It's time to gear up environmental reforms in Ukraine to move forward with the European Green Deal
Viola von Cramon, Member of the European Parliament
We at the European Parliament are closely following the progress of environmental reforms in Ukraine. The country has a great potential to become a leading force of Europe’s green transformation. To do this, Ukrainian politicians need to swiftly prepare the legal basis for the necessary transition.
Since last year, Ukraine and the EU are increasingly engaged in dialogue on cooperation within the framework of the European Green Deal. The main agenda is comprised of the issues like the transition of coal regions, energy efficiency, renewable energy sources, and hydrogen technologies. All these initiatives can only succeed if they are built on a solid legal groundwork of comprehensive environmental reforms, particularly on those enshrined in the Association Agreement and Energy Community Treaty.
The people of Ukraine deserve to breathe the same clean air and live under the similar high environmental standards that the rest of Europeans enjoy in the EU. Especially when the average life expectancy in Ukraine is significantly lower than the average life expectancy in the EU. The same regard and attention are due for protecting unique Ukrainian forests and natural areas. 10 years after Ukraine's accession to the Energy Community Treaty, a large chunk of the EU's environmental Directives still have not been implemented.
According to the latest data, around 58 thousand Ukrainians perish each year due to industrial contamination of air, water, and soil. The mortality rate of 128 people per 100,000 inhabitants is one of the highest in the region. According to the World Health Organization’s information on mortality and the burden of disease from ambient air pollution for 2016, Ukraine loses around 2,538 disability-adjusted life years annually per 100,000 people. This is the highest number in Europe. Because of pollution-related mortality and morbidity, Ukraine loses around 6% of GDP, which is comparable to the annual budget of the Ministry of Health.
This week, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine will consider several important environmental bills, including draft law #3091 on state environmental control and - #4167 on the prevention, reduction, and control of pollution arising from industrial activities. Both are crucial for improving the health and environment of Ukrainians and continuing Ukraine's integration with the EU.
Draft law #4167 “On the prevention, reduction and control of pollution arising from industrial activities” was designed by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine with the assistance from European Commission, EBRD, and GIZ. The law gives impetus for modernizing large industries while decreasing harmful emissions and their energy consumption.
Using the same practice, since 2004, large combustion plants in the EU were able to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide by 77%, nitrogen oxide by 49%, and dust by 81%.
The second law draft law currently pending the approval of the Ukrainian lawmakers is aptly named “On the state environmental control” and is more commonly known as #3091. This law represents yet another significant steppingstone for Ukraine’s green transformation as effective regulations require effective oversight and enforcement. This is why re-establishment of the state environmental inspection service with appropriate powers is necessary. This legislation can launch a comprehensive end-to-end reform of the State Ecological Inspectorate, providing amendments to more than 30 Laws of Ukraine.
Lastly, draft law #4461 “On the Emerald Network Sites”, which is currently under consideration, is yet another building block for Ukraine’s comprehensive environmental reform. The law aims at biodiversity conservation and restoration, including emerging structural reforms in the forestry and management of natural protected areas. In the last three years, Ukraine has defined multiple areas with valuable ecosystems as Emerald Network territories and reached their approval at the Council of Europe level.
Now, it is up to the members of the Verkhovna Rada to do their job by showing up for the hearing and voting for what is right for Ukraine. By doing so, they will not only improve the environmental standards of all Ukrainians but also show commitment to the obligations taken by the country.
We at the European Parliament recognize Ukraine as the strategic partner for the European Union in decarbonization efforts under European Green Deal, which is aimed to make Europe the first carbon-neutral continent. The EU's clean industrial strategy goes hand in hand with our climate goals and decarbonization of the economy by 2050. For this reason, I am ready to support the initiative to establish a structured and regular dialogue on Ukraine’s participation in European Green Deal, but for the starting point some initial conditions need to be met, such as the implementation of previously defined environmental reforms.