On December 1, 2023, Dubai hosted the World Climate Summit, which was attended by more than two thousand high-ranking representatives of business, science, and, of course, countries from all the continents of the globe. The following climate and environmental issues were proposed for the summit: transition to carbon neutrality in all sectors of industry and agriculture, accelerating the creation of zero-pollution transport systems, climate financing, transition to clean (green) energy, as well as attracting investment in environmentally friendly projects designed to reduce the amount of harmful substances released into the atmosphere.
A characteristic feature of the World Climate Summit is its focus, including on developing countries for which the “green transition” is particularly challenging due to their limited means and resources to solve the problems of social and economic modernization. Due to this fact, the World Summit needs to develop environmental solutions for developing countries that will not be financially unprofitable for them. In 2023, summit participants agreed to create an investment fund to sponsor green projects in such countries for as much as $500 million. Moreover, companies using environmentally friendly technologies for energy production and the production of goods and services that are interested in expanding their activities in developing countries were also invited to participate in the summit.
The desire of catching-up countries to attract foreign investment to simultaneously ensure economic growth and an environmentally friendly environment is perhaps best seen in the speech of Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev at the World Climate Summit. In particular, the President invited foreign investors to invest in a number of promising industries both from the point of view of ecology and economic development of his country:
– Wind and solar energy and the solution to the coal problem
In his speech, the President of Kazakhstan referred to the heavy reliance of his country’s heat and power grid on high-ash coal. In this regard, he invited the widest possible circle of colleagues to provide assistance in reducing the country’s dependence on coal energy as part of the implementation of the Just Energy Transition Partnership, including, most likely, by investing in alternative energy in the country. In this regard, the country’s significant potential for the development of wind and solar energy, mentioned in Tokayev’s speech, deserves attention.
– Green hydrogen.
Hydrogen is considered a promising substitute for gasoline and diesel in internal combustion engines, as well as a key component for the creation of new, environmentally friendly fertilizers. Modern technologies for its production include methods such as steam reforming of methane and natural gas, as well as coal gasification, and Kazakhstan has an abundance of resources to support these processes. At the same time, the expansion of fertilizer production in the country, which is currently largely dependent on external supplies (especially from Russia), coupled with an ambitious program to increase agro-industrial exports, makes the promising participation of foreign investors in the production of hydrogen in the country more appealing. Moreover, Central Asia already has experience in the participation of foreign investors in the creation of an enterprise for the production of “green hydrogen”; in particular, at the end of November 2023, the Saudi Arabian company ACWA Power, together with Chinese Power China, began the construction of a similar project in the Republic of Uzbekistan. The new installation will provide hydrogen for the production of 500 thousand tons of ammonia fertilizers while saving 33 million cubic meters of gas.
– Uranium mining.
Uranium is the main fuel for nuclear power, which in turn is also a viable and competitive alternative to much less clean oil and coal power generation. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev invites the largest producers of electricity at nuclear power plants to turn their attention to the prospect of importing uranium and nuclear fuel from his country, which already controls 43% of all global supplies of this resource and possesses perhaps the world’s largest reserves. This circumstance allowed the President of Kazakhstan to declare that his country “plays a decisive role in the production of carbon-free electricity on a global scale,” given the disparate volumes of nuclear energy compared to renewable energy.
– Rare earth metals.
This category of metals is most widely used in the “green economy”, being an important element of the resource base for the manufacture of solar panels, turbines for wind power plants, and new types of batteries. Considering this circumstance, Kazakhstan invites foreign enterprises to take a broad part in the development of this valuable resource, whose deposits are quite significant in the Republic. According to the President, such participation will contribute to the implementation of the green transition on a global scale.
– Natural gas production.
Despite the fact that natural gas is considered a very promising fuel from an environmental point of view, the problem of methane leakage during its production is still not solved on a global scale, and methane contributes to the accumulation of the greenhouse effect many times more than carbon dioxide. Kazakhstan proposes to attract the attention of foreign high-tech companies to gas production and processing. The country has decided to join the Global Methane Pledge.
The key message of the President of Kazakhstan, traced in each thesis of his speech, was also expressed in the following words:
“I think it is important and fair not to force developing countries to sacrifice national development and modernization for the sake of climate protection. On the contrary, these goals should go hand in hand and reinforce each other.”
Of course, introducing a cost-effective or at least break-even approach to the green transition in developing countries is a very progressive trend. However, it still appears to be only a half-measure of achieving carbon neutrality on a global scale. Let us remember that the largest and most developed economies on the planet, as well as transnational corporations, are most responsible for the carbon footprint. And if many developing and underdeveloped countries are already ready to introduce environmentally friendly economic practices in case of their relative or absolute profitability, then the main “agents” of global pollution are not yet ready to undertake the provision of such practices on the scale necessary for the global ecosystem. Most TNCs, as before, view developing and underdeveloped countries as sources of cheap raw materials and labor, not wanting to lose their advantages in a predatory battle among themselves for world markets. This circumstance cannot be overcome even within the framework of the new progressive trend discussed in this article.
Boris Kushkhov, Korea and Mongolia Department, Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, exclusively for the internet journal “New Eastern Outlook”.