What We Did in Our Fourth Year
Ecoaction descriptive report - April 2020 - March 2021
On March 13, our organization turned four years old. During that year, we grew significantly: our team and governing bodies expanded, two new members joined and now there are 30 of them, some employees moved to managerial positions, and new work areas emerged.
And most importantly — your support has grown! We have seen another 7,000 supporters — people actively following us and supporting our work — join us. Moreover, we finally have Friends, a community of people supporting us financially on a regular basis. The Friends program has just started, but we already have 42 wonderful people with us and more of them join daily. You can read more about the program here while our team will further tell how we changed the world during our fourth year.
Executive Director of Ecoaction
“Though this year was not that pleasant, COVID did not significantly affect us, the organization was not paralyzed. We worked from home and that was fine”.
The fourth Ecoaction year for me is COVID + strategic goals + friends.
First, for Ecoaction, as for all organizations, 2020 was about COVID as well as keeping the team efficient and working in such an uncertain environment — and I believe we succeeded. Though this year was not that pleasant, COVID did not significantly affect us, the organization was not paralyzed. We worked from home and that was fine.
There was hardly anything that could be done here — people managed to hold on themselves. We went together for coffee in Zoom before work. Every month I did all sorts of polls about how everyone was feeling. Had everything been bad, we would have some had special discussions on what could be changed. But no such need arose. Later we decided to take home chairs and buy headphones for those who lacked them.
At first, when nothing was clear, we even came up with an idea of making photo-reproductions of paintings to support not only working but also informal communication. Then we had to restructure our work and move all our offline activities online or postpone them. But everyone did well and coped.
Secondly, it is really great that this year we did manage to update our long-term goals. It was not easy, we spent a night on July planning, worked for a few months, but in the end we determined what we are doing, where we are going, and what we want to achieve. Transport as one of our activities was renewed, a new activity of adaptation to climate change was launched, and work with communities grew into the national level work.
And thirdly, we launched the Friends of Ecoaction program. We have been long striving for this; we prepared a strategy, a bunch of different concepts, chose them for a long time, and agreed everything with our members. In fact, we were working out this system for a whole year, and before that we thought, dreamed, and planned for a few more years — and here it is at last. However, it is still a draft project that we will develop further to enable people to both volunteer and provide financial support, and we will create other tools to develop an active community.
We also got new department heads — people from the team who moved to new positions this year. It is nice to see employees growing. We had hired a lot of new people and recently we have realized that we lack desks for everyone in the office. We made up individual development plans — all employees assessed their yearly work and developed recommendations on how and in what directions to develop not only professionally but also personally. It is also important for the team that people do not tread water and feel they are growing.
Volunteer Involvement Coordinator
“Community is the best support in the times of pandemic and uncertainty”.
The fourth Ecoaction year showed me that the most valuable thing we have is a community of our supporters: volunteers, friends, subscribers to newsletters and social networks, and partner organizations. It is with these people’s support that we managed to stay optimistic and were able to quickly respond to the challenges of activism in the pandemic. Of course, everyone was a bit shocked at first for it was impossible to meet, eat cookies together, and hug each other, but on the other hand, these challenges gave impetus to try new forms of activism and teamwork.
For example, the Environmental English Speaking Club — our volunteers’ initiative enabling participants to learn more about environmental issues and solutions and simultaneously practice English — moved online, which allowed us to attract speakers from other countries: Norway, the UK, Australia, and Vietnam. This has significantly broadened our views since every country has its own interesting approaches to solving environmental problems.
We tried a lot of new things in activism: online flashmobs, mass appeals to ministries and the president, and involving the whole country in collecting photographic evidence of nitrate pollution. To promote public transport, we did what Kyivpastrans is not yet capable of — we made detailed public transport schedules for Zhylyanska and Saksaganskogo streets in Kyiv. Hence, we had to improve our data skills and learn to use graphic editors.
Offline activities got more creative, especially in terms of props. We realized that having cardboard boxes and a good team we can even build a train.
Not to lose touch with the team members, we met for beer online; when it got too hard not to see each other offline, we started making short trips to Kyiv suburbs to take a walk and talk. One such team-building walk even turned into a rally on the Dnieper. There is nothing more unifying than trying to unfold a huge banner on the river using 10 kayaks and at the same time take beautiful photos and videos with a drone. Wildlife not only inspires you to continue your work more actively, but also gives impetus to new “wild” activities and ideas that we will tell about in the near future.
