At UWEC Work Group, we continue to analyze, track, and write about the environmental consequences of the war. For us, this work is doubly important because the events in Ukraine reflect a fundamental conflict that is destroying the human community and planet Earth. The war clearly illustrates how authoritarian regimes destroy lives, short-sighted plans lead to catastrophes, and the environment, unfortunately, is often just a pawn exploited by selfish interests.
War has many consequences. It exposes problems often unseen in peacetime. For example, gold mining has always been dirty and harmful to the environment, but not much has been said about it past or present. In this issue, UWEC expert Eugene Simonov analyzes how the war and sanctions complicate Russia’s ability to sell gold and how the laws governing its production have become much simpler and not in a good way. This combination can have fatal consequences for the environment of entire regions.
Reports from the battlefield tell us how the war steals the lives of thousands of soldiers and peaceful civilians. However, even more animals and trees have already died in the war; their deaths are extremely difficult to track. Ukrainian author and environmentalist Kateryna Polianska discusses this mournful side of the war, one that is little discussed, and about how some people are helping animals at risk.
Some are calling the fighting in Ukraine “ecocide.” This term not only draws attention to the widespread death of living organisms, but also serves as the legal basis for filing lawsuits in international courts. We spoke with Olena Kravchenko, Executive Director and Board Member of the Ukrainian NGO Environment-Law-People, about the war through the lens of environmental law, standards for collecting evidence, and the prospects for prosecuting crimes against nature.
In early July Ukraine’s government presented a recovery plan for rebuilding Ukraine, a plan that provoked strong criticism from Ukrainian environmental organizations. The plan was even called the “Shame of Lugano”. UWEC editorial team analyzes its flaws.
Lastly this week, the war also has a direct impact on international climate policy. In November 2022, Egypt will host the Conference of the Parties to the Paris Climate Agreement (COP-27), and the mood among climate diplomats and experts is less optimistic today than a year ago. Learn about how the war affects international decarbonization efforts and global climate policy more generally in an interview with Bill Hare, founder and CEO of Climate Analytics and co-leader of Climate Action Tracker.
Take care of yourself and our fragile world,
Editor-in-Chief, UWEC Work Group