EurasiaChat: Is a green Central Asia a mirage?
COP-28 proved a fruitful event for the promotion of green initiatives in Central Asia. EurasiaChat looked in its latest outing at how seriously governments will be held to their promises.
On the occasion of the United Nations Climate Change Conference taking place in Dubai, the latest edition of the EurasiaChat podcast focused on how Central Asia is meeting the challenge.
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Turkmenistan made headlines with the announcement that it is signing up to the Global Methane Pledge, a voluntary agreement that commits adherents to cut methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030.
The country has heretofore earned a notorious reputation through its colossal methane emissions — the dark side of its status as the holders of one of the world’s largest reserves of natural gas.
Commenting on this ostensibly positively development, Eurasianet’s Central Asia editor, Peter Leonard, expressed concern that Turkmenistan might merely seek to capitalize on its adherence to the initiative as a PR boost and that it’s commitments to environmental issues is not that serious.
Taking a less cynical position, co-host Alisher Khamidov suggested that either way, the fact that such an isolated country is getting involved in an international effort with concrete benchmarks could — in theory — have virtuous side-effects by promoting the values of good governance and accountability.
In Kyrgyzstan, where Alisher lives, an unseasonably mild start to winter has turned thoughts to the fates of glaciers and rivers.
Even the national leadership, which has tended to steer clear of grappling with the issue, does at least pay lip service to it now. In early November, President Sadyr Japarov traveled to France to attend the One Planet Summit, held as part of Paris Peace Forum, which to go off the event organizer’s own description, is an “international event focused on reviving and improving global governance.” Japarov seized on the occasion to talk about the glacier emergency.
The stakes could not be higher. Some scientists have estimated, as Alisher noted, that Central Asia could lose up to 60 percent of its glaciers by 2100. That has grave implications for farming, and therefore availability of food in a region whose population is growing fast, and the future of hydropower projects in countries like Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
Kazakhstan made a few headlines at the COP-28 summit too.
At least three agreements, of varying degrees of definitiveness, were reached between Kazakhstan and investors from France, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates on developing large wind power facilities in the coming years.
These kinds of deals will be encouraging for a government that has set itself a number of important targets on renewable energy technology. Under those targets, at least 15 percent of all electricity generated is to be provided by renewable energy sources by 2030, and that figure should increase to 50 percent by 2050.
When it comes to ostensibly “clean” energy, another part of the conversation involves nuclear. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan are all mooting the construction of nuclear power plants, although officials in Astana are so anxious of causing a backlash by high-handedly adopting a decision on this matter that they will hold a doubtlessly carefully choreographed referendum on the matter in the coming months.
Alisher is pessimistic on this push, though. He questions whether any of these countries have reliable enough governments to ensure that nuclear power is administered safely.
Either way, Eurasianet will be monitoring and covering future developments.
This episode was produced by Aigerim Toleukhanova.
Aigerim Toleukhanova is a journalist and researcher from Kazakhstan.
Peter Leonard is Eurasianet’s Central Asia editor.
Alisher Khamidov is a writer based in Bishkek.