Kazakhstan praised as green energy hub

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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While many associate Kazakhstan with the film “Borat,” the country’s government has been increasingly touting its green energy policies.

Major news outlets such as Reuters and Business News Europe have reported on Kazakhstan going green. The Sierra Club published a blog post praising the government for its plan to drastically lower the use of fossil fuels.

“By undertaking this new plan to reduce its reliance on coal-fired power and ramp up clean energy, Kazakhstan is showing it is willing to back up words with actions,” the Sierra Club post states. “And given that Kazakhstan has a plethora of opportunities to develop fossil fuel resources, their message that green solutions offer better environmental, social, and economic outcomes is that much more powerful.”

The environmental group also said President Nursultan Nazarbayev — who has been in power since 1990 — is getting Kazakhstan ready to reduce coal use from 80 percent of power generation to only 50 percent by 2030.

Nazarbayev plans to replace coal power with green power from wind, solar and hydropower sources.

The Sierra Club hailed Nazarbayev for pushing for an international effort to address global warming, noting that at “Rio+210, Nazarbayev extended the ‘Green Bridge’ proposal to link major institutions, investors and governments around a common goal of sustainable growth.”

“By leading the green revolution, Kazakhstan can grow its GDP by 3% annually through 2050 and add 600,000 new jobs,” the Sierra Club blogger wrote.

Nazarbayev’s administration has been very active on the international scene promoting its green energy plans.

“Reducing our dependence on energy from hydrocarbons and their impact on the environment is at the center of our transition to a ‘green’ economy,” Nazarbayev’s official spokesperson wrote in an op-ed. “Our commitment to achieving this goal matches the ambition of our vision.”

Among former Soviet republics, Kazakhstan has the second largest oil reserves and is also the second largest oil producer, producing an estimated 1.6 million barrels of oil per day, according to the Energy Information Administration.

However, Kazakhstan has previously paid think tanks and lobbying groups to enhance the government’s international image. The Sierra Club denied any financial relationship when asked by BuzzFeed, indicating that the blog post was based on an intern’s interest.

Kazakhstan has been criticized for the state of human rights in recent years under Nazarbayev, according to the group Human Rights Watch.

“Kazakhstan’s human rights record has seriously deteriorated following violent clashes in December 2011 between police and demonstrators, including striking oil workers,” reported Human Rights Watch. “Authorities blamed outspoken oil workers and political opposition activists for the unrest, and sentenced Vladimir Kozlov, an opposition leader, to prison on vague and overbroad criminal charges.”

“Freedom of assembly is strictly controlled and a restrictive law on religious freedoms remains in force,” HRW added. “There were attacks on independent journalists, and authorities shut down key independent media outlets. Legislation regulating workers’ rights is vague and burdensome, and a ban on strikes in certain sectors of the economy restricts workers’ rights.”

The State Department also regards Kazakhstan as having a poor human rights record and being hobbled by widespread corruption among public officials.

“The most significant human rights problems were severe limits on citizens’ rights to change their government; restrictions on freedom of speech, press, assembly, religion, and association; and lack of an independent judiciary and due process, especially in dealing with pervasive corruption and law enforcement and judicial abuse,” noted the State Department, adding that the list of abuses goes on, including arbitrary killings, prisoner torture and abuse, restrictions on religious freedom, violence against women and sex trafficking.

“The government took modest steps to prosecute officials who committed abuses, especially in high-profile corruption cases; however, corruption was widespread and impunity existed, particularly for people with connections to government or law enforcement officials,” according to the State Department.

The Sierra Club did not respond to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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