For the past three years, we at The Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe (REC) and our Ukrainian partners: municipalities of Ivano-Frankivsk, Cherkasy, Poltava, Lubny, Berdychiv, Fastiv and Nizhyn, civil society organisations, and experts from all over Ukraine, closely cooperated on the implementation of the project “Local Initiatives for a Sustainable Ukraine – LINK”, supported by the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment. Time has come to summarize the achievements, and check if we managed to reach our goals and contribute to better environmental governance, proactive civil engagement, improved access to investments, and better resource efficiency due to energy saving and renewable energy projects.
LINK’s Final Conference “Communities Moving Forward” organized in Kyiv, July 5-6, 2018, was the opportunity to highlight the achievements of the LINK project, recapitulate the process, celebrate successes, as well as discuss the challenges and space for improvements. LINK journey started with series of capacity buildings on development of local environmental/energy plans with involvement of civil society, and energy data collection/modeling/assessment, for the municipality representatives and energy experts. We’ve build knowledge base of the local working groups who worked intensively to collect and analyze the environmental and energy-related data. Civil society organizations participated in the work of the working groups and assisted the process by conducting public opinion polls, thus providing important input to the planning process. Once action plans were developed and officially adopted by partner municipalities, LINK project provided support to the implementation of investment projects. In parallel, CSOs went through series of capacity buildings and mentoring, and received support to their initiatives and organizational development, while educational experts developed multimedia educational tool - Citizen Pack. Main actors of this complex process were all there at the final Conference to tell their story about the three year long journey called LINK.
At the opening of the conference, HE Ole T. Horpestad, Ambassador at the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Ukraine, welcomed the participants, reiterating Norway’s dedication to support Ukraine on its path to sustainability. Lesia Karnaukh from the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Ukraine, shared the latest developments in Ukraine's energy sector and environmental field, while Olga Borodankova, Sector Manager for Energy Efficiency at the Delegation of the European Union to Ukraine, informed the participants about the Energy Efficiency Fund.
In order to introduce us to the panel discussions, Eduardas Kazakevicius, Head of REC’s Climate, Mobility and Low Emission Development Unit, gave an overview of the potential for low carbon economy and energy security challenges and opportunities in Ukraine, while Oleksiy Korchmit, national expert, presented current status, trends and future prospects of energy situation in communities in Ukraine. Finally, what LINK did in order to tackle environmental and energy issues in communities in Ukraine we heard from Zorica Korac and Kliment Mindjov, REC experts, who gave an overview of the LINK program, announcing the discussion about concrete LINK outcomes that will follow in panel discussions.
A shift in local planning practices towards more open, participatory processes and concrete benefits of the municipalities’ energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, as well as benefits of civil society initiatives in the same fields, were highlights of first three panel discussions that also tackled outcomes, challenges, success stories, and lessons learned. We saw how the energy efficiency and renewable energy projects materialized in communities: Nizhyn’s energy saving measures in kindergarten, Fastiv’s modernized boiler facilities using woodchips, Berdychiv’s thermal modernization Berdychiv Central City Hospital, establishment of energy management and monitoring systems at Ivano Frankivsk municipal heating enterprise, Lubni’s solar energy collectors of Lubny Municipal Central Hospital, Ecoltava’s mini solar power station demonstration project and awareness raising on efficient energy use, Cherkasy Green Energy by All-Ukrainian Ecology League and is partners, etc.
Day two started with the discussion on funding opportunities for Ukrainian municipalities and their project pipelines, moderated by Oksana Kysil. Municipalities have demonstrated that they have been making progress with identifying the sources of funding this getting closer to putting their action plans in practice. Future of civil society was in focus of the next panel, in which Alona Prenkovska lead CSO representatives through the discussion on CSOs’ financial viability, ways of diversifying sources of funding and creating viable financial models, including social entrepreneurship, crowdfunding, philanthropy, and corporate social responsibility. Finally, Kliment Mindjov and educational experts, introduced us to the perspectives for the Education for Sustainable Development in Ukraine. They also demonstrated how the application of Green Pack and Citizen Pack’ can be powerful tool in changing behavioral patterns thus contributing to long term changes in society.
Finally, our Ukrainian partners and REC team expressed their gratitude for great cooperation under LINK, as well as for the support of the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment.