Kazakhstan is a country heavily invested in fossil fuels: around 20% of Kazakhstan’s GDP is dependent on oil revenues (World Bank, 2016), around 60% of exports are oil products, and almost all electricity is generated from fossil fuels. While Kazakhstan recognises the need to transition into a greener future, and has begun moves to encourage renewable energy that will tap into its abundant renewables potential, currently implemented policies are not yet sufficient to meet its targets.
Kazakhstan’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) contains an unconditional target to reduce GHG emissions by 15% below 1990 levels by 2030,including emissions from land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF). If emissions from the LULUCF sector are excluded, this target is equivalent to emissions reduction by 13% below 1990. Based on this unconditional INDC target, we rate Kazakhstan “Insufficient.” Its currently implemented policies would lead to emissions of 331 MtCO2e by 2020 (a 12% reduction below 1990 levels) and 424 MtCO2e by 2030 (a 13% increase above 1990 levels).
The “Insufficient” rating indicates that Kazakhstan’s climate plans are not consistent with holding warming to below 2°C, let alone limiting it to 1.5°C as required under the Paris Agreement, and is instead consistent with warming between 2°C and 3°C.
In addition, Kazakhstan has a conditional target of reducing emissions (including LULUCF) by 25% below 1990 levels by 2030 (equivalent to 25% below 1990 levels excluding LULUCF by 2030). This target is subject to “additional international investments, access to low carbon technologies transfer mechanism, green climate funds and flexible mechanism for country with economy in transition” (Republic of Kazakhstan, 2016b).
For the second phase of the Kyoto Protocol (CP2), Kazakhstan proposed average annual emissions to be at the level of 95% of 1990 levels during the period of 2013–2020, subject to the possibility of using the surplus from the first commitment period and other conditions. However, as of August 2017, Kazakhstan has not ratified the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol establishing the second commitment of the Kyoto Protocol, meaning that this commitment is not yet binding under international law on Kazakhstan.
Paris Agreement target
Kazakhstan signed the Paris Agreement on 2 August 2016 and, ratified on 6 December 2016. Kazakhstan’s unconditional NDC target aims to reduce GHG emissions by 15% below 1990 levels (including LULUCF) by 2030. After accounting for LULUCF, using projections from the latest National Communication and UNFCCC inventory data, Kazakhstan’s target is equivalent to 13% below 1990 levels excluding LULUCF (Republic of Kazakhstan, 2013; UNFCCC, 2016).
The NDC does not specify the LULUCF accounting method that it will use. For simplicity, and in the absence of other information, this assessment assumes a net-net approach to accounting for LULUCF activities. The size of Kazakhstan’s removals from the LULUCF sector are projected to remain at around 2012 levels in the future (Republic of Kazakhstan, 2013). From this trend, LULUCF removals are expected to have a minor impact in the future.
In addition, Kazakhstan also has a conditional target to reduce emissions (including LULUCF) by 25% below 1990 levels by 2030 (equivalent to 25% below 1990 levels, excluding LULUCF, by 2030). This target is subject to “additional international investments, access to low carbon technologies transfer mechanism, green climate funds and flexible mechanism for country with economy in transition” (Republic of Kazakhstan, 2016b).
Kazakhstan has stated that it may use international market mechanisms to meet its NDC target, and that it “will consider adequately discounting international units for compliance to ensure a contribution to net global emission reductions” (Republic of Kazakhstan, 2016b). The impact of international market mechanisms on Kazakhstan’s NDC is not taken into account in this analysis.
2020 pledge and Kyoto target
Under the Copenhagen Accord, Kazakhstan proposed to reduce emissions by 15% below 1992 levels (incl. LULUCF) by 2020 (equivalent to an emission reduction of 12% below 1990 levels excluding LULUCF).
Kazakhstan submitted a QELRO (Quantified Emission Limitation or Reduction Objective) level of 95 for Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period (CP2). This means that Kazakhstan’s average annual emissions from 2013–2020 are proposed to be 5% below 1990 levels. Kazakhstan’s intention to commit to this QELRO was conditional on being allowed to carry over its full surplus from the first commitment period, environmental integrity of the Kyoto Protocol, access to mechanisms for both periods and on a mid-term 2013–2015 review to increase the level of ambition in terms of emissions reductions among others.
