Even though the war still rages on, the country’s reconstruction should be already planned. Obviously, different regions will have different reconstruction needs. However, at the state level, the basic principles of the post-war life must be common for all.
The reconstruction will comprise many steps and should cover short-, medium- and long-term planning to the greatest extent possible. We suggest the basic principles of the green post-war reconstruction that would ensure sustainable economic and community development:
- Sustainable and systemic solutions
- Transparency; community and public participation in decision-making
- Using the best available technologies and practices
- Sustainable development of cities and regions
- Energy sector decarbonization and decentralization
- Development of sustainable and decentralized agri-food systems
- Ensuring preservation of Ukraine’s ecosystems and natural resources
Ukraine’s green reconstruction is a sustainable reconstruction realized using the best available technologies and practices.
Ukraine faces large-scale and vital tasks: restoration of critical infrastructure, ensuring the country’s energy security, further implementation of the EU legislation — now accelerated, climate change mitigation and adaptation to it, etc. To ensure this, all new infrastructure should enhance the abandonment of fossil fuels while the reconstruction of cities, rural areas, and their communities should consider social, economic, and environmental factors.
1. Sustainable and Systemic Solutions
Any temporary, urgent tasks should be backed up by long-term development plans. In its post-war reconstruction, Ukraine, through its responsible authorities, must focus on sustainable and systemic solutions that should:
- be based on a long-term vision, which is to be the basis for the future growth and modernization;
Ukraine gradually returns to life in the territories where the Ukrainian government control has been restored. Temporary solutions (“fast, cheap, but high-quality”) are important for restoring cities or communities, but they should not become permanent. We must plan Ukraine’s reconstruction effectively to ensure quality restoration of the country’s life for a long period. Systemic solutions for the sustainable development of Ukraine should be of “high quality, efficient, and long-term.”
- maintain the balance enshrined in sustainable development principles “Economy + Environment + Society” with actions and measures creating multisectoral benefits;
Economic development is an important aspect of any country’s development, but for a comfortable and quality life one must always remember of the need to balance the economy with environmental security and social needs. Therefore, responsible authorities should find this balance when restoring the livelihoods of cities, rural areas, and their communities. The best global experience of restoring cities after large-scale destructions shows that only an integrated approach based on sustainable development principles can restore the well-being of the population as well as social and cultural life.
2. Transparency; Community and Public Participation in Decision-making
Without exaggeration, the war is also a battle between totalitarianism and democracy, a battle for values. One of the foundations of democracy is government transparency and openness that are to ensure effective public control and that Ukraine sought prior to the enemy’s full-scale invasion.
In order to exercise public control over the implementation of the tasks set, as well as to ensure the adoption of sound decisions on the ground, it is crucial to provide access to public information and necessary data, in particular through ensuring:
- a transparent and open system of public procurement (the mechanism of the Prozorro platform and its expansion) and depriving Russian beneficiaries of any opportunities to participate in these processes;
- public services digitization and access to public information and to relevant public registers;
- transparent and open systems of monitoring and data collection in all areas;
- a transparent and effective anti-corruption system;
- a transparent and effective justice system.
The role of communities is key in the process of Ukraine’s reconstruction, in particular due to decentralization and the need to ensure a sense of “ownership” of the reconstruction’s results. Being key players in this process, communities have the right to decide on and plan reconstruction processes depending on their own priorities.
Herewith, local authorities should ensure high-quality public participation, in particular in decision-making, via public discussions/hearings or creation of working groups in various areas (e.g., reconstruction of buildings, renewal of urban infrastructure, etc.). It is also important to promote the development of government and community representatives in terms of capacity building for territorial development and sustainable development aspects (while considering community needs).
3. Using the Best Available Technologies and Practices
Reconstructed Ukraine must become high-tech and comply with all environmental standards. Therefore, the post-war reconstruction of both infrastructure and economy should rely on the best available technologies and practices, which will allow the country to move away from the soviet past and move into a bright and secure future.