In addition, last year, interest in environmental volunteering among the activists from different regions of Ukraine increased greatly. Currently, we can only offer such people online recruitment options. However, we increasingly want to develop regional volunteer centers, so next year we will have more all-Ukrainian activities and I already feel how cool it will be!
Head of Climate and Transport Department
“Based on public expectations and statements made by Ukraine in support of the European Green Course, we expect an ambitious climate goal to reduce emissions in Ukraine”.
An important part of our work is to represent the public in the process of climate policy development, first of all, during the development of the second Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC2) — our country’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. In Ukraine, several NGOs are involved in this process, including Ecoaction. We visited working groups, prepared positions, followed processes, went to official meetings, prepared comments — we did everything to make people’s voices heard and considered.
Based on the work done, public positions, agreements signed by Ukraine, and public statements, we expect Ukraine’s scenario to be indeed ambitious and provide for the actual reduction of greenhouse gas emissions — just what we demanded. We will see how ambitious Ukraine’s emissions reduction target will be, but it is good that the current scenario has every chance of being better than the previous one. That was our, so to speak, unambitious goal.
The president has previously announced plans to reduce emissions to 42-36% of 1990 levels, but the new scenario is still being developed. Ukraine claimed of its joining the European Green Course, which obliges Ukraine to be more ambitious. So now Ukraine is even considering a possible scenario of transferring to a carbon-neutral economy by 2050. Also, there will be a more ambitious scenario by 2030. And most recently, in the National Economic Strategy until 2030, the government has for the first time officially defined the country’s long-term climate goal: “… economic growth considering the Sustainable Development Goals and the need to achieve climate neutrality by 2060”. This is not as ambitious as scientists demand — by 2050 — but still better than all previous plans.
At the same time, we have seen that some ministries do not understand their role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, we also worked to ensure that these ministries could understand it after the approval of the Roadmap for Climate Targets for different sectors. We sent them inquiries and strived to ensure that this document was not just published on the Ecoaction website, but indeed had weight and was integrated into various sectors’ strategies and plans: energy, transport, agriculture, and so on. It is not only the Ministry of Environmental Protection but also other structures that are responsible for this. This process will last into the next year.
Also, as part of the Roadmap promotion to the local level, we also five member organizations of the Ukrainian Climate Network, which worked to promote climate goals in the local 2020 elections. We worked with parties and mayoral candidates to include in their programs goals that would lead to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in Ukraine.
Another important activity is sharing knowledge. We told people about climate change and prepared a lot of materials on the topic as well as a separate longread containing a lot of information and links to a variety of our materials to help people who are unaware of the topic to better understand this problem. We worked with artists, launched flashmobs, and went to rallies. For example, during the EU-Ukraine meeting, we ran a campaign on the Green Course and showed that Ukraine now promises a lot, declares that we are “green”, but its actions do not follow suit.
We not only did advocacy work, but also tried to explain and involve people in this process as much as possible. We have a page on requests to ministries so that people could know about their rights and their ability to influence the government through such tool and so that authorities could see that people demand an ambitious climate policy.
In addition, we started a new but important activity for us — climate change adaptation. We now understand more about the topic, explore different practices and approaches, participate in the national adaptation strategy development, and some of our strategy proposals have been adopted.
This year was completely different from what we planned, but overall, I am looking back and see how much was done, and I am glad we could quickly adapt to the changes and do so much.
Acting Head of the Industry Greening Department
“We hope that our study, though having not revealed any large-scale betrayal, will still be an impetus for further work in this direction”.
At Ecoaction, I coordinate the Land Matrix project. Its main task is to monitor investments, search for cases of purchase or lease (only lease in the case of Ukraine) of agricultural land around the world, and enter this information into a global database. This applies to large land tracts — 200+ hectares. We collect information from open sources: company reports, news resources, and government websites. For example, we monitor land acquisition permits issued by the Antimonopoly Committee.
When we started in 2017, there were 70-80 cases in Ukraine. Now there are about 300 of them. We have already collected an array of quite objective data on the concentration of land in the hands of large companies. Based on these data, we made Ukraine’s profile — a publication showing where in Ukraine there are cases of such large-scale land accumulation and what their features are.
Companies owning large tracts of agricultural land — hundreds of thousands of hectares — significantly affect the lives of those communities within which they operate. For example, they displace small farms and hinder the development of more sustainable agriculture. There are cases when villages begin to decay having only one large company for which the whole village works.
Land concentration is also harmful to the environment and causes soil degradation as it entails intensive farming that exploits resources, in particular land. Besides, it involves large-scale application of pesticides, herbicides, and mineral fertilizers, which, in high concentrations, harm ecosystems.
So, when we identified the location of large-scale land concentration cases, we decided to check whether this land is used responsibly. For example, crop rotation, that is growing crops on the same land in a certain sequence to enhance good harvests and avoid soil depletion, is a prerequisite for crop production.
Two years ago, we conducted research in several areas, but no crop rotation violations were found there. Instead, we saw that the slopes and areas near the rivers were gradually being plowed up, which is illegal. From riverbank areas, for example, pesticides or chemicals get into the water faster. Hence, we asked the State Ecological Inspectorate to come and see — and they told us that there was nothing wrong there, everything was okay. However, even the cadastral map shows that the plots are being plowed up in some places. It is a nightmare that we cannot yet handle.
And this year we went further and conducted and presented a research study on whether land concentration affects the environment and society. Researchers have not found any significant impact on the socio-economic situation. However, this is not because everything is fine, but because as a phenomenon concentration emerged in the 2000s, when land began to be leased en masse. Meanwhile, complicated socio-economic situation in rural areas was inherited from the Soviet Union. Concentration simply intensified the process while connection between the land concentration and the environment is obvious. Growing corn, sunflower, rapeseed, and soybeans — economically profitable crops depleting soils — is increasing.
The uniqueness of this study is that it can be a starting point for the future. For instance, the EU has officially recognized land concentration as a problem and developed recommendations on how to avoid it. Nevertheless, this has also happened under the pressure of social movements, which had conducted a similar study and had proved concentration impact on farmers, food security, rural areas, etc. They had showed that land is not just a commodity, but has an important social function. The EU is now trying to fight concentration.
Therefore, we hope that our study, though having not revealed any large-scale betrayal, will still be an impetus for further work in this direction. In words, Ukraine supports small-scale farming, but in fact agricultural holdings, which in the end also organize educational courses for farmers, are growing. If we do not change the approach to supporting farming and do not strengthen control over the land lease (and after the land market launch — over its purchase), the situation will only get worse. The study contains recommendations for the Government and the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on measures to be taken to ensure that the negative effects of land concentration do not become inevitable.
Head of Energy Department
“Increasingly more coal towns realize the need to plan their own transformation now. This is crucial, because for a truly just energy transition, their active participation, their voice, is critically necessary”.
We work with the Platform for Sustainable Development of Coal Towns of Donetsk Region. This is a union of nine mining towns interested in collaborating for just transformation, developing other activities in the region, creating new opportunities for local people, and improving their quality of life. This year we faced COVID, elections, and partial change of local authorities, and despite all this, the Platform continues to actively move forward. This proves that people are really interested in development and that the things we offer them and encourage them to do are relevant to them.
Moreover, the Platform is expanding. It was joined by the newly created Bilozersk and Novodonetsk united territorial communities. Thus, increasingly more coal towns realize the need to plan their own transformation now. This is crucial, because for a truly just energy transition, their active participation, their voice, is critically necessary.
The Platform is currently developing a joint transformation strategy. This is the first such local document in Ukraine that plans towns’ development given that the mines are likely to be closed. Here we were also not stopped by COVID: we held one meeting in Kyiv, and then moved online; we continue working together on strategic goals in several key areas and we plan to have a finished document by summer. In this project, we are supported by the USAID project “Economic Support to Eastern Ukraine”, the EU project “FORBIZ — Creating a Better Business Environment”, and the “New Energy — New Opportunities for Sustainable Development of Donbass” project implemented together with Luhansk Regional Human Rights Center “Alternative” and Germanwatch.
However, local shifts are not the only ones. A just transformation has finally appeared on the national government’s agenda. This is partly the result of our work, probably. Three or four years ago, no one thought about this, and now not just the issue is being talked of in the “offices”, but even work on a state program for coal regions transformation until 2030 has started. It is also gratifying that Platform towns’ representatives were invited to the Coordination Center for the Transformation of Coal Regions established by the Cabinet of Ministers. Thus, towns can now influence the development of national policies that affect their future.
