Ecoaction Experiments in Its Fifth Year
“On February 24, our life and work were drastically changed by the war. Thus, writing this report is a bittersweet experience: on the one hand, it all seems so distant now, and on the other, we managed to do so many useful things. Yet looking back, we can see what we have to fight for at present, and what kind of world we have to be rebuilding after the victory.”
Executive Director of Ecoaction
On March 13, Eсoaction celebrated its fifth anniversary. Over the years of combatting climate change and working on the greening of Ukrainian Energy Sector and Industry, we gained experience and confidence, and with them came the courage to move on and try something new. Therefore, we did try many new things during our fifth year, while the world around us also evolved and developed, in particular, due to our efforts. Let’s continue and discuss the success of those experiments along with the changes in our work due to the escalation of war.
Transition to renewable energy (RES) is one of the key steps of combatting the climate change. Without the emissions from polluting coal stations, the air will be cleaner, while the availability of “green” technologies for any community or even individual families will help get rid of the oligarchic monopoly in the Ukrainian energy sector. Yet the “green tariff’, a tool that stimulated the development of RES and helped significantly increase the share of clean energy, is already becoming moot. In addition, some political and economic choices in the field of RES have led to new problems.
So, in consultation with experts, we researched other means of the possible state support for the growth of “green energy” — not at public expense, into the bargain, but through competition on the energy market. For more information on “green auctions”, Contracts for Difference (CFDs), and three other tools for a more rapid and balanced development, please click here.
We are relentless in our fight against nuclear power and emphasizing that it is neither cheap, nor safe, nor sustainable, nor climate-friendly. The policy makers tend to ignore the numerous arguments against this expensive, outdated and high-risk technology, so every year we have to invent new approaches for getting through to them. For instance, on the tenth anniversary of Fukushima accident, we came right to Verkhovna Rada and held a “demo lesson” where they couldn’t help but hear us. Moreover, on the anniversary of Chornobyl disaster (a dreadful reminder of what the development of “Atoms for Peace” could cost the country) we placed a banner on one of Kyiv bridges. After all, the mistakes of the past are something to remember and learn to avoid from happening again. While the government keeps betting on the development of nuclear power, we continue to fight against it, and you can help us with that by joining the anti-nuclear community.
In keeping with the climate crisis and massive climate action around the world, renewable energy is becoming an increasingly popular topic. For the first-timers, however, it may still seem overly complicated or confusing. In order to prove that is not the case, we partnered with the online education studio EdEra in developing an online course “Green Light for the Earth”. In its four modules, experts explain what green energy is and how it affects climate change, the current political challenges in this field, and how one can help combat climate change by taking small everyday steps or choosing a career in this field, whatsoever.
Over 2,500 people have already taken the course, and both schoolchildren and educators, and many people from other walks of life found it interesting. So, in case you’ve always wanted to gain insight into energy matters, yet you were a bit scared to do so, feel free to enroll and take the free course here.
In rural areas where water is often obtained from wells or boreholes, systematic supervision of its quality is usually lacking. Thus, people don’t even have a chance to learn what they consume while drinking or cooking meals. At the same time, the quality of drinking water is jeopardized by the agricultural boom of recent decades, for fertilizers and organic agricultural waste from fields and enterprises can contaminate groundwater with hazardous substances, including nitrates.
So last year, we set out on an Expedition “In Search of Clean Water” and visited 14 United territorial communities in 10 regions (oblasts) of Ukraine. There, together with a team of volunteers and local activists, we tested the water in bodies of water, along with well and boreholes, for 6 select indicators, and compared them with European standards. Click here to find out where water is relatively safe, and where it is best to not consume it.
That expedition turned out to be not only our first “tour” with an inspection on water, but also our first fundraiser. With your support, we raised almost UAH 40,000, spent on special briefcases full of reactive chemicals that we sent to activists in the communities. After all, to understand the full picture, the supervision of water quality has to be systematic.
Ukraine is already on the list of countries with poor water resources, whereas studies show that water shortage is our country’s main risk in terms of climate change. 97% of Ukraine’s overall water resources are provided by rivers and only 3% by groundwater. Therefore, the condition of the rivers will directly affect whether there will be water to cool our nuclear power plants, irrigate our fields and brew our tea.
