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Ecoclub: ‘Nature has value in itself’

Based in Rivne, west Ukraine, Ecoclub has been working for 20 years to protect the environment

July 25, 2017 | By Nathan Johnson

Ecoclub is public organisation based in in Rivne, a city in western Ukraine with roughly 250,000 inhabitants. Founded in 1996 in Rivne by several students from the Environment Faculty of the National University of Water Management and Natural Resources, Ecoclub has been working for 20 years to preserve the environment. Asserting that irresponsible energy use is most damaging to the environment, the organisation has focused in the past decade on energy-saving policies and initiatives.

“We are a team of like-minded people who believe that nature is a value in itself, regardless of the practical benefits to humans,” Ecoclub states.

From 1999 to 2013, Ecoclub was involved in actions to prevent the construction of new power units a the Khmelnystka Nuclear Power Plant — which ended up not being built, due to a combination of political and economic obstacles and strong public opposition. Turning its attention to improving energy efficiency policy in 2007, Ecoclub first brought public attention to energy conservation issues through an initiative to install heated windows at an orphanage. The organisation is currently near the end of a three-year regional network-building project, CLEEN (described in more detail below).

At present, Ecoclub employs 11 people: a head of the organisation, two energy efficiency coordinators, two project assistants, office assistants, and an event manager, a press secretary, and an accountant. The organisation also has 40 members and seven volunteers. Ecoclub members are people who share the values of the organisation and provide financial support through membership fees, even if they have little time to devote to on-the-ground work.

Ecoclub lists three general priorities:

  • involving people in the formation and implementation of energy policy;
  • supporting progressive political decisions in the energy sector at local and national levels; and
  • promoting available energy resources that do not harm the environment and the climate.

Specifically, at the project level, Ecolub aims to:

  • increase energy efficiency of public institutions and private homes;
  • improve local and national energy policy;
  • assist in the effective management of the Association of Co-Owners of Multi-Unit Apartment Buildings;
  • assist in the development of other NGOs and initiatives;
  • promote the development of renewable energy sources—in particular, solar; and
  • work to reduce human influence on the climate.

“We are working to ensure that the towns and villages where our projects are directed will receive better energy services, and that local authorities will be guided by more energy efficient policy,” the organisation says. “We can all have a cleaner environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Althogh Ecoclub is an independent organisation, many of its projects are implemented to work more effectively with partners and friendly organisations, such as the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Ukraine, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, WECF, and the National Ecological Center of Ukraine.

Ecoclub says that its greatest challenge lies in trying to convince decision makers to take environmental values into account in their day-to-day activities and decisions, and to not be scared away from environment-friendly policies solely because of the financial costs involved.

The organisation, however, has several strengths working in its favour: a great team, lots of success stories; easy access to specialists and experts in the sphere of energy saving; and the assistance it can offer to other activists and organisations throughout Ukraine in developing their potential. It also has plenty of cutting-edge ideas to offer, both in terms of energy efficiency and energy policy.

While progress has been made, there is still a long road ahead for Ukraine’s NGO/CSO sector.

“Separate political organisations in Ukraine, such as the Reanimation Package of Reforms – or RPD—have already had a significant impact on the country already in the three years since the 2014 revolution,” Ecoclub says. “And while it is very encouraging that influence of such organisations remains strong over time, there are no similarly strong environmental organisations at present, as environmental protection is not very high on the list of social priorities. But such organisations will appear eventually when more and more communities start to demand a clean and safe environment, and they will be more influential.”

The Ecoclub website is published both in Ukrainian and in English.

Selected Ecoclub projects and initiatives

Recent

Energizer Camp — This summer camp provided an interactive platform for: developing various eco-initiatives; assisting the growth potential of ecological movement through public organisations; strengthening links between organisations; and getting new activists involved in the green movement in Ukraine.

Revolving fund in Slavuta (Khmelnytska oblast) — The fund extended financial assistance on a turn-based basis to city residents who live in private homes

“Energy Independence – Our Common Deal” — This was an information tour held in 10 cities in Ukarine. In each city, activists held an exhibition with publications on energy efficiency, climate change and renewable energy sources. Tips and advice were also given on home insulation, solar collection and DIY energy-saving.

Ongoing

CLEEN is a three-year project aimed at creating and developing a partnership network between civil society organisations in Georgia, Armenia, Moldova and Ukraine and enhancing their potential in the field of energy efficiency. Ecoclub is leading eight NGOs in Ukraine in developing their organisational capacity and cooperation with local authorities on energy efficiency issues.

Work on energy efficiency improving of condominiums in Rivne — This Ecoclub information campaign is dedicated to the formation of building cooperatives—essentially associations of neighbours that self-manage their residential buildings. in Rivne. Over 20 cooperatives have been registered with Ecoclub’s support. Each month, Ecoclub organises a lecture based on a specific issue or problem, such as: How can the building be managed more effectively? How should be building be insulated?

Upcoming

SEAP analysis – This will be a campaign to analyse sustainable energy actions plans that were developed and implemented in cities in the framework of the Mayors’ Convenient. Ecoclub’s aim is to make these plans more ambitious and effective.

Thanks to Ecoclub Press Officer Inna Belash for contributing material for this article.


TAGS: Ukraine | Civil society | Activism