Why Ukraine Should Urgently Transition to Green Energy

Tuesday, 12 September 2023

There is some misunderstanding of the purpose and benefits of decarbonisation, which means transitioning to an economy not reliant on fossil fuels such as gas, coal, and oil.

Furthermore, doubts of Ukrainians persist about whether it's worth making efforts and investments in this direction, especially given the current circumstances.

Is the transition to a green economy really just money spending. Is wartime the worst time for it? The chief environmental advisor to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Yevheniia Afanasienko, answers these question in her column Green Recovery: Why Ukraine's Reconstruction Must Consider Climate Commitments.

In the 1990s, the author writes, it became evident that the destructive climate changes resulting from greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels were irreversible and required immediate action. At that time, over 190 countries voluntarily committed themselves to reduce emissions by 5% compared to 1990 levels under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol.

"Now, we see with despair that the globally declared goals have not been achieved, climate change and its consequences—floods, fires, abnormal heat, earthquakes—have become so devastating that for the sake of preserving normal life on the planet, it is no longer about reduction but complete cessation of emissions," the expert notes.

These commitments, she says, were enshrined in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, under which countries must achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 to prevent global warming from exceeding 2°C (and preferably staying below 1.5°C) above pre-industrial levels.

"The tragic events associated with war are not a reason to postpone decarbonisation. They are an even stronger impetus to give up fossil fuels. If we do not invest in transitioning Ukraine to a carbon-free economy today, we will have to pay hundreds of times more for rebuilding homes destroyed by floods and forest fires, for lost harvests due to drought tomorrow for treating diseases directly caused by environmental pollution," wrote Afanasienko.

Not to mention, in the carbon economy paradigm, the author points out, Ukraine is currently losing billions due to losses of energy carriers in networks and buildings. Ukraine subsidides polluting enterprises, mines, and transportation from own taxes to keep "low rates" and not disappoint the electorate.

Meanwhile, according to a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the price of energy from fossil fuels has tripled since 2010, while the cost of renewable energy continues to decrease, creating favourable conditions for a green transformation.

Yevheniia Afanasienko reminds us that Ukraine committed to the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 and later published its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC).

"We promised to achieve a fully climate-neutral economy by 2060," writes the expert.

According to her, the programmes and strategies for transitioning to a green economy involve a significant increase in the share of renewable energy sources, a shift to carbon-free transportation, energy efficiency, a crucial role for green hydrogen, and nuclear energy.

She also notes that EU legislation encourages Ukrainian businesses to make necessary changes if they want to compete in international markets.

International financial institutions are no longer considering loans for projects that do not contribute to the transition to a green economy and do not align with the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement regarding adaptation to climate change.

"It is impossible to estimate the losses Ukraine's economy will incur if it does not make an urgent transition to green energy. Billions of dollars may go unspent, and instead, Ukraine could save through decarbonisation. Of course, this process will not happen instantly, as it is impossible to invest in a green economy this year and recoup the costs next year while having a flourishing country," Afanasienko argues.

In her view, Ukraine needs to simultaneously address two tasks: rebuild and restore the economic and social base destroyed, ensuring it supports the transition to a carbon-free economy.

Ukraine's reconstruction must contribute to fulfilling its climate commitments.

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