by Tetiana Zhavzharova
Translated by Jennifer Castner
Nations of the world planned to discuss loss and damage, while Ukraine sought to discuss the war’s consequences for the environment. Everyone was awaiting funding. Which of these hopes came true? We analyze important COP27 decisions for Ukraine.
Expectations and reality
COP’s biggest achievement this year is the agreement to establish a climate change Loss and Damage compensation fund. These are losses that countries cannot avoid and to which they cannot adapt. Examples include damaged infrastructure and property, as well as damaged natural ecosystems and cultural assets. However, we do not yet know which countries will contribute to the fund and which will have access to funding.
The 55 most vulnerable countries of the South and Oceania have long needed such a mechanism, and it was the “African” COP in Egypt that became the place where the agreement was finalized. It comes with an important clarification: wealthier nations in the G20 (which should, in fact, have to cover these losses) could not agree on who should pay and how much. China, the world’s second largest economy, refused to contribute.
“In the summer of 2023, an additional meeting will take place to develop rules and procedures in order to then make decisions about how the fund functions at COP28. Ukraine will not be among the beneficiaries, as many countries of the world suffer significantly greater losses due to climate change. However, we must actively participate in developing procedures and mechanisms, because they can then be applied to other funds for distributing financial support,” explained Svitlana Grynchuk, Deputy Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine.
Skeptics believe that it will take several years before the fund will be completely underway. They point to the fact that the 100 billion US dollars of climate finance promised last year to vulnerable countries has not yet been paid out.
Returning to COP27, there were intentions to reduce the use of coal worldwide. As a result, funding within the framework of the Partnership for a Just Energy Transition was allocated for energy reform in third world countries that are dependent on this type of carbon fuel.
“After the previous COP, countries agreed to renew their commitment to limit the global mean temperature rise to 1.5 degrees, but few countries have done so. Moreover, there were attempts at COP27 to steer the discussion toward lower ambitions with a limit of 2 degrees. Little has been done in the field of climate change adaptation. There has been action to detail the initial mechanisms for compensating for loss and damage,” said Maksym Babaiev, coordinator of the Ukrainian Climate Network (UCN), assessing the effectiveness of these meetings.
Ukraine also sought to draw the attention of the world at COP27 to the damage and losses caused by the war, as well as seeking funding for its future “green recovery” through climate funds. Ukraine planned active negotiations with other countries on market and non-market mechanisms for regulating greenhouse gas emissions. The country has been particularly interested in launching carbon markets since the days of the Kyoto Protocol and hopes to gain funding for the development of clean technologies through the sale of quotas. After all, the war in Ukraine has led to a decline in industrial production and coal generation ,and flights have been canceled, making it possible to reduce carbon emissions even more than anticipated. The carbon market established under the Paris Accords is still not functioning and the technical rules for its operation are still being negotiated.
Grynchuk concludes that more climate adaptation agreements were expected at the summit. However, they appear to have been pushed back to the next meeting. Thus, decisions on the global adaptation goal should be prepared for COP28, and decisions are already being made to double global funding for adaptation measures.
In addition to renewable energy development, the negotiations produced a new phrase – “low-carbon energy systems” – a concept that can mean investments in nuclear energy or carbon capture projects.
What did Ukraine succeed in conveying to the world at COP27?
The topic of the war in Ukraine was not a subject of negotiations at the Conference of the Parties, but in reality, the war’s impact on European energy security and global climate justice were active topics of discussion each day.
In a speech quoted by every major business publication in the world, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told world leaders that it was the Russian invasion that triggered the energy crisis that forced dozens of countries to resume coal-fired electricity production. However, the West’s general response can be summarized in the words of French President Emanuel Macron: “We will not sacrifice climate goals because of the war in Ukraine.”
For the first time in all the years of COP, Ukraine had its own pavilion, designed in the form of a missile nose-cone and where it talked about more than the war’s impact on the environment.
“This year there was notable synergy and cooperation among all stakeholders – state, business, and the public – and we acted as a united front, highlighting problematic issues,” said Svitlana Grynchuk.
