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Can Kazakhstan Green Its Economy?

Kazakhstan is a major oil producer with abundant reserves of hydrocarbons in an energy-hungry region. So some people may be surprised to know that we are committed to building a green economy as part of the process to equip Kazakhstan to be a competitive industrial player.

Why have we chosen the path of a “green” economy?  The answer is simple.  The earth’s resources are finite and future growth to sustain a growing global population has to be achieved on a different basis.  No country whether it is a developing state or an advanced industrial economy can close its eyes to this reality.

Kazakhstan has already initiated a “Green Bridge Partnership” to bring together governments, international organizations and private business to find transnational solutions to sustainable growth.  We see the partnership as a platform to transfer best available green technologies and best green practices to Central Asia. 

Our “Green Bridge” proposal received the support of the international community at the UN’s Rio+20 Summit in June. Since Rio, major foreign investors including the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the International Financial Corporation, the World Bank and partner governments have expressed interest in taking part.  We are now starting on the practical implementation of this project. 

Kazakhstan has enormous potential in renewable energy, particularly in wind and solar.  Wind power can potentially produce 25 times more energy in a year than we currently produce from our hydrocarbons.  We also see vast opportunities to conserve energy, including at the consumer end by 50-60%.  In addition, we are taking urgent steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and will be the first CIS country to launch a cap and trade system starting in January 2013.

Reducing our dependence on energy from hydrocarbons and their impact on the environment is at the center of our transition to a “green” economy. 

We are encouraged by the fact that several major companies are interested in the potential of Kazakhstan and Central Asia for developing “green” energy projects.  Located in a strategically vital area between Europe and Asia, our region has the opportunity to play a major role in developing sustainable energy solutions. 

We can do so by absorbing European experience, and by adapting and applying it to address the urgent challenges we face.  In the process, we will be able to demonstrate results to other countries in Asia.

A catalyst in this process is the fact that we will be hosting Expo 2017 on the theme of “Future Energy.”  This is the first time that a major international exhibition of this kind is coming to a country from the former Soviet Union. We are expecting 5 million visitors from 100 countries.

We see Expo 2017 in Astana as a major event not just timely in terms of the needs of our region and the broader international community.  We see it as a platform for speeding up the sharing of innovative technologies and creating new impulses for regional co-operation.

In terms of practical results, we believe that Expo 2017 can contribute to addressing many issues in Central Asia and the CIS that are related to energy and environmental security, including water.

An exhibition on this scale will build international awareness of the energy and environmental challenges that we need to face in the region.  It will also attract some of the best expertise available in the world on subjects such as energy saving technologies and alternative energy solutions, including solar, wind and wave power.

We intend Astana to be a showcase for demonstrating the latest global developments in these areas and help establish Kazakhstan as a hub for developing alternative energy solutions across Central Asia.

Our commitment to achieving this goal matches the ambition of our vision.

Lead image: Kazakhstan flag hands via Shutterstock

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Altay Abibullayev is the official spokesperson of the Central Communications Service for the President of Kazakhstan.

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