So we partnered with scientists and researched how our rivers will change under two different scenarios: the “soft” version (given that the greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change will be reduced, as required by both scientists and activists), and the “hard” version (if nothing is done about it). The water content will decrease in most river basins in both scenarios, yet the second one can be drastically worse, with the water levels dropping by as much as 45% in some months. Click here to learn which rivers may be most affected, and how to prevent it from happening.
Alongside climate change and air pollution, the coal mining industry causes budgetary losses, for 29 of 33 state mines do not generate any profits. Sooner or later, they will close the mines, leaving thousands (and even entire cities!) with neither their main source of income or alternative career opportunities.
This year we filmed two stories (from a man’s and a woman’s prospective) aimed at addressing everyday lifestyles in towns and cities where life in centered around mines. Both videos are available on our YouTube Channel. Transformation of those towns and cities and their departure from the mining business is inevitable, which most people living there clearly understand. Those are stories about how one can live with that understanding, about willingness to change. They are meant to remind that the transformation should be carried out in a just manner, first and foremost with people’s welfare in mind. Because despite the decline of the coal industry being inevitable, it is possible to create new opportunities and develop new economy in mine-dependent cities, and it is all in our hands.
In 2019, we partnered with 9 organizations and movements to hold a Climate March, the largest one in the history of Ukraine so far, that gathered over 2,000 people. We lead the way in organizing yet another large March in 2021, and are not planning to stop, so that mass marches calling to combat the climate change become traditional for Ukrainians.
In 2021, we focused our demands on one thing that usually prevents the politicians from combatting the climate change, namely the money. The 10 demands of the March were for financing measures that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change. Some of those demands have even been heard, for instance, this year, the Government decided to increase the CO2 emissions tax for the polluting companies. We produced a research describing carbon pricing schemes in foreign countries and analyzing how the revenues are used.
The March was supported by activists who held various events in 13 Ukrainian towns and cities, while in the capital, over 30 social movements and organizations joined us on the March and called for their supporters to follow the lead, making the march even brighter and more potent. And a day before, even Antarctica joined the event, where Ukrainian polar explorers from “Akademik Vernadsky” Station, studying climate change in particular, supported us in their beachwear.
Both central and local governments have to work hard in order to create people-friendly environments. In a bid to celebrate the achievements of more active cities and give the less active ones an incentive to develop, we established our own award, “The Best City” (Ukr. “Krashche Misto”). Cities were evaluated by expert juries, as well as their residents, in two categories, “Air” and “Mobility”. The experts analyzed statistics, local policies, budget allocations, and based on their findings and public assessments, we identified winners in four categories by population: up to 50,000 (“Air” nomination only), 50,000 to 100,000, from 100,000 to 250,000, and over 250,000 citizens. Among those who applied for the competition, Khmelnytsky, Ivano-Frankivsk, Kamyanets-Podilsky and Tetiiv became the best cities in Ukraine in terms of air quality, whereas Lviv, Chernihiv, Ivano-Frankivsk and Drohobych were the best in “Sustainable Mobility”. The city of Dubno got a special award.
Climate crisis is a global problem, and its repercussions can’t be avoided completely. Therefore, communities, cities and countries need to analyze risks and adapt to them, for instance, create reservoirs for water in the cities where there’s a risk of groundwater flooding, or expand green areas where heat waves are particularly prevalent.
The key role in adaptation should be given to nature-based solutions, i.e. restoration, conservation and sustainable management of ecosystems. We are talking about both tiny projects like “green” bus stops and large-scale measures like restoration of swamps.
Nature-based solutions can be implemented by any initiative group or community, so, in order to inspire and motivate them, we (together with our partners and a team of volunteers) have compiled a Catalogue with as many as 30 examples of such solutions already contributing to the well-being of the society. Besides each project’s description and illustrations, the Catalogue also indicates its cost, specifications for use, and advantages. Some of those projects are so simple to implement that they can make our cities more comfortable and greener yet today.
In addition to systematic change in the State, cities and communities, we are promoting an even more conscious and sustainable approach in everyday life. For the New Year (one of the least environmentally friendly holidays ever) we decided to mix business with pleasure and inform people how they could make that holiday more eco-friendly, and at the same time try a more sustainable way of giving gifts while helping the planet.
