More than half of Ukrainians believe taking urgent and immediate action to combat climate change would be good for both the environment and the economy. When asked if the economy should be prioritized at a cost of environmental degradation, 85.6% said no, the environment is more important than the economy. The survey, conducted in February 2020 by the United Nations Development Programme, also revealed that 86% of Ukrainians believes that government does not pay sufficient attention to environmental issues.
Below are the main conclusions and vivid illustrations about the environmental, energy and climate priorities of the Ukrainian citizens as of February 2020.
Economy or environment? Every fifth person chooses the environment
6 out of 10 citizens believe that economic growth and environmental protection must be attached equal priorities, and four times fewer (14.4%) support the idea that economic growth must be ensured despite of the possible aggravation of the environmental situation. Since the last survey in 2018, the number of respondents who attached equal importance to these issues increased by 10%. The number of urbanites who attach equal importance to both economic growth and environmental protection increased. People living in rural areas tend to put more priority on the economy than the environment, and believe the former should be pursued even at a potential cost of the latter.
Combating climate change can accelerate economic growth
The majority of Ukrainians (58.4%) see a connection between combating climate change, more efficient use of energy, and opportunities to accelerate economic growth and job creation in Ukraine. One in three citizens of Ukraine (30.6%) is firmly convinced of this. Twenty percent was unable to answer the question of whether combating climate change and using energy more efficiently could accelerate economic growth and job creation in Ukraine.
Where do solutions to environmental problems originate?
Ukrainians are divided when asked who is best suited to come up with environmental solutions. About a third (31%) said it is the citizens themselves, followed by the Verkhovna Rada (26.3%), with about 19% believing the government of the country is responsible. These figures were unchanged from two years ago.
The survey identified youth and people with higher education as more likely to place the primary responsibility for addressing environmental issues on society (41.5% for respondents aged 25 to 34), while respondents with lower education levels and of older age assign a greater role to the executive and legislative branches of power.
The absolute majority of citizens consider climate change to be a serious problem in Ukraine
When asked about climate change, 82.5% of the population agree it is a serious problem, while just under 12% disagreed. Those who disagreed tended to be older, while the majority (67.7%) of those who agree that the climate change problem is a serious one are under 24 years of age.
Combating climate change in Ukraine does not have a single responsible entity, or even more than one. Comparatively often answers were to the effect that this is a task for the government (22.4%), of each personally (12.5%), of the civil society (11.5%), and of all together (29.6%).
When it comes to combating climate change 22.4% said it was the responsibility of Government, while 12.5% said it was everyone’s job, 11.5% said it was up to civil society (11.5%), and nearly 30% said it was up to all of us, everyone.
Only 6% said it was up to business and industry to combate climate change, while only 4% pointed the finger at Oblast and local authorities (4%).
So greatly dispersed answers about the main entity responsible for combating climate change logically stem from the lack of definite answers to the questions about the main agent of influence on environmental issues.
The majority of citizens believe that the Government does not take the environment seriously enough
When asked if the Government was doing enough to address environmental concerns, 86% of citizens said no. Of the group that believes the Government could be doing more, 89.1% were aged 45 to 54. Of those who believe the Government is doing a good job and should be commended, 13.4% were under the age of 24.
Support to sustainable energy leads the measures that the state takes in environmental protection
Allocating more state funds to support renewable energy sources and energy efficiency measures must be a priority for the state in the area of environmental protection — this opinion is shared by 45.1% of survey respondents. Raising environmental taxes is the least popular option (8.3%).
When asked about introducing mandatory environmental education at an early age, 40% of young people under 24 were in favour, compared to just about a quarter of the votes in other age groups.
In terms of macro-regions, residents of Western Ukraine more often than others were supportive of an increase in public funds allocated to support green energy — that was the option favoured by every second resident of the Western Oblasts (51.2%).
