Will the EU support a green recovery for Ukraine from the ashes of war?

An insider’s perspective: Andriy Andrusevych, Senior Policy Expert at EEB memberSociety and Environment”, a resource and analysis center in Ukraine, and EEB Board Member for Ukraine, shares his vision for a green post-war recovery.

The European Union, its people and civil society stood up for Ukraine firmly since the very beginning of the Russian invasion on 24 February this year. “I stand here with the conviction that with courage and solidarity, Putin will fail and Europe will prevail”, said Commission President von der Leyen in her 2022 State of the Union Address. We, Ukrainians, know we will win together.

We also know we will need to rebuild the country. The post-war reconstruction will require massive resources and will change the face of many cities and core economy sectors. Obviously, as an EEB member organisation we see this reconstruction as a chance to build a green, climate resilient and sustainable economy in Ukraine, to leave behind past century production patterns and development approaches. Some of the reconstruction is necessarily taking place right now, as you read this text.

For years, my organisation has been supporting Ukraine’s efforts to join the EU and align with European environmental policies. And Ukraine’s candidacy status came at a time when the European Union is building a climate-neutral economy with the  help of its strategic European Green Deal. In many aspects, Ukraine’s accession will immediately contribute to achieving the objectives of the European Green Deal, such as significantly lower the use of pesticides and fertilisers compared to the EU average as Ukraine’s agriculture is more sustainable in that regard. However, much work is still needed in many other areas of Ukraine’s life and economy.

Ukraine’s post-war reconstruction and the EU accession processes will go hand in hand. This creates a unique opportunity – of whirling reforms and post-war recovery – to build a new Ukraine as part of the green, climate-neutral and sustainable continent.

For this to happen, we need to develop an ambitious green recovery plan, owned by Ukraine and its people and supported by international partners, particularly the European Union. As we have looked into the blueprints of the post-war recovery – including the  Commission’s ‘Ukraine Relief and Reconstruction’ communication and the Ukrainian government’s draft recovery plan:  the current vision of the government and international partners does not include sufficient and effective green elements of the post-war reconstruction process. If that does not change, the post-war reconstruction will  foreclose for decades some sectors from modernisation, greening and sustainability.

Some key stakeholders argue over the post-war recovery architecture, in particular who and how will the funds be managed. In July, more than 150 civil society organisations from Ukraine and across Europe have called on the European Commission to ensure a meaningful role for civil society from Ukraine and the EU in the ‘RebuildUkraine’ platform.

While the institutional framework is an important element of the recovery process, the overall vision is what should guide it. Similarly, strong green conditionalities for international aid is important, but alone will not ensure green recovery of Ukraine. I argue that it is the European Union and its members who should push for (or at least unequivocally support) a green and resilient reconstruction of Ukraine. We need a green reconstruction concept which represents on a coherent vision of the development of Ukrainian society, economy and the state as a whole.

As we argue in our recent policy paper, there are at least two visionary models of green post-war recovery of Ukraine, both feasible and reasonable, differing from each other in the level of ambition. The choice between these models means choosing between “difficult” and “very difficult”, “high” and “very high”, “possible” and “almost impossible”. Yet, Ukraine and our people have proven that nothing is impossible when we and our partners stand together and in solidarity.