Ukraine Recovery Conference: environmental NGOs call for a green post-war reconstruction

WWF-Ukraine and the Centre for Environmental Initiatives “Ecoaction” call for recognition of the crucial role nature and clean technologies must play in ensuring a sustainable recovery from the war.

Lugano, Switzerland - As the Ukraine Recovery Conference 2022 in Lugano concludes today, WWF-Ukraine and the Centre for Environmental Initiatives “Ecoaction” are concerned at the lack of a cohesive plan for implementing solutions that could make Ukraine a leader in sustainability as it begins its recovery from the war.

While the concepts of “building back better” and “green recovery” were touched upon by nearly every leader who took the floor at the conference, which Ukraine hosted jointly with Switzerland on 4-5 July, there was little presented in terms of concrete plans for achieving these aims. The critical importance of restoring a healthy natural environment for the people of Ukraine was not mentioned at all. 

Bohdan Vykhor, CEO of WWF-Ukraine, said: “While we applaud the Ukrainian Ministry of Environment for planning investments in new protected areas and wildlife bridges, we were disappointed to see no mention at this week’s conference of the importance of avoiding any negative impact of development projects on nature."

“For a successful post-war recovery,  governments will need to work closely with local civil society to design interventions that allow nature to serve as a cornerstone for peace and sustainability for all Ukrainians. Right now we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make Ukraine a global leader in sustainability and show the world how nature can help speed up recovery from the war and improve lives and livelihoods. Nature provides us with a range of critical ecosystem services that the wellbeing of Ukrainian citizens depend on - from the provision of clean water and air to prevention of soil erosion and water resources of agricultural lands. These aspects of sustainability have to be mainstreamed in Ukraine´s recovery plan. It is also critically important that the plan includes a full range of  impact assessments, so we can assess the economic, social, and environmental effects of public policy.”

Natalia Gozak, Executive Director of the Centre for Environmental Initiatives “Ecoaction”, said: “Together with many other organisations we had a chance to propose our ideas for the National Reconstruction Plan. And even though the process was rather inclusive, we see that the Ukrainian government perceives “environmental recovery” as a way to promote the expansion of the nuclear sector and fossil fuel projects (such as gas exports), with additional focus on hydrogen and bioenergy without saying what it’s made of. We can’t afford continuing our dependency on unsustainable energy solutions. Instead, we should be thinking in the longer term, making sure that Ukraine develops as a modern economy based on sustainable renewables and energy efficiency.”

WWF-Ukraine and Ecoaction saw conference speakers highlight the importance of good governance, which entails adequate public participation, transparency, accountability and conditionality principles. This is what more than 50 Ukrainian NGOs called for previously in the green reconstruction principles

Both NGOs call on decision makers and donors investing in Ukraine’s recovery to include civil society throughout the development of recovery plans.

Notes to Editors 

The Ukraine Recovery Conference took place on 4-5 July in Lugano, Switzerland. Initially, the conference in Lugano had been planned as the 5th Ukraine Reform Conference – an annual high-level political event for Ukraine to present the progress it has made, for international partners to express support, and for all stakeholders to examine what steps to take next to advance the reform process. Against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine since February, Ukraine and Switzerland jointly decided to proceed with the organisation of the conference, but to refocus beyond reforms to concentrate on recovery. 

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Thumbnail image: ©  R.Petushkov

A destroyed dam at Irpin River

A destroyed dam at Irpin River

© R.Petushkov

Fields peppered with hundreds of artillery craters (Location 49.009, 37.308)

Fields peppered with hundreds of artillery craters (Location 49.009, 37.308)

© Maxar

Rescuers are looking for explosive devices in lake Blakytne in the village of Gorenka, which was at the epicenter of fires by the occupiers in Kyiv region

Rescuers are looking for explosive devices in lake Blakytne in the village of Gorenka, which was at the epicenter of fires by the occupiers in Kyiv region

© The State Emergency Service of Ukraine