A Canadian in Kazakhstan: Cross-Pollinating on Carbon

SW in KZ

By Stephan Wehr, Vice President  – Technical Services at The Delphi Group

Late last year I had the unique opportunity to travel to Kazakhstan on behalf of The Delphi Group. Kazakhstan hadn’t been on my short list of travel destinations, but I really enjoyed my time there. You start to suspect that this is an intriguing country once you discover that their national sport (“Kokpar”) is playing polo with a dead goat carcass [editor’s note: Stephan wasn’t kidding, we conducted a cursory tour of the interweb and discovered that headless goat polo really is a thing]. That said, there were many similarities to Canada: the people were very friendly and professional, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that you were in Northern Ontario or Alberta on the drive from the airport to my hotel.

The capital city of Astana, where I was based, is a very interesting place. It has only been the capital for twenty years and has seen tremendous development over the past decade. It’s a very deliberately planned, modern city, although it seems the celebrity architects and planners they brought in to design it weren’t quite up to snuff in the traffic management department. There is an incredible blend of cultures in Astana, reflecting the politics of the recent and distant past. Throw in a former Soviet-era communist leader as president and significant oil and gas revenues, and you have in Astana what one person aptly described to me as “Las Vegas meets Siberia.” Let that sink in.

Enough about the headless goats…

I journeyed to Astana because I was invited by the America National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide training on ISO 14065, the accreditation standard for greenhouse gas (GHG) validators and verifiers. Kazakhstan’s National Centre for Accreditation and its Ministry of Energy were the primary audiences for the training. Accreditation is top-of-mind for them since they’ve had a mandatory GHG reporting program in place for several years now, and they’re looking to re-launch an enhanced mandatory cap-and-trade and GHG reduction program in 2018.

The focus of the training was on enabling key Kazakhstan institutions to run a GHG accreditation program, which in turn will ensure that the auditors and firms tasked with verifying the accuracy of GHG emissions reports are qualified to do their job.

Our first morning of training was November 9th and, given that Kazakhstan is 11 hours ahead of Eastern Time, U.S. election results were still being tallied. Suffice to say that attentions were divided that morning, especially among my U.S. colleagues!

Takeaways from the Kazakhstan experience

Russian is the official language of business in Kazakhstan and not many people speak English, so we were lucky that we had translators who could simultaneously interpret what we and the participants were saying in the training sessions. One key takeaway for me was the difference that real-life examples can make. Sharing best practices and case studies from other regions as part of the training is much more effective than just talking at people when you’re trying to build capacity.

Kazakhstan, like Canada, is a resource-dominated country. Mining, oil, and gas are key components of their economy. Both countries have similar climates. It stands to reason that there should be plenty of opportunities in Kazakhstan for Canadian companies with technologies or offset projects relevant in this market.

It was a short trip, but a fascinating one. Last note: Keep an eye on Astana. Starting in June, the city is hosting EXPO 2017, built around a ‘Future Energy’ theme. The question they’re asking? “How do we ensure safe and sustainable access to energy for all while reducing CO2 emissions?”

Stephan Wehr is the Vice President  – Technical Services at The Delphi Group’s Ottawa office. To find out more about his work in Kazakhstan and/or GHG reporting, verification and accreditation, please contact him at swehr@delphi.ca

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