The plan to rebuild a green Ukraine

Politico

Ukraine should be rebuilt as a clean powerhouse that spurs the EU’s Green Deal, according to the head of the Ukrainian parliament’s climate subcommittee.

“We’re essentially going to be starting from scratch with the amount of destroyed industrial sites, energy sites. We can be the breeding ground for new technology for pilot projects, for renewables projects,” Lesia Vasylenko, an opposition MP with the pro-EU Holos party, said during a phone call last week from her home in Kyiv, to which she had recently returned after 45 days hopping from safe house to safe house.

Vasylenko wants to reverse Ukraine’s polluting legacy as the U.S.S.R.’s manufacturing base. In doing so, the country could become the engine for Europe’s ambitions to reach net zero emissions by 2050, she said.

Even with the outcome of the war still very much in the balance, a project Vasylenko called a “Marshall Plan for Ukraine” — a reference to the U.S.-led effort to rebuild Western Europe after World War II — is being developed between the office of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the chair of the parliament’s economic affairs committee Dmytro Natalukha. Economists from the U.K. are supporting the work, said Vasylenko.

She said there are two working groups in Kyiv trying to estimate the costs involved but stressed that the idea was at a “very early” stage.

Neither the Ukrainian and U.K. governments nor Natalukha responded to requests to confirm details. A European Commission spokesperson said: “It is clear that once peace returns, the EU and its member states stand ready to support the reconstruction of a democratic Ukraine as part of wider international effort in cooperation with partner countries, international organizations and financial institutions.”

The investment needed for reconstruction is likely to be huge. Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov this week estimated that the Russian invasion has caused $100 billion in infrastructure damage. The Kyiv School of Economics estimates the war’s overall hit to the Ukrainian economy is as much as $600 billion.

A recent study by the Center for Economic Policy Research think tank details how reconstruction should aim to integrate Ukraine with the EU, and to organize the effort as “an opportunity to leapfrog technologically. The most obvious possibility is to create a carbon-free economy.”

The homes Ukrainians return to should be repaired or rebuilt with the most energy-efficient materials and technologies, said Vasylenko. That alone could spur a huge new domestic industry and skills base that could be exported to an EU that is short of trained installers of heat pumps and insulation. “So again, this is an opportunity for Ukraine, but also for the world,” she said.

Ukraine could service growing demand for parts for electric cars, or heat pumps, or greener agriculture — the latter, she said, was a huge opportunity to reform farming in one of the world’s breadbasket nations.

“It’s essentially an appeal to the EU, to all of the donors that are going to be giving this money to Ukraine, for the renewal and rebuilding so that they don’t go cheap on us that they actually invest in the greening of the planet,” she said.

The price tag of a green reconstruction will initially be higher than a quick and dirty rush job, Vasylenko said, but donors and Ukraine should agree a green constraint — similar to the earmark of 37 percent for climate projects that the EU placed on its pandemic recovery funding.

“There must be a precondition to all of the money that is going to be given to Ukraine … that there is an environmental and climate change element to it,” she said. “That we’re giving you all of this money, but you can only buy the green technology.”

Vasylenko will be in Berlin next week and she plans to “definitely” raise the plan with the German government. For her, it’s a way to cajole a government she said is “reluctant to help Ukraine in any way … But Germany is very keen on climate change, on greening the economy … So the way that the war could be sold to them and that they needed to do something was actually through climate change.”

Talking about the reconstruction was “a good break” from the death and chaos of the war. Even though Kyiv felt safer than in recent weeks, she said, there were still air raid sirens on the afternoon POLITICO called.

“​​Eighty percent of our mind is taken by the now,” she said, “but already 20 percent is thinking towards the future.”

Politico

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