already officially confirmed their participation. We have signed 53 participation agreements and are preparing to sign agreements with Latvia and the South-East Asian countries in the near future. At this stage, the process of documenting our relations with participants will be kept on a constant basis. And, of course, we keep attracting new states. We are aiming to attract more than 100 countries to EXPO 2017; if we manage to do so, it will be kind of a record for specialised exhibitions.
Moreover, 16 international organisations will take part – it’s even more than we planned. It should be noted that some organisations such as World Bank, IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) and IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency) are involved in the expo for the first time. Such interest is a sign of the true importance of our proposed theme.
What countries that have already confirmed participation are leading in the EXPO 2017 theme?
For sure, first of all among the European states that make a lot of efforts to develop renewable energy sources and introduce country programmes, there is a common strategy for the European Union. Switzerland, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Holland, Japan, South Korea and UAE have great experience and they will present their achievements in Astana. Among the leaders in the sphere of alternative energy are the Scandinavian states – Sweden, Denmark and Norway – where even now about 60-65 percent of energy is generated from renewable sources and they plan to fully renounce the use of hydrocarbons by 2050. We are negotiating to involve them in the expo. According to the IRENA rating, 90 percent of the top 20 states in the sphere of alternative energy have already confirmed participation in EXPO 2017.
By inviting states to the exhibition, we also learn many new things about them and very interesting surprises can happen. For example, the Vatican will take part in EXPO 2017. Today, it is the greenest state of the world; the first and only country that uses 100 percent alternative sources to meet its energy needs.
However, I would like to note that expo exhibitions are a platform that is open to the whole international community with no exceptions. That is why developing states are as valuable for us as leading states.
Future Energy is a very extensive theme. Is there a vision of what will be showcased in the exhibition?
For example, during negotiations we learned that the United Kingdom plans to demonstrate up-to-date technologies on waste management and reducing the demand for electricity. Malaysia will show innovations in bio-fuel production; Arab states, know how in solar power. The Netherlands is ready to showcase the experience of the state’s transition from industrial and agricultural production to a green economy. Major companies will also present interesting technologies. Vestas, a new generation of wind power stations; Toyota, a hydrogen-powered car and Tesla plans to present the newest models of electric cars.
EXPO 2017 will have a Best Practices Area and leading experts in energy and green technologies are selecting the content of this pavilion. Implemented technologies and projects in different spheres of sustainable energy sources will be demonstrated there. Silicon Valley companies and professors from Stanford University, Indian Industrial Tech Park (Bangalore), China, UAE, Australia and Singapore are preparing to present their most interesting innovations.
Expo construction will be completed in November and we want to hold the third international participants meeting at that time in order to let participants see the exhibition site. In January, states will start working on the content.
Expo exhibitions were always valuable because they demonstrate something new; they give an opportunity to look into the future. This concept still remains the same; here you can see projects which we could hardly think about as a part of our daily life. This is a good opportunity for young scientists to introduce their ideas even if they seem to be crazy and unreal now. Each state wants to demonstrate the best.
What will Kazakhstan demonstrate?
Nowadays we have 137 scientific and technical projects as candidates to be presented in the national pavilion. We will show technologies thanks to which renewable energy sources and energy efficiency can become an integral part of our life. These technologies have already been applied in constructing buildings for the exhibition: for example, we set photovoltaic panels and geothermal systems. It will be possible to see a mock-up model of a Kazakh-made Tokamak, a fusion reactor.
Our state is one of the richest in mineral resources and many people were surprised that Kazakhstan had chosen the future energy theme. But we think about tomorrow. We are the only CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) country that has adopted a concept on transition to a green economy and renewable energy sources. We suggest establishing a dialog on alternative energy sources during EXPO 2017 and moreover we raise the issues of reducing carbon dioxide emissions, use of oil, environmental protection and exhausting the mineral and carbon resources of the planet.
Expo is not only exhibition pavilions. What kinds of events will be held in Astana during these three months?
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs planned and was supported by the head of state to organise major international events during our exhibition. The SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) summit will be timed to coincide with the opening ceremony of EXPO 2017. There are plans to hold international ministerial meetings on ecology and tourism and the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) summit on science and technology is timed to coincide with the closing ceremony. These are only those events that concern our ministry.
In total, over 7,000 events of different levels and directions will be organised during the exhibition – cultural, sport, and economic. It is clear that we will use the expo platform to properly show Kazakhstan to the world, but there will be many foreign guests as well. Traditionally, national days of participants are organised. Moreover, international organisations involved in expo want to organise their activities. I think that many pleasant surprises are waiting for exhibition visitors and guests of Astana. It will be interesting.
Preparation for the exhibition provides active contacts with almost all states of the world. It certainly has offered opportunities to develop bilateral relations between Kazakhstan and other states, has it not?
Let me start with the fact that thanks to the preparation for expo we have established diplomatic relations with almost ten states.
In general, when we go to invite another country to the exhibition it is only a part of the programme. We meet with heads of state and government, ministers, businessmen and scientists, discuss our bilateral relations and see what directions of interaction should be intensified. During visits within the preparation process for the expo, we signed agreements with many states on participation in different spheres, on the visa-free regime and attraction of investors. We concluded agreements in the field of tourism with more than 30 states. We worked on opening new flights – to Europe, Arab states and Asia including South-East Asia. It is a task set by the head of state to open the sky over Astana. We are on the way to creating a major transport hub and this result will also be a part of the EXPO 2017 legacy.