However, paragraph 3.7ter of the Doha Amendment imposes a more ambitious emission reduction target on Kazakhstan, as countries joining CP2 need to at least stabilise emissions in 2013–2020 to the average historic emission level over 2008–2010. This leads to a Kyoto pathway that is almost 77 MtCO2e per year lower than the direct translation of their target for the period 2013–2020. As of August 2017, Kazakhstan has not ratified the Doha Amendment.
Kazakhstan has proposed a 2050 target of 25% reduction below 1992 levels excluding LULUCF (equivalent to an emission reduction of 34% below 1990 levels excluding LULUCF).
 The QELRO, expressed as a percentage in relation to a base year, denotes the average level of emissions that an Annex B Party could emit on an annual basis during a given commitment period.
 This is part of the Doha decisions and constitutes part of the amendments to the Kyoto Protocol. Amendments only come into effect once they are ratified by Parties.
We rate Kazakhstan’s unconditional NDC target “Insufficient.” The “Insufficient” rating indicates that Kazakhstan’s climate commitment in 2017 is not consistent with holding warming to below 2°C, let alone limiting it to 1.5°C as required under the Paris Agreement, and is instead consistent with warming between 2°C and 3°C. If all countries were to follow Kazakhstan’s approach, warming would reach over 2°C and up to 3°C. This means Kazakhstan’s climate commitment is at the least stringent end of what would be a fair share of global effort, and is not consistent with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5?C limit, unless other countries make much deeper reductions and comparably greater effort.
The CAT ratings are based on climate commitments in (I)NDCs. If the CAT were to rate Kazakhstan’s projected emissions levels in 2017 under current policies, we would rate Kazakhstan“Highly insufficient,” indicating that Kazakhstan’s current policies in 2017 are not consistent with holding warming to below 2°C, let alone limiting it to 1.5°C as required under the Paris Agreement, and are instead consistent with warming between 3°C and 4°C: if all countries were to follow Kazakhstan’s approach, warming could reach over 3°C and up to 4°C. This means Kazakhstan’s current policies are not in line with any interpretation of a “fair” approach to the former 2°C goal, let alone the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C limit.
For further information about the risks and impacts associated with the temperature levels of each of the categories click here.
While Kazakhstan recognises the need to transition into a greener future, currently implemented policies are not yet sufficient to meet its targets and would lead to emissions of 331 MtCO2e by 2020 (a reduction of 12% compared to 1990 levels) and 424 MtCO2e by 2030 (an increase of 13% above 1990 levels). The current policy landscape prioritises energy sector emissions, which is feasible given that energy-related activities account for 85% of the country’s annual GHG emissions.
Kazakhstan is a country heavily invested in fossil fuels: around 20% of Kazakhstan’s GDP is dependent on oil revenues (World Bank, 2016), around 60% of exports are oil products and almost all electricity is generated from fossil fuels. Coal accounts for 76.1% of electricity generation and natural gas for 14.7%. These sources of energy are complemented by hydro energy, which accounts for 8.4%. Other renewables have started to make a contribution in recent years (IEA, 2015).
Kazakhstan’s “Concept for Kazakhstan’s Transition to Green Economy” adopted in 2013 sets the target of providing 30% of electricity generation from alternative and renewable energy sources (including nuclear) by 2030 and 50% by 2050, and reducing current CO2 emissions in electricity production by 40% by 2050, while also increasing the share of gas power plants to reach 30% by 2050 (Republic of Kazakhstan, 2015a).
Besides efforts to transform its energy mix, Kazakhstan recognises the need for energy efficiency, and includes targets in the Green Economy Concept to decrease the energy intensity of GDP by 25% by 2020 and 50% by 2050 compared to a 2008 baseline (Republic of Kazakhstan, 2015a). Measures are cross-sectoral in nature, and range from initiatives for district heating to thermal renovation of houses, to various energy standards and energy efficiency categories for buildings and household appliances.
