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Bombed cities in Ukraine to become climate-smart when rebuilt

House in ruins after bombing.
Houses in the town of Borodyanka that were bombed by the Russians a year ago.
Published Mar 14, 2023

Many cities in Ukraine have been bombed into ruins. A new EU initiative – UniCities, led by KTH – aims to support stakeholders in Ukraine in building competence to rebuild the cities, while also making them climate neutral and sustainable for the future.

“Rather than simply restoring the cities to the way they were as quickly and cheaply as possible, a new approach can now be taken: to use innovative urban development and create attractive, climate-smart cities,” says Olga Kordas, who is coordinating the programme.

Kordas is Associate Professor in Sustainable Urban Development at KTH and Programme Manager for Viable Cities, a strategic innovation programme for climate-neutral, sustainable cities.

Inspires hope

“It’s amazing, as a researcher, to be able to make a contribution, and focusing on the future and green rebuilding really inspires hope,” says Kordas, who took the initiative for UniCities.

Modelled on Viable Cities and the Spanish sister programme CitiES2030, UniCities aims to provide an arena for collaboration to enable cities in Ukraine to transition towards sustainable development.

The idea is to develop Ukraine’s universities into national nodes for competence supply and new forms of collaboration between researchers, the public sector, business and civil society. The universities should also be able to involve students by offering internships and bringing together different research projects in sustainable urban development, energy systems, mobility solutions, and innovations for systems transition.

Portrait of Olga Kordas.
Olga Kordasis is coordinating the EU programme UniCities.

Kordas has already been working with Ukrainian researchers and other organisations for many years. The application for the sustainable urban development project was submitted a week before the Russian invasion, and was granted funding in autumn 2022.

“The basic idea is the same, but because of the war we had to think differently and try to combine sustainable urban development with rebuilding.”

Test beds in Ukraine

Kordas can also see benefits for stakeholders in sustainable urban development as cities are rebuilt:

“There is also huge potential for the rest of the world to use Ukraine’s cities as test beds.”

UniCities can also be linked to several other EU schemes, such as the PHOENIX Initiative, part of the EU’s Horizon Europe framework programme and its mission for Climate Neutral Cities 2030.

“There are many challenges. But a lot of forces are coming together in Ukraine and Europe to rebuild cities and move towards a more sustainable future.”

About UniCities

 The UniCities project began on 1 February 2023 and is funded by the EU’s Erasmus+ programme (about SEK 7 million over three years). Researchers from KTH and Universidad Politécnica de Madrid will support players in Ukraine in creating similar innovation programmes with a mission for sustainable and climate-neutral cities, inspired by programmes such as Viable Cities  at KTH and CitiES2030  in Spain. UniCities also includes four Ukrainian universities, a network of cities including 90 percent of all cities in Ukraine, and organisations in the civil and commercial sector – all uniting around rebuilding.

Text: Jill Klackenberg 

Belongs to: About KTH
Last changed: Mar 14, 2023