The green dream to rebuild a sustainable Ukraine from the rubble of war


The parallels between postwar Europe and Ukraine are many. Like Europe at the time, Ukraine will need additional manpower and a cascade of funds to rebuild a tattered economy, Williams said. Case in point: Architects made up just 0.08 percent of Ukraine’s total population before the war (compared to 0.25 percent in the larger EU), too few for the country to rebuild at all. alone, the National Union of Architects of Ukraine Lidiia Chyzhevska told a panel on the reconstruction of Ukraine at a June meeting of the United Nations in the Polish city of Katowice. And as with post-World War II Europe, the geopolitics at play have sparked a desire to “annoy” and “exclude” Russia, Williams said.

But, in contrast to that time, it is a desire to highlight the “current obsessions” of the EU, rather than those of the United States, that drives the reconstruction plan now taking shape, Williams added. “That could be because they want to integrate Ukraine into the future of Europe,” he said. These obsessions include the European Green Deal, a set of policy proposals to make the bloc climate neutral by 2050, the professor added.

Prewar Ukraine’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels reminds Olena Pavlenko, president of the DiXi Group think tank in Kyiv, of the Ukrainian saying “life or wallet,” a tough question thieves ask “on the streets.” dark”.

One way out of the troubled relationship would be for Ukraine to implement the European Green Deal’s renewable energy target of at least 32 percent by 2030, said Andrian Prokip of the Ukrainian Institute for the Future, another Kyiv-based think tank.

In a May video interview, Irina Stavchuk, then deputy minister in Ukraine’s Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources, argued that dotting the landscape with renewable energy sources would not only serve the environment and help Ukraine achieve energy independence, but it would also decentralize its sources of electrical energy, and in turn enhance the security of the system “if something happens”. When she was asked to clarify what she meant, she Stavchuk said with a grim smile, “I just don’t want to think that Russia will invade us again.” (Stavchuk has since stepped down as deputy minister following the appointment of a new minister.) Prokip was more direct about Russia’s wartime damage to Ukraine’s renewable and non-renewable power plants: “It is much more difficult to destroy renewable power plants with missiles compared to conventional power plants,” he said, because Renewable sources such as solar and wind farms are more dispersed than thermal or nuclear power plants for the same amount of energy produced.

Ukraine’s EU candidacy could partly fund its adoption of the low-carbon practices evoked by Stavchuk. Ukraine’s climate policies have undoubtedly gravitated towards those of the EU since it took its first tentative step into the bloc in 2014 by signing the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, said Tibor Schaffhauser, co-founder of Green Policy. Center, a Hungarian think tank on climate policy. Under such pacts, non-EU nations must start adopting the bloc’s rules on multiple fronts, including in the realm of climate and energy policy, as a prerequisite to advancing their bid. Already, before the war, Ukraine had done so fairly diligently and a little faster than Moldova and Georgia, two comparable countries that also harbor ambitions for EU membership, Schaffhauser said.

In 2019, Ukraine banned hydrofluorocarbons, the greenhouse gas widely used in refrigeration. That same year, it adopted legislation to measure its greenhouse gas emissions, known as a monitoring, reporting and verification system. The move is necessary to establish national cap-and-trade systems and would ultimately allow Ukraine to join the European Union’s Emissions Trading System, a pillar of EU policy to combat climate change. Then, five days into the war, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expedited his country’s application for EU membership, imploring the block to grant “immediate accession” before the invasion of Russia. Just four months later, the EU largely acquiesced, granting him candidate status.

The pass has been hailed as a symbolic milestone. But Marie-Eve Bélanger, a senior fellow at the Swiss university ETH Zurich, argues that the impact of the significant funding the EU will channel to Ukraine should not be discounted due to its candidate status. Bélanger estimates that, based on the size of Ukraine’s population, she could fetch more than $696 million a year as an EU candidate. Last year, by comparison, Ukraine received $140 million in support that the EU disburses to neighboring countries, the researcher said. The new influx of money, on top of reconstruction funds, represents an additional channel through which the bloc could encourage climate-friendly reconstruction by conditioning the money on low-carbon policies, she said.

It remains to be seen whether Ukraine will find a way to deliver on its promises. Environmentalists’ criticism of the government’s draft Ukraine Recovery Plan has varied of “scattered” to flatly”anti-environmental” due, for example, to proposed projects that would facilitate logging. The draft plan has also been criticized for proposing to speed up a process that normally requires in-depth measurement of the environmental impact of planned industrial facilities.

For Andriy Andrusevych, a senior policy expert at the Center for Analysis and Resources “Society and Environment,” a Lviv-based think tank, the jury is still out on whether the plan will meet Zelenskyy’s political agenda of seizing the time to align the country. with the EU and its low carbon policies. The National Council for the Recovery of Ukraine from the Consequences of War, a body established by the president, is still finalizing the draft plan.

The latest version of the plan encourages energy efficiency and a low-carbon steel industry powered by clean hydrogen instead of dirty fossil fuels, Andrusevych said. The analyst sees such medium-term goals as merely “declarative”, with no economic models to support them. However, he also cautions against seeing engagements as “just window dressing.” That’s because “the political will is very strong to implement these reforms as soon as possible so that we can qualify to join the EU on these technical bases,” he said.

The bottom line is this: “If the reconstruction plan is not green, then the environmental reforms will be the last to be implemented,” he said. “If it’s a green reconstruction plan, then environmental reforms will be higher on the agenda.”


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