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Ukrainians clamour rapid transition to renewable energy

Some 14,000 Ukrainians are said to be in support a rapid transition to renewable energy, even as the government is allegedly trying to slow down the process.

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Renewable energy: Solar panels

On Friday, February 22, 2020, activists of the Energy Transition Coalition, together with the international movements Fridays for Future and Extinction Rebellion organised an action in front of the Ministry of the Environment and Energy, to demand from Ukrainian Government a transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050.

The action was supported by 14,000 Ukrainians who signed a petition, delivered by Coalition representatives at the last public roundtable to discuss the Concept of Green Energy Transition in Ukraine, a new climate and energy policy recently presented by the government.

The key requirements of the petition, it was gathered, are to shut down all coal and nuclear power plants and abandon the construction of all new ones by 2035, invest more in energy efficiency measures, develop renewable energy, green public transport, promote the development of distributed generation and balancing capacity.

Svitlana Romanko, Managing Director of 350.org in Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia, said: “After our seven cities and Association of Small Cities (160 cities) have made a commitment to 100% RE by 2050, the public pressure on the national government to develop ambitious official RE targets only increased. The Concept of Green Energy Transition is a final concept draft of a State Strategy, which mentions our initiative of 100% RE commitments in the cities, officially recognising it at the same level and importance as a Covenant of Mayors.

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“It also foresees the establishment of special state funds and state programmes to fund the municipal energy transition in the cities. Given all positive aspects, this Concept still doesn’t reflect and defend the rights of frontline communities facing the mining of fossil fuels and doesn’t exclude coal and gas mining from state priorities in the coming years.”

The Concept document sets greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, which are the main cause of climate change, it was gathered. In Ukraine, the main source of CO2 emissions is fossil energy consumption, so the main step in stopping the climate crisis is to stop burning coal, oil, and gas, and make fair and fast transition to renewable energy. 

“In the Concept, the Ministry has set a goal of reaching 70% of RES in electricity production by 2050. We believe that this is not an ambitious goal. After all, on September 20, 2019, Minister Oleksiy Orzhel stated that Ukraine should reach 100% of renewable energy sources in the overall energy balance much earlier than till 2050,” said the Coalition.

During the public roundtable, 350.org’s local campaigner Julia Pashkovska said: “While the government carries on the extraction of fossil fuels, the rights of frontline communities in those places are being seriously violated. What happened to the promise of the Minister given during the Climate Strike Mobilisation last September, to make a transition to 100% RE even earlier than by 2050?

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“Local impacted communities are not only being disrespected, but also excluded from public debates they should be participating in. Ministry representatives did not approve the registration to this roundtable to a representative of Merefa, the local community at the largest Ukrainian gas shield, where shale gas will be extracted by hydraulic fracturing, presenting a huge risk of loss of drinking water.

Minister of Energy, Oleksiy Orzhel, responded: “A few days ago we changed the legislation and let the companies extract fossil fuels with no approval from the local community. We consider this to be the right decision. But we are up to follow the land approval and strategic impact assessment before mining.”

The Minister added that, for now, the reduction goal is of 40% by 2050, with the large share of nuclear energy, which is not acceptable for Ukrainian citizens.

Also on Friday, experts from the Institute of Economics and Forecasting of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine released the outcome of a study that shows that Ukraine is capable of switching to 91% of clean energy in the total energy balance (together with heating and transport), and in electricity generation – up to 93%. 

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Scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have calculated that all countries must become carbon neutral by 2050 in order to keep the climate crisis at the level of survival of the civilised world. The level of emissions on the planet must be equal to the level of their absorption. Therefore, the Coalition, FFF, and XR consider that the goals set by the Ministry of Energy in the Green Energy Transition Concept as being critically insufficient, and Ukraine’s climate neutrality should be reached by 2050.

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