This principle involves specific measures:
- Implementation of EU legislation and state standards approximation to European ones
The fast-track EU membership prospect for Ukraine imposes additional obligations on us to approximate national legislation and regulatory framework to the EU. We must, therefore, act responsibly and define responsible ministries and meet respective deadlines. In particular, this regards the Directive 2010/75/EU on industrial pollution, Directive 91/676/EU on nitrate pollution, etc., which provide for the introduction of the best available technologies and practices for economic activity.
- Full implementation of environmental impact assessment and strategic environmental assessment procedures
The environmental impact assessment is a vital step in assessing environmental risks prior to the start of planned activities. During the war, this procedure was limited due to business deregulation, but it should be followed during the post-war reconstruction. Companies must restore their businesses responsibly and consider all risks given the climate change, lack of clean water, and necessary restoration of natural ecosystems.
- Mandatory compliance with environmental requirements and standards
Partially damaged infrastructure, buildings, and enterprises cannot be reconstructed without compliance with current environmental requirements and standards. Existing requirements should not be viewed as an obstacle to successful business development. On the contrary, their observance will enhance sustainable development of enterprises in the future, including their economic and environmental security.
- Preservation of environmental control in business deregulation process
Business deregulation is a natural state response since businesses in various production or supply chains suffer significant losses due to the war. However, deregulation in the field of environmental impact, even at the current level, can lead to abuses and violations of environmental legislation (which was also observed in the pre-war period). Business deregulation should comply with the best European environmental rules of economic activity with effective control of and prosecution for violations. In this regard, reforming and implementing state environmental control is vital.
- Update and revision of standards for new capital construction
Ukraine should gradually update the standards by which companies restore their businesses. In particular, with regard to energy efficiency of buildings, it is advisable to raise the energy efficiency standards of new construction to class A or identify criteria for energy-independent buildings and restore them according to the NZEB standards (as provided by the National Plan to increase the number of buildings with near zero energy consumption).
- Resource efficient production and consumption in all industries
Prior to the war, Ukraine had one of the most energy-intensive economies in the world, and, thus, the potential for resource and energy efficiency remains high. This applies to the sectors of both production (energy, industry) and consumption (buildings). The introduction of new energy efficient technologies will significantly reduce energy losses during energy production and consumption. In particular, during the post-war reconstruction of Ukraine leasing or concessional lending programs will be needed to purchase energy-efficient equipment, such as heat pumps for centralized or decentralized heat supply.
- Priority for nature-based infrastructure solutions
Nature-based solutions are measures that address a number of climate and biodiversity issues through the protection, sustainable management, and restoration of natural ecosystems. These solutions should be used during planning and reconstruction of cities, infrastructure, agriculture, and forestry. Such solutions not only solve issues, but also help improve the environment, increase the number of ecosystems, and enhance community and ecosystem resilience to climate change.
4. Sustainable Development of Cities and Regions
The reconstruction of Ukraine must focus on improving urban planning that should rely on the principles of sustainable development.
Urban planning should mainly focus on people and their needs while public spaces should be safe, accessible, and comfortable for everyone, which is possible if such measures are taken:
- Development of sustainable mobility
Restoring of cities should rely on the principles of sustainable mobility. It is necessary to equip all roads with public transport lanes, develop and implement plans for cycling infrastructure development, and equip 100% of the main roads length for pedestrians and at least 50% for cyclists.
Using public transport instead of private cars is a key element of a compact city. Public transport is more efficient, frees up urban space while transporting people in groups, and reduces emissions of pollutants into the atmosphere.
It is also important to develop multimodality in cities, that is the ability to change different transport modes in one trip without undue effort, as well as to create favorable conditions for walking on short distances, especially given the mixed nature of land use.
Railway infrastructure is of strategic importance for the population. Therefore, railway transport should be available in at least all cities with a population of 100,000 and more.
