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Kazakhstan Joins EU program to Help Promote a Green Transition

  • In late 2022, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev directed the government to develop new “green friendly” procurement rules.
  • In February 2024, Kazakhstan joined the European Union’s SWITCH-Asia program, under which Astana can receive international expert support for the implementation of sustainable/green public procurement mechanisms.
  • SWITCH-Asia program representatives will help familiarize Kazakh procurement officials at a variety of state agencies with global green standards.
Kazakhstan wind energy

Kazakhstan is considering new procurement standards to maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of state spending while aiming to minimize the environmental harm of public works and services.

Government contracts for goods, works and services totaled about $19.7 billion in 2023. In the past, environmental concerns didn’t figure much in state spending. But now, officials are starting to confront the need to address the Soviet legacy of environmental degradation, including the radiation caused by nuclear testing and fuel processing, the shrinking of the Aral Sea and a host of smaller, but still serious challenges. Global warming threatens to exacerbate existing problems and create new ones, including a growing water shortage.

In late 2022, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev directed the government to develop new “green friendly” procurement rules. The Finance Ministry later developed a draft framework in which quality control and environmental impact, in addition to cost, are factored into the awarding of government contracts.

On May 15 of this year, the lower house of the Kazakh parliament, the Mazhilis, approved the Finance Ministry-drafted bill in its second reading. Proponents hope the new rules can receive parliamentary approval and a presidential signature by July 1, but acknowledge that timeline may not be met. Related: Turkey Emerges as the Largest Coal-Fired Electricity Producer in Europe

In February 2024, Kazakhstan joined the European Union’s SWITCH-Asia program, under which Astana can receive international expert support for the implementation of sustainable/green public procurement mechanisms. SWITCH-Asia grants encourage companies and governments to implement “cleaner technologies and more sustainable industrial practices” across a variety of sectors, including agriculture, textiles, freight transit and tourism. The program also has a component designed to encourage residential buildings more energy efficient.

SWITCH program representatives say that when making procurement decisions, officials often focus on obtaining goods and services at the lowest cost. But doing so can have longer-term consequences for society and the environment. Program experts help officials see the bigger picture.

“Any product or service that people purchase has unintended, negative impacts. … The government, as the largest consumer in the country, has opportunities to reduce these negative impacts by demanding sustainable and greener products,” said Sanjay Kumar, a senior expert on green public procurement for the program.

“There is a need to make a shift from current practices and adopt a policy that encourages integrating environmental and social sustainability criteria and requirements into purchasing decisions,” Kumar added. “Such a new policy will help the government achieve long-term socioeconomic growth and mitigate environmental challenges.”

Those challenges are growing with each passing year. For example, the volume of hazardous waste generated in Kazakhstan from all economic sectors – from mining and manufacturing to agriculture, healthcare and transport – increased by 84 percent in 2022, compared to the previous year’s total. 

Some government agencies are implementing green measures already. Nurbibi Aldanova, a Trade Ministry official, reported at a SWITCH-Asia meeting in March that Kazakhstan is developing new standards for waste utilization, environmental labeling, and environmental management as part of a government strategy to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. New procurement requirements will reflect those standards.

At the same meeting, Enlik Mukanova, an expert at the Ministry of Industry and Construction, said amendments adopted in 2022 mandate state agencies to procure durable goods with high energy efficiency ratings. The system is far from perfect, however. A recent audit of over 3,000 items procured by government agencies, including refrigerators, televisions and air conditioners, found that only 63 percent met energy-efficiency requirements.

SWITCH-Asia program representatives will help familiarize Kazakh procurement officials at a variety of state agencies with global green standards, aiming to ensure that goals outlined in pending legislation are met in practice.

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By Nurgali Rakhmanov, Aida Bapakhova, Dinara Kanibay via Eurasianet.org

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