ASTANA, April 25, 2023 – Today, the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources and the Ministry of National Economy of the Republic of Kazakhstan, jointly with the World Bank, held a discussion focused on supporting Kazakhstan’s efforts to reduce air pollution. This is the second workshop in a series of policy dialogues to support Kazakhstan's implementation of its critical climate and environmental strategies, including the low-carbon transition, air quality management, and resilience to climate change.
Kazakhstan's Environmental Code, amended in 2021, provides a robust foundation for improving the country's air quality and includes critical provisions for strengthening the country's air quality management. It is expected that the implementation of these provisions will help decrease the exposure of Kazakhstan's residents to air pollution and ensure development of local emissions' inventory and air quality targets in cities.
In practice, more should be done to address air pollution originating from residential heating and transport. According to IQAir, a global air-quality monitoring platform, concentrations of particulate matter pollution 2.5 microns or less in size (PM2.5) in Almaty and Astana regularly exceed the WHO ambient air quality guidelines by as much as 17 times in winter months.
"By taking appropriate measures at the local level and involving an environmentally active public, it is necessary to create conditions for minimizing the impact on air quality from the private sector and transport through switching to gas and renewable energy sources, proper city planning, improving the quality of public transport and gradually switching to environmentally friendly transport, increasing the environmental awareness of the population,” said Dosbol Bekmagambetov, Vice-Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
Last year, the World Bank released studies on air quality identifying residential heating and transport as the main emission sources in Astana and Almaty and overall for Kazakhstan. The studies' findings estimate that every year, air pollution contributes to more than 10,000 premature deaths and costs the Kazakhstan's economy more than $10.5 billion. Most air quality-related diseases and premature deaths are linked to the winter smog and PM2.5, which comes from fuel combustion. The World Bank's recent Country Climate and Development report provided recommendations on how Kazakhstan can decarbonize its energy sector to transition to a greener and more sustainable growth.
"Today, over 80 percent of Kazakhstan’s carbon emissions comes from the energy sector. The dominance of fossil fuels, including the use of coal, in residential heating and power generation has led to a serious air pollution in the country impacting people’s lives, health and income today,” noted Andrei Mikhnev, World Bank Country Manager for Kazakhstan. “Therefore, decarbonization of the energy sector can bring dual benefits: reduce carbon emissions and support climate change mitigation; and by switching to cleaner fuels reduce air pollutants from fuel combustion."
The workshop participants discussed current air quality management activities and future plans of Kazakhstan's Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources. They also heard perspectives from a range of government and other stakeholders, as well as effective AQM practices and experience in tackling pollution from residential heating and transport in other countries such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mongolia, Sweden, and the U.K.
The audience heard a range of country experiences, from inter-agency coordination in air quality monitoring and enforcement to a building insulation program to reduce emissions from residential heating. Some air quality measures designed for city centers specifically targeted vehicular emissions.
The policy dialogues series aims to provide a robust platform for multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral engagement. By bringing together Kazakhstan's government agencies, the private sector, civil society, academia, international development organizations, and the world's leading experts, the dialogues foster collaboration and action to accelerate Kazakhstan towards meeting its carbon neutrality targets and international climate action commitments, and reducing pollution in support of Kazakhstan's climate and development goals.