UNDP advocates for low carbon recovery for Ukraine at COP28

UNDP-sponsored events and expert interventions at Ukraine’s COP28 pavilion focused on conducting accurate assessments of environmental damage, ensuring gender equality, and promoting a low-carbon, green recovery

December 21, 2023

UNDP Ukraine’s delegation at COP28: Martine Jahre, Anna Zhovtenko, Viktoriia Yershova, Oleg Kirichuk

Photo: UNDP Ukraine

From 30 November until 12 December 2023, the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) took place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. This pivotal conference brought together over 70,000 participants from 199 countries, encompassing a wide array of delegates including heads of state, government officials, international industry leaders, private sector representatives, academics, and non-state actors such as youth and experts. COP28 concluded with a historic deal marking the ‘beginning of the end for the fossil fuel era’ as underscored by Simon Stiell, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

In a significant move, the Government of Ukraine established a dedicated pavilion at COP28 to showcase the environmental toll of war and to present its vision for a green recovery. This initiative was bolstered by support from the EU and UNDP under the EU4Climate project. Throughout COP28, UNDP actively promoted Ukraine's vision for a green, inclusive, low carbon and sustainable recovery. This article provides a comprehensive summary of the activities, discussions, and expert contributions of UNDP Ukraine at the conference.

Environmental damage assessment

The ongoing war in Ukraine is causing significant environmental harm. The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine reports that about 30 percent of the nation's protected areas, encompassing over 1.2 million hectares, have been impacted by the hostilities. In response, UNDP, in collaboration with the Swedish government, has initiated a new project to assess environmental damage (EDA). This project focuses on documenting and evaluating the extent of environmental degradation due to the war.

At COP28, the UNDP team from Ukraine led a panel discussion on global collaboration for assessing war-induced environmental damage. The session was moderated by Viktoriia Yershova, Project Manager at UNDP in Ukraine, who also introduced the EDA project she oversees. Key contributors to this discussion included Linsey Cottrell from The Conflict and Environment Observatory (UK) and Wim Zwijnenburg from PAX (Netherlands), who both presented their respective organizations' efforts in environmental damage assessment in Ukraine. Additionally, Harri Pietarila from the Finnish Meteorological Institute shared insights into the conflict's impact on air quality, while Anastasia Skok, an expert from the Save Dnipro NGO, highlighted cooperative efforts in radiation monitoring.

Representatives of "Gazeta Wyborcza", a prominent Polish media outlet, and Top Lead, a content marketing agency, presented an English-language infographic report on the war's environmental impact. The report was updated and printed specifically for COP28 with the support of UNDP in Ukraine and the Government of Sweden.

“The purpose of our research was to explain that the war poses threats not only to Ukraine where the fighting is taking place, but also to other countries and continents.” 

—  Stanislav Shum, CEO of Top Lead

“Accurate mapping of environmental damage is a pivotal first step to crafting a sustainable recovery plan for Ukraine. The challenges and bottlenecks in environmental damage assessment must be addressed cooperatively with international partners and stakeholders,”

Viktoriia Yershova, Project Manager at UNDP in Ukraine.

Ensuring gender equality

The fifth day at COP28 was dedicated to gender equality in climate protection and sustainable development. Experts of UNDP in Ukraine held an event on ensuring gender equality in environmental damage assessment and the green recovery process in the Ukraine Pavilion at COP28.

Yevhenii Fedorenko, Deputy Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine, delivered the opening remarks. He noted that integrating gender considerations into green recovery policies is a matter of equity and a strategic imperative for unlocking the country's full economic potential.

Anna Zhovtenko, Project Manager at UNDP in Ukraine, moderated the discussion. The speakers’ panel including Martine Jahre (Recovery Analyst at UNDP in Ukraine), Iryna Kondratenko (Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung Ukraine), Anna Ackerman (Ecoaction – Centre for Environmental Initiatives), Valentyna Bielakova (Women's Energy Club of Ukraine), Oleksandr Diachuk (National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine), Oksana Kysil (Covenant of Mayors East), and Mariana Yevsiukova, a representative of the World Federation of Ukrainian Women's Organizations in the UN, discussed solutions of:

  • insufficient representation of women in decision-making regarding energy and climate change;

  • "gender blindness" in energy and climate policies;

  • significant gender pay gap between men and women.

To make Ukraine reconstruction sustainable, we should ensure gender-based analyses of the needs, priorities, and knowledge of different gender and age groups. We should also include women in decision-making at all levels.” 

Anna Ackerman, Ecoaction – Centre for Environmental Initiatives

“On the one hand, women and children are among the groups that are most vulnerable to climate change and feel negative impacts on their daily life, development, and well-being. On the other hand, women bring knowledge, initiatives for changes and reforms, sharing a strong responsibility for future generations.” 

