In Glasgow, 120 countries discussed the fight against the climate crisis for two weeks. What was agreed at the UN summit and what tasks Ukraine set for itself.
The 26th UN Climate Summit (COP26) ended in Glasgow, Scotland on Saturday, with leaders from 120 countries discussing future steps to combat global warming and the state of implementation of earlier decisions.
The summit of 2015 is considered historic, when the states signed the "Paris Agreement" - a document that declares the goals of countries on the path to climate neutrality.
All in order to prevent the temperature from rising by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius. However, this year the attention of the summit was focused on two reasons.
The first is that COP26 is the first summit where countries have gathered since the start of the pandemic. The second is partly a consequence of the first: not everyone has succeeded in fulfilling their climatic obligations.
It turned out that the goals set six years ago were not enough to sustain global warming, so in Glasgow the countries had to create a new action plan.
Thus was born a series of agreements on the abandonment of coal, combating deforestation and reducing methane emissions.
Ukraine has also made all these commitments. In ten years, the country should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 7% and become a carbon-neutral country by 2060.
"If the summits were to address all climate issues, we would not need the previous 25," British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said aptly at the opening of COP26.
Does this year's COP have a chance to save the planet from overheating and what is Ukraine's role in this vision?
Agreed to agree
In August, 234 scientists from 66 countries presented a report proving that human activities affect ecosystem changes. This leads to unpredictable consequences.
In 2021, media feeds filled the news about floods in Germany, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, and fires in California, Greece, Turkey, Albania and Italy. Even Ukrainian firefighters helped put out these fires, because no country was ready for such large-scale disasters.
After analyzing the ambitions of countries in the fight against climate change, scientists have concluded that the fulfillment of current promises will not stop the warming of the globe by the end of the century by 2.7 degrees. This is the level that UN Secretary Antonio Guterres called catastrophic.
Ukraine has also felt the effects of climate change. The western regions have experienced floods that have damaged homes and infrastructure. Fires in Chernobyl and Luhansk region destroyed thousands of hectares. Droughts in the south of the country in 2020 led to crop losses and farmers' profits.
The rate of temperature rise in Ukraine is ahead of world trends. During the three decades of independence, the average temperature in the country has risen by 1.2 degrees, forcing Ukrainians to adapt to new conditions.
On November 13, the countries approved the final Glasgow Climate Pact. It contains wording that requires countries to reduce their dependence on coal, abolish fossil fuel subsidies and switch to renewable energy sources.
The pact could have been tougher had it not been for Russia, Australia, Saudi Arabia and India. The latter asked to replace the wording "gradually abandon" with "gradually reduce".
Among other things, the document recognizes the need to reduce global carbon emissions by 45% by 2030 compared to 2010 and to zero - by the middle of the century.
In the section "Finance" - rather vague wording. Only $ 100 billion is mentioned, which the countries had to mobilize by 2020 and did not live up to the promise, so the plan is extended until 2025.
An important achievement is the harmonization of Article 6 of the Paris Book of Rules, which defines the functioning of carbon markets. By 2024, all countries must provide detailed emissions data that can be used to estimate future greenhouse gas reductions.
Ukraine has signed the Global Initiative to Reduce Methane Emissions by 2030 by 30%. It has also joined the Powering Past Coal Alliance, announcing its abandonment of coal by 2035. In addition, Ukraine has pledged to stop deforestation by 2030.
Promises are ambitious and loud, but the roadmap for their implementation is quite vague.
What is expected from Ukraine
Ukraine plans to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. Ukraine has already reduced emissions by 62.4%.
The decline had two stages: after the collapse of the USSR and after 2014, ie not due to environmental modernization, but due to the decline of industry and the crisis. By 2030, it is necessary to reduce emissions by 7% compared to 2019.
Coal remains to historians
66% of greenhouse gases produced by Ukraine are the result of fossil fuel extraction and combustion. Almost half of them are energy.
By abandoning fossil fuels and switching to renewable energy sources, emissions are planned to be reduced by 26% compared to 2019 in ten years.
The key here is the abandonment of coal and gas thermal power plants and the search for alternatives to electricity production: solar, wind, biogas.