In addition, together with the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, we have studied what people in the towns we work with think about the prospects of living in the region in case of mine closures and learned what, in their opinion, a just transformation should be like. On the one hand, we have gained a fairly basic understanding of public opinion, on the other — taking it as a basis, in the future it will be possible to do some more in-depth research and evaluation.
Renewable Energy Coordinator
“Previously, for some time we had no a person fully engaged in this area. So far we have only started our work, so there were not many grand but a lot of interesting things”.
The most important thing that happened in the campaign for the transition to 100% renewable energy (RES) is that I joined it. Previously, for some time we had no a person fully engaged in this area. So far we have only started our work, so there were not many grand but a lot of interesting things.
When I just came, I met a lot with related experts, Ecoaction friends. One of them told me exactly this: “You got into a mess” — because the topic is technically complex and politically dirty. Sometimes, to understand all these market issues and how everything is changing (because our government is constantly changing and each team has new plans and concepts), I had to work and listen to seminars, lectures, and trainings. Some friends joked that I was paid for listening to webinars. During the first few months I was listening to things like that non-stop; in the browser, I had a bunch of bookmarks with articles, which sometimes had to be turned into the website news.
We worked much on communication, did a series of posts about RES myths, and even shoot videos for TikTok. We also wrote news and articles, and then read people’s comments and saw that some Ukrainians are much more interested in reading about how old I am and where I studied than what is written in the text itself. It is an important experience — to see how people react to this topic and that they are more interested in people than problems or prospects.
We have also worked hard to transform RES lessons for students into an online course. We have precisely described everything we want and how it should look like; we are already working on the course creation and will soon shoot it. Expect it at EdEra soon.
We have also studied various forms of support for RES development in Ukraine. While there is a green tariff, it is only a temporary measure. Auctions are finally to be launched this year, but this is not the only way to support RES development. We will soon present this study and tell what the energy market in Ukraine should look like.
Nuclear Energy Coordinator
“Khmelnytskyi NPP’s completion has not been started — and this is good”.
This year, we have begun to focus more on collaborating with activists and local communities — in areas close to and feeling the impact of nuclear power plants. We have started to actively cooperate with Zaporizhzhia region. In particular, we held two joint events: co-organized a separate panel at the local environmental forum in late 2020 and held a joint discussion with activists from Zaporizhzhia and Dnipropetrovsk regions in February 2021. We discussed the pros and cons of nuclear energy. We found no pros and, therefore, decided that it is necessary to act in a consolidated manner so that nuclear energy would start shrinking in Ukraine.
Together with NGO Ecosens (Zaporizhzhia), we made a publication answering the most important questions about the Zaporizhzhia NPP. In general, we enhanced communication in the region — wrote joint articles and spoke via social networks.
Of course, we continued to cooperate with other regions. This year, Energoatom again started to take an active part in the Khmelnytskyi NPP completion, and we are actively opposing this, in particular through the collaboration with local activists. For example, together with the Khmelnytskyi Energy Cluster, we went to the Public Council meeting at the Khmelnytskyi Regional State Administration and raised the issue of the “new” old units of the Khmelnytskyi NPP. As a result, the same public council sent several letters requesting information about their completion.
Our President has also stated that he wants to develop nuclear energy. Now there are talks that we need to not only complete the Khmelnytskyi blocks, but also build another block at the Rivne plant.
But Khmelnytskyi NPP’s completion has not been started — and this is good. We are constantly monitoring this process and responding to the government’s attempts to continue it. After all, in addition to a whole bunch of problems regarding this project, its current completion is illegal — the Ministry of Environment has not yet provided a conclusion on the Environmental Impact Assessment, without which completion should not be started. Cross-border consultations have not been completed yet, and international experts also point to various shortcomings in their assessments.
Moreover, this is the question of common sense: why should we complete such a potentially dangerous facility under a Soviet project, using structures that have been unserved for 35 years and are designed for reactors that only Russia can make for us? There is no assessment of the structures’ condition and their compliance with modern safety standards, and there is no money for such assessments either. Meanwhile there are better alternatives — renewable energy is already faster, cheaper, and, most importantly, safer.
