Ukraine is not only at COP27 to talk about climate

IIn a sense, the Ukrainian delegation to the COP27 climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, has a difficult task: to convey to the world the interrelationships between war and climate change, the scale of environmental destruction that Russia’s invasion unleashed, and the determination of this nation of 44 million to meet its decarbonisation targets anyway, building greener than before. From another perspective, the delegation’s goal is simple: to remind the world – nine months after their country was invaded – that they still exist.

“People around the world are a bit tired of Ukraine,” says Yaroslava Gres, co-founder of the Ukrainian public relations agency Gres Todorchuk, which came up with the concept for the country’s COP27 pavilion. “We were trying to figure out how to fight again for this attention to the war that is completely destroying our country, and at the same time to be on the same page as the world community that came to Egypt to discuss climate, environmental issues, etc. .n.

This effort is aimed specifically at delegates and officials from nations that have expressed ambivalence about Russia’s invasion. The COP27 conference comes one month after the UN General Assembly vote resolution condemning Russia’s illegal annexation of parts of eastern Ukraine. The measure was passed by an overwhelming majority. 143 countries, including Egypt, voted in favor and only five were against – Belarus, North Korea, Syria, Nicaragua and Russia. But 35 countries abstained from the vote, refusing to either criticize or defend Russia. China and India were among this group. African nations, including Algeria, Ethiopia and Tanzania, account for more than a dozen others. Ruslan Strylets, Minister of Environment of Ukraine, says that this year’s conference venue presents a unique opportunity to reach influential people in these nations.

“Our goal is to [show] these countries that Ukraine is right compared to Russia,” says Strylets, “not only for 147 countries to vote to condemn Russia’s actions, but for all countries to accept the decision that Russia’s actions are against UN agreements. .”

A cameraman takes a selfie as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivers his statement via video on the third day of the UN Climate Change Conference COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt on November 8.  (Dominika Zarzycka—NurPhoto/Shutterstock)

A cameraman takes a selfie as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky delivers his statement via video on the third day of the UN Climate Change Conference COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt on November 8.

Dominika Zarzychka—NurPhoto/Shutterstock

It is unclear when nations will be forced to take sides – there were only small differences between the results of the October 12 referendum vote and the UN vote in early March to condemn the invasion itself. But overall, the more nations Ukraine can rally against Russia’s actions, the more hollow the country’s claims that its war is legal.

In a fascinating virtual November 8 address At the climate conference, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky argued that it is not possible to tackle climate change without first ending the war in Ukraine. “There can be no effective climate policy without peace on Earth,” he said, “because in fact nations are only thinking about how to protect themselves here and now against the threats created in particular by Russian aggression.”

Gress and her colleagues’ job was to help visitors pass by the country’s COP27 pavilion, a designated spot in Sharm el-Sheikh’s conference area that functions as a trade show booth for countries to showcase their environmental plans. Ukraine’s space was the size of three shipping containers stacked side by side, and Gress’s firm decided to occupy it with an entrance hollow V-shaped structure, like a giant gray shipping cone standing on top, meant to resemble a rocket crater. “Now Ukraine is full of these craters in every field, in the centers of cities, you can see them everywhere,” says Gress. “That’s why we decided to put him at the center of our story.”

A shrapnel-riddled tree trunk brought to Egypt from Ukraine is also on display, along with hundreds of samples of Ukrainian soil, designed to highlight the links between the war and risks to the global food supply. “This is the main purpose of our pavilion [for visitors to] to see with their own eyes how this war is destroying Ukraine’s environment, Ukraine’s infrastructure and all other aspects of our lives,” Strylets says. “To get a feel for the situation we have here in Ukraine.

Gress adds, “I hope we can change their minds.”

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Write to Alejandro de la Garza c [email protected].

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