Effective waste management is a key priority of the Green Agenda for Ukraine for the next 5 years
On average, most Ukrainians are concerned about effective waste management. This correlates with the data described earlier and shows that more than half of citizens in their daily lives are ready to sort waste to be recycled by specialized organizations.
In setting Green Agenda priorities, residents of the Eastern Oblasts manifest a range of differences: they mention the effective waste management issues more often than the national average (65% vs 52%, respectively); the problem of life quality and expectancy (46% vs 39% of the national average), and the problem of green cities, that is, effective urban planning and efficient use of resources by municipalities (13% vs 5% national average).
Transition to a green economy was more often viewed as a priority by urban dwellers (43% vs 33% of rural dwellers). The same is true about the problem of effective waste management (54% vs 48% of rural residents) and clean and safe transport (24% vs 20%).
One half of the population consider ensuring the lowest energy price to be the main priority in the energy sector
More than half of those surveyed (53%) say that keeping energy prices as low as possible should be the country’s top priority. This result is not surprising given the current high energy costs in Ukraine.
Among other high priorities, respondents identified the development of clean energy technologies (32.5%), and the development of better energy infrastructure to ensure a sustainable energy supply (25.5%).
Water pollution is a concern for 70% of Ukrainians
For 70% of citizens, the main environmental problem is water pollution and poor-quality drinking water. The 2020 figure for these issues is 10% higher than in 2018. According to 63.3% of respondents, deforestation places second on the list of environmental problems. The third most pressing issue is air pollution (54.9%). At the lowest end of the spectrum were ozone layer depletion (6%) and biodiversity reduction (4%).
Waste sorting and plastic reduction are leaders among the population’s environmental habits
The survey revealed significant changes since 2018 in the daily practices of respondents and in their willingness to act on environmental considerations. Over this period, the share of the majority of environmental practices significantly increased.
A very noticeable increase occurred in the number of mentions of such practices as waste sorting and recycling by specialized organizations (51.5%); reduction in the use of disposable plastic items (37.3%); reduction of electricity and gas consumption (32.5%).
The share of citizens who do not follow environmental considerations in their behaviour dropped three times, compared to 2018 — from 17.4% to 6%.
Half of Ukrainian citizens believe the absence of penalties is the main obstacle to improving the environmental situation
Ukrainians believe that the absence of penalties, a lacking culture of responsible behaviour and lack of effective laws to regulate environmental issues are at the top of the most significant barriers to the implementation of measures to improve the environment.
Only 9.8% said low environmental taxes were to blame; 21% said a lack of financial incentives were a cause; 21.2% blamed a lack of training programs to help change attitudes and habit. Lastly, 23.6% said the cause was a low awareness or lack of knowledge about environmental problems.
For the overwhelming majority of the population, the presence of environmental provisions in political programs of parties or candidates is important
The relative majority of citizens (44.3%) believe that clear provisions on environmental protection and sustainable energy in programs of political parties are important. Slightly more than a third of respondents have the opposite opinion, and one in five could not answer that question.
Citizens with higher education are more likely to agree that clear environmental and sustainable energy provisions in political party programs are important.
Analytical report on the results of two waves of the national survey (2018–2020) “Perceptions and priorities of Ukrainian citizens regarding environmental protection and sustainable energy” was prepared under the project “Support to the Parliament of Ukraine on sustainable energy and environment,” implemented by the United Nations Development Program in Ukraine, with financial support from Sweden. Several sections of the report became possible thanks to the partnership project “Effective Development Cooperation Solutions for the SDGs” between the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic and UNDP, and UNDP project “Plastic Waste Management at the local level” implemented with the financial support of the joint New World Programme of the Coca-Cola Foundation and Global Water Challenge.
Field studies were conducted in November and December 2018 (first wave) and in February 8 to 18, 2020 (second wave) among 2000+ respondents in 110 cities and villages in all regions of Ukraine, except the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. In Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts, surveys were conducted only in the government-controlled areas.
By Viktoriia Yashkina, UNDP
Visualization by Yulia Madinova