«Activity of the modern world is based on energy resources of the Cambrian Period. And it is already inadmissible for a civilization of 21 century which models have to be based on an innovative paradigm, investments into the natural capital, but not a rent. This ideological preamble was so in detail and convincingly expressed by EXPO-2017 «Future Energy» which has taken place in Astana with the help of the initiative of one of bright politicians of the present, author of a number of constructive and forward looking ideas for the world, the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Nursultan Abishevich Nazarbayev. Today by his efforts Kazakhstan becomes the intersection of «green» transit on the Great Silk way, the center of gravity of investments and a technological basis of sustainable development…».
This is the opinion of the famous scientist in the field of «green» economy and sustainable development, the Nobel Prize laureate, Professor RAE KWON CHUNG, an exclusive interview with whom we offer readers of Тenge Monitor.
– Mister Chung, let me greet you and ask your opinion on what arethe most pressing long term challenges for our society and people looming behind the day to day short term concerns. Now against the background of strengthening of geopolitical fight for natural resources, on the other hand de-carbonization is gaining momentum around the world. According to the World Bank, in the near future about 80% of the researched fields of hydrocarbons aren’t subject to development. Under the Paris Climate Agreement, all countries have to submit low GHG emission development strategy and periodically review their carbon emission reduction targets. Do you think these measures are timely? And whether there are risks for local economies, world trade and Sustainable development goals of the UN-2030.
– Thank you for a suchvery important question. Let me start by why global community had to adopt Paris Climate agreement in 2015 and push for deep de-carbonization measures. According to the IPCC report relased in AR 5 released in 2014 concluded that global surface temperature has warmed on average 0.85℃ since 1880 until 2012. If current trend continues without serious mitigation of GHG emissions, global mean temperature will be warmer by 3.7 to 4.8oC and sea level will rise by 45 to 82oC by the end of the century.
Such a global mean temperature and sea level rise will have wide ranging impacts on life supporting ecosystem. Without repeating the warnings of many experts, it is simply a matter of our own survival. We have already witnessed many climate disasters around the world.
But the real challenge is still yet to come. IPCC report warned us that continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and increases the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.
Limiting climate change would require substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions over the next few decades.
In order to limit total human-induced warming to less than 2 relative to the pre-industrial period would require cumulative CO emissions from all anthropogenic sources since 1870 to remain below about 2,900 Giga ton CO. About 1,900 Gt CO had already been emitted by 2011. This means that the remaining carbon budget is about 1,000 Gt CO.
As global CO emission was about 49 GtCO in 2010 with annual growth rate of 2.2%, we have less than 20 years before we run out of our carbon budget which means that in less than 20 years our GHG emission should reach zero. This is a stark reality we have to face.
In order to meet the target of Paris Climate Agreement, CO emission from energy sector should peak by 2020 and reduced by 70% from current level by 2050. 70% global energy has to be clean energy and share of renewable energy has to increase from around 15% in 2015 to 65% in 2050.
By 2050, nearly 95% of electricity should be clean energy. 70 % of new cars to be electric. The entire existing building stock has to be retrofitted. CO intensity of industrial sector has to be 80% lower than current level.
This is why the Paris Climate Agreement had to ask all countries around the world to submit ambitious GHG reduction targets. According to many experts, even with current Paris Climate Agreement, global temperature will rise around 3, way above the target set by the Paris Agreement. This is why countries will have to strengthen their commitment even further to meet the target of stabilization below 2oC.
Kazakhstan has committed to reduce its GHG emission 15 to 25% below 1990 by 2030. But after the first review of commitments in 2023, the target has to be set even higher to meet the target of the Paris Climate Agreement.
Countries with clear long term vision and strong political commitment and leadership will reap the first mover’s advantage.
President Nazarbayev has set a clear target of 50% renewable energy by 2050 which is very ambitious and bold. This is a classical example of forward looking long term political leadership to push the vision of green economy.
– But don’t you think the pressure to reduce carbon emission will will slow down already weak growth rates of the world economy? If deliveries of production from developing countries to the world markets constantly are restricted due to high carbon footprint, then it will obviously impact negatively on the economy of these countries. How in these conditions realization of Sustainable development goals till 2030 and the reduction of the existing gap in development between the countries is possible?
