Interview with research associate Ievgeniia Kopytsia

A way ahead for Ukraine’s energy sector and climate action

Ievgeniia Kopytsia

For more than two years now, Ukraine has been defying the Russian invasion and the many associated challenges – including in the energy sector. For this newsletter, we spoke to our colleague Ievgeniia Kopytsia about the impact of the war on climate protection, the country’s impressive goals for decarbonizing its energy sector and the cooperation between IKEM and its Ukrainian partners.

Ukraine’s energy sector faces extensive Russian attacks on its infrastructure. Could you describe the current challenges?

As of early 2024, up to 85% of thermal power plants and 50% of hydroelectric power plants have been damaged, resulting in a loss of about 8 GW of generation capacity and over $1 billion in material losses. This has created a substantial power deficit, leading to electricity cuts and affecting heating and water supply for two million people. Despite efforts to restore some capacity and increase imports from the EU, the demand, particularly in eastern regions, is unlikely to be fully met, causing shutdowns for millions. Ukraine’s energy markets are also in crisis: Debts and nonpayments of more than $8 billion lead to a major liquidity crunch for energy companies.

What measures are taken in this situation?

The immediate priority is to stabilize the sector and restore infrastructure. For the eastern regions, installing small-scale gas-fired power plants and generators could be a short-term solution, but any large-scale deployment of new generating capacity is currently uncertain. At the same time, Ukraine continues to focus on decarbonization and aligning its policies with European requirements.

The Paris Climate Agreement is considered a key milestone on the way to more climate protection. What actions has Ukraine taken to align with its goals?

Ukraine was one of the first European countries to ratify the Paris Agreement and committed to not exceeding 60% of 1990 greenhouse gas emission levels by 2030. Despite the ongoing war, Ukraine has consistently demonstrated a strong commitment to the Paris goals. The government presented a plan for green, low-carbon post-war reconstruction in 2022, aiming to rebuild in line with the Paris Agreement. Ukraine’s 2050 Energy Strategy envisages a carbon-neutral energy sector by 2050. At COP28, Ukraine reaffirmed its commitment to achieving net zero emissions, phasing out coal by 2035, and supporting global goals for renewable energy and energy efficiency.

How does the war impact the global climate objectives?

By September 2023, emissions directly linked to Russia’s invasion amounted to 150 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent. Globally, the war has led to a renewed focus on energy self-sufficiency, tempting countries to delay reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Examples for new fossil projects include Canada’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, the UAE’s increased oil production, Australia’s new coal mines, and Brazil’s encouragement of oil and gas exploration in the Amazon. But we’ve also seen promising effects: Contrary to initial expectations, the war has accelerated Europe’s move towards green energy. International forums and organizations are advocating for sustained focus on climate goals amid the crisis. For example, COP28 highlighted the relationship between climate, peace, and security.

In Ukraine, the extensive destruction of energy infrastructure hinders its transition towards a decarbonized energy system and increases its carbon footprint due to the reconstruction needs. However, Ukraine aims to use post-war recovery as an opportunity to align with the Paris goals and become a model for green transformation.

Which role do international cooperations play in this?

Ukraine has already received a great amount of global solidarity but will continue to rely on international support and assistance. It is therefore good to see that several international organizations have launched projects to support Ukraine’s energy sector and climate goals. These include the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s €1 billion “Ukraine Resilience and Reconstruction Framework,” the International Finance Corporation’s $500 million package, the Global Environment Facility’s $20 million project, and the United Nations Development Programme’s “Ukraine Green Recovery Programme.” These initiatives provide financial assistance, technical expertise, and policy guidance to help Ukraine rebuild.

How does IKEM contribute to Ukraine’s efforts?

IKEM has supported Ukraine’s transition to a low-carbon economy since 2021 when IKEM partnered with Yaroslav Mudryi National Law University. In October 2023, IKEM launched the Europe-Ukraine Energy Transition Hub and presented a roadmap for Ukraine’s energy transition, providing guidelines for designing and regulating the energy market and facilitating integration into the European energy market.

In June, we will host a high-level event on the Ukrainian energy sector leading up to the Ukraine Recovery Conference in Berlin. And we will work closely with the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine to support the Ukrainian delegations to this year’s international climate conferences in Bonn and Baku.


Press contact

IKEM – Institute for Climate Protection, Energy and Mobility e.V.