On June 6, russian occupiers committed another act of terrorism in Ukraine by destroying the Kakhovka Dam. This tragedy proves again that Russian aggression affects various areas in Ukraine and globally. One of these areas is climate change, which is affected by military actions too.
During 12 months of the war —from February 24, 2022, to February 23, 2023—the Russian war in Ukraine emitted additional 120 million tons of CO2 equivalent (CO2e). This is equivalent to the total GHG emissions produced over the same period in Belgium.
CO2 equivalent (CO2e) is the mass of carbon dioxide (as a reference) that is equivalent to the mass of other greenhouse gases on the basis of their potential impact on climate change.
The presentation and discussion of the updated assessment of the war’s impact on climate took place on June 7 at the Conference on Climate Change in Bonn, and it was also presented in Ukraine on June 8.
Here are the key thoughts shared by the speakers at the Ukrainian event.
Mykola Shlapak, co-author of the report on climate damages from the Russian war in Ukraine
Climate change is not the most critical issue for Ukraine currently, but it is important to account for the climate damage caused by Russian aggression in order to plan for recovery and hold Russia accountable.
The reconstruction of destroyed and damaged infrastructure has the largest carbon footprint among direct and indirect emissions resulting from the war. According to estimates, the total volume of emissions associated with infrastructure restoration during a year of intense warfare will reach 50.2 million tons of CO2e.
In March 2023, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published one of its key reports. One of its conclusions is that about 50% of natural gas reserves and 30% of oil reserves on the planet should remain unused to limit the temperature increase to +2°C. Accordingly, an even larger share needs to remain unused to hold the temperature rise to +1.5°C. In my opinion, the world will only benefit if this primarily affects Russian oil and natural gas, which finance this aggressive war.
Victoria Kireeva, Deputy Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources
Our Ministry is convinced that the country’s reconstruction should be based on climate goals and green transformation vision. It should be a green recovery with a transition to a sustainable economy, taking into account the latest global trends. It should involve consistent intersectoral state policies on climate neutrality, decarbonization, and adaptation of economic sectors to climate change.
Currently, the Ministry of Environmental Protection, together with international organizations, is working on a framework law with the fundamental principles of climate policy in Ukraine. This law will take into account the realities of the war. Later this year, the document will be presented to the public.
Additionally, we are in a process to launch the Ukrainian Climate Office, which will provide support to the government, cities, regions, and businesses in implementing climate policy elements and specific measures for decarbonizing economic sectors.
Olga Polunina, Executive Director of NGO Ecoaction
How can we compensate for the damage caused by Russia, which only adds to climate change? The answer to this is green recovery. Ecoaction has made significant efforts to create public awareness of the importance of this approach. We have defined seven principles of green recovery.
Green recovery is not solely the responsibility of environmentalists or eco-activists. It is about policies that are integrated into every sphere and have horizontal character. It involves new energy-efficient buildings, modernized heavy industry plants, phasing out fossil fuels, and in the future, nuclear power.
Communities can start by assessing climate change risks and vulnerabilities, by incorporating adaptation measures into community recovery plans.
Yevheniia Zasiadko, Head of Сlimate Department at NGO Ecoaction
War indeed has a global impact on climate since climate knows no boundaries; it does not stop at the borders of Ukraine or Russia. And it is precisely the war unleashed by Russia that leads to additional greenhouse gas emissions in various sectors.
The development of decenralised renewable energy sources during reconstruction of Ukrainian communities is essential. Such system would be more resilient during Russia’s attacks since it is impossible to destroy every solar panel or wind turbine in Ukraine.
Therefore, decentralized energy not only protects us and improves Ukraine’s energy security but also contributes to the development of low-carbon energy production, leading to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Maryna Dranichenko, Head of the Department of Ecology, Energy Saving and Energy Payments at Sumy City Council
When we realized that Sumy Oblast was free from occupation, we immediately focused on policies that would ensure sustainable recovery for the city. In May 2022, the State Monitoring Program for Atmospheric Air Protection in the Sumy agglomeration was approved. We also approved the Environmental Protection Program for the Sumy City Territorial Community (CTC) for 2022–2024.
Later on, we returned to energy management in the budget of the Sumy CTC and approved the Municipal Energy Plan. We resumed cooperation with projects like Covenant of Mayors – East. In October 2022, we obtained support from the Energy Transition Coalition to achieve energy independence and security through renewable energy sources.
We have already conducted a climate change vulnerabilities assessment for the Sumy CTC and have started working on a sustainable energy and climate action plan.
In addition, we initiated projects related to clean energy, such as setting up a grid-connected solar power station to ensure uninterrupted hot water supply for the municipal children’s hospital and improving energy efficiency with alternative energy components at the central city hospital.
Our community is located on the border, just 40 km from Russia. Due to constant shelling, there is a threat to the energy infrastructure. Therefore, these projects will help us achieve energy security and independence, ensure the residents’ living comfort, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
While the main goal in Ukraine at the moment is victory and reclaiming the territories, the process of reconstruction is already underway. De-occupied territories as well as regions that have accepted internally displaced persons have already initiated separate reconstruction projects. At the same time, it is important that the reconstruction is carried out with a long-term and systematic vision, which is currently lacking in Ukraine. Last year, together with other civil society organizations, Ecoaction developed a vision for green recovery based on the principles of sustainable development and effective environmental, energy, and climate policies.
During rebuilding communities affected by Russian aggression, it is important to implement solutions that promote energy efficiency and independence, enhance ecological and energy security, and create more comfortable and healthier living conditions for people, while aligning with the European Green Deal and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. There are examples of successful projects in Ukraine based on t the principles of green recovery, and it is crucial to replicate them throughout the country.
The assessment of the climate damage caused by Russian war in Ukraine was conducted by the Initiative on GHG accounting of war. This Initiative was established last year shortly after the Russian invasion. It brings together Ukrainian and international experts in climate change, environmental protection, and energy. They assess emissions directly associated with military actions and those caused by the consequences of warfare such as fires, migration, and the destruction of civilian infrastructure.