The government estimates that the transition to a green economy will be accompanied by substantial economic and societal benefits: GDP is expected to grow by 3%, more than 500,000 jobs will be created, new industries would be developed and living standards would be improved (Republic of Kazakhstan, 2015a). The costs are valued at USD 3-4 billion or about 1% of GDP per year (IEA, 2015).
Along with the Action Plan for the Development of Alternative and Renewable Energy for 2013–20, adopted in 2013 to generate 31 renewable energy projects with a combined capacity of 1,040 MW (IEA, 2015), in November 2016 the government has announced target indicators for the development of the renewable energy sector. These targets include renewable energy contributing 3% to total electricity production by 2020; and total installed capacity of renewable energy of 1,700 MW by 2020 being made up of wind power (933 MW), solar power plant PV (467 MW), hydroelectricity power plants (290 MW) and biogas plants (10 MW) (Republic of Kazakhstan, 2016c).
By growing its clean energy portfolio Kazakhstan is tapping into its abundant renewable potential, estimated at more than 1,000 TWh per year (IEA, 2015). Yet, as a country richly endowed with fossil fuels, the transition has been slow in the past, and a more stringent effort is needed in order for Kazakhstan to achieve its climate targets.
In August 2013, Kazakhstan adopted a feed-in tariff law that aims to increase the share of renewable electricity generation in line with the targets from the Green Economy Concept of supplying 3% of electricity in 2020. The tariffs were set in June 2014 but revised in April 2017 taking into account changes in currency value following the shift to a floating currency in 2016 (Wheeler, 2017). The Government has indicated it will move to an auction system in 2018 to develop renewable energy (Republic of Kazakhstan, 2017). However, at the time of writing there was limited information on auction design and operation. The Government has also launched the Solar Resources Atlas, a website mapping Kazakhstan’s solar energy potential for the public to view in order to help with investment decisions (“AtlasSolar,” 2017). A handful of large-scale projects have been announced, suggesting that these policies have had some impact, however, most investments are through development finance institutions. In order to achieve its long-term targets, Kazakhstan will need to become an attractive investment option for private investors as well, which will be difficult given the regulated low energy tariffs which are thought to be the main reason for underinvestment (International Crisis Group, 2011).
The Emissions Trading System that was enacted in 2011 through an amendment of the 2007 Ecological Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan has been temporarily suspended until 2018 (icap, 2016), when it is expected to re-start with new allocation methods and trading procedures for all market participants. At this point we refrain from estimating additional emissions that could result from the suspension of the ETS, which would drive emissions even above the already very high current policy emissions levels. We will closely follow the process and regularly revisit this decision.
The NDC, 2020 and 2050 targets were calculated from the national inventory submissions (CRF, 2016). As the NDC and 2020 targets include LULUCF, these were converted to values excluding LULUCF for comparability purposes.
The Kyoto pledge is calculated based on the official documentation provided by the UNFCCC (Republic of Kazakhstan, 2012a; Republic of Kazakhstan, 2012b). We calculated Kazakhstan’s LULUCF accounting quantities in 2020 for afforestation, reforestation and deforestation using the current Kyoto Protocol’s rules. Forest management was calculated also with current Kyoto rules, with the cap set at 3% of base year or 15% of forest management, whichever is lower.
Current policy projections
Historical data are based on most recent national inventory submissions (CRF, 2016). Current policy projections stem from the “with measures” scenario from the BR CTF submission workbook Table 6(a) (Republic of Kazakhstan, 2016a). Growth rates from the “with measures” scenario were applied to the most recent historical data.
The “with measures” scenario includes measures and policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that have been taken and are planned to be adopted in the near future. These measures include the National Allocation Plan for 2016–2020 (includes the ETS), the Law ‘On energy saving and energy efficiency’ and the Law ‘On administrative violations’. They further include the Action Plan for the Development of Alternative and Renewable Energy for 2013–20, which in November 2016 was outpaced by more ambitious target indicators for the development of the renewable energy aiming for a total installed capacity of renewable energy of 1,700 MW by 2020. At this point in time we have not quantified this impact yet. There is no straightforward way to exclude the two-year suspension of the ETS. For time being we refrained from estimating these additional emissions, which would drive emissions even higher as the already very high current policy emissions levels. We will closely follow the process and regularly revisit this decision.
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