– Yes, you are right. The pressure to reduce GHG emission will make it even more difficult for many developing countriesto achieve the targets of SDG. It is true that climate change is posing additional burden on many developing countries without money and technology.
Carbon emission reduction target could be a burden in the short run for many developing countries in expanding their economic growth, trade and industrial development and jeopardize their efforts to achieve the sustainable develoment goals.
This is why even before the Sustainable Development Goals were adopted, Green Growth and Green Economy was put forward as a new paradigm to hamonize CO emission reduction with economic growth.
It is getting more and more clear that in the long run green economy fueled by clean and renewable energy can stimulate economic growth and job creation while coping with the risk of climate change.
It was in this context why I have been proposing a new development paradigm called “Green Growth” where GHG emission reduction can become the driver of economic growth and job creation. This new paradigm “Green Growth” was adopted in 2005 by the UN ESCAP. Kazakhstan has been a leader in promoting new green growth paradigm and proposed Green Bridge Partnership Program since 2010.
In a carbon-constrained world, low emission of GHG will become the new source of industrial competitiveness. Renewable energysector will become the driver of economic growth and job creation.
According to recent IRENA report, renewable energy sector created more than 10 million jobs and is expected to generate more than 28 million jobs by 2050. Out of the 10 million jobs, China created 4.19 million jobs by far the largest comared to 1 million of Brazil, 0.8 million of the US, 0.72 million of India, 0.33 million of Germany, and 0.3 million of Japan. By sector, solar energy created 3.37 million and wind power 1.15 million jobs.
Out of the 3.37 million jobs in solar energy sector, 2.2 million jobs are created in China as China installed 53 Giga watts of new solar power capacity by investing 86.5 billion usd.
This data clearly shows that renewable energy is becoming a driver of green economic growth and job creation.
Even though this trend is limited to a few countries with financial and technological capacity, what is clear is the importance of the political leadership. The case of China clearly shows the critical role of poitical leadership and commitment. China is now the No.1. investor and world No.1 exporter of solar PV and wind turbine.
It is not easy for developing countries to pursue low carbon paradigm. This is why international support is necessary for some developing countries to initiate jump-starting of low carbon development pathway.
But what is clear is that «early movers» of low carbon and clean energy paradigm will reap high return in the long run. From the current trend we can clearly see that China will be the leader of renewable energy sector in the years to come.
Initiative factor of the Leader
– Mister Chung, you have already visited Kazakhstan for several times, took active part in events of EXPO-2017 and met the Head of our state. What impressions did these meetings left? What do you like about Astana? 20th anniversary of Astana is going to be celebrated in the current year.
– I have been watching many countries around the world. Most of the countries just follow the convnentional models in their development strategies. Only a few countries with brave leaders takes bold steps and breakthroughs that are out-of-the-box. Today connectivity through internet and in creasing mobility of our life and deepening exchanges among the countries within the current technological revolution help to do it. Nevertheless, only a few states purposefully moveforwardby investing into new sectors of economy. Kazakhstan as I already have managed to understand, isn’t afraid of changes and transformations and does everything possible for economic modernization and updating of all spheres of development. Obviously, it opens a huge opportunity for its present and future success.
Today Kazakhstan carries out ambitious plan for transition to «green» economy, powered by renewable energy, ecological products and agro-industry, In fact, Kazakhstan is not only the country with impressive scales of economic development and new prospects, but also the generator of active processes of regional integration, including joint search for appropriate answers to pressing global challenges.
Each time I visit Astana, it doesn’t stop surprising and fascinating me by its beauty, brightness and openness. Astana as basis in the center of the country is a result of ingenious insight of her initiator.
This grandiose project of building Astana as the center for the country seems to have been pursued with the central idea of internal political stability of the state and social and ethno-cultural harmony of the Kazakhstan society. Without strong and progressive political leadership of President Nazarbayev, Astana we see today woild not have been possible.
