Participating in the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow on November 1-2, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy presented new emission reduction goals and warned of “two eco-bombs in the centre of Europe: the occupied Crimea and part of the Ukrainian Donbas.”
“The Crimean peninsula with its unique flora and fauna has become a naval base of the Russian Federation. And in parts of Donbas, there [is] flooding of mines, soil degradation, [and a] lack of drinking water. And all this takes place now. This is a common threat to the whole world. In our time, disaster, no matter where it happens, affects everyone,” the President said during a speech at the conference.
By 2030, Ukraine plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 65% and to achieve climate neutrality by 2060. Agreed upon in July after months of heated discussions, this new goal corresponds to a stabilization or a slight reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to now.
The Ukrainian leader also mentioned the ongoing gas crunch in his speech, stressing that the implementation of the Paris Agreement is under threat — the gas shortage has led to a significant increase in prices, which forces countries to use coal.
Zelenskiy’s speech was delayed by a meeting with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, where they discussed the “security situation in Donbas.” On the sidelines of the conference, the Ukrainian president also met with several other leaders in Glasgow, including the UK’s Boris Johnson, Canada’s Justin Trudeau, Germany’s Angela Merkel, and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
Ukraine ranks fourth among the 45 signatories of the UN Framework Convention in terms of emission reductions. Still, it faces problems linked to climate change, mainly extreme weather events, like wildfires, heatwaves, and droughts (see BMB Ukraine’s September report from Kherson). Ukraine’s greenhouse emissions have decreased drastically since 1990 — by comparison, they were 62.4% lower in 2019, but this is primarily due to the decline of the industrial sector and repeated economic crises.
Meanwhile, environmental activists are calling for “more ambitious actions.”The goals presented “[do] not offer anything radically new, and most of the proposed measures are already spelled out in other strategic state documents,” Ecoaction, one of Ukraine’s main environmental NGOs, declared. “Most of the funds needed to implement these climate policies should be available, and the main challenge (the political one, particularly) will be to direct them in the right direction, rather than maintaining the status quo.”