WWF welcomes environmental objectives of governmental Ukraine Plan but calls for rising ambitions in future

Posted on 02 Apr 2024


Photo bt Kostiantyn Stupak from Pexel

WWF expresses its appreciation for the fact that environmental aspects of the Ukraine Plan issued by the government of Ukraine, have been strengthened compared to a previous version leaked early 2024.

The Plan is a strategic document aimed at outlining how the EU´s recently adopted support package of 50 billion EUR, the Ukraine Facility, will be spent. It is thus potentially a key mechanism for fostering a nature- and climate-positive future of the country. WWF´s initial analysis of the Plan is summarised in the following text.

WWF welcomes in particular the following messages of the Plan:

Environmental mainstreaming

“Ukraine is committed to reconstruction in a green, i.e. low-carbon, circular, nature-positive and zero-pollution approach and in line with EU standards” and “...the whole Ukraine Plan will mainstream climate and environmental considerations and will be based on the principles of “do no significant harm” (DNSH) and “leaving no one behind’” are important pledges. Other good signs that sustainability is being taken seriously are repeated references to the principle of "build back better" and the fact that the green transition and environmental protection are recognised as cross-cutting areas of the Plan's implementation.

Green investment needs

The Plan acknowledges that there are investment needs for the promotion of organic farming and soil restoration; reducing the use of pesticides and agrochemicals in line with European practice; promotion of production of food with lower environmental and climate footprint, incl. alternative proteins and other plant-based alternatives to animal products. The transition of the economy from the traditional linear approach (take-make-throw away) to a circular approach (reduce, reuse, recycle) are also mentioned as objectives, which give hope for a green transition.

Сorporate governance

WWF welcomes that one of the reforms is "approximation to EU standards and regulations on environmental management and auditing, including for state-owned enterprises" which “will help to strengthen compliance with all the principles of the 'do no significant harm' approach”. In addition, the implementation of corporate governance principles in state-owned enterprises in the environmental sector will contribute to the effective management of natural resources and minimise the risks of corruption.


WWF agrees with the Plan´s assessment that “Ukraine’s networks of protected areas lack a strong and well-implemented legal and institutional framework to ensure those areas can be effectively protected”. A strategy is suggested for counteracting these deficiencies and for an increase of protected areas and ecosystem restoration in accordance with Ukraine's obligations. This is applaudable.

Governance in the forest sector

“Ukraine will ensure open access to environmental information as required by the international treaties and EU legislation, build environmental monitoring systems, and improve enforcement of environmental legislation including in the forestry sector where a separation of functions is needed and the implementation of an empowered and specific control and inspection body is required to increase transparency in the sector and decrease illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) tree felling. The commitment to increase the area of certified forests is also welcome. A “detailed action plan for the implementation of the ‘Governmental Strategy of Forest Resources Management in Ukraine to 2035’ and related institutional reforms” will be valuable. However, it needs to be highlighted that reforestation must comply with close-to-nature forest management principles to ensure long-term resilience of the sector.

Environmental liability

Environmental liability requirements will be aligned with those of the EU, the Plan states and continues: “Strengthening the environmental administration’s capacity for policy and legislation formulation, implementation and enforcement, in particular via proper public administration reform and allocating adequate financial resources is necessary”. This is a big step forward.

Land use

The Plan appreciates an important precondition for achieving sustainability that so far has not been mentioned prominently in strategic discussions: “improved local land use planning for investments, taxation, and sustainability would require creating and updating the territorial land use plans based on topographic maps, ensuring the operation and maintenance of the topographic data base, and ensuring its availability online”. 

Climate law

A climate law “setting long-term national climate goals and objectives for the country's  low- carbon development, introducing a framework for tracking policies and activities, climate change forecasting, and creating a climate governance architecture” is very welcome, in particular as civil society “should be closely involved in the development and implementation of the law”. 

Participation and transparency

The Plan states that “a continuous dialogue with the representatives of the Ukrainian and international private sector and civil society will be of crucial importance for the success of recovery” and that “the dialogue will be exercised through both ad-hoc and institutionalised engagement and coordination formats”. Also “Creating conditions for an increased level of involvement and active participation of citizens in decision-making processes at the local level ... will expand opportunities for various categories of residents, including vulnerable groups, to participate in the work of advisory bodies, planning, budgeting and decision-making processes”. Another important mechanism is the "approval of the Roadmap for Public Investment Management Reform, based on the recommendations of the World Bank's Public Investment Management Diagnostic Assessment (PIMDA) Report”; “A robust project monitoring system with a high degree of digitalisation will be implemented, including the use of a new IT system for budget planning and monitoring and the Digital Ecosystem for Accountable Recovery Management (DREAM)”, the Plan says.


The following actions are expected to be important for combating environmental crimes related to wildlife, timber, or hazardous waste trade: "implementation of a single window for customs and electronic data interchange (EDI) with EU countries to facilitate trade", “digitalisation of customs procedures and the introduction of anti-corruption tools”.

However, WWF also spotted some weaknesses in the Ukraine Plan, which should be adjusted in the course of implementation and in upcoming plan revisions. This relates in particular to:

Vision lacks mainstreaming

The statement on “Vision, strategy, and impact” of the Plan does not adequately reflect the commitment to environmental mainstreaming outlined in the last sectoral chapter “Green Transition and Environmental Protection” of the Plan. 
Water sector gaps. When talking about alignment with the EU water acquis, the Plan is very focussed on water quality improvement and not appreciating e.g. the urgent task of mitigating and preventing impacts of river regulation. This relates in particular to the objective of adding “2.4 GW of new capacities of hydroelectric power” and the aim to rebuild Kakhovka dam without mentioning the need to investigate low impact alternatives as suggested by the Environmental Compact for Ukraine. 

