The prospects for turning political parties’ election promises on the environment into real legislative action in parliament were the focus of hearings held on Oct. 3.
The event, entitled “Green Agenda for Ukraine: Integration of Priorities from Elections to the Session Hall,” were organized jointly by the United Nations Development Program and the “Society and Environment" Resource and Analysis Center, with funding from Sweden.
An analysis of the election manifestos of parties and majoritarian candidates in the 2019 election to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine showed the various parties have similar sustainable energy and environmental policy priorities, experts at the hearings concluded.
However, the election campaign also showed many more green issues were being raised, and that there were areas of common interest that could unite politicians from different political parties to support the passing of legislation to protect the environment.
Andriy Zayika, head of the Sustainable Development, Energy and Environmental Affairs portfolio at UNDP Ukraine, said that scrutinising the green policies of the parties could help make sure they keep their promises.
“Assessing the green agenda in the political programs of parties and candidates in the early parliamentary elections gives us the opportunity not only to record the relevance of ‘green issues’ in political discourse – it also helps politicians effectively translate their promises into real action,” Zayika said.
“Besides, it also provides the public with an instrument for monitoring the fulfilment of election promises,” he said.
While green issues have not risen in the parties’ policy priorities over the past five years, there was more focus on the environment during the last election campaign, said Natalia Andrusevych, CEO at RAC “Society and Environment,” while presenting key research results.
“Compared to the 2014 parliamentary elections, the situation regarding green issues in the preelection programmes has not changed fundamentally,” Andrusevych said.
“However, the election discourse now includes more green agenda issues. It was discussed more. But the biggest (difference) in this election was the development of additional, expanded environmental policy programs by the parties, partly due to the influence of the public, public demand, and other factors."
The second half of the event was devoted to seeking common ground for promoting the environmental priorities of people's deputies from various political forces and cooperating with leaders of green initiatives in the previous Verkhovna Rada.
In particular, the hearing saw the presentation of the new “Energy and Environment” Inter-Factional Association. It is the successor to the “Green Power Shift” Inter-Factional Association – an association of MPs from the previous Rada focused on the field of sustainable energy and the environment.
“Just as environmental issues have no boundaries, measures to address these issues should have no political barriers,” said MP Lesya Vasylenko, the co-chairman of “Energy and Environment.”
“Creating the new Inter-Factional Association ‘Energy and Environment,’ we set out to continue the success story of the ‘Green Power Shift” and to ensure sustainable development with all our interests in mind, including the right to a clean environment, quality water and quality air.”
“I would like to focus (the new association’s) work on the issues that do not receive proper attention. Among these issues are the protection of environmental human rights, increasing penalties for environmental pollution, and the revision of environmental sanctions and taxes.”
Iryna Chernysh, co-founder of the SaveDnipro initiative, said that to successfully implement their environmental promises, politicians would have to depend heavily on effectively coordinating their work with all stakeholders.
“Our mission during the election was not only to get clear responses from politicians to the public requests reflected in the Environmental Security Agenda, but also to convey the importance of these issues to the country and its entire population,” Chernysh said.
Our platform of non-governmental organizations can and should continue to do further work, but now within the walls of the parliament. It should be the eyes and voice of the public. It should support good initiatives of the politicians, and stop bad ones.”
During the discussion, panellists from public and expert organizations agreed that the key task for MPs and other stakeholders should be to cooperate on quality reforms that take into account the interests of society and aid Ukraine in fulfilling its international obligations. In particular, these include achieving the goals of sustainable development and implementing the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, as well countering the hijacking of environmental issues by populist politicians, which is becoming more and more of a threat in the digital and post-truth era.
“Green Agenda for Ukraine: Integration of Priorities from Elections to the Session Hall,” was held under the project “Support to the Parliament of Ukraine on Sustainable Energy and Environment,” implemented by the United Nations Development Program with the financial support of Sweden.
Yuliia Samus, Communications Specialist, UNDP, email@example.com