Azerbaijan plays leading role in efforts to improve environmental situation in region

Commentary Materials 27 January 2020 09:49 (UTC +04:00)
One of the main topics of the 50th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos was the environmental situation in the world and climate change, which lead to global warming.
Azerbaijan plays leading role in efforts to improve environmental situation in region

BAKU, Azerbaijan, Jan. 27


One of the main topics of the 50th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos was the environmental situation in the world and climate change, which lead to global warming.

The issue is of an extreme importance for the planet, as the overall success in the fight against the impending threat depends on the activities of each country in this direction.

Azerbaijan realizes the importance of the task assigned to each participant of global processes and, takes its utmost to ensure clean and healthy environment for future generations.

Along with developing economy and expanding industrialization, serious control is implemented over atmospheric emissions, in particular over maintaining the ecological balance by reducing carbon dioxide emissions. According to the European Commission, the volume of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere in Azerbaijan amounted to 34.7 million tons, i.e. 3.5 tons per capita in 2018.

By this indicator, Azerbaijan is ahead of many countries, the volume of carbon dioxide emissions in the country is even lower than the permissible norm per capita adopted in the world (4.9 tons). For instance, in 2018, the carbon dioxide emission index was 196.8 million tons in Ukraine, 64.2 million tons in Belarus, 309.2 million tons in Kazakhstan and 101.8 million tons in Uzbekistan.

Comparatively positive changes are visible not only regarding the neighbors, but also with indicators recorded in Azerbaijan in previous years. In 1990, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere in Azerbaijan was 73.3 million tons. In 2018, it was 34.7 million tons, and by 2030 the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere is planned to be reduced by 35 percent.

In order to improve the environment, Euro-4 fuel standards (A-5 standards will be introduced from 2021) were earlier introduced in Azerbaijan, while the work is underway to increase the number of electric vehicles for transporting passengers (buses and taxis), and to reduce harmful effects of the energy sector on the environment.

Renewable energy sources

Work is also underway for the use of renewable energy sources. Power plants operating on solar and wind energy have been built in Azerbaijan, and their share in total electricity generation has reached 17 percent. By 2030, this figure is planned to be brought up to 30 percent.

Solar power plants operate in Azerbaijan’s Gobustan and Samukh cities, as well as in the Pirallahi, Surahani and Sahil settlements in Baku. Preparations are underway for launching a solar power plant in Sumgayit city.

The potential of renewable energy sources in Azerbaijan is over 25,300 megawatts, which allows generating 62.8 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. Most of the potential comes from solar energy, which is estimated at 5,000 megawatts. Wind energy accounts for 4,500 megawatts, biomass - 1,500 megawatts, and geothermal energy - 800 megawatts.

At the end of last year, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree on the establishment of a commission in connection with the implementation and coordination of test projects for the construction of power plants in the field of renewable energy, in particular, solar and wind energy.

Just recently, the head of state has received the leaders of two major Arab companies that intend to invest hundreds of millions of US dollars in the development of this field in Azerbaijan.

Oil and gas

No secret, the biggest percentage of harmful emissions into the atmosphere falls on the industrial sector. In some countries it is coal mines. For Azerbaijan, the oil and gas sector requires serious attention in terms of environmental regulation.

Azerbaijan’s state oil company SOCAR has been implementing projects for recovering oil-contaminated lands in Absheron Peninsula for several years. For instance, the best result of this activity was the improvement of the once critically contaminated area around Boyukshor Lake.

The Azerbaijani president issued an order on the management and use of Boyukshor Lake, that portrayed a source of environmental problems foe many years. Scaly work has been done, including removal of millions of cubic meters of soil contaminated with oil, and change of the routes of the oil pipelines passing here.

After recovering the lake, improvement work was carried out around it, a new boulevard was laid and many green spaces were planted. Today, Boyukshor is an excellent example of successful attempt to improve the environmental situation in Azerbaijan, and through it, in the region.

Since July 2015, SOCAR and the UNDP Azerbaijan office implement the project on Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) for low-carbon end-use sectors of the country. The project is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the UNDP and aims to support SOCAR’s Strategy on Reduction of Impact on Climate Changes.

Rafiga Huseynzade, SOCAR vice president for ecology, said at an international conference on the role of the Paris Agreement in climate and environmental change held in Baku last November that SOCAR twice received the World Bank’s highest award for the work done.

Following a study funded by the European Commission, Azerbaijan ranks first among 10 countries exporting oil to the EU in terms of effective utilization of associated petroleum gas.

As a result of reduction in the flaring of associated gas, harmful emissions into the atmosphere decreased. Associated gas is collected and delivered to consumers. So, in 2019, 7 million cubic meters of gas were collected from 63 wells, which were delivered to the settlements of Siyazan and Shabran districts, Huseynzade noted.

Moreover, SOCAR joined last January the methane emission reduction initiative launched by oil and gas giants such as BP, Eni, Equinor, ExxonMobile, Shell and Total.

