Today officially marks the opening of Bellona’s office in Kiev with the goal of assisting the embattled government make sound energy decisions in the face of the dramatic political and economic changes it faces as the country’s tug of war between western and Russian influences intensifies.
Kiev’s Energy Ministry has approached Bellona’s office to take an advisory roll in implementing Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) in the heavily coal dependent nation. It also coincides with a visit Tuesday to Kiev by Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg.
The opening of the new office also dovetails with a round ear-boxing Russian President Vladimir Putin received from world leaders gathered at the G-20 summit in Brisbane, Australia for fomenting military aggression in Ukraine following his annexation of the Crimean Peninsula in March, and the downing of a Malaysian airliner in July, killing all 298 onboard, over pro-Russian held Ukrainian territory.
Despite an augmenting presence of Russian military hardware in the country’s industrial east, winter is setting in, making the challenging process of setting a cohesive energy policy all the more pressing, Bellona President Frederic Hauge said.
“We are proud to establish ourselves in Ukraine,” Hauge continued. “By means of a permanent presence, Bellona will expand the solution-oriented environmental and climate work we are recognized for Brussels and Russia.”
The Kiev office will be headed by Bellona’s Larisa Bronder, who for four years worked at Bellona’s Oslo office as an advisor on Russian industrial pollution.
Ukraine must develop energy to EU standards
In the midst of the growing uncertainty, Bronder said, Ukraine has now more than ever a need to develop and implement economic and institutional reforms linked to the cooperation agreement Kiev’s government signed earlier this year with the EU.
Bronder said the chief aim of Bellona’s Kiev office would be “to contribute to creating sustainable, reliable specialist knowledge of climate and energy.
“We will work hard to help increase the technological and political understanding among decision makers and civil society in this country,” she said.
Bronder said Bellona has established a good network of partners in Ukraine who will help effect these goals, and is already rolling out a series of activities that will ensure Kiev is familiar with new technologies and regulations that are necessary under the EU agreement.
Bellona was, in October, the first environmental group to introduce the concept of CCS to Kiev’s government ministries.
Protecting the environment and energy on war’s doorstep
The ballooning conflict with Russia means Ukraine “faces a series of dramatic geopolitical, domestic political and economic challenges,” said Bronder.
Not the least of these challenges is Ukraine’s high dependence on Russia for much of its energy – a relationship Kiev can no longer count on.
“To avoid dependency on Russian gas and to gain energy security Ukraine should reduce energy consumption and start producing more energy domestically,” said Bronder.
But achieving that in Ukraine’s heavily coal dependent economy in a manner that is consistent with the EU agreement is no small task, especially as issues of global warming might take a back seat to preparing for what could easily become open war with Russia.
An Eastern European focus on CCS
To this end, said Bronder, “Bellona wishes to focus on energy-related issues and assist to the country to address energy and climate issues with the aim of improving its energy security and contribution to climate mitigation projects.”
Primary among these is the continuation of a project Bellona has already initiated in Ukraine, called, “Ukraine and CCS Capacity Building through Energy and Climate Dialogue,” which received the support of Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“Today Ukraine has to develop and implement a program of far-reaching economic and institutional reform,” said Bronder. “To comply with the EU Association Agreement Ukraine has to approximate, adopt and implement EU regulations and standards,” impending war notwithstanding, said Bronder.
Brussels experience critical to Kiev success
Bronder said that the Ukrainian Energy Ministry was drawn to Bellona because of its successful influence on EU policy through its Brussels office.
The Brussels office has existed since 1996, and has brought to Bellona as a whole skills that are relevant to its new forays into Ukraine, said Bronder.
“It is important that the country’s industry and energy sector quickly adapt to the new realities they will face under the new agreement with Brussels,” Bronder said.
Bronder’s advice to Solberg on her state visit
Bronder said Bellona is grateful to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign affairs for its active support of establishing its Kiev office.
“Norway has much to contribute here in Ukraine,” said Bronder. “Solberg should be clear that the Norwegian government will actively support the democratic process that Kiev is trying to bring about despite great odds.
“At the same time,” continued Bronder,”Solberg should emphasize the importance of Ukraine’s future energy policy, and that Ukraine could become a leader in Europe in terms of capture and storage of CO2 and clean energy use.”
For more information and additional comments:
Larisa Bronder, Director of Bellona’s work in Kiev, tel: +38 0987805551, firstname.lastname@example.org
Magnus Borgen, Head of Communications Bellona, tel: +47 977 28 476, email@example.com