A new green energy vision for Ukraine takes into account the challenges, yet it falls short on actual goals.
We are approaching peak emissions, but national climate commitments are on the rise. A new green energy vision for Ukraine takes into account the challenges, yet it falls short when it comes to actual goals. Ukraine’s recently published concept vision for “Green energy transition” by the country’s Ministry of Energy and Environmental Protection was developed with the EU Green Deal and Paris agreement in mind.
The vision starts with some long-awaited promises: 100% renewables, electrification of transport and transition to a circular economy. It also mentions plans for digitalization, investments in climate research and green jobs, as well as energy decentralization, climate-smart forestry, sustainable transport and consideration of vulnerable groups.
Considering that the country currently sources less than 5% its energy from renewables and that previous pledges weren’t even near to the current goals, this sounds like a huge step in the right direction. The devil, however, is in the details. Net-zero emissions are planned only for 2070, two decades after the EU target date. And while this is a step-up from previous commitments, the new target doesn’t align well the with the below 1.5 ºC warming path.
In part, this has to do with the fact that the phase-out of coal in Ukraine is planned only for 2050, while most of the European states aim for periods between 2022 and 2038. The vision also seems to disregard the fact that most of the country’s thermal power plants were built half a century ago. They are less efficient than contemporary ones and less safe to operate.
Considering the large subsidies the industry has been consuming for decades and the adverse health effects of its outdated infrastructure set against the positive health benefits of renewables, such a delayed transition seems unfeasible economically, socially and ecologically.
Ironically, however, economic reasoning has been put forward as a rationale for the new strategy, according to the Minister for Energy and Environmental Protection, Oleksiy Orzhel. “Europeans don’t want to buy goods that harm the environment. They have a new priority, the Green Deal, and if we don’t match, it will be hard for us to communicate with them,” he said.
Caught between aspirations to sound green, develop the economy and sustain the status quo, the ministry would do well to reconsider its targets. Last year was the warmest on the record, and much of Europe has seen a fast-paced deployment of renewables and an ever more active climate movement.
Ukraine should not be lagging behind. National environmental NGOs have already called for more ambitious goals, while researchers have previously published analyses suggesting the feasibility of a much faster transition. The country’s government must live up to public expectations as it refines its vision in coming months.