According to experts’ estimations, as a result of the implementation of the successful program to reduce the flaring of associated gases, the emission of associated gases decreased by 282.5 million cubic meters from 2009 through 2015. It is expected that this figure is expected to fall to 95 million cubic meters by 2022.

Industrial parks - no threat to the environment

The problem of garbage is the problem of all big cities. Proper management of household waste is, first and foremost, a matter of the environmental well-being of a settlement and an entire country.

There used to be a huge landfill in the Balakhani settlement near Baku.

"We had been facing this bitter reality for decades. The smoke of the garbage burned there poisoned the sky over the city. We have cleaned up that place, built a modern incinerator and a landfill there. A process has long been put in place there to segregate domestic waste, and this area has already become environmentally clean," President Ilham Aliyev noted at a meeting in early January with the new head of the State Committee for Urban Planning and Architecture.

Azerbaijan is taking significant steps in the field of household waste management. Several years ago, a major household waste plant was built in Balakhani settlement, and a landfill was created to sort out garbage.

The project is implemented with the participation of international consultants. Moreover, a major industrial park has been created in Balakhani that works in compliance with all environmental standards. Tamiz Shahar OJSC is the managing company of the Balakhani Industrial Park.

Speaking about the measures taken in Azerbaijan to prevent environmental pollution by industrial facilities, it is necessary to especially dwell on the industrial parks created in Sumgayit city.

Today, there are two big production facilities. The Sumgayit Technological Park, that was commissioned on Dec. 22, 2009 in the territory of the Haji Zeynalabdin settlement near Sumgayit, became the first technopark in the South Caucasus.

Azerbaijan’s Sumgayit Chemical Industrial Park is twice as big as Sumgayit Technologies Park (STP) and covers an area of more than 500 hectares. Sumgayit Chemical Industrial Park has become the biggest park of its kind in the region. The opening ceremony was held on October 25, 2015.

Sumgayit has been considered a place unfavorable from an environmental point of view, especially in the Soviet period, but industrial enterprises especially in STP have not recently created environmental problems. This is connected with the fact that modern, eco-friendly technologies are used at the enterprises.

The use of modern equipment and technologies at Sumgayit’s enterprises contributes to the fact that there are no environmental threats even in conditions of expansion of production. That is, today Sumgayit is able to produce innovative products without environmental pollution.

“There is good news for residents of Baku,” Director of the National Hydrometeorology Department of the Azerbaijani Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources Umayra Tagiyeva said. “The results of observations made in the middle of 2019 by employees of the National Environmental Monitoring Department of the Azerbaijani Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources show that there is a tendency of improving air quality in Baku.”

“This is confirmed by the data of the automatic station for monitoring air quality and analysis obtained from the OPSIS air quality monitoring center,” Tagiyeva said.

Green ecology

An unprecedented environmental campaign was held in Azerbaijan on December 6, 2019. Some 650,000 trees were simultaneously planted in honor of the 650th anniversary of great Azerbaijani poet Imadeddin Nasimi. The campaign was held on the initiative of Azerbaijani First Vice President Mehriban Aliyeva.

All seedlings were grown in 17 hatcheries of the forestry centers and "Azerbaijani gardening and landscape design" OJSC. In total, 37 types of trees were planted.

The staff of the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijan Republic SOCAR planted 100,000 trees within the campaign. Some 12,000 seedlings were delivered by ship to Chilov Island and planted there.

An inventory of forests, carried out in cooperation with the Turkish specialists, was launched in Azerbaijan in 2018. The forest area is 1.2 million square meters in Azerbaijan, that is 11.4 percent of the total area of ​​the country.

Unfortunately, as a result of the occupation of Azerbaijani lands by Armenia, more than 261,000 hectares of forests were lost. But the rest require a lot of attention to restore.

A new requirement was introduced in Azerbaijan in late 2019 within the deforestation projects, which will streamline the process and reduce the negative impact of business projects on the environment.

Azerbaijan’s entire green spaces require attention. The campaign held on December 6 can be considered an indispensable contribution to this process. The role of green spaces in a favorable environment is invaluable. Azerbaijan understands this and is taking all measures to expand green spaces and combat illegal destruction of plantations and deforestation.

There is hope that other countries will follow Azerbaijan’s example and by joint efforts it will be possible to greatly reduce threats for the planet’s atmosphere. An increase in the number of green spaces will also reduce the negative effects of industrial emissions, including carbon dioxide.

During the opening ceremony of the Climate Action Summit in Abu Dhabi in July 2019, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent.

"I urge all leaders beginning from governments and ending with private companies to submit the plans in summer or by late December 2020 related to a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and achievement of neutrality in CO2 emissions by 2050," Guterres said.

Azerbaijan has got the message from the UN. The country could establish itself not only as the economic and political leader of the region, but also as the country that is working actively in the South Caucasus to preserve the environment and improve the ecological situation of the region.