During the years of leading his country with enormous territory and resource potential, the President of Kazakhstan has shown to the whole world that he not only fully understands development priorities of local economy, but also tried to engage and lead with accurate vision on the prospects of the future of world economy and finance. Many of his ideas introduced long before these days are confirmed today. And in this sense the Kazakhstan Leader has got to himself respect in the world community as the politician with the extraordinary thinking making a huge contribution to a cause of peace on the planet long time ago.
Last year we have held very important discussion with the President of Kazakhstan concerning ways of further transition to «green» economy, discussed initiatives of the EXPO-2017 exhibition and have come to conclusion that in questions of «nurturing» of green economy you shouldn’t rely only on the forces of market processes. Without efforts of the state and society, without concrete policy direction, «green» transition is impossible in any country. Accurate vision of plans, the prospects of development of new creative strategies and the positive acceptance by the market, existence of political will of heads of states and ability of civil society is necessary not only to perceive, but also to implement «green» and environmental policies. And it is pleasant to me to realize that in Kazakhstan there is not only a deep understanding of these things, but also considerable potential and practical experience which can be used by other countries in their «green» transformation. It can be an important contribution to the global partnership for Sustainable Development Goals.
– What do you think is the role of «green» initiatives of the President Nursultan Nazarbayev for Kazakhstan and the world community in general on the way of sustainable development?
– This role is quite impressive. For example the President Nazarbayev has proposed at the 70 th United Nations General Assembly in 2015 ten extraordinary offers at once. Nobody expected that Kazakhstan will voluntarily close Semipalatinsk Test Site, will dismantle nuclear weapon and will become the engine of interstate integration (the CIS, SCO, EEU). Unexpectedly was the fact that Kazakhstan, like the United Arab Emirates, despite its huge oil and gas potential, in parallel forms declared to pursue the new innovative, resource-saving and «green» development strategy.
And, this work is conducted at close cooperation with OECD and other intergovernmental organizations. Last year Astana hosted the first-ever EXPO on Future Energy and «green economy» exhibition. Therefore I agree that Kazakhstan is the country which listens to opinion of the world, but leads its own way, with strong characteristics. And in this perspective, Kazakhstan in the world of global economy and politics is ainspiring example for other countries.
To be specific, Green Bridge Partnerhsip to promote resource efficiency of the countries in Europe and Asia and the Pacific is a novel initiative to ensure frictionless global economic relations in a world where countris are competing for limited resources. On the 70 th United Nations General Assembly the President of Kazakhstan has put forward the idea of opening in Astana the International Center of «green» technology development and investment under the auspices of the UN which functions on the basis of EXPO-2017 infrastructure. Thereby the author of a global concept «Green Bridge» and a number of other initiatives, has laid the ideological foundation of the unique project for – the Center of «green» technologies, which has no comparable examples.
The need of creation of similar platforms of demonstration and an incubation of green technologies was discussed in the UN from the early nineties of the last century. There is no doubt that the International Center for Green Technology and Investment will become a key link of world infrastructure of «green» transformation and also a regional incubator of «the green growth».
Epicenter of «green» transformation
– How do you see the work of the International Center of «green» technologies and investments? What are its task for today?
– The name of the Center very successfully reflects a combination of two functions – selection and distribution of technologies and also attraction of «green» investments. Here it is important to mention that itfocuses not only on technologies, but also on investments. And it is, certainly, the novelty of the Center. Existence of two more organizations on EXPO-2017 base – the Astana International Finane Center and a technological hub of «Astana International Smart Technologies Hub», creates a synergetic basis so that Astana can become the powerful center of gravity of «green» innovations and investments. And I hope that all these projects will realize the potential and will promote technological transformation of the region. I find the timing of the opening of the Center has very successfully coincided with the beginning of implementation of the Strategic development plan for the Republic of Kazakhstan accepted in February till 2025 which has incorporated the international experience, obtained on EXPO-2017, in terms of innovative and ecological development.
– How do you think the activity of the Center of «green» technologies and investments will impact on the implementation of the Green Bridge Partnership program?
