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  • Veronica Burgstaller

Promoting Climate Action in Eastern Europe and Central Asia: Interview with Olha Boiko


CAN – short for Climate Action Network – brings together civil society organizations to

cooperate collectively on climate issues. This network spans the whole world and is divided into regional and national nodes. These include CAN for the European Region, Arab World, Latin America, Pacific Islands, South Asia and many more. Today, I have had the chance to interview Olha Boiko, the coordinator for CAN-Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia (CAN-EECCA). Currently 11 countries from EECCA are members of CAN. We often don’t hear much about what Central Asian countries do in terms of climate action. Hence, it is more important than ever to have an organization that brings together members of civil society of this region to raise awareness.


Could you please introduce yourself in a few words? What made you become an activist

for the climate movement and how did you become involved in CAN EECCA?


My name is Olha Boiko, from 2015 I became involved in climate activism in Ukraine. I was a volunteer for 1.5 years and was later employed by an NGO called Ecoaction. I helped with communications in CAN EECCA. After 3 years of getting to know the members, processes and the context of the region, I became a coordinator of the network.


It is interesting to see that CAN has formed a node that includes Eastern Europe to Central

Asia. Why do you think it is important to connect these regions and how can member

organizations from these countries learn from each other?


The region is very diverse. It does not have one central government that can advocate

climate action. However, there is a lot of Soviet heritage we all deal with. It starts with a

specific mentality, which did not yet evaporate after 30 years of independence and ends

with centralized energy supply systems based on fossil fuels. We have similar challenges.

The EECCA region does not fall clearly under the Global South or Global North paradigm. We are somewhere in between - a blank spot on the map. That is why it’s so important to raise awareness about the region on the international level and CAN helps to do it. It is also important to understand that the civil society in the region has been limited, so they

appreciate the sense of solidarity and security that comes from being part of the network.


Are there any challenges which are unique to EECCAs? And how can/does CAN-EECCA

contribute to tackling these challenges?


As I said, the EECCA region falls out of the international focus quite easily. It’s not quite

Global South and not Global North as well. It is not a global historical colonizer, nor

colonized region. However, the issues of colonization are present within the region itself

because of Russia’s geopolitical influence, Soviet past and some undivided territories.

The region is not being prioritized globally due to the closed governments, weak civil

society, corruption and lack of understanding on how to even work there. Seems like the

iron curtain didn’t disappear, but rather became invisible.


Would you say that there is a lot of awareness on the problems associated with global

warming in the countries of EECCAs? Is there a lot of support by citizens to tackle climate

change?


There is more and more understanding on the level of consumption and the need to

preserve natural ecosystems. The most popular actions that people want to take is to start

recycling and plant trees. On the level of fossil fuel phase out and climate policy there is

much less awareness amongst the general population. I think it is also due to the fact that

citizens don’t have that much power to influence big system changes. The data is often very confidential and there are still a lot of climate sceptics out there.


I have heard that just this May the first climate dialogue was held between Kazakhstan and Ukraine, and you were present there as a moderator. This is a significant step for the two countries toward expressing their commitment to achieve carbon neutrality. Since you have been involved in CAN-EECCA were there any moments you are particularly proud of, any achievements or developments which can be called a success?


Yes, that is right. CAN EECCA was a co-organiser of the Climate Dialogue between Kazakhstan and Ukraine initiated by the embassy of Kazakhstan in Ukraine. Both countries have declared their ambition to become climate neutral by2060. No such commitments were made by other countries of the region. Our members do most concrete achievements on the national level,while on the regional level we try to create trends and bring relevant people together.


Our Central Asian Climate Dialogue was held in autumn 2020 and was called “Green Recovery for Central Asia”. CAN EECCA members from Central Asia prepared their position on what a just and green recovery of their countries’ economies should look like after a pandemic. During the same time, our members from Kyrgyzstan were preparing a report on civil society participation in climate policy. These mechanisms are usually underdeveloped, overlooked and aren’t known to the public.


This spring the same members have organised civil society consultations during the

discussion of NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions). The outcome of the NDC is

unknown as of this moment, but this is the kind of changes we are working on – long term

and systemic.


Another example is Climate Dialogues 2021, a project made in cooperation with our partners. We have 6 thematic working groups this year, uniting CAN EECCA members and

experts from all over the region. One of the groups is called ’Just transition and phasing out fossil fuels’. This conversation does not exist in the region so far, only in Ukraine. That is why we are determined to start the conversation, introduce the concept of just transition and explain why it is important for the EECCA countries.


In 2020, CAN launched the #WorldWeWant campaign to enhance through short films voices of people who spearhead the fight with the climate crisis, demanding that governments respond with urgent activities protecting people from climate change consequences.


Videos from EECCA region were shot about:


1. Droughts in the east of Ukraine

2. Perils of HPP and floods in Georgia

3. Coal mining risks in Kuzbass

4. Forest wildfires in Russia

5. Droughts and highland communities in Tajikistan


What are the ambitions/plans for CAN-EECCA in the future?


We want all our countries to have a climate neutrality goal until 2050. We want to continue

to strengthen civil society for them to influence local and national climate policy. We want

to help a new generation of young professionals to improve the EECCA region’s climate

change actions and put it on the international map. Every year there will be more and more experts, activists and ambitious climate policies in the EECCA region.


Thank you very much Olha for your time and these very insightful answers. The historical

background is often not considered when we look at challenges to promote climate change. Equally, each region faces quite different problems which should be tackled according to their priorities. Having an organization like CAN that has created regional networks not only manages to interlink local organizations with international players, but also raises awareness of the specific problems and complex environment we should take into account when trying to achieve global goals. Thank you once again!

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