The Ministry of Energy of the Republic of Kazakhstan, which among other areas is responsible for the development of the country’s environmental policy, has presented amendments to the national environmental legislation. The purpose of the amendments is to introduce modern environmental assessment system as per the UNECE Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context and (Espoo Convention) and its Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment (Protocol on SEA).
The new draft chapters of the country’s environmental legislation on “Environmental Impact Assessment”, “Strategic Environmental Assessment”, and “Transboundary Environmental Assessment” complement the existing Environmental Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The package of amendments, which was presented at a high-level round table, also includes the revision of relevant by-laws to introduce a modern SEA scheme at a national level. This decision was stipulated in the National Concept for the revision of the Environmental Code of Kazakhstan of the Ministry that sets the framework for harmonization of the national environmental legislation with international standards and requirements.
The Ministry of Energy of the Republic of Kazakhstan also presented the key outcomes and recommendations of a SEA pilot project, implemented in the country since October 2017. The “Concept for development of fuel and energy complex of Kazakhstan till 2030” served as a subject for the pilot SEA, as proposed by the Government.
As a result of the pilot SEA, a team of national SEA experts, working under guidance of UNECE, prepared an Environmental report. It highlighted the need for introducing “green” approaches and technologies in the fuel and energy sector to protect the environment and health. The report suggests specific measures including the development of strategic Programmes of development of the Renewable Energies, and Oil and Gas Industry in Kazakhstan, with an application of the SEA procedure.
The round table brought together some 100 representatives of governmental agencies including the Ministries of Energy, Health Protection, Justice and Agriculture of the Republic of Kazakhstan, international consultants and national experts, academia, private and non-governmental organizations as well as representatives of environmental authorities from other Central Asian countries.
Summarizing the achievements in improving national EIA/SEA systems, Mr. Sabit Nurlybay, Vice-Minister of Energy of the Republic of Kazakhstan said that “Kazakhstan was considering the feasibility to join the UNECE Protocol on SEA and that the project was helpful in doing so.” He also added that “Kazakhstan had created a pioneering - in Central Asia sub-region - experience in enhancing its national environmental assessment system in line with the Espoo Convention and its Protocol on SEA. This experience was a useful example for all Central Asian countries and could be used to strengthen sub-regional cooperation towards sustainable development and green economy.”
The added value of the project is in the political will generated to introduce comprehensive revision of the existing EIA system and promote the establishment of the modern SEA scheme based on analysis and recommendations elaborated by the pilot project. Undertaken measures are seen as a breakthrough in advancing the environmental assessment framework and contributing to the ongoing green economy reforms in the country.
Roundtable participants stressed that to sustain and to conclude the initiated reforms further support is needed from the international community, including expert advice on legal application of the Convention and the Protocol, preparation of the awareness raising materials and national guidelines on EIA and SEA as well as building capacities on practical application of EIA and SEA, including in a transboundary context.
The activities on SEA/EIA legal drafting, and SEA pilot project were implemented during 2016-2018 in close consultation and co-operation with UNECE under the framework of the EU / UNDP / UNECE joint project "Supporting Kazakhstan’s Transition to a Green Economy Model” with the funding from the EU Commission. Additional financial support was provided by the OSCE Programme Office in Astana, and the Government of Switzerland.
Note to editors
Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (Espoo Convention)
The Espoo Convention sets out the obligations of Parties to assess the environmental impact of certain economic activities at an early stage of planning. It also lays down the general obligation of States to notify and consult each other on all major projects under consideration that are likely to have a significant adverse environmental impact across boundaries.
The Espoo Convention commends the ongoing activities of the states to ensure that environmental impact assessment is carried out through their national legal and administrative provisions and their national policies.
Kazakhstan is a Party to the Espoo Convention since 2001.
Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)
The Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) requires its Parties to evaluate the environmental consequences of their governmental plans and programmes. SEA is undertaken much earlier in the decision-making process than EIA, and it is therefore seen as a key tool for sustainable development. As a result, SEA can help to make government planning in energy, agriculture, water management, waste management, and other economic sectors, which have a significant impact on the environment, more efficient, taking into account environmental and human health concerns. In particular, SEA makes it possible to identify the most sustainable and cost-effective alternatives of strategic development for green economic growth, adaptation to climate change, attracting new investments and protecting the environment.
The Protocol also provides for extensive public participation in government decision-making in numerous development sectors.
Kazakhstan has been considering becoming party to the Protocol since the beginning of 2017.