ASTANA. KAZINFORM – Kazakhstan’s officials, experts, and non-governmental organizations continue to work on the country’s carbon neutrality doctrine. In December 2020, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev pledged his country’s commitment to achieving carbon neutrality by 2060. More about what carbon neutrality means and where the country’s efforts stand now is in the latest article of Kazinform.
Though, Kazakhstan heavily depends on fossil fuels, it was among the first countries to declare carbon neutrality. At the Climate Ambitions Summit in December 2020, President Tokayev announced Kazakhstan’s commitment to achieving carbon neutrality by 2060.
The country’s carbon neutrality doctrine provides the basic approaches to the low-carbon transformation of the economy and industry. But, achieving the common goal will require active joint efforts of the state, business, and society. Experts estimate, if implemented, it will make it possible to achieve a 15 percent reduction of emissions from the 1990 level by 2030 and a zero balance of greenhouse gases by 2060, and as a result, more than 9 billion tons of carbon dioxide can be prevented from entering the atmosphere.
Its commitments also include a fivefold expansion in energy production from renewables from 3 to 15 percent, doubling the amount of energy produced from environmentally friendly sources from 20 to 38 percent, and boosting carbon absorption capacity, which can be done by planting at least 2 billion trees.
These ambitious goals, however, also require substantial funds and investments in the modernization of the electricity and heat production sector, broad public support and involvement, revision of the national greenhouse gas emission quotas trading system, and its harmonization with the relevant international systems.
What is carbon neutrality?
Carbon neutrality is also known as net zero or zero net emissions, a central issue in the environmental transition. Climate neutrality is a common goal for many countries worldwide and itdoes not mean that there are no emissions at all, but rather that carbon dioxide emissions do not exceed the amount absorbed by the oceans and forests.
At the 2015 Summit at the United Nations headquarters in New York, representatives of the vast majority of countries signed the Paris Climate Agreement. The main task enshrined in this agreement is to ensure that the average global temperature does not exceed the pre-industrial value, which is the figure recorded in the second half of the 19th century, by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.
To slow the process of global warming, it is necessary to significantly reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere. That is why many countries now declare their intention to achieve zero emissions.
Kazakhstan ratified the Paris Agreement in December 2016. According to experts to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, the energy intensity of Kazakhstan's GDP by 2030 should be reduced by 38.9 percent, and the share of coal in electricity generation will have to decrease due to the natural decommissioning of capacities from the current 68.9 percent to 40.1 percent.
In fact, several jurisdictions, including the European Union, are beginning to introduce a new mechanism for regulating greenhouse gas emissions, a significant factor determining the competitiveness of these hydrocarbon markets. For example, in the European Union, starting in 2023, a so-called carbon tax will be introduced on a number of goods. When supplying these goods to the EU, countries will face a certain tax on them, which will reduce the competitiveness of these goods. This means that large companies will put forward certain strategies and requirements to their partners and refuse to work with those companies that will not be able to meet these criteria.
Kazakhstan’s carbon neutrality strategy
Kazakhstan’s profile ministries and non-governmental organizations have been involved in the development of the carbon neutrality doctrine, with support from international institutions.
According to Ainur Kopbayeva, Director of the Climate Policy and Green Technologies Department at the Ministry of Ecology, Geology and Natural Resources, the energy transition is not an easy process.
«Carbon neutrality is an unchangeable factor that we must achieve. I hope that our long work over the last 3.5 years will be finalized and will confirm our ambitious goal and firm commitment. It will certainly not be an easy process,» said Kopbayeva during the Fourth Climate Dialogue organized on October 7 by the Green Academy with the support of the European Union in Kazakhstan and the International Trade Centre (ITC).
She said Kazakhstan is highly vulnerable to climate change. «All these issues are reflected in the national reports. I would like to highlight the problem of water shortage due to the melting of glaciers. We observe extreme hydrological phenomena. We see challenges in the forestry sector, as well as agriculture affected by climate change,» said Kopbayeva.
Head of the Economic Research Institute Kuanysh Beisengazin said while the document outlines all required measures, it is not enough in the overall effort. He said more actions are needed on the path toward carbon neutrality.
Across the world, 53 countries adopted similar strategies with varying targets. Kazakhstan chose a more difficult path when they show a more detailed trajectory for reducing emissions.
«As for targets, the strategy says carbon neutrality is not an end goal in itself, but rather building an economic development model that will ensure achieve carbon neutrality by steadily reducing emissions with a focus on energy security and energy efficiency considering the interests of the economic sectors. The goal is sustainable development,» he said.
There are three key directions to achieve carbon neutrality. First is the decarbonization of emissions from energy production and energy use, for example, transition to alternative renewable energy sources, and electrification. Second is the decarbonization of emissions not related to energy use by increasing carbon efficiency through the use of methods with low or zero emissions in industrial processes, developing sustainable agriculture, and waste management.
The third is absorbing and capturing, through planting trees and the use of carbon capture technologies.
Addressing the meeting, CEO of the AIFC Green Finance Centre Aidar Kazybayev said the strategy should become a key economic document for the
long-term development of Kazakhstan, assuming a transition from a linear to a cyclical model of development or a closed economy model.
«With the adoption of the strategy, current economic programs, fiscal policy and business roadmaps should be revised. Industrial and household waste, for example, should become production resources, and forest plantations should become economic assets with an absorbing effect. Secondly, strategic guidelines and a clear interdependent stage of implementation should be established. For example, since what year there has been a ban on plastic for household purposes, a complete ban on flaring,» said Kazybayev.
There should also be incentives for businesses to transition to low-carbon technologies.
«Even subsidies for the agricultural sector should consider ESG (environmental, social, and governance) factors to prevent the use of harmful chemical fertilizers. In addition, the strategy should open up new opportunities for the creation of environmentally friendly industries,» he said.
Kazakhstan’s greenhouse gas forecasts
In 2017, according to data from the Kazakh Ministry of Ecology, Geology and Natural Resources, the fuel and energy structure consisted of 54 percent coal, 24 percent oil and 22 percent gas. The ministry’s calculations have shown that by 2060 the share of fossil energy resources in the structure of primary fuel and energy resources will decrease 3.4 times and will amount to 29 percent, while the share of renewable energy will increase from the current 3 percent to 70 percent.
In the structure of final energy consumption, industry and buildings consumed 42 percent and 40 percent respectively, while transport accounted for 14 percent of consumed energy. According to calculations, in 2060 the industrial sector will consume 65 percent of all energy resources. The energy consumption of buildings will decrease to 23 percent, and the energy consumption of transport will decrease to 9 percent.
Agriculture is projected to be the largest source of greenhouse gases. Emissions will be about 42 million tons due to the support of the livestock sector as one of the drivers of the development of the agro-industrial complex.
The second major emitter will be industry, including ferrous and nonferrous metallurgy, cement, and other mineral production. Emissions are expected to amount to more than 21 million tons, while the oil and gas sector - 6 million tons.
The draft carbon neutrality strategy is expected to be finalized ahead of COP-27, which will be held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, in November. At the United Nations General Assembly, President Tokayev called the countries for bolder actions to address climate change, mentioning the upcoming climate conference.
Written by Assel Satubaldina