Ukraine Program Manager, European Climate Foundation
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sent shockwaves across the world, causing widespread human suffering and a humanitarian emergency. Many countries are now grappling with food and energy insecurity. Meanwhile, climate change has fallen to the wayside while governments look to fossil fuels to address immediate energy shortfalls.
“The war came to us as a big shock. It… is breaking the heart with every human loss, destroyed lives and ruined city,” said Iryna Stavchuk, a person uniquely placed at the nexus between the war in Ukraine and climate change. Stavchuk was a deputy environment minister for Ukraine from 2019 until 2022, during which time she helped update the country’s carbon reduction commitments and improve the monitoring of greenhouse gas emissions. Now serving as the Ukraine program manager of the European Climate Foundation, she is looking ahead and formulating a ‘green recovery’ plan for post-war Ukraine. Her vision includes electricity and heating largely powered by renewable energy; city planning that promotes walking, cycling, and public transport; and recycling construction and demolition waste into building materials.
According to Stavchuk, transitions toward renewable energy are helping countries across Europe to shake their dependency on imported fossil fuels, as they respond to sanctions against Russian oil and gas. She also derives hope from the solidarity she has seen within and outside her country toward her people. “Behind every story, there is a person who decided to do what is possible to help – a small or big deed from the heart,” she says. “And all together, it creates a lot of power and hope.”