Ukraine shines light on climate change and conflict at Cop28

Kyiv wants to focus on 'green recovery' at talks in Dubai, senior environment official says

Victoria Kyreieva, deputy minister of environmental protection for Ukraine, with the roof of a house destroyed by flooding after the collapse of the Kakhovka Dam. Pawan Singh / The National
Powered by automated translation

Live updates: Follow the latest news on Cop28

Ukraine is tackling global climate change while fighting a war against Russia, a senior Kyiv official has said.

Victoria Kyreieva, deputy minister of environmental protection, said on Monday that a delegation from the country travelled to the Cop28 summit to show the world that Ukraine was not only focused on its own problems.

Officials are determined to prioritise Ukraine’s “green recovery” at the talks, she said.

It comes as the nation faces daily attacks from Russia, with a counteroffensive now stymied by the onset of winter.

“The victory and end of war is the main goal, but we need to start thinking and start planning the green recovery right now. That’s why we are here,” Ms Kyreieva said.

Ms Kyreieva spoke to The National at the Ukrainian pavilion, where the effects of Russia's invasion of the country were impossible to ignore. For part of the exhibition, Kyiv shipped a tiled roof from a house flooded after the collapse of the Kakhovka Dam, in the southern Kherson region.

The dam was a source of electricity and water for millions of Ukrainians before the conflict began. Its destruction caused flooding that destroyed villages and crops. Ukraine blamed Russia, but the Kremlin denies any involvement in the incident.

“A tragedy happened this year. We call it the largest environmental crime," Ms Kyreieva said.

A report issued by Ukraine on the environmental effects of the war was updated for Cop28. The fighting has caused about $60 billion in environmental damage, with greenhouse gas emissions higher than the annual amounts reported by some countries, the report said.

It said about 120 million tonnes in war-related emissions were created in the 12 months from the start of the invasion on February – higher than the annual totals recorded by Romania, Austria, Norway and Sweden. Ukraine said its emissions figure climbed to 150 million tonnes this month.

Ms Kyreieva said Ukraine was calling for more accountability for greenhouse gas emissions caused by war and wanted international laws to include the principle that the “aggressor pays”.

It is Ukraine’s second time it has a pavilion at a Cop summit. At Cop27 last year in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, Kyiv's sombre pavilion was shrouded in grey to reflect the immediate shock and despair at Russia's invasion.

This year Ukraine is trying to forge ahead with green energy projects and efforts to restore land and recycle debris. On Monday, it announced a $489 million expansion of a wind farm in the southern Mykolaiv region.

“I don’t think that the world has forgotten about Ukraine,” said Ms Kyreieva. “We see clear support from our partners at Cop28. We have had high-level guests at our pavilion this year – presidents, prime ministers and ministers.

“This year, participants from African countries know what is happening in Ukraine. Last year they didn’t know.

“The message is Ukrainians still live during the war. But it is not normal. We want to end this war.

"But we need the world’s support. We plead for the world’s support.”

Updated: December 04, 2023, 6:42 PM