COP27 was divided into thematic days, discussing different issues each day, and Ukraine presented its position on each topic. The first Ukrainian pavilion was one of the most attended, with three to four events and 300 visitors daily.
Ukraine told the world about the war’s consequences for the environment and climate, about increased greenhouse gas emissions caused by the invasion, about the war’s impact on European climate policy and on food security around the world, and about renewable energy and hydrogen.
At the “Impact of the Russian-Ukrainian war on European climate policy and the way forward” side event, experts explored in greater depth the significant challenges that Europe currently faces, challenges that are forcing greater independence from Russian fossil fuels.
Andrei Ilas, an analyst at the Finnish Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA), noted that approximately 30% of the market value of Russian fossil fuels ends up in the Russian state treasury. Europeans believe that it is Russian aggression that has driven up fossil fuel prices and spurred decarbonisation.
“The Russian war was a real push for the EU to move away from fossil fuels and invest in renewable energy. The restoration of Ukraine will also be a serious challenge for us,” said Chiara Martinelli, director of Climate Action Network (CAN) Europe, and the event’s moderator.
Another problem for Ukraine today is the complexity of calculating and verifying emissions stemming from the Russian-Ukrainian war. This challenge was discussed at a side event entitled “Dealing with military- and conflict-related emissions under the UNFCCC,” where a study of climate damage caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine was presented.
Representatives of Ukraine’s Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources together with the APENA 3 project shared those statistics at the “War waste: challenges for Ukraine, impact on the environment and climate” side event.
“We once again declared to all of our global partners that the problem of restoring Ukraine is acute for us today. Waste from the destruction of buildings, infrastructure facilities, and military action has a tremendous impact on the environment and climate change. Soil and water are polluted, people suffer. The more such waste accumulates, the more poorly recycling mechanisms work, and the more we will experience negative impacts on the environment and life,” said Olena Vusyk, a lawyer for the RST (Reform Support Team) for waste management reform at Ukraine’s Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources. “We can’t do it on our own and we need the world’s help.”
In Ukraine, a draft plan for management of waste from the destruction was developed, one that generally provides for processing, reuse, and storage. The Ukrainian side invited international experts to participate in creating the document, given that Ukraine is not the first country in the world to face the issue of proper disposal of war waste.
Discussion of the role of gender equality as a means to decarbonization and the green recovery was a pleasant surprise. “The green recovery can be taken as a starting point not just for decarbonization and environmental modernization, but also for a social transformation,” said Oksana Aliieva, coordinator of the Climate and Energy program at the Heinrich Böll Foundation’s Kyiv office.
Ukraine was also active on COP27’s agriculture day. The war in Ukraine destroyed existing logistics, leading to shortages and a rise in food prices for countries in the Global South. It is estimated that 70 million people will face food supply challenges due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Considerable attention was paid to the need to support the agriculture sector, Green Grain Routes, and land improvement practices that adapt Ukrainian agriculture to drier conditions.
At another side event, the Ukrainian public and the expert community considered “Strengthening energy security with the aid of solutions based on local renewable energy” as the optimal solution for reducing dependence on coal and Russian oil and gas.
During his presentation, Maksim Babaiev expressed a credo that, “Citizens and communities have the right to access electricity no matter what is happening in the world.” He also cited examples of how mini-solar arrays have helped Ukrainians survive the occupation.
German MEP Michael Bloss noted that renewable energy sources have now received a clear label of “energy of peace and the world.” The EU is developing energy independence practices, among which the European Green Deal and RePower EU programs occupy a special place.
However, it is necessary to reform and recreate a new energy market, decentralize energy supply as much as possible, and support local communities in producing their own renewable energy. Also on the agenda, Bloss added, is the question of how the EU can help Ukraine survive the war.
“In addition to the war’s consequences, we demonstrated that we are more than the war and that we have comprehensive plans for a green recovery – climate-neutral development using green technologies. We have shown that we are ready to reformat the economy in a more environmentally friendly way. These statements were received very positively by the world and we received numerous proposals for actual projects,” Svitlana Grynchuk assessed the events.
What did Ukraine gain from the negotiations?
