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Turkmenistan's Heir Apparent Makes Vague Pledges In Glasgow To Cut Methane Emissions


Deputy Prime Minister Serdar Berdymukhammedov takes part in celebrations for the national Turkmen Horse Day and the Turkmen Shepherd Dog Day near Ashgabat on April 25.

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov sent his only son, Serdar, to Glasgow to represent Turkmenistan at the COP26 world climate conference.

Serdar is seemingly being groomed to take over from his father one day, so he has been making a lot of trips recently representing Turkmenistan. He was even an honorary coach of Turkmenistan's Olympic team in Tokyo this summer.

One might not think that Turkmenistan, a desert country with a population of some 5 million, would have a big impact on the climate.

But it actually does, because it's one of the largest emitters of methane gas in the world.

And according to the pro-Turkmen government website Business.com.tm, Serdar got right down to it, dedicating his speech at the conference to his country's methane emissions.

Serdar said on November 3 that his country paid special attention to reducing its methane emissions and welcomes the Global Methane Pledge, which he said Turkmenistan was interested in "studying."

Outsized Impact

For most of the delegates at the conference that statement probably did not mean much, but according to an October 19 report by Bloomberg: "In 2020, the International Energy Agency estimates that [Turkmenistan’s] overall methane emissions from oil and gas were behind only Russia and the U.S., both of which have significantly larger energy industries and populations."

Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov visits the Ahalteke Equestrian Complex with Serdar in June.
Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov visits the Ahalteke Equestrian Complex with Serdar in June.

The report referred to data from the French firm Kayrros that indicated just how bad Turkmenistan's methane-gas problem is.

Kayrros uses satellites to monitor leaks from fossil-fuel facilities around the world. According to the Bloomberg report, Kayrros found that "of the 50 most severe methane releases at onshore oil and gas operations analyzed since 2019 by [Kayrros], Turkmenistan accounted for 31 of them."

Back in Glasgow, the Turkmen heir apparent said Turkmenistan "in the medium term plans to achieve zero growth of greenhouse emissions, starting in 2030," and he added, "in the long term -- annual significant reductions in emissions."

"Zero growth" on existing outputs that are already the third-worst in the world?

And there were no details about how much of a significant reduction will be made from current emission levels.

The Bloomberg report noted that just one leak at the Korpeje natural-gas field in Turkmenistan "had a climate impact roughly equivalent to the annual emissions of all the cars in Arizona."

Deny Everything

Serdar officially went to Glasgow as the deputy chairman of Turkmenistan's ministerial cabinet, which means he was speaking on behalf of the government when he made the pledges about methane reductions.

That is the same Turkmen government that continues to deny there has ever been even a single case of coronavirus in the country, despite heavy evidence to the contrary.

It is also the same Turkmen government that denies there are food shortages and mass unemployment in the country.

And the same Turkmen government that has still not acknowledged any methane leaks in the country and never did admit to Turkmenistan's oil industry polluting the Caspian Sea.

The Global Methane Pledge that Serdar Berdymukhammedov said his country was interested in "studying" is an initiative approved at this conference in Glasgow to reduce methane emissions by 30 percent before 2030.

It was signed by 103 countries -- but not by Turkmenistan.

About This Blog

Qishloq Ovozi is a blog by RFE/RL Central Asia specialist Bruce Pannier that aims to look at the events that are shaping Central Asia and its respective countries, connect the dots to shed light on why those processes are occurring, and identify the agents of change.

Content draws on the extensive knowledge and contacts of RFE/RL's Central Asian services but also allow scholars in the West, particularly younger scholars who will be tomorrow’s experts on the region, opportunities to share their views on the evolving situation at this Eurasian crossroad.

The name means "Village Voice" in Uzbek. But don't be fooled, Qishloq Ovozi is about all of Central Asia.

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