Mariana Yevsyukova, 
World Federation of Ukrainian Women's Organizations

"Given the tremendous economic and environmental losses, we do not have the luxury of not including half of the population of Ukraine (meaning women) in the recovery process. And we do not have the luxury to keep this half of the population less motivated financially with almost 20% less salaries than men have. If we want to build back better, we must build back more inclusive and engage everyone in shaping our future," 

 Iryna Kondratenko, Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung Ukraine  

Climate-neutral and sustainable energy sector 

At the Energy Day event during COP28, UNDP Ukraine's team played a pivotal role. On 8 December, Anna Zhovtenko, a Project Manager at UNDP in Ukraine, delivered a comprehensive presentation on UNDP’s strategies for energy-focused reconstruction. Her presentation, part of the panel discussion titled 'Towards a climate-neutral, sustainable energy sector in Ukraine,' outlined UNDP’s holistic approach to rebuilding Ukraine’s energy sector with an emphasis on sustainability and climate neutrality. 

“Using solid data analysis and feasibility studies, UNDP in Ukraine secured access to electricity for 500 thousand people by providing large-scale energy equipment, enhanced energy efficiency in public buildings by attracting investments in term modernization, facilitated governance reforms and policy framework for the green transition. Energy and Environment Portfolio has developed the energy offer aiming further support restoration of the critical infrastructure and enhance decentralization of the energy generation in Ukraine, which will contribute to the nexus of energy security and green transition.” 

  Anna Zhovtenko, Project Manager at the UNDP Ukraine

On 3 December Martine Jahre, Recovery Analyst in the Energy and Environment Portfolio of UNDP Ukraine, engaged with Norwegian policymakers and state energy companies at the panel for “Strengthening the grid for acceleration of the green transition” at the Norway pavilion.  Martine Jahre met with the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide and Hilde Tonne (CEO of the state-owned grid operator Statnett) and highlighted the UNDP energy offer. Norway’s efforts to strengthen the grid for the further development of renewable energy capacities are much in line with the theory of change in UNDP’s energy offer for Ukraine.

At the Atlantic Council Global Energy Forum, the European Commissioner on Energy Kadri Simson was asked about the challenge of massive destruction of the energy infrastructure in Ukraine, quoting the US$10 billion damage estimate in UNDP’s Energy Damage Assessment

On 6 December, a collaborative research effort by UNDP and the Kyiv School of Economics (KSE) was showcased, focusing on international best practices for the 'Build Back Better' initiative. This research included an in-depth analysis of how Ukraine's recovery efforts are impacting both the environment and climate. The resulting 'UNDP KSE Build Back Better' paper offers a set of strategic recommendations for the Ukrainian government. These recommendations emphasize the integration of green principles into recovery planning, enhancement of climate governance, and the effective attraction of green financing.

On 4 December at the panel on Ensuring Gender Equality organized by UNDP Ukraine, Martine Jahre highlighted the UNDP energy offer and the necessity for gender perspectives in the green transition. 

“As demonstrated by Deputy Minister Fedorenko at the panel, there have been great strides taken towards gender equality in Ukraine with legislative advancement and international commitments – even now in the middle of the devastating war on Ukraine. There is, however, room to further advance gender equality in the recovery process to build back better and greener, especially in critical sectors such as agriculture and energy.”

               Martine Jahre, Recovery Analyst at UNDP Ukraine

UNDP is significantly assisting the Government of Ukraine in enhancing its energy capabilities, especially in the wake of damages to vital energy infrastructure. This support, funded by Japan, Norway, and other global partners, focuses on expanding both maneuvering and generation capacities. A key aspect of this assistance is the promotion of a decentralized model for green energy generation, which is contingent upon robust data and thorough analyses. Continuing this support is vital not only to guarantee energy access for the Ukrainian populace but also to augment the proportion of renewable energy within the nation's energy system.

Ecosystems recovery

On 10 December, Inna Hoch, National Technical Analyst at the UNDP in Ukraine, spoke on implementing paludiculture as an innovative nature conservation solution implemented in Ukraine during the Nature-based solutions for Ukraine. From theory to practice: forests and water panel discussion.

On 11 December, Inna Hoch highlighted the impact of the war on biodiversity in Ukraine during the panel discussion “Importance of Biodiversity on Health & Wellbeing, Affected by Climate Change and War", a closing event of the agenda of the Ukraine pavilion at COP.

“Due to the impact of the war, Ukraine suffers from a significant loss of biodiversity and damages to landscapes and habitats. Rare animals and plants listed in the Red Book of Ukraine, the European Red List and the IUCN are disappearing. Collecting information on losses is complicated by the lack of access to many areas and monitoring data gaps. UNDP Ukraine, with the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources, are working together on the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan and the scheme of biodiversity monitoring to ensure that after the war ends, Ukraine can immediately proceed to the restoration of the damaged ecosystems.” 

­– Inna Hoch, National Technical Analyst at the UNDP Ukraine

As a main conclusion of discussions at COP28, in the recovery process UNDP sees an opportunity for Ukraine to embrace state-of-the-art, eco-friendly technologies and nature-based solutions, striving to "build back greener." Such an ambitious endeavour necessitates the collective efforts of numerous stakeholders. UNDP in Ukraine stands ready to fulfil its integrator role, unifying various actors, including fellow UN agencies, civil society organizations, the private sector, government bodies, and academia.