Perhaps the most serious systemic environmental problem caused by the war is the disruption and weakening of international cooperation. In Russia, ideas about a “hostile” West are gaining strength, while in Ukraine there are calls for the exclusion of the aggressor country from all international initiatives. Since the invasion, almost all intergovernmental treaties are perceived as invalid.
Taking place in Egypt this November, the upcoming COP-27 (United Nations Climate Change conference or Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) will demonstrate how the conflict’s escalation will affect global climate policy. We will cover that topic on our website in the weeks ahead. Today, however, attention must be paid to the weakening of a number of international agreements, stemming not only from the Russian invasion, but also by the political events that preceded it.
One of the most complex issues is the shared use of transboundary natural sites, such as rivers. Ukraine has taken the path of European integration at the level of values and law. However, roughly 70% of the shared water resource use is with Russia and Belarus, countries that have shown direct or indirect aggression. UWEC experts Valeriia Kolodezhna and Oleksiy Vasyliuk discuss approaches to systematic international cooperation with those countries.
Another article by Oleksiy Vasyliuk is dedicated to the management of shared borderlands. This is a serious issue, given that significant areas of Europe’s Emerald Network are located along Ukraine’s border. These are unique biotopes where scientists seek to preserve valuable ecosystems and rare species. These same landscapes are the first to suffer as a result of military invasion. It is obvious that only joint work among these countries’ scientific communities enables us to preserve the region’s nature in the form in which we know it.
Learn more about how Ukraine’s most important protected areas fit into European conservation programs in an explainer infographic prepared specially for UWEC Work Group by Valeriia Kolodezhna.
Withdrawal from international treaties will also have a negative impact on environmental practices in Russia. We invited Dinara Ziganshina, Director of the Research Center of the International Water Commission for the Aral Sea Basin and Deputy Chairperson of the Committee for the Implementation of the UNECE Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes to discuss how weakening international agreements could affect environmental activities both in Russia and neighboring countries.
In the future, Russia may choose a path of isolationism and withdrawal from international agreements. Populist political forces are the voices behind that sort of rhetoric. Another country in the region has already started moving along this path. Belarus, or rather, its authoritarian regime, has been waging a lengthy war against its civil society while also trying to conceal its participation in the invasion of Ukraine.
In 2021, almost all environmental organizations were liquidated by the government, including one of the oldest such organizations – Ecodom. That organization protected the environmental rights of Belarusian citizens and used the Aarhus Convention to document and report violations of environmental rights. The Aarhus Convention protects the rights of people to a healthy environment.
In response, the Aarhus Committee called on Belarus to restore liquidated environmental organizations and end the political persecution of environmental activists. Belarus’ government reacted to this not only by issuing a refusal but announcing its intent to withdraw from the convention. We spoke with Ecodom representative Marina Dubina about the organization, political persecution of eco-activists, and the consequences for Belarus of withdrawing from international conventions.
- Belarus eliminates independent environmental organizations and exits the Aarhus Convention: an interview with Ecodom’s Marina Dubina
Persecution of environmental activists for their anti-war stance continues in both Belarus and Russia. One of those under pressure today is Russian physicist and nuclear power expert Andrey Ozharovsky. It was Belarusian persecution of Ozharovsky and other activists belonging to the Belarusian Anti-Nuclear Campaign in the 2010s that prompted Ecodom’s report of Aarhus Convention violations.
Most international agreements affect the environment in one way or another. Our expert Eugene Simonov continues his analytical reporting by examining “military agreements.” In this issue, Simonov examines how the Black Sea Grain Initiative has the potential to affect food security and environmental protection using the example of the Danube Delta.
At UWEC Work Group, we analyze the transformation of international agreements caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. You can find more analysis of the war’s environmental consequences on our website, and join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.
Peace and strength be with you,
UWEC Work Group