#Expo2017: Astana goes climate-friendly

| July 24, 2017 | 0 Comments

Following the decision of America’s President Donald Trump to withdraw from the Paris climate deal, developed and emerging economies are going hand-in-hand to overcome climate change challenges with the help of new technologies, writes Eli Hadzhieva.

The EXPO 2017 taking place in Astana, Kazakhstan until 10 September and themed ‘Future Energy’ is a testament to this.

More than 100 countries are sharing best practices about energy, especially in the area of renewables.

The Kazakh pavilion on the Expo site is entirely devoted to wind, sun, kinetic, biomass and space energy and a Best Practice Area is showcasing 24 projects, such as planes functioning with solar energy, devices generating energy from garden plants and lightening mechanisms using sea organisms, from 13 countries chosen by Nobel prize laureates and climate gurus.

Kazakhstan, a Eurasian country wedged between the Caspian Sea, China, Russia and Uzbekistan in the former Soviet space and the world’s ninth largest country, is the first country in Central Asia to host an Expo.

Since its independence in 1991, the country has started a rapid modernization process, which can be seen in the futuristic architecture of its new capital city, Astana.

World famous architects, such as Kisho Kurokawa and Norman Foster, designed the city in a modern style yet loyal to Kazakh traditions. The shopping centre Khan Shatyr, harbouring a Maldives-like beach, is built after a yurt, an important symbol for Kazakh people, who treasure the nomadic culture of their ancestors.

Another architectural marvel is the Bayterek Tower, which was inspired by the egg of a legendary eagle – another emblem for Kazakhs, who have been hunting with wild birds for centuries.

Kazakhstan’s economy is largely driven by fossil fuels and minerals. Yet the Kazakh government is rapidly switching to renewable energy policies, with new tariffs and an ambitious plan of making renewable energy account for half of its energy production by 2050.

These issues were thoroughly discussed during the Eurasian Media Forum, organized on the sidelines of the expo.

Data will become the most important resource in an increasingly digitalised world, making more space for renewables and energy-efficient technological innovations. These data centres could be new oil refineries, given that monopolies, such as Standard Oil, were replaced by big tech companies and the digital universe will reach 180 zetta bytes in 2025.

Using digital technologies instead of steam power, electric power or electronics, we will have smart fridges, smart buildings, smart vacuum cleaners, smart running shoes and a series of other networked machines through a cloud system, warning us against our excessive waste of energy and adjusting our consumption accordingly.

We will live in an ever-more connected society, with computing becoming more accessible and machine learning making things easier for us. Artificial Intelligence will change (and is already changing) the way we look at medicine (robots such as Watson used for prognostics and operations conducted with the help of augmented reality), transport (autonomous cars hitting the roads without drivers), finance (robo-advisors, blockchain and Fintech taking a key role in the financial scene), shopping (drones delivering groceries from supermarkets), social life (alienation because of reduced human interaction and related problems, such as robot marriage and engineers joining foreign fighters), media (personalisation of news, bots writing stories) and so much more.

The traditional definition of capital, labour and intellect will no longer be valid in the digital era, with human capital becoming more and more important. The ongoing shift from physical capital towards a dematerialised knowledge economy with human capital as its key pillar offers tremendous potential to generate green economy.

The knowledge economy will enable the emergence of engaged consumers and increased transparency on the demand side, while allowing for new disruptive types of innovation to change existing ways of serving needs, with reduced transportation and communication costs, more effective global chains and reduced costs of trade on the supply side.

The emergence of sharing and an on-demand economy (i.e. Über and Airbnb) is likely to help fight climate change due to reduced gas emissions, energy consumption and waste while allowing for the development of local businesses and sustainable tourism.

But these changes will bring about new challenges such as job losses, privacy issues, increasing monopolisation triggered by the network effect, cybersecurity and growing inequality.

The Z generation is already concerned with job security. Increasing populism, triggered by fear of job losses and immigration, exemplified by Trump’s election, the Brexit referendum and the popularity of Marine Le Pen et al, are signs of rising instability and could be worsened if countries cannot keep up with rapid technological changes and meet the skills gaps by designing suitable educational and vocational policies with a strong focus on talent, the most important factor of production in the future.

In the wake of China’s recent decision to diversify its energy portfolio away from coal, it is encouraging to see positive signs from other countries in the region, including the host of Expo 2017, Kazakhstan.

A global climate-friendly digital revolution is in the making, giving climate enthusiasts renewed hope after America’s back-pedalling over the Paris accord.

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Category: A Frontpage, Astana EXPO, Environment, EU, Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan, Renewable energy

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