Barriers to Achieving Global Environmental Objectives

The NCSA was a structured process for Kazakhstan to identify and assess the key barriers to meeting global environmental objectives as defined by the Rio Conventions.  Among the key systemic barriers to meeting Rio Convention obligations was an insufficient motivation or championship in the country to have a meaningful impact (UNDP, 2006).  Legislation and economic incentives are often at odds with the Rio Conventions, and even though much of the necessary legislation and regulations are in place, they are not supported by the practical procedures and working methods that are needed for broad and integrated implementation of these conventions.

Many policies and plans have attempted to integrate sustainability issues into the broader national economy such as the Environmental Code of 2007, the Kazakhstan National Green Growth Plan, the 2005 Concept on Kazakhstan’s Transition to Sustainable Development, and most recently the Concept to Transition to Green Economy.  Nonetheless, past initiatives failed to adopt a suitably holistic approach to sustainable development and moreover, they are largely driven by the Ministry of Environment and Water Resources without adequate buy-in from the economic and finance establishment and championship from key government staff (Ospanova, 2014, p. 10; UNDP, 2006).  Moreover, concerns over corruption corrode the public’s faith in public institutions and their ability to deliver on their obligations (UN, 2009, p. 20; Ospanova, 2014).

While the new Green Economy Concept is gaining traction in the business community, thus far the majority of attention has focused on renewable energy and energy efficiency (Ospanova, 2014).  Other initiatives such as waste and water management are gaining momentum as priorities, but other sustainable development issues that do not have a sound economic case such as ecosystem health or social equity are not part of the national dialogue.  The reason for this being that the government and business community are not prepared to take this next step (Ospanova, 2014).  Even though there are a number of scientific and research institutes involved in the assessment of environmental trends and values, little knowledge is shared across sectors and among experts.

Cross-sectoral, inter-departmental and internal departmental cooperation regarding Rio Conventions is particularly ineffective.  Additionally, there is poor cooperation between key agencies acting in the sphere of global environment protection and nature protection organizations.  Public participation and awareness in the decision making process for implementation of Conventions is insufficient as is the contribution of different sectors and types of activities in fulfillment of the Conventions obligations (UNDP, 2006).

Frequent reforms and changes in government agencies have a debilitating effect on institutional memory.  Meanwhile, there is significant institutional resistance to incorporating sustainability into sectoral plans and programmes.  This is often a result of a lack of understanding of the close link between the natural environment and the national economy and decision-makers in key sectors, especially those not collaborating closely with the MEWR, have little understanding of how their own work influences the achievement of Rio Convention obligations.  There is little understanding of how to determine (global) environmental indicators, value natural resources, and calculate socio-environmental risks of environmental degradation.  The system for accounting the contribution of different sectors and activities towards meeting the commitments under the Rio Conventions is weak.

The mechanism of implementation of the Rio Conventions is insufficient (i.e., government mandates are lacking, scientific methodologies for implementation are undeveloped, and there is no effective integration of the Rio Conventions into government programs).  Furthermore, Kazakhstan does not effectively employ economic incentives to conserve biodiversity, catalyze sustainable land management, assess vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, or encourage measures to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change.  Economic leverage is based on fees for the use of natural resources, notably land and wildlife.  However, users appear to prefer a pay-as-you-go approach rather than being taxed in advance, the relatively meager contributions of which are currently deposited into a national environmental trust fund.  As a result, there is little funding generated to promote the use of more effective technologies and approaches.

Kazakhstan’s administrative mechanisms and regulatory instruments relevant to economic development, as well as the compensation and rehabilitation mechanisms incentives do not adequately incorporate environmental considerations and are poorly understood.  Additionally, there is no system in place for quantifying the value of natural resources and ecosystem services while the costs of externalities are equally absent in the budgeting and planning process.  Data needed to estimate the economic value of environmental goods and services is either non-existent or outdated, yet there is an underlying skepticism related to quantifying economic benefits from environmental goods and services.

The NCSA identified a number of underlying capacity barriers to implementing and sustaining outcomes under the three Rio Conventions.  At the systemic level, regulation of the authorities and responsibilities of government agencies with respect to the Rio Conventions was and remains relatively unclear, with unnecessary overlap.  Indeed, there are inadequate incentives or mechanisms to enable or encourage progress on Rio Convention implementation.  Scientific and technological methodologies for Rio Convention implementation remain outdated or ineffective, although work is on-going to develop these capacities.

At the institutional level, the effectiveness of the cross-sectoral, inter- and intra-departmental cooperation for achievement of the Conventions objectives was deemed inadequate during the NCSA.  This was due to the ineffectiveness of the working groups and commissions that were established for implementation of the Rio Conventions provisions.  Cooperation and collaboration of the key agencies with non-state organizations involved in environmental conservation was minimal, despite the latter’s comparative advantages.  This extended to insufficient participation of civil public in the decision-making process for Rio Convention implementation as well as insufficient contribution of different socio-economic sectors that have an impact on the fulfillment of Rio Conventions obligations.

At the individual level, there is insufficient awareness and knowledge among important social actors at multiple levels on the Rio Conventions obligations, in particular on strategies and approaches for meeting them through the existing national development planning frameworks.  at multiple levels (absence of uniform knowledge management system for using the Conventions in different sectors; system of staff advance training/retraining is not developed; educational system does not provide an appropriate qualitative level of practical training for implementation of the Conventions objectives; insufficient information on economic benefits of considering the objectives of the Conventions in the policy of development).

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