Ukraine is not only at COP27 to talk about climate

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In a way, the Ukrainian delegation to the COP27 climate conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, has a complicated task: to convey to the world the interlinkages between war and climate change, the magnitude of the environmental destruction caused by the Russian invasion, and the determination of this country of 44 million to meet its decarbonisation targets‚ to rebuild greener than before. From another point of view, the purpose of the delegation is simple: to remind the world – nine months after their country was invaded – that they still exist.

“People around the world are just a little tired of Ukraine,” said Yaroslava Gres, co-founder of a Ukrainian public relations agency, Gres Todorchuk, who came up with the concept for the country’s COP27 pavilion. “We were trying to find an idea of ​​how we could fight again for this focus on the war that is completely destroying our country, and at the same time be on the same wavelength as the world community, which has come to Egypt to have climate discussions. , environmental problems, and so on.”

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That effort is particularly directed at delegates and officials of countries that are ambivalent about the invasion of Russia. The COP27 conference comes a month after the UN General Assembly voted on a resolution condemning Russia’s illegal annexation of parts of eastern Ukraine. The measure was adopted by a large majority. 143 countries, including Egypt, voted in favour, with only five against: Belarus, North Korea, Syria, Nicaragua and Russia. But 35 countries remained out of the vote, refusing to denounce or defend Russia. China and India belonged to that group. African countries, including Algeria, Ethiopia and Tanzania account for more than a dozen others. Ruslan Strilets, Ukraine’s environment minister, says the location of this year’s conference offers a unique opportunity to reach powerful people in those countries.

“Our goal is to [show] these countries that Ukraine is right, compared to Russia,” says Strilets, “not only that 147 countries vote to condemn Russia’s act, but that all countries decide that Russia’s actions violate the agreements of the United Nations .”

It is unclear when nations will next be forced to take sides – there were only minor differences between the votes in the October 12 referendum and a UN vote in early March to condemn the invasion itself. But in general, the more countries Ukraine can get to side with Russia’s actions, the more hollow the country’s claims that its war is legitimate.

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In a persuasive November 8 virtual speech at the climate conference, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy argued that it was not possible to tackle climate change without first ending the war in Ukraine. “There can be no effective climate policy without peace on earth,” he said, “because nations are really only thinking about how to protect themselves here and now against the threats created particularly by Russian aggression.”

It was up to Gres and her colleagues to bring this matter to the attention of visitors passing by the country’s COP27 pavilion, a designated space in the Sharm El-Sheikh conference area that functions as a booth at a trade show where countries can show their environmental plans. The space in Ukraine was about the size of three shipping containers lined up side-by-side, and Gres’ company decided to occupy it with a walk-in hollow V-shaped structure, like a giant gray traffic cone on point, intended to launch a missile. to call. crater. “Ukraine is now full of these craters, in every field, in the centers of cities, you can see them everywhere,” says Gres. “So we decided to make it the center of our story.”

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A tree trunk riddled with shell fragments brought to Egypt from Ukraine is also on display, along with hundreds of samples of Ukrainian soil, intended to highlight the links between the war and the risks to the global food supply. “It is the main goal of our pavilion [for visitors to] see with their own eyes how this war is destroying Ukraine’s environment, Ukraine’s infrastructure and all other aspects of our lives,” says Strilets. “To feel the situation we have here in Ukraine.”

Gres adds: “I hope we change our mind.”

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