Vested interests in Ukraine are grabbing the chance to relax inconvenient environmental controls

10 junho 2022

Vested interests in Ukraine are grabbing the chance to relax inconvenient environmental controls

More than 30 Ukrainian NGOs have called for Ukraine’s Parliament to urgently pass seven critical environmental laws to help counter the vested interests that are “cynically using Russia’s invasion of their country to water down environmental controls”. The NGOs therefore hope to play an integral role in helping ensure that investments under the EU’s new Rebuild Ukraine Facility are “in line with climate and environmental EU policies and standards”.

A statement published in April 2022 by the Ukrainian Nature Conservation Group (UNCG) and other NGOs such as Environment-People-Law and WWF-Ukraine, says that “The war in Ukraine demonstrated extraordinary unity both at home and abroad. However, shady business and the desire to destroy nature are still around.”

Their call comes against the backdrop of the erosion of laws designed to protect Ukraine’s nature and forests.

In March, Ukraine’s Parliament passed Law No. 7144, cancelling an important environmental regulation that prohibits cutting timber in protected areas and forests during the critical time for animal breeding, from early April to mid-June. Foresters had long opposed the law, and lobbied for its cancellation under the pretext of “supporting the country’s defensive capabilities”. Although it is indispensable for biodiversity conservation, the law was annulled as a result of ongoing martial law.

Since then, the authorities have continued to develop other legal amendments to “simplify logging”, says UNCG’s Yehor Hrynk.

“One of the new amendments to be introduced shortly is so-called ‘military logging’. Basically, it means that regional authorities or military units of any kind can ask forest managers for any quantities of wood, and forest managers can harvest such wood without any requirements or limitations. It is of course needed in the frontline regions, but we also anticipate a lot of manipulations with this type of logging – and there is now no way to counteract it,” Hrynk says.

Hyrnk adds that Ukrainian NGOs’ campaigning efforts had managed to thwart one of the proposed new legal acts intended to weaken environmental protection, but others remain a problem. 

Among the essential laws that UNCG and the other NGOs want passed is the draft law on Timber Markets, which would reduce corruption during timber sales and allocate more funds to forest protection. A 2020 investigation by Fern’s partner Earthsight highlighted the need for such a law, revealing how illegal timber from some of Europe’s last forests in the Ukrainian Carpathians was being utilised to make furniture giant Ikea’s most popular products.

Regarding the EU’s efforts to support post-war recovery, Ukrainian NGOs have taken positive note of the Rebuild Ukraine Facility’s emphasis on rule of law reforms, fighting corruption and upholding environmental and climate standards (among others). Civil society participation will provide a much-needed counterbalance to the overbearing influence of industries in their government’s planning processes. It is crucial, they believe, for the Facility to be grounded in green recovery principles, and for EU support to be closely linked to Ukraine’s implementation of specific reforms, such as those foreseen in the seven laws discussed above.

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