Kazakhstan joins EU program for sustainable transition

Kazakhstan is considering new procurement standards to maximise the efficiency and effectiveness of state spending while minimising the environmental impact of public works and services.

In 2023, government contracts for goods works, and services totalled approximately $19.7 billion. Historically, environmental concerns did not play a significant role in state spending. However, officials are now addressing the need to tackle the Soviet legacy of environmental degradation, which includes radiation from nuclear testing and fuel processing, the shrinking of the Aral Sea, and numerous other serious challenges. Global warming threatens to exacerbate existing problems and create new ones, such as a growing water shortage.

In late 2022, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev instructed the government to develop new “green-friendly” procurement rules. The Finance Ministry subsequently drafted a framework incorporating quality control, environmental impact, and cost into the awarding of government contracts.

On 15 May this year, the lower house of the Kazakhstan parliament, the Mazhilis, approved the Finance Ministry’s bill in its second reading. Proponents hope the new rules will receive parliamentary approval and a presidential signature by 1 July, although they acknowledge this timeline may be optimistic.

Kazakhstan and the SWITCH – Asia Programme

In February 2024, Kazakhstan joined the European Union’s SWITCH-Asia programme, enabling Astana to receive international expert support for implementing sustainable/green public procurement mechanisms. SWITCH-Asia grants encourage companies and governments to adopt “cleaner technologies and more sustainable industrial practices” across various sectors, including agriculture, textiles, freight transit, and tourism. The programme also aims to make residential buildings more energy-efficient.

SWITCH programme representatives note that officials often focus on obtaining goods and services at the lowest cost when making procurement decisions, which can have long-term consequences for society and the environment. Programme experts assist officials in understanding the broader implications.

“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 programme.

“There is a need to 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.”

These challenges are growing each year. For instance, the volume of hazardous waste generated in Kazakhstan from all economic sectors – including mining, manufacturing, agriculture, healthcare, and transport – increased by 84 per cent in 2022 compared to the previous year, according to reports.

Some government agencies are already implementing green measures. Nurbibi Aldanova, a Trade Ministry official, reported at a SWITCH-Asia meeting in March that Kazakhstan is developing new standards for waste utilisation, environmental labelling, 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, noted that amendments adopted in 2022 mandate state agencies to procure durable goods with high energy efficiency ratings. The system is still imperfect, however. A recent audit of over 3,000 items procured by government agencies, including refrigerators, televisions, and air conditioners, found that only 63 per cent met energy-efficiency requirements.\

by Pooja Kapoor

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