Kazakhstan is an undisputed oil and gas giant, producing about 80 million tons of oil and natural-gas condensate every year.
But now, the Central Asian nation has a new vision for the future: green economy.
As early as 2011, Kazakhstan’s government initiated Green Bridge – a multilateral and voluntary initiative that intends to encourage green investment, technology transfer and sustainable development – and the program was included in the final documents of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in the following year.
“Kazakhstan not only has oil and gas, but also considerable potential for renewable energy sources,” said Yerbol Shormanov, deputy chairman of the management board of Astana Expo 2017 and former deputy mayor of Almaty.
Next year Kazakhstan’s capital Astana will be hosting EXPO 2017, whose theme is future energy.
Shormanov explained: “Future energy was chosen as the theme of the exhibition because it reflects the global challenges related to energy issues such as global warming, energy security, preservation of the planet’s biodiversity, discovering energy sources and equal economic development opportunities for all nations.”
To align with the Expo’s theme, the organizer said all exhibition buildings will be up to the latest energy conservation and energy-efficient standards and a Smart Grid system will be used in the construction of the Expo Village.
There are also plans to create a large wind park near Astana to cover the basic electricity needs of the Expo fairgrounds, he said.
The organizer expects EXPO 2017 to draw five million visitors, 15 percent of whom will be from abroad, over the course of the exhibition from June 10 to Sept. 10.
According to the organizer, the exposition will cover 174 hectares and 38 facilities – including the national pavilion, international pavilions and thematic pavilions – will be built within the exposition area.
There shall be 600 buses on hybrid fuel available for the expo participants.
Apart from the Expo Village, Astana is experimenting with the idea of “smart cities”, a terminology used to describe cities in which digital technologies are used to improve the efficiency of urban services.
“Astana authorities are trying to improve the quality of residents’ life, upgrade the city’s infrastructure and improve public safety through the use of information technology,” Shormanov said.
For instance, the city government plans to implement several smart city projects in such areas as payment, education and healthcare, the Astana Times reported, citing mayor Adilbek Dzhaksybekov.
At a country level, Kazakhstan has launched an electronic portal for tax payments, passport applications and other public services.
Despite the government initiatives, Kazakhstan’s future remains uncertain – the world’s ninth-largest country by surface area appears vulnerable to climate change.
The United States Agency for International Development estimates that Kazakhstan’s spring wheat production could drop as much as 70 percent as a result of climate change by 2030.
Nevertheless, top Kazakh officials remain upbeat on renewable energy and technology as the answer to climate change.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev told local media that the country aims to get Astana listed as the world’s top 50 smart cities by 2017.
Last year Kazakhstan introduced 14 projects of renewable energy sources with 120 MW.
In 2014, investment on renewable energy sources hit US$270 billion with Chinese and Japanese solar energy projects accounting for nearly 28 percent, according to reports.
As Shormanov put it: “The problem of climate change can be solved through the use of the wind, sun and water. Humanity must rethink and rebuild its relationship with energy – develop an optimal new model for the planet’s energy future, counteract global warming and preserve the biodiversity of the planet.”
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