In terms of reducing emissions from the energy sector, energy efficiency measures are important: insulation of buildings, construction of buildings with close to zero energy consumption, new standards for electricity use in enterprises.
Ukraine's abandonment of coal by 2035 was not a surprise, as the government has already announced its intention to do so by 2030.
Such a step is a story not only about the ecological transition, but also about more than 28% of electricity generation in Ukraine, jobs and life of Ukrainians in the coal regions.
The government has been talking about the transformation of coal regions and the closure of unprofitable state-owned mines for more than a year. In particular, according to the Concept of Transformation of the Coal Industry, all unprofitable mines must be closed within the next ten years.
In 2021, it is planned to begin the transformation of two of the 61 coal regions. The government must take care not only of the closure of mines, but also of jobs for 36,000 domestic miners.
According to Energy Minister Herman Galushchenko, such pilot projects are being discussed with the EBRD, the United Kingdom and the World Bank. They are currently in the process of selecting objects.
To fund such a plan, the government plans to involve international partners.
According to Galushchenko, the ministry is already forming expert teams and preparing terms of reference for multidisciplinary research. In 2022, the state budget plans to allocate 118 million UAH.
The closure of private mines and thermal power plants, most of which are owned by Rinat Akhmetov's DTEK, will also require significant funds. The head of the company Maksym Tymchenko spoke in an interview with EP about the possibility of gradually getting rid of such assets.
In addition, most of the company's TPPs will close within five to ten years due to wear and tear. The question is whether the financial burden will fall solely on DTEK's shoulders.
Analysts say that the phasing out of coal even earlier, by 2030, does not threaten the stability of electricity supply and is technically achievable. However, according to Aurora Energy Research, the transition will cost 28.8 billion euros.
In particular, on the way to decarbonization, Ukraine plans to increase to 70% the share of nuclear generation, which should replace coal-fired power plants. The share of renewable energy should increase to 25%.
The government needs to be careful with the rapid transition to "green" energy.
Thus, as a result of Russia's actions, EU countries had to buy gas at record prices in the fall and partially return to coal to balance the energy system. Due to weather dependence, green energy could not meet demand.
The goal of abandoning coal by 2035 is achievable. The question is how much it will cost taxpayers.
Carbon price tag
The second place in the rating of atmospheric heating is occupied by Ukrainian industry. If in 2019 it was responsible for 17% of emissions, then by 2030 due to the reduction of their volumes, companies will generate almost a third of emissions.
The goal of abandoning coal by 2035 is achievable. The question is how much it will cost taxpayers.
The Ministry of Environment is not expected to reduce the damage from industry. On the contrary - emissions will increase by 16%. This is the largest increase among the projected in the NVB.
This is not the first year that Rinat Akhmetov's and Lakshmi Mittal's companies have topped the list of leading pollutants in terms of emissions.
However, their companies mostly operate within Ukrainian emission standards. This leads to the main problem with the greening of industry: ultra-low taxes on greenhouse gas emissions and ultra-high permits on emissions.
The solution to this problem was found in the EU in 2005. In addition to the fact that the environmental tax in the bloc countries is much higher than in Ukraine, the region has a system of emissions trading.
The same system will be gradually introduced in Ukraine. From the beginning of 2021, a system for monitoring and verifying greenhouse gas emissions. The carbon market is expected to be operational from 2025.
At the same time, deputies failed to vote three times for a bill that would modernize the industry to the best available technology and combine all environmental permits into one.
It was also not possible to raise the environmental tax. The latest attempt was a government bill to hit the business of Rinat Akhmetov and Igor Kolomoisky.
It was planned to increase the tax rate for discharging dirty substances into the water 1.6 times, for carbon dioxide emissions - three times to UAH 30 per ton. The eco-tax for the mining industry also tripled to UAH 1.5 per ton.
In the process of passing the document, many rules were "lost", and the projected additional revenues from the initial UAH 50 billion fell to UAH 30 billion. According to EP sources, a separate bill will try to raise taxes again.
The future of internal combustion engines
Pollution is also projected to increase in the transport sector, where cars account for 70% of emissions.
