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Article

11 Jan 2022

Author:
Kate Watters, The Third Pole

Opinion: Unrest underlines need to reform Kazakhstan’s energy sector

11 January 2022

...[M]assive protests erupted throughout Kazakhstan, initially over the price of liquefied petroleum gas. The government had abruptly stopped subsidies, dramatically increasing the price for consumers...

These incidents underline the volatility of fossil fuels and the risks of reliance on a non-renewable resource. Major reforms in energy investments in Kazakhstan are needed, not only to reform Kazakhstan’s economy, but to meet the country’s climate goals.

At COP26 in Glasgow...Askar Mamin, the (then) prime minister of Kazakhstan, stated that the country was finalising its plan to be carbon neutral by 2060. This effort, he said, would be based on “promoting the sustainable use of land and water, energy efficiency, electrification, and the large-scale use of eco-friendly and renewable energy sources, among others”...

According to the World Bank, Kazakhstan is one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases in Europe and Central Asia. Most emissions come from the energy sector (82%), followed by agriculture (9.6%) and industrial processes (6.4%)...

China is the fourth largest foreign investor overall in Kazakhstan...and as of 2019, Chinese companies in Kazakhstan owned a 17.7% share in Kazakh oil production. While China is certainly not the only country worthy of attention for fossil fuel investment...Chinese investors play a key role in Kazakhstan’s fossil fuel-reliant energy sector.

Currently, Chinese state-owned companies have stakes in more than 20 oil and gas companies in Kazakhstan, ranging from 8.33% to 100%. Chinese companies operate in all of the country’s major oil and gas regions, including Aktobe, Atyrau, Kyzylorda, and Mangystau...Chinese fossil fuel investments in Kazakhstan’s energy sector are also linked to high methane emissions – a potent greenhouse gas...

Concerns around fossil fuel projects in Kazakhstan’s energy sector relate not only to emissions, but also the economic and social track they place local communities on. Communities living near the oil and gas fields are the most impacted by the fossil fuel industry, but they get the least benefit from oil drawn out of their earth and sent away to drive China’s economy...These communities pay for these fossil fuels with their health, deteriorating living conditions, destruction of their traditions, and environmental degradation...Chinese companies appear largely unconcerned about the environmental impact of and local engagement in Kazakhstan’s oil and gas sector...

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