For the holiday, we asked both celebrities and everyone willing alike to get rid of things that have ceased to bring them joy, like books, jewelry, clothing, etc. This is a common holiday tradition, but we have added a new twist to it. Instead of just throwing those things away, people put them up for auction and handed them over to those who needed them. The money raised was transferred in support Ecoaction’s work, so that the donor, besides changing their own habits, could also take a hand in changing the state policies regarding the environmental protection. In the course of two weeks, over 50 participants raised as much as UAH 18,000, with a lot from Ukrainian band Kurgan feat. Agregat bringing in a record amount of UAH 4,000.
Learn more about the action, about our donors and their lots, and about the advice on sustainable New Year that we shared, by visiting our Facebook and Instagram accounts, hashtag #ЩедруюПланеті (pronounced Shchedrúyu Planéti, “I do Shchedrivky for the Planet”, Ukr. Shchedruvaty (v.) — to perform traditional Ukrainian New Year rhymes and songs in exchange for treats, sort of “trick-or-treating on the New Year’s eve”). By the way, no need for a special occasion to support Ecoaction with your donation or input — just click here.
Since June 2018, residents of the villages of Zaozerne, Olianytsia and Kleban (Vinnytsia oblast) had been negotiating with the MHP (The Myronivsky Hliboproduct is Ukraine’s largest agricultural produce company, based in the town of Myronivka, Kyiv Oblast (hence the name). in an effort to resolve issues in their communities close to the company’s businesses. The country folk attributed their various problems (namely decrease in the water levels of their wells, deterioration of water quality, soil contamination and air pollution, damage to infrastructure due to heavy truck traffic on the rural roads) to the accumulation of poultry houses.
In order to negotiate a peaceful solution, those communities filed complaints to international development banks providing MHP with loans. Those banks stepped up as mediators in the dispute and tried to help resolve the conflict. On our part, we, along with two international organizations, took up the cause of the communities, acting as their counsellors.
For over three years, the parties were constrained by a memorandum prohibiting disclosure of any details of the process. Yet in late 2021, the MHP did withdraw from the negotiations without reaching an agreement. So now we can tell you what the country folks’ complaints were about, what the banks have to do with that, and what to expect next. We also continue to monitor the process and support citizens in their demands.
This year, we continued supporting NGOs in their work on local climate policies. Along with the members of Ukrainian Climate Network, we focused on analyzing and developing updated Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plans (SECAPs) in Korosten, Sumy, Pyriatyn, Khmelnytsky, Chornomorsk and Zaporizhzhia. As a result, in December, Korosten territorial community adopted their updated SECAP they had drafted together with the social advocates and members of the community.
Volunteer community is an important part of our team, and it is these people who often become loyal allies or even masterminds behind our joint experiments. Virtually no event in this list (including the March, the expedition, the award contest, and many, many others) went without their assistance.
While cooperating with volunteers, we strive to be partners, not some dictators, and give them space and support in implementing the boldest ideas that will help fight for a safer environment. So this year, our brave volunteers also got going on something new. Together, we recorded 8 episodes for “Podkast v Pukhovykakh” (Ukr. “Podcast in Down Parkas”) on different aspects of the climate crisis (tune in on Google and Apple Podcasts). They also collected data on how the climate change could affect our favorite foods, wrote a whole story about the topic, and then created and put up posters about these products in Kyiv, whereas we held an Facebook-marathon #ВрятуйСмаколики (Ukr. “Save the Yummies”), where over a hundred participants shared their stories on their favorite foods and distributed those posters among everyone willing to put them up in their communities.
Besides, this year, they helped us implement our bold plan. Together, we planted 300 m of windbreak in Kyiv oblast in order to compensate for the emissions from the vehicles involved with the Climate March.
Should you be willing to experiment with us or support our projects with your time, your skill and knowledge (even online), please join our team of volunteers here.