- Using the principles of compactness and versatility in urban planning
The mixed use of lands, inherent in many European cities, could be a new priority in restoring destroyed cities as well as building new housing for internally displaced persons. The creation of versatile urban spaces, which combine different types of activities (housing, work, shopping, recreation, etc.), will ensure decent living conditions and social needs satisfaction and significantly reduce transport needs.
- Transition to “green” energy in cities
When restoring destroyed settlements, city infrastructure planning should consider local energy sources (waste heat, wind farms, solar power plants, biomass, etc.) and strive for maximum diversification of energy sources and reduction of the distance between the energy production place and consumers. Increasing the share of renewable energy sources in a city’s energy balance, as well as energy saving measures, will enhance communities’ energy independence and accelerate the achievement of national climate goals.
- Solving urban landscaping issues and prioritizing nature-based solutions
According to the Rules for the Maintenance of Greenery in the Settlements of Ukraine, the landscaping rate for city streets should be at least 25%, and for areas near schools — 45–50%. Pre-war urban planning practices tended to ignore any landscaping norms, which led to increased urban compactness, reduced recreational areas, deteriorating air quality, formation of thermal islands and, in general, deteriorating living conditions. Integrated urban landscaping programs should be developed together with plans to restore areas affected by hostilities.
- Development of an air quality monitoring system and prevention of air pollution
Prior to the war, air pollution was the leading cause of premature death in Ukraine compared to other European countries. In Kyiv, transport generated almost 90% of air pollutants.
Hence, reconstruction projects for cities and regions should include funds for the purchase and maintenance of the new automated stationary stations for air quality monitoring. Also, if necessary, State Monitoring Programs for the Protection of Zone and Agglomeration Air should be reviewed and amended.
- Development of water supply and sewerage systems in settlements taking into account the best technologies available
The infrastructure of water utilities (sewage treatment plants, laboratories, and pumping stations) suffered significantly from the occupiers’ attacks. Most of them require complete reconstruction and restoration. To reduce the environmental burden, water supply and sewerage systems should be restored using the best technologies available.
- Ensuring the inclusiveness of public spaces
Creating a barrier-free space should be one of the key priorities of the new urban policy. Everyone has the right to lead an active life regardless of circumstances and not to be isolated from society. Inclusiveness assumes the elimination of discrimination, social integration of the less mobile, elderly, people with children, children and youth, and other vulnerable social groups, as well as equal access to social benefits and human rights.
5. Energy Sector Decarbonization and Decentralization
The green reconstruction should include Ukraine’s accelerated abandonment of fossil fuels, especially their imports. Improving energy efficiency and prioritizing decentralized renewable energy sources should come to the fore in the new energy policy of the state.
Ukraine must aim at transition to 100% renewable energy sources (RES) by 2050 and gradually abandon the use of nuclear energy for electricity generation. Any investments in energy sector should rely on the need to abandon fossil fuels.
- The goal of complete abandonment of fossil fuels
Energy sector decarbonization is a key step in achieving Ukraine’s energy security and climate goals. The future Energy Strategy until 2050 should clearly define the timing and pace of decarbonization and develop appropriate plans for the key economic sectors. Further dependence on fossil fuels would undermine Ukraine’s energy security and limit the effective use of investments and assistance to develop modern sustainable technologies.
- Accelerated energy efficiency
Shortly before the full-scale war, the government approved the National Action Plan on Energy Efficiency until 2030, which stipulates that primary and final energy consumption in Ukraine should not exceed 91.5 million and 50.5 million tons of oil equivalent respectively. Due to Russia’s military aggression, energy consumption in Ukraine has significantly decreased.
If massive reconstruction of enterprises and residential buildings relies on higher energy efficiency standards (e.g., construction of new residential buildings of energy efficiency class A), the declared National Energy Efficiency Target should be revised and increased.
