Turning Kazakhstan green, 20 years after
Resource-rich Kazakhstan has changed a lot in the past 20 years. But more needs to be done to cut dependence on fossil fuels, writes the EBRD's Janet Heckman
Looking at the glittering architecture of Astana or going out in Almaty, it is so difficult to remember the time after the breakdown of the former Soviet Union, when all the old had disappeared, and nothing new had yet been built.
In the last 20 years, Kazakhstan has transformed enormously to a certain extent with the help of international organisations such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, but mainly through the hard work and determination of the Kazakhs themselves.
Conditions are not yet perfect for independent businessmen and women: geography, infrastructure and bureaucracy can be a challenge.
But we know that the entrepreneurial talent is there from our work with micro, small and medium-sized companies, through cooperation with microcredit institutions such as Arnur Credit or KazMicroFinance, and through our own donor-funded Small Business Support (SBS) unit.
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Kazakhstan is known around the world for its natural resources, which represent an important source of export revenue. The government is aware that this reliance on resources needs to be lessened. In the country itself, the talk is about the value of knowledge, education and innovation.
The Kazakhs want to introduce the latest technologies and make their economy currently one of the most energy-intensive in the former Soviet Union green and efficient.
This is a huge and ambitious task, and we are under no illusion that it can be achieved easily. Having invested over 11 billion in sustainable energy projects across our region of operations (over 500 million of which was in Kazakhstan), we know how much effort is needed from all sections of society to make the air cleaner and the economy more competitive.
In Kazakhstan, we are working with the government on raising environmental standards for the industry, and we are convinced that they need to be raised to the level of European Union standards.
UPGRADE ON THE WAY
To this end, the EBRD is working with the government to improve the industrys energy efficiency.Our cooperation covers the much-needed legal and regulatory framework to support best practice in industrial energy efficiency, energy audit regulation, the development of updated energy benchmarks for industry, support for the voluntary adoption of international standards (specifically ISO 50001), and a standards and labelling scheme for efficient industrial equipment.
This will help companies like CAEPCO one of few private energy operators invest in the most modern, efficient technology.
CAEPCO, where the EBRD is a minority shareholder, has already invested hundreds of millions of dollars in upgrading Soviet-built energy infrastructure.
The EBRD is now arranging a new 107 million financing for the company to upgrade electricity and heat services in the cities of Pavlodar and Petropavlovsk.
As a result of this upgrade alone, CO2 emissions will drop by almost half a million tonnes a year about as much as the whole of Kazakhstan emits in half a day.
When the government raises environmental standards, modernisation projects like this one will cut even more energy losses and greenhouse gas emissions.
At our Annual Meeting held recently in Istanbul, we launched a new Sustainable Resource Initiative.
The EBRD believes, and has plenty of proof, that having high environmental standards and using resources wisely is not only helping people have better, healthier lives, but is making the economy healthier too.
After 20 successful years in Kazakhstan, we remain ready to work as partners with the Kazakh authorities and the private sector, to share our knowledge of sustainable growth and invest in changing lives.
- Janet Heckman is the EBRD's director for Kazakhstan. This week, the EBRD marks the 20th anniversary of its work in the country.
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