Ukraine Proposes to Position Energy Companies at the Center of Climate Action

At the COP23 in Bonn, Germany, international climate change negotiations are well underway now prime ministers have joined the negotiations, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron.

The UN climate negotiations in Bonn have turned out to be of a very technical nature, with much of the Rulebook to be laid out that is needed to implement the Paris Agreement (PA) by 2020.

Almost unnoticed, however, a proposal that is the first of its kind in UN history has been laid on the table at the end of the first week of COP. On November 5th, during roundtable discussions on non-market approaches to implement the Paris Agreement (under article 6.8 of the PA), the Ukrainian delegation rolled out a proposal for the creation of a new permanent structure that would be called ‘Committee for Future’. This committee would place energy companies directly between the international climate negotiations and their national implementation.

The Ukrainian presenter of the proposal stated that “the Committee for the Future functions in between the global UNFCCC and national [climate plans and] allows direct participation of the corporates. U.S. energy majors and other non-state actors will be brought to the UN table.”

Observers and civil society groups have raised the flag that the approval of this proposal would mean the direct positioning of the fossil fuel industry into the center of implementation of the very agreement that is meant to decrease global emissions.

“This is an extremely dubious proposal,” states Oksana Aliieva, Program Coordinator at the Heinrich Boell Foundation Ukraine, “the proposal is very real, but the language used is unspecific and no finer details are given. Which companies would be involved in this committee has not been specified.”

When asked afterwards , the Ukrainian delegation stated to have no knowledge of the proposal, despite a Ukrainian delegate officially presenting it during COP23 and no official denouncement of the proposal from the Ukrainian government.

To what degree the bold proposal of Ukraine has been orchestrated by the U.S. government is hard to asses. In the lead-up to COP23, the U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry struck a $80 million dollar deal  to ship 700,000 tons of thermal coal to Ukraine by the end of the year. Creating a committee of transnational energy giants that have the final call on the implementation of climate regulations in the country would mean an effective way of keeping the Ukrainian fossil fuel market free from constrains.

Within the UNFCCC negotiations, Ukraine also operates within the Umbrella group, a negotiating body containing the U.S. and many other fossil fuel exporters including Japan, Russia, Canada, Australia and Norway.

“Whether the U.S. is really behind this powerplay can’t be confirmed at this stage. The Ukrainian government is perfectly possible to come up with such abusive structures themselves,” states Iryna Stavchuk, from the Ukrainian NGO Ecoaction.

In addition to the initial presentation, it is rumored that the Ukrainian Environment Minister may also formally introduce the initiative elsewhere in the course of the final week of COP23. Although it is still unclear when the announcement will be made and what agenda item it will be under, Ukrainian observers stated they believe the ‘Committee for the Future’ will be taken up as an informal note in the technical negotiation body – the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technical Advice or SBSTA – where it will most likely receive little attention until the next negotiations take place in 6 months time.

Arthur Wyns is a tropical biologist passionate about biodiversity and climate change action. He’s been involved in research teams all over the world, and recently joined the Climate Tracker team as a campaign manager.