COP27: Ukraine's Zelenskiy says climate policy impossible without peace

FILE PHOTO: Ukraine's President Zelenskiy speaks during a joint news conference with Czech Prime Minister Fiala in Kyiv

By Gloria Dickie and William James

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (Reuters) -Russia's invasion of Ukraine has distracted world governments from efforts to combat climate change, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a video message played at the COP27 climate conference in Egypt on Tuesday.

"There can be no effective climate policy without the peace," he said, highlighting the impact of Russia's invasion of Ukraine on global energy supplies, food prices and Ukraine's forests.

"This Russian war has brought about an energy crisis that has forced dozens of countries to resume coal-fired power generation in order to lower energy prices for their people ... to lower prices that are shockingly rising due to deliberate Russian actions."

"(It) brought an acute food crisis to the world, which hit worst those suffering the existing manifestations of climate change ... the Russian war destroyed 5 million acres of forests in Ukraine in less than six months," Zelenskiy said.

Ukraine is hosting an exhibition space this year for the first time at a U.N. climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. But unlike the other booths at COP27 that are festooned in colorful logos, flags and greenery, Ukraine's stood out for its bleakness - covered in gravely grey to symbolize the war at home.

In his video appearance, Zelenskiy wore a trademark green T-shirt and faced the video camera from behind a desk. He criticised world leaders for paying lip service to climate change without delivering real change. He did not name individual states.

"There are still many for whom climate change is just rhetoric or marketing ... but not real action," he said.

"They are the ones who hamper the implementation of climate goals, they are the ones in their offices who make fun of those who fight to save life on the planet, although in public they seem to support the work for the sake of nature."

"They are the ones who start wars of aggression when the planet cannot afford a single gunshot because it needs global joint action."

A GREENER FUTURE

Members of Ukraine's delegation to COP27 said they hoped their presence drew global attention to the climate and environmental consequences of Russia's February invasion.

"It's important to show the situation in Ukraine," said Svitlana Grynchuk, the country's deputy environment minister. "We also try to think about ... our climate-neutral and environmentally friendly future."

Grynchuk described renewable energy projects destroyed in the fighting between Ukrainian and Russian troops, and offered a hopeful note on what's to come: "We have a lot of plans for rebuilding our country. It will be greener."

Ukraine's environment minister, Ruslan Strilets, is expected at COP27 next week.

The CEO of Ukraine's biggest private power producer DTEK, said at COP27 on Tuesday that half of his company's green energy capacity was now located in Russian occupied territory.

Overall, the country has "lost about 90% of wind capacity, which is on occupied territory, and about 30% of solar" in the fighting, Maxim Timchenko said.

He expressed concerned about the encroaching cold season, saying: "It will be one of the most difficult winters in the history of Ukraine. We should be realistic."

He said DTEK had managed to "quickly" restore a power station damaged in the fighting and reconnected it to the grid. "We do all preparations so that we will survive."

DTEK is a partial sponsor of Ukraine's exhibition center at COP27, where decorations included a tree trunk that delegates said had been scarred by shrapnel in the city of Irpyn.

At the entrance to the exhibition, an elaborate display showcased dozens of Ukrainian soil samples, meant to represent the potential of the country's fertile land.

Julia Guziy, with the Ukrainian non-profit Ecoclub, said she had taken a bus and multiple flights to get to COP27 in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

"It took us two days because we don't have flights out of Ukraine," she said.

Her group hoped to raise money for solar power plants at six Ukrainian hospitals, she said.

(Reporting by Gloria Dickie and William James, editing by Katy Daigle and Bernadette Baum)