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Air Pollution and the Effects on Ukraine

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Ukraine is distinct for being home to some of the richest natural environments and resources in Europe while at the same time being one of the most heavily polluted countries in the region. Ukraine is one of the least energy efficient countries in the world (Bank, 2007). World Bank (2007) composed an inventory in 1998, and estimated that total emissions from Ukraine were 246 million tons of CO2, and in 2002 the total emissions were 487.7 million tons of carbon equivalents. Ukraine has a severely high level of air pollution. This pollution is caused by emissions from road traffic, industries, and the energy sector. In 2005, over 200 cities in Ukraine exceeded the levels established by the World Bank health standards for annual concentrations of at least one pollutant. Nineteen cities exceeded health standards for three or more pollutants by at least a factor of 10. In comparison, the air pollution levels in the Los Angeles area, which has the worst overall air quality in the United States, rarely exceed US standards, which are similar to Ukraine’s, by a factor of more than 1.5 (Bank, 2007).

The Ukraines level of air pollution is a major issue, with road traffic alone responsible for 75-90% of the air pollution (Strukova, 2007). Road transportation, private and public, is the most popular mode for passenger travel in the Ukraine, accounting for 49% of the total means of transportation (Development, 2005). It is also the most energy intensive and environmentally dangerous form of transportation. Vehicles emit many greenhouse gases, as well as many other pollutants, and heavy metals such as lead, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxides (Strukova, 2007). Since the mid-90s, the number of private cars has been growing at a constant and rapid rate. The supply of public vehicles in Ukraine has not been renewed over the last decade, nor has it been maintained according to the standards implemented (Strukova, 2007).

The air quality is likely to worsen as the number of vehicles increase, many of which are aging and lack adequate pollution controls. For example, the number of cars in Kiev during 20012004 jumped 250% to 2 million (CIA, 2008). Fuel quality also adds to the problem; only half the gasoline produced in Ukraine is unleaded and, in heavily congested areas, lead concentrations often reach at least four times the US air quality standard. In Kiev, for example, 87% of air pollution is attributable to vehicle emissions (Brody, 2007). As well, there are numerous emissions that have been associated with developmental and environmental effects in surrounding areas, identifying the Ukraine as a major source of trans-boundary air pollution for the eastern Mediterranean region (Strukova, 2007).

Ukraine is a significant consumer of ozone-depleting substances, especially in the aerosol, refrigeration, foam, and solvent industries. These industries use the substances in production for both consumers and industrial products (Brody, 2007). Ukraine consumed 14,290 metric tons of ozone-depleting substances in 2005 (World Bank, 2007). The refrigeration industry has accounted for more than half of the nations consumption, followed by the aerosol, solvent, and foam industries in that order. 31 Ukrainian enterprises, service organizations, and agencies consume ozone-depleting substances in Ukraine, with 17 of these representing major consumers (Brody, 2007).

The chemical industry adds to air pollution by emitting harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. On top of the high level of GHGs being emitted into the air, and additional 80% of the pollutants are carcinogenic and are ranked as highly dangerous. These chemicals include sulphur anhydride, oxides of nitrogen, hydrocarbons, and various volatile organic compounds (Nations, 2005). 3,286 industries have increased emissions of pollutants into the air to a total of 1.7 million tons since 2005. These industries consume and produce an enormous 9,710 metric tons of ozone-depleting substances annually (Strukova, 2007).

The energy sector in Ukraine is also a major contributor to local air pollution. Ukraine is one of Europes largest energy consumers, and it consumes over twice as much energy per unit of GDP than Germany. In 2006, almost half of Ukraines energy consumption came from natural gas (Bank, 2007). In 2007, Ukraine produced 0.67 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) and consumed 3.1 Tcf of natural gas, making it the former Soviet Union’s largest natural gas net importer (Bank, 2007). Ukraine is the sixth-largest consumer of gas in the world and consumes more gas than Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia combined. Since the early 1990s, Ukraines usage of natural gas as a share of its total energy consumption has increased by 10 percent to comprise for almost half of Ukraines energy usage (Strukova, 2007).

Thermal electric power stations, which would include the burning of oil, natural gas, coal, emits nearly 50% of the total pollution caused by stationary sources. Almost 70% of the electrical power is obtained by burning fossil fuel at thermal power stations (Strukova, 2007). This pollution results from the use of outdated technology and the total absence of facilities for the recovery of sulphur and nitrogen oxides (Brody, 2007). Ukraines energy sector contributes about 78% of total domestic emissions of greenhouse gasses for the eastern Mediterranean region (Bank, 2007).

However, the Ukraines government is attempting to reduce the amount of emissions being released. They recently accepted the UNs help with a environmental programme enforcing the limitation of greenhouse gas emission through energy efficiency actions in district heating systems and promotion of renewable energy. It is a strategic programme including capital investments, enforcement of environmental laws and strengthening of public participation, which will be supported by the UN (Nations, 2007). Also, a pilot project is taking place in Rivne which addresses a key issue in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions through large-scale improvements in energy efficiency in Ukraine’s communal heat supply sector. The implementation of the project is to demonstrate optimal energy saving practices at the stage of energy generation, energy transmission, and energy consumption, with lessons learned from the project to be shared with other municipalities in Ukraine (Nations 2007).


Central Intelligence Agency. (November 20, 2008). The World Fact Book : Ukraine. RetrievedSeptember 21, 2008, from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/up.html.

Elena Strukova. (September 28, 2007). Air Pollution Costs in Ukraine. Retrieved October 10,2008, from http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=932511.

Mark Brody. (January 15, 2007). Developing Risk-Based Priorities for Reducing Air Pollution inUrban Settings in Ukraine. Retrieved October 10, 2008, fromhttp://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/tandf/uteh/2007/00000070/F0020003/a

United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. (April 1, 2005). Natural ResourceAspects of Sustainable Development in Ukraine. Retrieved October 10, 2008, fromhttp://www.un.org/esa/agenda21/natlinfo/countr/ukraine/natur.htm.

World Bank. (December 2007). Phase-out of Ozone-Depleting Substances. Retrieved October11, 2008, from http://www.gefweb.org/Outreach/outreach-PUblications/Project_factsheet/Ukraine-phas-4-oz-wb-eng.pdf.

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