no longer a silent victim



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Since Russia invaded Ukraine, our planet is in a more unstable and frightening situation. This war has not only brought about a humanitarian and social catastrophe for the country, but also an environmental nightmare that extends far beyond its borders. While Ukraine burns under constant bombardment from Russian missiles, the effects of this environmental tragedy are reverberating in other parts of the world.

The first to be affected was the global food market. Ukraine has historically been known as the “breadbasket of the world” thanks to its vast fields of gold and valuable fertile land. After the war began, Russian forces blockaded Ukraine’s Black Sea ports and halted exports of grain, vegetables, and fertilizers. Concerns over landmines and unexploded ordnance have left 20% of Ukraine’s agricultural land unplanted and unharvested. Russian aggression is thus contributing to global food price inflation, primarily affecting low-income and lower-middle income countries.

Russia’s nuclear posture and rhetoric undermines decades of international efforts to create multilateral institutions and global norms to manage the risks of nuclear war. Furthermore, the militarization and weaponization of nuclear facilities, such as the occupation of Chernobyl in 2022 and the ongoing occupation of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, creates a continuing and urgent threat, with the risk of radiological accidents spreading around the world. ing.

Russia’s invasion will also have an impact on the global fight against climate change. The fighting has increased greenhouse gas emissions in Europe and damaged renewable energy infrastructure in Ukraine, but will also affect the future of the energy transition around the world. Ukraine is an important source of critical minerals needed for green technologies, such as ilmenite and manganese, which are essential for the production of lithium batteries and steel. Access to these minerals will be strategic in the coming years, and their limited market availability will impact many countries’ net zero commitments.

It is often said that the environment is a silent victim of war. No more. A high-level working group appointed by the President of Ukraine has developed a set of priorities to address these needs in a document entitled “Environmental Agreement for Ukraine.” It provides a comprehensive set of recommendations relevant to armed conflicts everywhere. The environmental damage caused by armed conflicts is finally receiving attention.

The High-Level Working Group commends the efforts of President Zelenskiy and the Ukrainian authorities during the war. They face the huge task of repelling Russian aggression while simultaneously dealing with the war’s devastation on infrastructure and natural landscapes.

The Environmental Compact sets out three priorities. First, develop comprehensive strategies for data collection and harm assessment methodologies to monitor harm and reduce risk. This will provide a new global standard in gathering evidence that can be used and applied by any country dealing with environmental damage as a result of war.

A Ukrainian anti-aircraft gunner from the 93rd Independent Mechanized Brigade, Kholodny Yar, fires on an enemy drone from a position in the Bakhmut direction in the Donetsk region, February 20, 2024, during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Photo Anatoly Stepanov/AFP
A Ukrainian anti-aircraft gunner from the 93rd Independent Mechanized Brigade, Kholodny Yar, fires on an enemy drone from a position in the Bakhmut direction in the Donetsk region, February 20, 2024, during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Photo Anatoly Stepanov/AFP

Second, we will ensure accountability. With this invasion, the Kremlin put the international legal order at risk. But the future of the international legal order will be determined by how countries respond and whether Russia will be held accountable for its actions. If properly implemented, this would create a new international framework for ensuring accountability for environmental crimes around the world, establishing an unparalleled precedent and creating new norms for environmental responsibility. Probably.

Third, promote green reconstruction and accelerate Ukraine’s environmental recovery. The agreement sets out the foundations for a green recovery. This goes beyond restoration to incorporate environmental considerations into every aspect of Ukraine’s reconstruction. Ukraine aims to be the first post-war ‘green recovery’, easing the path for other countries to integrate environmental protection and post-conflict economic recovery.

Each of these ideas has the potential to have far-reaching effects beyond Ukraine’s and Europe’s borders. In a world increasingly suffering from climate change and environmental degradation, this compact proposes ways to integrate environmental issues into conflict resolution and global peacebuilding.

We hope these ideas will be useful to countries facing conflict around the world. Other countries affected by violent conflict and those emerging from war will also participate in building the international structures needed to respond to the large-scale environmental damage caused by conflict, including the articulation and creation of international law and best practices. You might think you want to.

Ukraine and the world need peace. peace of justice. sustainable peace. It’s time to put the environment back at the center.

Margot Wallström is a former Swedish foreign minister, and Isabella Teixeira is a former Brazilian environment minister.

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