Finally, there is another great news — In 2020, we could also launch a monthly newsletter on nuclear energy, which has already got 300 subscribers. I believe this is a good indicator, because very few people are interested in this topic. We have written many articles on nuclear energy issues.
“While cycling and public transport were developing in Ukraine, car use did not fall last year, so the effect is moderately positive”.
There have been many changes in sustainable transport development in Ukraine; nevertheless, to reduce emissions of air pollutants and greenhouse gases, it is necessary to not only develop sustainable transport, but also reduce the use of dirty one — and this has not happened. While cycling and public transport were developing in Ukraine, car use did not fall last year, so the effect is moderately positive.
Firstly, many projects were launched in Ukraine to support public transport development in cities. This does not regard our activities, but it is clear that now public transport will be developed using EU funding. Secondly, the Ministry of Internal Affairs finally introduced cameras to automatically record violations on the roads. So far, they had only recorded speeding, but in 2021 a camera recording passage by public transport lanes was first introduced in Ukraine.
Speed control increases safety, and fixation of pulling out to the traffic lane helps public transport, if there are more such cameras, to move without congestion and delays. So far, it is difficult to talk about any effect since cameras have just been introduced, but it is already a big shift and we hope that it will develop further. Ecoaction has been working hard to get public transport surveillance cameras introduced, and we are excited to see this progress.
Also last year, attitude towards micromobility changed. Increasingly more people consider it not an entertainment, but a mode of transport. Cycling strategies and concepts have long been developed in Ukraine’s cities and UTCs, infrastructure is being built, and this year, for the first time, cycling strategy has been developed at the national level.
Nonetheless, there were many negative things. The pandemic and quarantine contributed to the fact that some people began to drive oftener. In the spring of 2020, a shortsighted decision to stop public transport was made, which greatly affected the decisions of people who were hesitant to buy a car. This is a negative factor, because public transport should be a priority. Of course, public transport now looks dangerous for fear of infection, but it still has to be a priority transport since our cities are unable to withstand so many cars. Kyiv and Lviv used to be the most congested cities, but now there are traffic jams even where there were none.
Recently, under the Euro-blasphemers’ pressure, a law on preferential customs clearance of old European cars has been passed. Despite the benefit, most likely such car owners will still not clear customs in anticipation of the next similar law, as it was several times before. This is bad, for in the event of an accident, unregistered cars will be innocent. It is also unlikely that their emissions are included in the greenhouse gas emissions inventory since transport emissions are accounted for by the calculation method.
The general problem is that current government actions make cars a priority transport in Ukraine. For example, after the budget changes were made due to COVID, various expenses were cut, but expenses for road construction and reconstruction were almost unchanged; and this trend continues. Road repairs are necessary, but such expenses should include sustainable transport development: railways, public transport, and micromobility. Unfortunately, this did not happen.
Agriculture Greening Coordinator
“Communities presented ideas for sustainable initiatives in their areas. The event raised such great interest that some speakers could not even join Zoom due to restrictions”.
A very desirable and long-awaited breakthrough happened this summer. A working group on the Nitrates Directive implementation in Ukraine was established and started working actively at the Ministries of Environment and Economy. It was for the first time in several years of trying to find out at what adoption stage a number of relevant documents are and “when will they finally be adopted?” that I could listen to discussions from living people, experts, and officials — albeit online, it was still joyful. There were monthly meetings in summer and autumn. I hope that things have indeed started to change.
In the working group, we have finalized two key documents on this directive: the Methodology for Identification of Vulnerable Areas to Nitrate Pollution and the Code of Best Practice. Draft documents have been prepared and are being approved by various authorities since November. One of these documents, formerly known as the “Code” and slightly amended after the seven rounds of hell approval, was made public for discussions. Now this working group initiator — the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Agriculture — is being reformatted again. And it is not yet clear whether this important work will be continued by the Ministry of Agriculture, which will appear after the ministries’ division.
Also this year, we have actively worked with six communities that joined our project “Prospects of Sustainable Development of Rural Areas”. Due to this project, we could study and enhance communities’ capacities to create environmentally and socially responsible and economically viable initiatives for villages. Due to quarantine restrictions, we held all our meetings, lectures, and trainings online, which, of course, was a challenge in terms of building full-fledged communication and working relationships. However, in September we finally met live while going on a study tour to farms that, in our opinion, set a good example of using sustainable practices in rural areas, and not only in agriculture, but also in communities’ development in general, because villages are also about social and cultural activities.
