The energy diplomacy of Turkmenistan in the context of transnational gas pipelines was discussed in a session at the annual oil and gas conference of in Ashgabat on 23 October 2019.
Moderated by Jim Gillett of Gaffney, Cline & Associates (GCA), the session featured seven speakers. All of them except Ms. Elena Panova, the UN Resident Coordinator in Turkmenistan, were primarily from the energy sector.
Useful bits of information and updates were provided by the speakers, augmenting the confidence in the ability of Turkmenistan to implement the mega projects related to the gas sector.
In this two-part series I will dedicate the first part entirely to the speech of Elena Panova, and the reasons for doing this will become clear in a minute.
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First, a little bit about Elena Panova and some words in general about the diplomats and the officers of the international organizations such as the UN.
The fact that usually tends to get overlooked is that the diplomats and the officers of the international organizations generally serve a tenure of about three years, perhaps more. Which means that they need to understand the new place and environment fairly quickly, find or fashion contacts for smooth delivery of their mandate, correctly comprehend the cultural sensitivities, build on the momentum gained by their predecessors, plan ahead for the short-, medium-, and long-term goals, remain vigilant and adjust the plans when required, remain cheerful in the face of different kinds of frustrations and setbacks, and still be productive on the daily basis.
With this in mind, we should look at Ms. Elena Panova. —— To do justice to the fact that she can instantly relate to the people and the situations and put together the best possible solutions at short notice, I would refer to her as Elena, rather than Ms. Elena Panova.
I first noticed the distinguishing features of the management style of Elana in a job fair for the disabled persons held under the patronage of the UN in Turkmenistan. Later, I saw it again at a Christmas bazaar where the artists with disabilities brought their works of arts and craft for sale.
On both the occasions, Elana instinctively encouraged those who were feeling shy or intimidated. It was genuine warmth. No condescending. Simultaneously, she never seemed to forget that the success of the event would be measured only in terms of the benefits gained by the disabled persons.
This is Elena, the go getter.
Her speech at the OGT 2019 on Wednesday was a product of the brand Elena.
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Elena created the perspective right at the start of her speech. She said, “When we discuss transnational gas pipelines, we are at the centre of the two keywords that are important to the UN – sustainability and inclusivity.”
Among the challenges facing the world, she named the access to affordable energy, climate change, resource efficiency, sustainable consumption and production, rapid urban growth, and environmental quality. She warned that unless tackled effectively, these could constitute major risks to the stability and peaceful development.
Elena said, “Energy is the golden thread that connects all the sustainable development goals and is crucial to implementing the Paris Agreement on climate change. Modern energy services are integral to poverty reduction, food security, public health and quality education for all. They are the key to sustainable industrialization, healthier and more efficient cities, and of course, successful climate action.”
Describing the natural gas as the cleanest-burning hydrocarbon, Elena said that the uninterrupted and secure natural gas supplies become a crucial factor for the economic development of the countries that lack this resource.”
She pointed out that “Turkmenistan’s active engagement and contribution to the global discussions on energy issues in the context of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals” is gratifying.
Elena lauded Turkmenistan’s concern and initiatives for the energy security for all.
“UN fully supports the efforts of Turkmenistan to diversify its energy supply routes. This is one of the components of Turkmenistan’s energy diplomacy,” she said.
Speaking of the various multi-national gas and electricity projects of Turkmenistan, Elena said, “Let’s be mindful that the implementation of these projects should be carried out without detriment to the environment and livelihoods along the routes of the pipelines and power grids.”
She added, “In this regard, the UN is ready to provide its expertise to conduct various environment and habitat-related assessments, as well as to use its convening power and offer a platform for discussions with the participation of the different stakeholders, including on the topics of energy efficiency, innovations and the use of green approaches.”
Elena underlined the importance of the cross-border gas and electricity supply projects of Turkmenistan. Speaking of TAPI, she said, “There is no doubt that, if realized, it has high potential to bring sustainable development to the countries, along with big investments and big money.”
“In addition to the big investments and money, this pipeline is also about connectivity. It connects local communities and offers them the development opportunities that may not otherwise be present,” said Elena.
Expanding the perimeter, she said, “If realized, TAPI will become a new effective step toward the formation of modern platform of global energy security, a powerful driver of economic and social stability in the Asian region.”
The last few paragraphs of her speech must be quoted in full:
“Cooperation between energy and construction companies, SMEs, local authorities, and civil society organizations along the pipeline route is often the answer for transforming investments in the transport infrastructure into investments in sustainable development.
“Projects like TAPI are clear example of the indivisibility and integrated nature of the global economic development, peace and security and climate agendas.
“In this respect ,such connectivity projects can be considered as contributing to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda’s main principle ‘to leave no one behind.’ They are important because they go beyond the national averages, national and regional centres, and are expected to spread the benefit of development broadly and fairly.
“I would like to conclude by saying that the interests of the people, especially those left behind, should be in the centre of all the initiatives of the governments and private sector.
“The history of the mankind teaches us that only when the needs of the people are met in a sustainable way we can talk about the peaceful and stable societies.
“The UN will continue to support the initiatives on the reliability and stability of energy supplies as an important factor of stability and security in the region and a condition for the economic and social development in the interests of the people.
“For us, at the UN, it is crystal clear that without joint concerted efforts of all the stakeholders, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals will be impossible.”
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It is remarkable how her speech moves from one important point to the next in a rational manner, weaving together the strands of different elements; clarity of words because of the clarity of mind.
By offering the capacity of the UN in environment and habitat-related assessments, and the facilitation of discussion among the stakeholders on topics such as energy efficiency, innovations and the use of green approaches, she has actually created a range of possibilities that would add to the credibility of the energy projects, thereby making it easier to attract financing for such projects.
The speech of Elena convincingly spotlights the intrinsic connection between the energy projects and the Sustainable Development Goals.
She has correctly stressed that the environmental concerns should guide the energy projects. Turkmenistan has already done so in the case of Turkmenistan-China gas pipeline. No environmental incidents have come to light throughout the period of operation of this pipeline.
The same is the case with TAPI. The studies that led to the adoption of TAPI as a four-nation joint project have given adequate attention to the environmental aspects.
This should also be done in the case of the Trans-Caspian Pipeline. A project that aspires to transport the Turkmen gas across the Caspian seabed and onward to Europe, should meet the requirements of environmental protection.
In praising the speech of Elana and her mastery of the subject, I would like to add that the nature of the job of diplomats and the officers of the international organizations is such that they are expected to be experts on so many different things. Challenging but interesting.
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Among the other speakers, the CEO of the TAPI Pipeline Company Limited, Muhammetmurat Amanov, the principle finance specialist of ADB, Roland Pladet, and the senior geologist at GCA, Thomas Hancock spoke about various aspects of TAPI and the Galkynysh gas field that will feed TAPI. The concluding part of this series will be based on their speeches and presentations. /// nCa, 24 October 2019
To be continued . . .