Age of environmental stagnation: Does Ukraine have a climate policy?

Author : Iryna Shostak

Source : 112 Ukraine

Almost three years ago, the Paris Climate Agreement came into force. It obliged all states, regardless of the degree of their economic development, to take responsibility for reducing harmful emissions into the atmosphere
22:21, 19 August 2019

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During this period, a number of countries have already demonstrated changes in state policy regarding climate control. But in Ukraine, which by 2020 planned to develop and introduce a greenhouse gas market, the first stage - the draft law - is still awaiting a second reading in Parliament.

Each country, after signing the climate agreement, pledged to make contributions to achieve two crucial goals: reducing greenhouse gas emissions to zero during the second half of the 21st century, and preventing the global average temperature from rising more than 2° C (if possible - 1.5° C) regarding indicators of the pre-industrial era.

There are several mechanisms by which the state can limit emissions in a certain way. Two main ones are used: the greenhouse gas market (as in the EU countries, where they trade quotas either domestically or between other countries) and the greenhouse gas emissions tax (a mechanism that will surely become a bone in the throat of a large industrial business).

Therefore, after ratification of the agreement in Ukraine, we had to decide which way we would move: introduce one of the mechanisms (given that one of the conditions of the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU is the creation of a greenhouse gas market, and big business is categorically against the introduction of taxes, the choice is almost obvious) or another, more logical option is to introduce both mechanisms in parallel, checking their effectiveness.

Indeed, as Anna Akermann, the head of the climate department of the Center for Ecological Initiatives notes, since Ukraine has an extremely low CO2 tax (30 eurocents per ton), enterprises are by no means interested in finding ways to solve the issue of reducing emissions.

One way or another, but the question of choosing the route for Ukraine is frozen in the air, because both for the introduction of the market and for the establishment of taxes, you must first understand how many emissions the country's enterprises produce. That is why the draft Law "On the Principles of Monitoring, Reporting and Verification of Greenhouse Gas Emissions" was initiated. According to the Concept of implementing state policy in the field of climate change for the period until 2030, it should be the first driving step in introducing changes.

The role of the Law in the environmental policy implementation

In December 2017, the Cabinet of Ministers approved an action plan for the Concept of state policy in the field of climate change for the period up to 2030 (hereinafter - the Concept, the first document at the state level that aimed to limit the amount of CO2 emissions). The measures defined by the plan should satisfy the conditions of both agreements (the Paris Climate Agreement and the Association Agreement with the EU), thereby gradually raising Ukraine in the ranking of the most environmentally-friendly countries in the world.

It was determined that for 2018-2019 we need to create a monitoring and verification system for reporting emissions (in order to collect accurate data on the amount of CO2 emissions by industrial enterprises), then develop a plan for allocating quotas by sector of the economy, and also introduce a permit for greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, having received a quota, enterprises could implement measures aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and sell excess quotas to another company that lacks its own.

Related: UN Climate Conference agreed on measures to implement Paris Agreement

As of July 2, 2019, the draft Law on the Principles of Monitoring, Reporting and Verification of Greenhouse Gas Emissions is awaiting a second reading. And this is only the first stage on the long path of Ukraine becoming an environmentally friendly country in the international arena.

"The Ministry of Natural Resources, initiating the bill, counted on parliament to pass it in May. Further, in an optimistic version, the Cabinet of Ministers was supposed to approve all resolutions by November. Then, emissions monitoring would begin in 2020, and an approved unified emission monitoring methodology for enterprises would appear. And only in 2021 would enterprises would be able to submit first reports on their emissions," says Anna Akermann.

Now the plan of the Concept itself is delayed indefinitely. So, as a result, Ukraine is slowing down not only in fulfilling the conditions of the Paris Climate Agreement, significantly lagging behind other countries (for example, in 2017, China canceled plans to build hundreds of coal stations, India pledged to receive 40% of all energy from renewable sources, while Slovakia, Germany and Britain are gradually abandoning coal, making the decision to close coal stations), but also in the implementation of political association and economic integration with the EU.

Does the bill have a future?

Now the question of introducing the law is redirected to the new Parliament. After all, it is not yet clear whether it will continue to consider the bill, the adoption of which was initiated by its  predecessors. Also (since the bill was initiated by the ministry), much depends on the new Minister of Ecology.

The only thing that needs to be immediately reviewed is the country's climatic goal. After all, after the signing of the agreement in 2015, all signatory countries had to submit their climate aims. Then Ukraine set a goal that assumed reduction of emissions from the 1990 level, when emissions were much higher - 40%, by 2030. In fact, this means an increase in emissions from today's level - we have chosen the aim of increasing emissions.

To fulfill the goals of the Paris Agreement, countries must abandon fossil fuels by 2050. As the practice of other countries, especially the Scandinavian ones, shows that this is partially possible.  So it is necessary to adopt a unified strategy, identify mechanisms and gradually move towards achieving the goal. It is important to make strong political decisions (set priorities correctly), which was impossible until today, since political and economic power were mainly concentrated in the hands of people interested in other issues.

Related: US and Russia ally with Saudi Arabia to water down climate pledge

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