But what impressed me most was the final part of this project, when participants presented the ideas for initiatives in their areas. The participants became more active and made amazing presentations of either future or nearly launched projects. The event raised such great interest that some speakers could not even join Zoom due to restrictions — we did not even expect it and did not prepare for such an influx of people. It was very nice, but at that moment it was stressful.
Some of the presented projects — at least two out of six — were already at such a low start that I believe they will succeed. Meanwhile, we are now preparing for a new longer-term project on villages’ sustainable development.
Industrial Pollution Coordinator
“The problem of the emissions from stationary sources requires an urgent response. Implementation of the legislation which regulates industrial pollution will stimulate enterprises to renovation and reduce the amount of emissions”.
This year, on Clean Air Day, we launched a special project “Second Breath”. It contains information on the main air polluting substances, impact of polluted air on human health, and mortality statistics. But the most important thing is that everyone can use letter templates and, for example, file a complaint with the Air Quality Management Authority about high levels of air pollution or suggest effective measures to improve air quality in their city or region.
In addition, we held a competition among NGOs from all over Ukraine and selected six ones to be supported in 2021 to promote measures to improve air quality and raise public awareness of this issue. These are non-governmental organizations from Kryvyi Rih, Cherkasy, Khmilnyk, Lutsk, Slovyansk, and Odessa.
In general, the air pollution topic was very relevant this year. Kyiv repeatedly occupied the top positions in the world’s ranking of cities with the dirtiest air. The reason for this included, in particular, large-scale forest fires in the spring of 2020.
Also, industry emissions should be mentioned. Finally, the draft Law 4167 “On Prevention, Reduction and Control of Industrial Pollution” was included in Verkhovna Rada agenda and considered by people’s deputies. Unfortunately, it lacked five votes to be adopted in the first reading, but we believe that it will be adopted in 2021.
After all, the problem of stationary sources emissions needs to be addressed immediately. The draft law implementation will encourage enterprises to modernize and implement the best available technologies. And, most importantly, emissions will be reduced.
CAN Network Coordinator for Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA)
“In 2020 we saw how important it is to keep in touch with colleagues. We continued to share experiences, kept in touch, and everyone repeated that it was great to have a platform to meet”.
The Climate Action Network (CAN) was created under the UN climate talks in 1989. Since then, this group of people and experts from different countries have coordinated themselves mainly during the negotiations to prepare positions and monitor negotiations’ progress together, because one person is unable to be aware of all the topics at once. When there is a group of people, organizations, everyone follows their topic, exchanges information, and thus becomes more prepared. This was the main reason for the network’s emergence. Then this all developed at other events and conferences and expanded thematically and geographically.
In Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA), the network emerged in 2008 under the same talks. The public gathered there, wanted to monitor their country’s position, and, perhaps, to influence it in some way. But not everyone was prepared or could, for example, lack understanding of all the processes occurring simultaneously. Moreover, there was no place where people could exchange ideas and news about the most important learnings during the day and so on. That is why this network emerged.
CAN has now got 20 regional divisions — we are one of them — and they are all very different in size, impact, and power. There is, for example, CAN Europe, and there are CANs at the national levels — in the USA or Australia. They differ in their focus. In our region, information exchange has always been the most important thing, because it has always been lacking. It is usually difficult for NGOs in our region to work, because even if they want to find information, they are often denied access to it. Similarly, it can be difficult for them to influence authorities and grow. Therefore, it is important for them to have support, people with similar experiences and problems, and be able to communicate.
Luckily, thanks to the international CAN we can talk about small organizations’ activities or bring their requirements internationally. And it works the other way around: if something happens at the international level, we can translate it and, roughly speaking, explain what is happening in the world now to interested organizations having no opportunities to join international platforms.
Ecoaction is an active network member. The CAN EECCA network coordinator, Ira Stavchuk, was the executive director of Ecoaction, and later I became coordinator. It has always been important for Ecoaction to support the network’s development, establish connections, and share experience. For some organizations, Ecoaction is a very strong organization, and it is vital to be able to share this strength and help colleagues from other countries. Secondly, the network provides Ecoaction with access to international platforms and colleagues from other countries. If we want to strengthen our own voice, thanks to the network our news can be easily shared internationally. Again, this works both ways.
