According to a new World Bank report, a major source of air pollution with fine particles (PM2.5) in Kazakhstan comes from dispersed small residential heating stoves and boilers. The “Clean Air and Cool Planet – Cost-Effective Air Quality Management in Kazakhstan and Its Impact on GHG Emissions” report is the first national-level study undertaken by the World Bank in cooperation with the Ministry of Ecology, Geology and Natural Resources of the Republic of Kazakhstan to evaluate interactions between air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) in Kazakhstan.
Air pollution remains a global problem. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly seven million people worldwide die every year from diseases attributable to breathing polluted air. In addition to human health impacts, air pollution contributes to enormous economic losses globally, estimated at more than $8 trillion annually, and causes incalculable damage to the environment.
Poor air quality poses major health risks for residents of large cities in Kazakhstan. According to IQAir, a global air-quality monitoring platform, PM2.5 concentrations in Almaty regularly exceed the WHO Ambient Air Quality Guidelines by as much as 17 times in the winter months. A World Bank 2022 study estimates that annually ambient air pollution causes more than 10,000 premature deaths and costs Kazakhstan’s economy more than $10.5 billion. Most air quality-related diseases and premature deaths are linked to winter smog and PM2.5, in particular.
To address this challenge, the Government of Kazakhstan is stepping up efforts to reduce air pollution in its cities. This is also part of the country’s ambitious plan to decarbonize its economy and achieve carbon neutrality by 2060 by transitioning towards renewable sources of energy.
“Kazakhstan has serious issues with air pollution due to extensive use of fossil fuels which also contributes to GHG emissions. World experience shows that cost-effective measures to reduce air pollution are not always as effective in reducing GHG emissions, and vice versa. Therefore, Kazakhstan needs to apply an integrated approach to address these two important objectives in tandem. And we, at the World Bank, stand ready to help the country adopt the best world experience in combating both air pollution and climate change,” said Jean-François Marteau, World Bank’s Country Manager for Kazakhstan.
As Kazakhstan plans to decarbonize it must consider the effects of climate policies on air quality. Applying GAINS (Greenhouse Gas – Air Pollution Interactions and Synergies) modeling, the study suggests that there is a large potential in Kazakhstan for cost-effective reduction of population exposure to PM2.5 through measures that also reduce GHG emissions.
The measures showing the largest potential for cost-effective reduction of both mean PM2.5 population exposure and GHG emissions are: replacing individual coal stoves and boilers with connections to improved district heating and conversion to natural gas or liquified petroleum gas, briquettes, or heat pumps; improving building energy efficiency; and improving waste management.
Following the national study, the World Bank team is conducting city-level analytical work for Almaty and Nur-Sultan to identify cost-effective technical measures and policy actions to reduce both population exposure to PM2.5 and GHG emissions. The results of the city-level studies will inform a roadmap for integrated air quality management and GHG emission reduction in Almaty and Nur-Sultan. The integrated approach will ensure that both decarbonization and air pollution reduction strategies reinforce each other, resulting in more efficient spending of resources.
“Air quality management is a challenge that requires collaborative, comprehensive, and multisectoral effort on both the national and local level, and across multiple stakeholders and development partners,” said Kseniya Lvovsky, Practice Manager, Environment, Natural Resources and Blue Economy Global Practice in Europe and Central Asia. “By taking an integrated approach to reducing air pollution and combatting climate change, Kazakhstan stands to gain enormously from significant air quality improvement while paving the way for a long-term decarbonization and green growth.”