Logging versus conservation

The Plan underscores the objective of increasing annual timber production from 15 to 25 million m3. The likely impact of such a high increase of timber extraction from Ukrainian forests on climate and biodiversity will be drastic and cannot be compensated by higher afforestation rates as the Plan suggests. The risk is exacerbated by the cancellation of the obligation to apply Environmental Impact Assessments according to the Draft law 9516 of Ukraine and the fact that forestry management practices are often not science based nor grounded on sound planning. The objective can also be called short-sighted from an economic perspective because only sustainable forestry practices, not logging per se, can ensure long-term viability of the sector. 

Climate and Energy

As for achieving climate neutrality, the Plan refers to the draft National Energy and Climate Plan of Ukraine, which envisages achieving climate neutrality by 2060 while the EU aims to achieve it by 2040, so there is a considerable discrepancy. The Plan is missing mechanisms for ensuring the Do No Significant Harm principle it refers to. This could include, in particular 1) the identification of acceleration areas on one hand and  no-go areas on the other for the deployment of renewable energy facilities in order to minimise impact on the natural environment; b) for the envisaged increase in bioenergy generation, sustainability criteria should be agreed and applied, c) building new hydropower dams as implied by the Plan should be avoided while the focus must be on refurbishment of existing hydropower plants in order to comply with the objectives of the EU Water Framework Directive. The “renaissance of nuclear energy” as outlined in the Plan is unlikely to “meet the green criteria of the concept of sustainable development” as stated considering the unsolved problem of safe disposal of nuclear waste and the high risk the technology poses in particular in times of conflict. 

Biodiversity investments lacking

The Plan calls for investment in tourism infrastructure in national natural parks but not in well-resourced management authorities of such protected areas, which would be the prerequisite for ensuring that tourism infrastructure is sustainable. The table on Investments and Reforms to be funded under Pillar 1 lacks measures for biodiversity such as inclusion of protected areas in the land cadastre, a prerequisite for nature-positive planning and fostering of green infrastructure. 

Environmental assessments

While the Plan rightly acknowledges that rules on environmental impact assessments and strategic environmental assessments have to be amended so that derogations only apply in specific instances, the “development of a concept note defining the scope of deviations from the EIA and SEA rules” appears like a weak mechanism to ensure this. The absence of an explicit requirement to apply SEA and EIA procedures on “areas of recovery” (a broad concept under current Ukrainian legislation) may be a tool to avoid the need to conduct these procedures at large scale. The chapter “Absorption capacity” misses highlighting the need for capacity building of public administration for conducting such assessments and following the Do No Significant Harm Approach (DNSH). In addition, there is an urgent need to establish clear guidelines for applying the DNSH principle in the current Ukrainian context. The Plan fails to mention this as priority and numerous references to DNSH e.g. in the paragraph on irrigation indicate a lack of understanding what the term actually implies.

Fight against environmental crimes and natural resource corruption

The Plan does not adequately respond to the Ukraine Facility (page 32) which put forward the objective to “strive to improve the awareness of and fight against environmental crime in Ukraine, supporting the implementation of the Kyiv Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers and ensuring compliance with environmental protection laws”. Such a response could be e.g. strengthening the institutional capacity of the Specialised Environmental Prosecutor's Office, reforming the State Environmental Inspectorate of Ukraine, or setting up special environmental units in law enforcement agencies. Environmental crimes are the 3rd largest criminal activity in the world (as they are often a component of organised crime, corruption and money laundering). These crimes have a direct impact on the environment, biodiversity and human health, and in Ukraine, this impact is compounded  by the significant number of war crimes committed as a result of the full-scale military invasion. 

Limited action on sustainable food systems

The table with reforms and investments covered under Pillar 1 misses measures for  organic farming, soil restoration; reducing agrochemicals and promotion of alternative proteins and other plant-based alternatives to animal products. This means it remains open how these important objectives set in the Plan will be implemented.

Biodiversity impact of transport

Although the section on modernising road infrastructure states that "investment priorities include the modernisation of road infrastructure, including TEN-T construction of a certain part of the road infrastructure located in the TEN-T network, in particular in accordance with the principle of 'no significant harm' and in compliance with TEN-T standards", the objective of minimising the impact of transport infrastructure on the natural environment is not spelled out. Inland navigation, road, rail and airport infrastructure are known for negatively impacting biodiversity and ecosystem services if not planned in an integrated manner. However, the planned update of the National Transport Strategy of Ukraine for the period up to 2030 is not referring to the aim of avoiding and mitigating impact on biodiversity in line with Ukraine´s international commitments. 

Unclear participation mechanism

The Plan fails to outline “institutionalised engagement formats” for civil society organisations. It needs to be noted that although representatives of some CSOs had the opportunity to express their views on certain content of the draft Plan at some hearings, the whole document was never made available for specific suggestions and comments. This is why an engagement mechanism is urgently needed, e.g. modelled after Monitoring Committees set up for EU funds in EU member states. It should include a certain number of representatives of local self-government bodies, NGOs, etc. and become a platform for communicating to the government the consolidated position of the public and expert community on the identification of priority sectors and industries for recovery, as well as proposals for sectoral and cross-sectoral recovery measures.



Valeriia Kolomiiets, Regenerate Ukraine Initiative Director, WWF Ukraine, vkolomiiets@wwf.ua 

Irene Lucius, Regional Conservation Director, WWF-CEE, ilucius@wwfcee.org