This is due to the fact that the process of transition to electric transport is expensive, as well as the development of specialized infrastructure. At the same time, the number of cars will increase, and the transition to electricity for large vehicles is expected after 2030.
Currently, the only benefits for electric cars in Ukraine are "customs vacations" for their import.
As the head of the subcommittee of the environmental committee of the Verkhovna Rada Lesya Vasylenko explains, the legislation still does not define what electric cars or charging stations are.
According to her, Ukraine should introduce gradual restrictions on transport with internal combustion engines in order to completely decarbonise the transport sector by 2050.
It is not just bans that need to be introduced.
"If it is profitable to import electric cars and build" green "transport, no one will spend money on dirty old cars. The question is to create favorable conditions," Vasylenko explains.
By 2030, the share of registration of electric vehicles in Ukraine should reach 15%. For comparison: in October 2021, this figure was 11.7%.
From the farm to the fork
The share of agriculture in CO2 emissions is 13.7%.
According to Minister of Agrarian Policy and Food Roman Leshchenko, in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector, it is necessary to implement practices in accordance with the European course Farm to Fork.
This approach involves the introduction of carbon farming. It can improve the soil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by removing excess carbon from the environment and using its excess soil.
An open land market allows for the use of precision farming, which helps to monitor the condition of soils and optimize the use of resources.
Another important approach is no till-farming. It involves the retention of carbon and nutrients in the soil. Studies show that areas with minimal tillage have 30% lower CO2 emissions.
Leshchenko also stressed the importance of increasing yields through innovation, degradation of degraded lands and irrigation reform, which will strengthen food security and ensure independence from climate change.
Ukraine has the largest area of agricultural land in Europe and, accordingly, one of the world's largest potentials of agricultural raw materials for biomethane production.
According to Andriy Zhupanin, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Gas Policy, the potential for biogas production in Ukraine is estimated at 9.7 billion cubic meters of methane per year. This is a third of all natural gas consumption in the country.
It is, in particular, about the modernization of fixed assets in animal husbandry. To attract investment for the renovation of livestock complexes, the state reimburses up to 50% of their value.
The waste sector is responsible for 15.4% of methane emissions in Ukraine. The reason is natural dumps and landfills where garbage produces methane.
In the parliament, waste management reform was undertaken during the last convocation, but without success. The new Verkhovna Rada adopted the document in the first reading in July, but did not reach the second.
The Waste Management Bill creates a legal framework for reform in areas such as hazardous or industrial waste management.
Its main essence is to introduce a hierarchy of waste management, which Ukraine has also promised to do. Unfortunately, the document is just waiting to be considered by the committee before the second reading.
Emissions with a minus sign
By 2030, the Ministry of Environment plans to ensure that Ukrainian forests absorb 9 million tons of CO2 equivalent per year.
It is planned to implement this by planting degraded agricultural lands and stimulating the transition to selective methods of timber harvesting instead of continuous felling.
Such a transition by the government requires a forest inventory and a long-awaited reform of the timber market. The relevant document is awaiting the first reading in the parliament.
Meanwhile, the authorities are turning a blind eye to illegal logging, and fines are low.
In order for logging to be effectively controlled, the reform of the State Environmental Inspectorate is necessary. Ukraine promised to hold it in a letter from the Verkhovna Rada to the UN. Currently, the State Forest Agency is inspecting state forestries, ie itself.
By 2030, forest areas are expected to increase by 1 million hectares. Now this goal is fulfilled by 3.53%.
Instead of a conclusion
The authorities will have to do a lot by 2030. First of all - to reduce the resistance of the market and consumers who do not want to change the status quo. However, the most important thing is to complete the promised and started reforms.
Ukraine's emission reduction target depends, in particular, on access to € 102 billion in funding. As Ukraine is classified by the UN as a developed country, it is not eligible for funding from the Green Climate Fund.
However, Ukraine can apply for funding from the EU, the US, the World Bank and the EBRD. Of course, if it starts reforms, and will not be covered by promises and statements.
This story was originally published in Ukrainian in Ekonomichna Pravda on November 15, 2021. It was produced as part of the 2021 Climate Change Media Partnership, a journalism fellowship organized by Internews’ Earth Journalism Network and the Stanley Center for Peace and Security.