Alicia Kearns: ‘Britain must rally global support behind a Green Marshall Plan for Ukraine’

The world is focused on the recently launched Ukrainian liberation offensive. Ukraine can and must win. The aggressors must be pushed out, and peace must be on Ukraine’s terms.

It must be clear to all that the violation of sovereignty will not stand, the self-determination of peoples will not be dismissed, and that brutality and economic blackmail will not win. But once you win the war, how do you protect the peace and ensure the reconstruction of a democratic and prosperous Ukraine free from the threat of renewed Russian terror.

The priority is a security agreement between allied countries. This would provide the requisite security guarantees for the immediate and create a safe path for Ukraine’s eventual membership of NATO. With its sovereignty protected, our ally can then focus on advancing its economic security and ultimately prosperity.

We need to ensure our provision of defensive weapons systems is absolute – now is not the time to hold back unless we are to accept more atrocities against Ukraine. We also need a Financial Ramstein, perhaps on the margins of upcoming G20 meetings, to ensure we strangle Putin’s war machine by suffocating its ability to finance itself.

But today I want to focus on rebuilding Ukraine. It will be no small project. Putin’s barbarism has wreaked havoc, destroying whole cities and towns, levelling schools and hospitals, and submerging vast swathes of homes and farmland with the destruction of the Kakhovka dam. This ecological disaster is the worst man-made act of environmental terrorism of my lifetime.

The World Bank estimates it could cost $411 billion to rebuild Ukraine, requiring enormous public and private investment over the next ten years. It’s likely more will be needed, as the Kremlin continues to pursue a policy of terrorising civilians by targeting key infrastructure and industries. President Zelenskyy has stated that his vision is to make Ukraine a clean energy hub. This is admirable and doable – but only if the international community supports an ambitious Green Marshall Plan. So how do we achieve that?

Today leaders from around the world will meet in London for the Ukraine Recovery Conference. The UK must use this as the starting point to help mobilise substantial international support and leverage considerable private investment. President Zelenskyy’s green vision for Ukraine includes developing a hydrogen and renewables sector to power the country and export electricity across Europe, helping to reduce the continent’s reliance on Russian hydrocarbons.

There’s no doubt the renewed illegal invasion of Ukraine has been a wake-up call for the West. Russia’s invasion has exposed the vulnerability of our energy and food systems. It’s spurred European countries to accelerate a new generation of clean energy to replace Russian oil and gas. By the end of the decade the EU aims for 45 per cent of its electricity to come from renewables, while in the UK we aim to increase our offshore wind sector up to fivefold and should be looking at onshore wind too. The renewable energy transition will help shield us from Putin’s energy warfare and future fossil fuel crises.

Given Putin’s attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, including nuclear and hydropower plants, reconstruction must look at energy production. As well as contributing to Ukraine’s security, clean energy would signal its values and direction following the war, joining the ranks of European nations fighting climate change and lessening the reliance of democracies on authoritarian petrostates.

We must learn that we cannot be energy secure, with all the implications that has for growth, security and households, while we rely on fossil fuels. The experience of the UK shows how oil and gas dependency leave us exposed to volatile international markets. Given the scale of Russia’s fossil fuel production and reserves, even countries with little direct dependency are also vulnerable to energy blackmail by the Kremlin. The UK only imported around 3% of gas from Russia pre-war yet we have suffered along with countries like Germany, who imported around 50%.

In London we have the opportunity to kickstart global support for a Green Marshall Plan for Ukraine. To make sure we set Ukraine and its allies across Europe on a more sustainable path for our collective energy needs and our shared security. Now is the time not just to give Ukraine everything it needs to defend itself, but to ensure we provide the security infrastructure needed for long term freedom, as well as a Green Marshall Plan to secure long term stability and prosperity.