The Ukrainian authorities’ initiative to create a global platform for assessing environmental damage stemming from war prompted the greatest support. The Ministry of Environmental Protection provided figures that CO2 emissions in Ukraine in 2022 have already increased by 23% compared to 2021 due to the war. Ukraine has already developed seven methods for calculating environmental damage that are recognized and in use in Ukraine, but not yet valid outside its borders. The World Bank presented its own study for “Rapid Damage and Needs Assessment,” and Dixi group also presented “100 Days of War: Consequences for the Ukrainian Environment.”
The United States offered its support to ensure that these approaches remain Ukrainian-driven, while incorporating the experience and requirements of other countries in the international community as much as possible. Methods selected must be able to provide the most objective assessment of damages in international courts.
“We receive technical and advisory support from the EU. We are developing a memorandum outlining legal support and preparation of claims in international courts. We have to show that war is expensive and that it leads to environmental damage and financial losses,” Grynchuk explained.
Ukraine also presented a new instrument for Ukraine’s post-war restoration at COP27 – the Climate Office.
“The idea of creating a climate office arose several years ago, and the European Commission is ready to help implement the idea today through the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ). The goal will be to provide advisory support and increase institutional capacity in the implementation of climate policy. Not only the Ministry of Natural Resources, but other ministries will also be involved,” Grynchuk said.
The public noted lobbying agribusiness interests and the significant attention the government paid to establishing “Green Grain Corridors” for food exports from Ukraine.
“As for Green Grain Corridors, we must unite all countries and restore logistics that suffered from the war,” Grynchuk said.
The gradual replacement of vehicles with electric vehicles or hydrogen technology cars was also announced.
“In addition to the intergovernmental negotiation process, the COP is a concentration of experience, research results, established methodologies, new ideas, and long-term plans from around the world,” summed up Oleksandr Muliar, director of the UNDP’s “Support for Green Recovery in Ukraine” project. “Unfortunately, there is a war going on and there are urgent issues that the UN is joining in resolving. We cannot allow Ukraine to lag behind other countries.”
The question of alternative energy sources related to energy security was important. For Ukraine, as an agricultural country, generating clean energy from biomass is very promising. Energy efficiency of public and private buildings and waste management solutions are also critical.
This year and next, Ukraine faces an extremely significant challenge in the collection and reporting of greenhouse gas emissions. Together with the Ministry of Energy, the Ministry of Natural Resources will continue discussion of an integrated energy and climate plan in order to complete the preparation process.
A strategy to avoid balancing nuclear power plants through coal-fired thermal power plants is coming into being and green hydrogen, industrial scale battery storage, pumped storage plants, wind generation, electricity demand management, and others will be needed.
Work also continues on development of a unified methodology for the preparation of regional adaptation plans, something that must be integrated with recovery plans.
COP27 outcomes for Ukraine
“Ukraine is positioning itself as a country en route to decarbonization, but one which lacks a clear vision of how to achieve this. We need to develop the means to restore the economy and the energy system, both of which have experienced and continue to experience crushing blows. It is clear that recovery cannot be based on old technologies and fossil fuels. Today, an integrated approach to the development of the country’s energy supply without fossil fuels or coal is needed. Indeed, new economic sectors based on renewable energy must be created,” concludes Oleh Savitskyi, Campaign Manager at the NGO Razom We Stand.
“There are always many initiatives at COP, but their implementation is insufficient, and there is a gap between plans and what is actually being implemented,” noted Oksana Aliieva. “Compliance is very important, and Ukraine has repeatedly noted that it is in compliance with its preliminary commitments to reduce emissions.”
According to Aliieva, Ukraine is in a better position than countries of the Global South and Island States, so it needs not only to seek restoration funds, but also offer solutions.
“In a situation where countries compete for climate finance, and the existing or potential effects of climate change on a particular territory are a success indicator, Ukraine risks being in a losing position if it assumes only the role of victim. Indeed, in the eyes of the global climate community, Ukraine is an industrial state and is also responsible for climate change, and remains less vulnerable to its consequences,” Oksana Aliieva analyzes.
Main image credit: Angelina Davydova