– In the world there are many big and representative «green» programs, for example, the Program G20 for the «green» growth of «Green Growth Task Force», partnership of Clean Revolution, Mission Innovation with participation of 20 countries, association of world leaders of innovative business «Break through Energy Coalition» («The coalition for breakthrough energy»), and others. But they haven’t yet triggered notable acceleration in world ecological transformation yet. I think «Green Bridge» partnership has many potential projects for example, for the Caspian, Aral, Ili-Balkhash or Irtysh Basin.
I don’t doubt successful activity of the Center which has managed to involve the real «green» leaders and professional experts, to consolidate human potential on the basis of involvement of Association of ecological organizations of Kazakhstan. The most effective way is to attract innovative «green» companies and organizations advancing new technologies and ideas. They need enabling standard, legal and branded support. The organization of online forums with participationof experts on «green» technologies is necessaryas it has been successfully made at the virtual Online-Expo-2017 exhibition with assistance of the International Secretariat of G-Global.
Scientist’s contribution to work of the Intergovernmental Group on Climate Change was noted by the Nobel Prize in 2007. Long time climate change expert and contributor to the work of IPCC Professor Rae Kwon Chung, former climate change principal advisor to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon concerning is now a member of the International Award Committee of “Global Energy Prize”established by President Putin of Russia in 2002 as the “Nobel Prize of Energy”.
The consolidated community
– How do you think whether Kazakhstan has values and principles which could be an example for other countries?
– Harmonious coexistence of many ethnic groups in Kazakhstan as the uniform nation is making the country a unique case which not only inspires, but also, undoubtedly, is a striking example of harmony for other countries, especially for those states in which ethnic divisions still are the reasons of the endless conflicts and contradictions. Kazakhstan in this sense, doesn’t know neither national, nor ethnic, nor religious intolerance.
Other major feature of Kazakhstan I would call the commitment of society to civilized secular values and culture. Being dynamically developing Central Asian power, Kazakhstan bears in itself the great multi-culture consisting of many bright values, both traditional, and modern.
– Whether it is right that you have headed the Board of trustees of Association of the ecological organizations of Kazakhstan?
– Yes, I am grateful to this offer from the initiator of Association Aliya Nursultanovna Nazarbaeva who has devoted many years to support of the ecological movement of Kazakhstan, studying ecological innovations within «green» economy. Aliya Nursultanovna is an ecologist by the nature of the soul. She has great organizing abilities and the gift of persuasion of people, even of the most ardent, apparently, opponents. Such Association is very important for greening and nurturing of green economy. I am convinced that in that country which purposefully moves on the way of sustainable development itself and sets a good example to the nearby countries of the region. The activity of Association will be interesting and substantial. Therefore I have considered it necessary to take part in its development, to put my experience and knowledge in this work. I am glad that for the first time ecological leaders, «green» business, innovators and experts of Kazakhstan were consolidated in a consolidated public entity and the integrated platform for dialogue and partnership with the state, business and the international organizations. In the person of Aliya Nursultanovna and her associates I see an example of ecological leaders of new type, the purposeful creative peopleable to open the new directions of «green» policy and activity, to integrate various public institutions, to infuse people with the enthusiasm and patriotism. Their opinions are very important for development of optimum legal policy in the field of environmental protection and «green» economy.
– How do you evaluate work of the Kazakhstan «green» NGO? How public organizations in general can influence greening of the country and gardening of economy?
– In a number of countries non-governmental organizations became inspirers of green reforms. So, a world movement of consumer protection, and later the movement in protection of the nature and the biosphere as the Third industrial revolution took place. Efforts of the state, the governments and parliaments aren’t enough for the realization of strong environmental policy, achievement of the goals of sustainable development till 2030 accepted by the world community for the first time by all countries in 2015. Only combined consolidated efforts of civil society, business and science are capable to lift ecological consciousness of society, tradition and public opinion to new level, to put pressure upon in setting up of the environmental legislativestandard, stimulation of breakthrough «green» technologies and transition to a post-carbon era. The role of civil society is clearly visible in pushing the public on green reforms in Kazakhstan with the help of Astana economic forum and the platform of global dialogue G-Global.
– Thank you for conversation.
Interview was conducted by