The war in Ukraine has caused immense human suffering and destruction to infrastructure as well as to the natural environment, with long-term implications for the Ukrainian people and economy. More than 6 million people have no or limited access to clean water, and over 280,000 hectares of forests have been destroyed or felled.
While the end of the war is still unknown, it is clear that Ukraine will need the largest reconstruction plan in Europe since World War II. Planning for post-war reconstruction has already started with the Ukrainian government presenting a draft recovery plan at the high-level international Ukraine Recovery Conference in Lugano on 4-5 July 2022. At the conference key actors committed to sustainability as one of the key principles of recovery.
The WWF-BCG report provides a pathway to achieve these sustainability goals. It shows that, while circumstances are dire, if sustainability is at the core and reforms are properly implemented, this effort could shape a sustainable model of economic development for Ukraine, Europe and the world. Developed with WWF-Ukraine, who work closely with other social and environmental organizations, academia and businesses, the report aims at bringing a civil society voice into the reconstruction agenda.
Modernizing Ukraine’s economy and infrastructure in a way that works with nature rather than against it would generate many benefits, including enhanced security with less dependence on imports of fossil fuels and accelerated economic development and job creation. Such reconstruction can accelerate Ukraine’s integration in the EU and alignment with key policies such as the European Green Deal, to which Ukraine has already committed.
Dr Bohdan Vykhor, CEO WWF Ukraine, said:
“Environmental security must be part of the security paradigm for Ukraine as it provides a basis for Ukraine’s economic development, well-being and survival. It’s about building a more sustainable and resilient country for the people of Ukraine”.
Hubi Meinecke, Global Leader, Climate & Sustainability, Boston Consulting Group, said:
“Even under the most tragic circumstances, there is hope. The extent of suffering and destruction brought by the war is staggering. We know from our engagement with leaders in the Ukraine that they want the international community to start to mobilize now for the recovery. At BCG, we strongly believe that to achieve the best outcome for Ukrainians, reconstruction should be planned with climate and nature at its heart. With WWF, we show the path for a sustainable recovery plan.”
Invest in the future, don’t reconstruct an unsustainable past
The recovery plan should not simply aim to rebuild what has been destroyed, but rather focus on the future: investments must be transformative and sustainable, working with rather than against nature. Starting with climate change, the plan should ensure that Ukraine can at least deliver on, and potentially raise, its pre-war ambitions to reduce GHG emissions by 65% by 2030 vs. 1990 and reach Net Zero by 2060 — all while adapting to a future with growing impacts from climate change.
The natural environment is the foundation of a strong and resilient economy as well as a healthy society. Ecosystem goods and services are valued at ~$185 bn/year, which is roughly equivalent to Ukraine’s GDP. In every sector covered by the report (covering two-thirds of GDP and ca 90% of exports), there are opportunities to de-carbonize, reduce resource use and leverage nature-based solutions.
The report defines ten key recommendations as well as further specific recommendations regarding three environmental issues (Forests, Wildlife Biodiversity, Freshwater), six economic sectors (Housing, Transport, Energy and Power, Agriculture, Industry, Tech & Digital) as well as Governance.
Tomislav Corak, Managing Director & Partner at BCG, declared:
“Having grown up in Croatia, I have experienced firsthand the difficulties and uncertainties of recovery after the Homeland War ended in 1995. Ukrainians will have access to new technologies and can use their digital skills to build people-friendly housing and infrastructure, sustainable agriculture as well as low carbon industrial, transportation and energy solutions. It will take strong leadership and persistence to rebuild Ukraine in an economical and environmentally friendly way. Both are possible, but to deliver them we need to start planning now.”
The report is an important step in WWF’s efforts to support reconstruction in Ukraine. It is a basis for engaging with decision-makers inside and outside of Ukraine as well as stakeholders from the private sector, civil society and communities across key sectors for development.
“The war is still ongoing, and the challenges are complex, so this report offers our current perspectives and not definitive answers. It has been developed as a basis for discussion, planning and cooperation with decision-makers and stakeholders both inside and outside of Ukraine. We expect the analysis and ideas presented here to develop further as this dialogue unfolds,” Dr Vykhor said.