Ukrainians look to EU for environmental solutions

Ukrainian and EU citizens share many concerns and values when it comes to the environment – according to a new report.

The study, put together by the Ukrainian Resource and Analysis Centre, shows that despite some differences in identifying the major environmental challenges and the way to tackle them, Ukrainians positively welcome the enforcement of EU environmental standards in Ukraine.

Results from a survey of 2000 Ukrainians conducted in May 2018 were compared with the results from the regular Eurobarometer opinion polls carried out by data specialists at the EU’s statistics hub. The findings show that 90% of both EU and Ukrainian citizens find environmental issues personally important. Despite significant differences in prosperity between the Ukraine and the EU, in both polls people said that economic factors are more important to them compared to environmental and social factors.

EU citizens consider climate change to be the biggest environmental challenge, while for Ukrainians the biggest challenges are droughts and floods, extreme weather events that are increasing as a result of climate change.

RACSE reveals that Ukrainians “lack information and understanding about the causes of the environmental problem which they find the most serious”. However, they also highlight that Ukrainians experience the direct effects of environmental issues more prominently in their daily lives and on their health compared to EU citizens.

When it comes to how to resolve environmental problems, the poll also highlights differences between EU citizens and Ukrainians. Ukrainians consider that environmental problems should be tackled through enhancing the role of supervisory authorities whereas for EU citizens, the best way would be to invest in research and development. RACSE notes that the Ukrainian opinion on this aspect is a hangover from the Soviet era when the State was associated with punitive mechanisms and as such is not trusted.

How do Ukrainian citizens perceive EU environmental policies and the enforcement of EU environmental standards in Ukraine through the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement?

But at the same time, around 20% of Ukrainians consider that environmental problems should be tackled in cooperation with the EU, “[which] is a high number taking into account that Ukraine is not an EU Member State”, RACSE says.

Despite the fact the EU is showing leadership in environmental protection, the majority of Ukrainians think that the EU’s environmental assistance to Ukraine is insufficient. While this result could be attributed to the fact that many people may be unaware of the EU’s technical and financial role in Ukraine, it shows that a great part of the population considers the EU environmental ‘acqui’s necessary for environmental protection in Ukraine.

The reforms most expected by Ukrainian citizens are waste management, water quality and water resource management.

For Ukrainian environmental NGOs, the results of this study are positive., However, the report concludes that “environmental practices of Ukrainians still require special attention of public authorities and NGOs” and that “steps are needed to increase environmental awareness of citizens and to facilitate their support of the reforms in the area of the environment. This could enable deep changes in the future”.