Methane Matters: Prioritizing Methane Reduction in Kazakhstan’s Climate Agenda

Editor’s Note: Hela Cheikhrouhou, International Financial Corporation (IFC) Vice President for the Middle East, Central Asia, Türkiye, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, paid an official visit to Kazakhstan on April 30. In this Op-Ed, Cheikhrouhou discusses Kazakhstan’s pledge to cut methane, one of the topics on the agenda of her meetings with senior government officials and businesses in Kazakhstan. 

In the battle against climate change, methane often takes a backseat to its more infamous counterpart, carbon dioxide. However, this oversight comes at a great cost. Methane is responsible for around 30% of the rise in global temperatures since the Industrial Revolution, and rapid and sustained reductions in methane emissions are key to limiting near-term warming and improving air quality.

In fact, this potent greenhouse gas packs an 80-fold punch compared to carbon dioxide in terms of its warming impact. Despite methane’s significant warming power, efforts to mitigate methane emissions remain underfunded. Less than 2% of global climate finance is allocated to this urgent cause.

Hela Cheikhrouhou. Photo credit:

In the global energy sector, the oil and gas industry accounts for over 60% of methane emissions. Methane is released during oil and gas operations through practices like flaring and venting, as well as unintentional emissions. Unfortunately, looking at the recent industry assessments, we can see a troubling increase in methane emissions from fossil fuels.

For Kazakhstan, a nation heavily reliant on its oil and gas sector, the issue is particularly relevant. As the 20th-largest emitter worldwide in terms of emissions per capita, it has an outsized greenhouse gas emissions footprint for a country of its economic size. Kazakhstan’s government recognizes what is at stake and has consolidated efforts to notably reduce methane flaring emissions over the past decade. However, methane venting has not been addressed and should be tackled next. Due to methane’s higher emissions potential, venting is considered far worse than flaring, as all of the methane is released into the atmosphere without being combusted.

Kazakhstan’s economy will continue to rely heavily on its oil and gas sector in the coming decade. Therefore, it is critical to implement effective measures to reduce methane emissions. By formally joining the Global Methane Pledge last December, Kazakhstan – already the first Central Asian nation to commit to achieving carbon neutrality by 2060 – has shown its determination to combat climate change.

A 30% reduction in methane emissions across sectors of Kazakhstan’s economy by 2030 is ambitious but achievable. The International Energy Agency estimates that at least $1.4 billion is needed. To meet this target, it is crucial to unlock finance from various sources, including public, private, and civil society organizations.

Drawing from our extensive experience, we believe that a public-private partnership model could offer a promising path forward. After completing an analysis of methane emissions in Kazakhstan’s oil and gas sector by individual assets and individual localities, we have identified potential private and public sector investments to facilitate methane emissions abatement. Based on the initial analysis conducted by IFC, there is a significant opportunity to achieve substantial reductions in flaring and venting emissions within the oil and gas sector. This can be accomplished through private sector investments of approximately $400 million in capital expenditures and about $40 million through public sector investments required to develop a methane emissions measurement program.

We have also identified and shared proposed technology solutions for a methane measurement program that could be deployed in the oil and gas sector with the government of Kazakhstan. Going forward, we stand ready to further engage with the government and private sector to facilitate the mobilization of essential investments required to effectively reduce methane emissions within the country’s oil and gas sector.

With sustained effort, collaboration, and innovative solutions, Kazakhstan can emerge as a leader in methane reduction, paving the way for a greener, more sustainable future not only for the nation but for the entire region.

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