Ukraine's Deep C02 Cut Masks A Dirty Reality

DNIPRODZERZHYNSK, Ukraine -- Ukraine has made some of the world's deepest cuts in carbon emissions over the past two decades, but the ring of steel and chemical factories polluting her hometown make Natalya Maksymenko sceptical.

A steel plant is seen in the morning fog in Dniprodzerzhynsk, some 450 km (280 miles) south east of Kiev.

"This is not air -- this is a horror," said the 25-year-old mother, screwing up her nose at the smoke belching out of factory chimneys in Dniprodzerzhynsk, an industrial city of 250,000 people and birthplace of Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev.

"We can even hear ourselves breathing in and out. You can see what is swimming in this air -- carbon certainly and factory pollution. Everything is dirty," she complained.

Dirt-encrusted shop fronts stretch out a couple of kilometres along Lenin Avenue then end in an haze at a gigantic steel complex surrounded by swirling fumes.

It is hard to tell where the clouds end and the smoke begins in Dniprodzerzhynsk, a city which expanded rapidly under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's forced industrialisation programme.

Yet as leaders from around the world attempt to seal a deal on climate change in Copenhagen next week, on paper Ukraine looks like a model pupil on CO2 emissions reduction.

It has halved CO2 output from 1990 levels to 345 million tonnes a year, according to U.N. statistics, allowing it to sell carbon emission rights it received under the Kyoto Protocol that are potentially worth billions of dollars.

But the reality is that Ukraine's plunging emissions have simply mirrored the collapse of its Soviet-era industry -- the economy is still only three-quarters the size it was in 1990.


The global economic crisis accelerated that drop and the concern now is that this is killing the motivation to make greener power stations, factories and mines built 100 years ago.

Earlier this year, Ukraine sold 30 million carbon emission rights to Japan for $375 million and hopes to earn $2 billion or more from the sale of the right to pollute carbon credits that it does not use.

Viktor Khazan, a local environmentalist in Dniprodzerzhynsk, says the 3 billion euros ($4.5 billion) Ukraine could make from its sale of C02 rights is being wasted rather than spent on green projects, as intended by the Kyoto rules.

"There were projects where the funds were partially used and the rest went to altogether other uses," he said. "As long as there is no control over organisations, political parties, we can't say the money will be used only (on ecological projects)."

Mykola Sasiuk, the deputy head of Ukraine's environmental investment agency that sells C02 rights, denies this. He says 150 projects have been outlined, with 30 approved.

"These projects are already working and have produced real reductions (in emissions)," he said.

Ukraine's largest coalmine, Zasyadko, for example, had cut emissions by 4 million tonnes, he said.

But for some in Dniprodzerzhynsk, the projects have come far too late.

"I was poisoned by coking coal fumes and after that I could not go to work at the factory because it affected my health badly," said unemployed former steelworker Viktor, 37.

"We don't have the power to change anything," he said with a shrug as he fished from a bridge over the Dnipro river that gives the town its name.

Source: USA Today


Anonymous said…
Thankyou for bringing this article to ligt. It is a severe problem, to be honest all Ukrainian cities the air is poor. Kyiv I don't think is as bad as some European cities though.