- Prioritization of decentralized RES generation
In Ukraine, small generation from renewable sources accounts for only 2.5% of all installed RES capacity in the country. Such generation could autonomously provide communities with electricity regardless of the central power grid condition. Herewith, the fourth energy package of the EU, which will soon be implemented in Ukraine’s legislation according to its obligations under the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, stipulates the development of distributed generation.
Over the past five years, renewable energy technologies have become the cheapest energy sources in the world and, thus, RES development is justified not only environmentally, but also economically. RES is about new technological jobs and energy dependence reduction. The growth of their share is prioritized by the Energy Security Strategy of Ukraine approved by the government in 2021.
- Just transition for regions dependent on fossil fuel production
In Ukraine, there are cities and regions whose economies entirely depend on enterprises that produce, process, and/or use hydrocarbon. The process of abandoning fossil fuels must be just with regard to the people who will lose their jobs and must ensure diversification of local economies and creation of new jobs.
The just transition of coal regions, which has started in the last few years at the national and local levels, should be continued. Most Ukrainian mining towns are located in Donetsk and Luhansk regions and are currently facing active hostilities. In the post-war period, coal communities can become a good example of a successful “green” reconstruction.
- Gradual abandonment of nuclear energy
Russia’s nuclear terrorism has demonstrated how dangerous centralized electricity production can be: the seizure of nuclear power plants and the operation of power units under fire pose numerous unjustifiably high threats not only for the local population, but also for Ukraine, Europe, and the whole world.
In order to prevent the risks related to nuclear energy use in the future, it is necessary to develop decommissioning plans for each unit of existing NPPs and ensure gradual closure of existing NPPs by 2040. Financing of new nuclear energy projects is economically unjustified and risky during the post-war reconstruction because, as international experience demonstrates, these projects involve significant delays in construction and the final cost of power units’ construction tends to increase. Instead, it would be better to invest in decentralized renewable energy facilities and smart grids able to provide electricity and heat even in critical conditions.
6. Development of Sustainable and Decentralized Agri-food Systems
The agri-food system is vital for ensuring both food and environmental security of Ukraine. Today, the system, which is based on a large-scale and monoculture production and centralized logistics and processing, becomes a target for the enemy. This immediately imbalances the entire system and causes respective systemic consequences for supply chains both in Ukraine and globally. Therefore, in its post-war reconstruction, Ukraine must prioritize the development and maintenance of more adaptive (flexible), sustainable, and decentralized agri-food systems.
The development of these food systems requires adherence to such priorities:
- Priority for local food systems
Reducing the distance that food travels from the field to consumers’ plates is fundamental for optimizing logistics costs and reducing resource use for product transportation and storage. The shorter the distance “from the field to the fork” is, the more sustainable the food system is. Supporting exclusively large-scale exports of agricultural products usually results in the loss of long-term economic stability, degradation of biodiversity, waters, and soils, and negative socio-economic consequences for rural population.
- Diversification of small and medium-sized agricultural enterprises and farms and their cooperation
Small and medium-sized farms should become the core for the development of sustainable agri-food systems. According to the data, small (including family ones) farmers make up 98% of all agricultural producers in the world and cultivate more than 53% of agricultural lands. Moreover, in Ukraine such farms generally produce about 60% of the gross agricultural product. Small and medium farms and their cooperatives are a basis for self-employment, a source of additional and diverse jobs in rural areas, and, therefore, a basis for the local economy and self-sufficiency of rural communities. The more diverse the production system is, the more resilient and flexible it is with regard to external shocks.
- Rural development
Rural development is an important part of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy, which strengthens the social, environmental, and economic sustainability of rural areas. To solve socio-economic issues and environmental challenges in rural areas, alternative opportunities are needed in terms of employment, business, cooperation, and successful existence of rural communities in general. Therefore, it is vital to develop and implement a National Rural Development Strategy.
- Sustainable solutions for agricultural production
Large industrial agricultural producers focus on technical and grain crops, which are further used as fuel and feed for livestock. Large livestock and poultry complexes pose increased environmental hazards while producing significant air, water, and soil emissions and other wastes.
In general, agricultural production should focus on sustainable and climate-friendly solutions, namely prioritizing agri-environmental practices: precision farming and use of crop rotations and biologically diverse multicultural approach in crop production; small-scale animal husbandry with high standards of animal welfare; and application of technologies and practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as reduce and process agricultural and food waste. In addition, Ukrainian farms show a great potential for organic farming development.
- Production and processing based on circular economy principles
Agricultural products should be produced and processed based on circular economy principles. Agricultural enterprises and farms have every chance to become full-cycle enterprises with zero-waste and renewable production, which includes full processing of residues, use of environmentally friendly innovative technologies, and efficient use of soils depending on their quality characteristics and purpose. In particular, crop and livestock waste can be used locally in small bioenergy projects or as fertilizers. A crucial aspect of this measure is the development of a network of enterprises processing and disposing of animal by-products (e.g., veterinary-sanitary plants), which should safely dispose of such waste and reduce the risk of environmental pollution.
- Transparent agricultural land market
Particular attention should be paid to the concentration and monopolization of agricultural lands by certain economic players. EU and Ukrainian reports demonstrate that poverty is most prevalent where land concentrations are the highest. The 13 largest agricultural holdings in Ukraine owning over 100,000 hectares of lands control about 15% of Ukraine’s land bank. The share of farms barely reaches 2%, and personal peasant farms (with plots of less than 1 ha and up to 100 ha) — up to 12%.
In the post-war period, the economic consequences of the land market opening and functioning for Ukraine will, in particular, depend on land prices and transparent and fair negotiations between landowners, small farms, and large companies. A holistic strategy to encourage small landowners — from start-up funding for young farmers to infrastructure development that would make it easier for small producers to gain equal access to the agricultural land market — should be developed.
7. Ensuring Preservation of Ukraine’s Ecosystems and Natural Resources
We are aware of ecosystems’ important role in mitigation of and adaptation to climate change, maintaining the health of Ukrainian men and women, maintaining food security, and providing defense capabilities. Therefore, it is important to keep ecosystems as good as they were before the full-scale invasion, except those in war-affected areas. In particular, Ukraine must adhere to such measures:
- Restoration of natural areas affected by hostilities should be included in the reconstruction plan and prioritized.
According to the preliminary estimates of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources, the enemy is fighting on the territory of 900 Nature Reserve Fund objects with an area of 12,406.6 sq. km, which is about a third of Ukraine’s Nature Reserve Fund area. About 200 sites of the Emerald Network with an area of 2.9 million hectares and 14 Ramsar sites with an area of 397.7 thousand hectares are under the threat of destruction. All these sites are habitats for thousands of plant and animal species. These areas are crucial for protecting biodiversity and preserving the climate. The condition of these ecosystems after hostilities should be immediately inspected and a response plan must be developed for each area.
- Ecosystem preservation related to intensified resource extraction for reconstruction
The reconstruction of the country poses great threats to natural ecosystems due to the potential increase in the extraction of resources for construction needs — sand, gravel, wood, etc. Hence, it is vital to maintain impact assessment for these work categories as well as respective performance monitoring. It is important to legislate the status of the Emerald Network’s valuable areas through the adoption of Law No. 4461. Implementation of the Forest Management Strategy until 2035 should be also ensured since it provides for the transition to sustainable and economical forestry, which will help save forests from overlogging.
- Ensuring the implementation of the Strategy for Environmental Safety and Adaptation to Climate Change.
The plan for the implementation of the Strategy for Environmental Safety and Adaptation to Climate Change, adopted on 20.20.2021, provides for the assessment of the climate change impact on agriculture, forestry, and water management and development of respective adaptation plans. Expert research shows that these industries are among the most vulnerable to the climate change and, if we do not act right away, we will face a major threat to food and economic security and fresh water supply.