The Environmental Toll of the Russia-Ukraine War: Advocating for Accountability and Reparations

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Tactics Institute is highly concerned about the environmental damage caused by hostile states. The Earth is already facing severe climate change issues, and the Russia-Ukraine war is exacerbating the situation further. The cognition of the environmental damages caused by armed conflicts has constantly been increasing since the bombardment of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, and specifically since the Vietnam War

The aggression on Ukraine by the Russian Federation on 24 February 2022 occurred at the moment after the Covid-19 pandemic, during which the entire International Community, and in particular Europe, was making some serious efforts to tackle environmental damages in try to stop or at least slow down, climate change. In this light, the attention to the ecological impacts of the war in Ukraine has been tremendous since the beginning. For example, the changes in air pollution and the collapse of the Kakhovka dam received significant attention from scholars and the media. Most of the lookout was focused on the damaging events themselves and on their immediate or relatively short-term results, given that the priority has constantly been reviving peace as soon as possible.

Two significant long-term, slowly developing outcomes of the war in Ukraine can be determined. The first concerns the environmental repercussions of the war. At the same time, it is widely acknowledged that warfare ushers in ecological degradation, which will likely have a long-term impact on human health. The direct correlation between these harms and future concerns, such as food security, must be explored. Ukraine holds an essential position as a global producer and supplier of grains, as evidenced by the distinction and significance attributed to the “grain deal” by the International Community.

The second, less apparent, enduring impact of the battle in Ukraine pertains to the societal changes, which in this system of ecological distress will play a role in the future evolution of the social and economic ramifications resulting from the beginning of hostilities on 24 February 2022. Therefore, a significant proportion of individuals, especially women and children, have been compelled to escape from their homes, resulting in widespread internal and international displacement.

To address the long-term, slowly developing effects of the Ukraine war from the standpoint of international legal responsibility, it is essential for those responsible for deciding on said consequences to assess the prejudice resulting from internationally illegal acts of war. 

Tactics Institute calls respective authorities and organizations to make Russia pay reparations for environmental damage. The matter should be brought at an international level to provide an adequate level of accountability and compensation. 

Articles 35 and 55 of Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions forbid both deliberate and unintentional overall, long-term, and severe environmental damage. 

The Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Additional Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques demands its state parties (including Russia and Ukraine) not to employ any hostile use of environmental modification strategies ‘having widespread, long-lasting or severe outcomes as the means of destruction, damage or damage to any other State Party.’

Tactics Institute urges belligerents to support identifying, documenting, and evaluating environmental damage and its effect on public health. Stakeholders, including international organizations and civil society, are observing harm.

Tactics Institute stresses to Address the impact of war on the climate. The war’s direct emissions in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change context should be highlighted in climate change debates.

This war has underscored the risks that armed conflicts create for the local and global environment; lessons must be determined and used to underpin a more readable and coordinated UN-wide strategy for the environmental dimensions of armed conflicts.

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