This year, all offline activities of the network were paused. But in 2020 we saw how important it is to keep in touch with colleagues. We continued to share experiences, kept in touch, and everyone repeated that it was great to have a platform to meet.
In addition, we launched a series of “Climate Dialogues” meetings. Last year they involved two conferences: the first one held in spring for the Eastern Partnership countries and the second one — in autumn for Central Asia. The idea was similar for both. At first, we gathered the public and invited additional experts for the public to learn something new. The second stage a few weeks later involved a meeting with politicians, where the public could already express their position and, based on previous discussions, ask questions and get answers.
We have also examined public influence on decision-making in Kyrgyzstan. It was a CAN network project involving four countries: the Philippines, Kenya, Morocco, and Kyrgyzstan. We have almost no similar research, but the results are obvious: the public does not have enough leverage or the tools are very superficial — they exist but you decide nothing.
In the end of the year, we published a climate policy review of all the 11 countries we work with. Within the review, we analyzed the climate goals declared by the countries and issued the report just before the 5th anniversary of the Paris Agreement.
Two years ago, the network began to change its course from being a negotiation group to becoming more activistic. CAN began to reconsider its role in society and to support small organizations more, not only during big events. Besides, the 2020 negotiations were postponed and our new strategy became very relevant. Hence, we decided to run an online campaign “World we want”, which was to share the activists’ stories and tell about the climate change impact on communities. These were videos about those who are already feeling climate change effects and their consequences, what they are doing, and what they are demanding.
There were five stories from our region — one of them was from Ukraine about Slovyansk, where lakes are drying up. This campaign was quite successful and will develop further. We created a separate platform for it, made many subtitles for videos from other countries, and we were also translated by foreign colleagues. It was a great exchange of stories that can be told further.
National Coordinator of the CEE Bankwatch Network for Investment Greening
“Essentially, our job is what any other NGO does — we make sure our money is used properly”.
Bankwatch ensures that projects financed via loans from international development banks (IFC and, World Bank Group banks, such as the EBRD or the EIB) do not harm society and environment — that is, meet sustainable development goals. In Ukraine, I also monitor what projects are being implemented. We mainly consider the largest projects since they usually involve the largest credit cost and, therefore, the largest violations.
We check bank websites, monitor new projects, and follow the news, newsletters, and news from corporations. Then we monitor these projects’ implementation.
The most interesting part of the job is the fact-finding missions, when you go “to the field”, to various areas, and see how it all happens, whether violations do take place, and talk to the locals. Thus, it is possible to immediately show the facts of violations to banks and ask them to come and see for themselves that they are financing violators.
It is important to monitor this work, because international banks are financed by different member- countries. For example, if a bank lends to projects in Ukraine, to make this possible, Ukraine also pays contributions to the Bank from taxpayers’ money. That is, if banks come and fund projects violating our rights for our own money, this is wrong. Essentially, our job is what any other NGO does — we make sure our money is used properly.
For example, we monitor OKKO projects financed by the EBRD since 2001. This is a long-term relationship involving huge loans. This year, the news reported about $70 million from the IFC and the EBRD spent on corporate culture. Corporate culture is about supporting people. Still, if you look at OKKO’s practices and how they install gas stations… There is a known case of a gas station at Revutsky street when activists were approached by titushky and then intimidated or persecuted — these are things that violate human rights. Again, the question is why we should pay for it.
We are also involved in the development of the Green Cities Action Plan in Kyiv. At an initial meeting with the EBRD we said we were monitoring the project and wanted to participate in the plan’s development. They contacted us, invited us to a meeting, and asked for support. This is crucial since this demonstrates trust in us and enables us to influence the plan’s development.
This action plan identifies Kyiv’s development areas, in which projects will be funded by the EBRD. Of these, air, water, and water quality and adaptation to climate change are currently priority areas. It is important for us to join the discussions, because the action plan still needs to be finalized. Though the areas have already been identified, they need to be worked out and, at public discussions, it is necessary to say what exactly we need and what aspects should be considered.
The most important thing in the work of a non-governmental organization is transparency. Previously, we have honestly told about the most important things we had done during 2020. Now we will show where we got money for this work from and what we spent it on.
Expenses of the Organization in 2020