Everyone sharing our values can support our activities financially. In order to facilitate that process and return our patrons’ kindness, we launched the Ecoaction’s Friends Program in 2020. Our patrons are getting exclusive monthly mailings and can participate in unique actions. We, on our part, feel more confident, as our work is supported by the community of active people. In 2021, donations from individuals tripled (!) compared to the previous year. Despite some of them leaving us after the full-scale war broke out in Ukraine, we fully understand that people might have had their priorities changed, and will be happy to see them return after the war ends. If you are willing to support us even in these turbulent times, you are welcome to join our Friends community here.
Escalation of russia’s war against Ukraine changed the life of every Ukrainian, and we are no exception. Despite our team being scattered, Ecoaction is united like never before. We continue our work on both the environmental protection and on helping Ukraine win this war.
We communicate with our international partners and call on them to support Ukraine, we demand that nations across the globe give up russian energy sources (including nuclear fuel) and thus stop financing the war, we are keeping record of the occupier’s crimes against the environment in order to be able to bring them to justice. One would call it amazing, but we continue fighting arsonists who set grass alight, because even the war was unable to deter them, and, sadly, traditionally inform people how one can protect themselves from air pollution. And we, like the rest of our country, are helping each other and are not going to stop or give up, neither before nor after our victory.
Another year of our work lay behind us. Over that past year, we’ve (quite successfully!) tried many new things. Plenty of new thing have occurred in the field of environmental protection as well. This year, we celebrated many positive changes and shifts, which we, along with many of our partners and activists from all over Ukraine, have been working on for years. Our Government has managed to approve the updated National Determined Contribution, a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which we have long demanded to be more ambitious, and which finally leads to a real reduction in emissions.
The State finally delivered both the Adaptation Strategy and the Concept of Fair Transformation of coal-mining regions. Those documents will serve as guidelines for those changes we’ve been actively promoting for a number of years, and in both of them, our comments have been partially incorporated.
For the first time ever, the Ukrainian government announced the date of final coal phase-out at state-owned coal-fired power plants. During the COP26 climate conference, our country joined the anti-coal coalition Powering Past Coal Alliance, and in order to be accepted there, announced the year of 2035 as the “coal deadline”. Later there was also talk that the date could still be reconsidered, yet as of today, no official steps have been taken in that direction. However, we continue to monitor the situation and insist that the phase-out should now be incorporated into national legislation, namely in the updated Energy Strategy 2050. We keep reminding about it through both the official requests and creative events, like, for instance, by laser projecting messages on the building on the Ministry of Energy. Especially since the research reveals that it is both necessary and possible to phase-out the coal earlier, by 2030.
In addition, the Verkhovna Rada adopted the Law On Energy Efficiency, requiring at least 1% of the State budget to be allocated towards energy efficiency measures (our partners and ourselves have been fighting for that figure since 2017).
After 5 years of delay, the authorities have finally adopted the EU Nitrates Directive, a package of documents aimed to reduce water pollution caused or induced by nitrate, on which we have also been working from day one. At present, the implementation of the Nitrates Directive still looks chaotic, with no approved joint action plan or designated responsible authorities. And ahead lay the most difficult stage, namely implementation and enforcement of relevant standards, which we also plan to monitor and assist.
There is even some progress in improving the air quality that the industrial lobby has resisted for years: for the first time ever the State Budget 2022 has allocated funds on the air quality monitoring system, which should become the first step to understanding and combating pollution.
Although we can’t claim all those victories as hours, as so many people have fought for them, we celebrate them as our own. After all, they will facilitate our further struggle and improve the lives of Ukrainian men and women. Should you wish to follow our future victories or even help us achieve them, welcome to the Ecoaction community.
Reporting on finance
Transparency is the most important thing in the work of an NGO. Above, we openly spoke about the most important things we’ve been doing over the past year. Below, we will show you where we got the money for all that work, and how we spent that money.
Overall, Ecoaction’s budgets have continuously been growing for all 5 years of our work. We were unable to immediately spend part of the proceeds for our planned activities due to the Pandemic of 2019-2020, yet those were implemented later. Also in 2021, our revenues increased significantly due to a new project supported by the European Union, which we are implementing together with our partners.
Yet we believe that the main success of the past year was that voluntary donations from ordinary people tripled (!) compared to the previous year. Which means, people trust us and support our work.
Traditionally, most of our expenses are employees’ salaries (taxes included), but 2021 allowed us to implement much more activities; to attract experts, travel and hold events.