The War in Ukraine and Crimes Against the Environment: Conference resolutions

In early July, a conference was held in West Ukraine concerning “The impact of military operations in Ukraine on the environment and human rights: a challenge to humanity” (4−6 July 2022).
22 September 2022UA DE EN ES FR IT RU

Згорілі дерева після артобстрілу чи бомбардування. Фото: Depositphotos Foto: Depositphotos These trees caught fire as a result of enemy shelling. Photo: Depositphotos Árboles quemados después de los bombardeos. Foto: Depositphotos Photo: Depositphotos Foto: Depositphotos Сгоревшие деревья после артобстрела или бомбардировки. Фото: Depositphotos

These trees caught fire as a result of enemy shelling. Photo: Depositphotos

To ensure a future healthy generation of Ukrainians requires a clean, healthy and stable environment. The environment is a silent victim of this war, and it needs the defence and care of the national and international community if the future of the nation is to be assured.

A clean, healthy and stable environment is essential for the provision of pure water and unadulterated food, and for world food security. That is a basic and universal human right.

The harm done to the environment as a result of military action is extensive and serious, and it will have long-term consequences. Because of the continuing military hostilities, the effect on the environment cannot presently be assessed and generalised so as to investigate crimes against the environment.

The success of the Marshall Plan after the Second World War shows that we must now start preparing a plan for Ukraine’s post-war recovery. The plan must envisage improvements, furthermore. When the energy infrastructure is being restored, for instance, alternative sources of energy should be included. When forests are replanted, they should be protected from unsupervised sporadic felling. When residential accommodation is repaired and built it should meet the highest standards for energy efficiency. In future Ukraine should be as green as possible.

Many countries have already promised to contribute to the recovery of Ukraine. Full responsibility for the harm done to the country must be assigned to the Russian Federation. The international community has rightly concentrated on widening sanctions. Now it’s time to //establish specific ways of calling Russia to justice.

Russia’s long-term aggression has violated the United Nations Charter, the 1998 Rome Statute and many other multilateral treaties and conventions. These circumstances oblige us to reassess the current state of environmental protection and global security. There is an urgent need to discuss and evaluate  the potential of sanctions against a State that defies international law. A suitable scheme for ensuring the payment of  reparations to States-victims must be introduced. In future this will inhibit the leaders of all States in their actions and enable human rights and the environment to be defended for generations to come.

In the light of the above statements, those taking part in the international conference drew up 21 resolutions, requesting the government and parliament of Ukraine:

  1. Publicise and gather evidence of the harm done to the Ukrainian environment as a result of Russia’s armed aggression;
  2. Ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and to support an amendment to the Statute that would include the crime of “ecocide”; this would remove immunity for the most serious crimes against the environment in war and peace;
  3. Add a formulation of the crime of ecocide to Ukraine’s Criminal Code that mirrors the formulation drawn up and published in 2021 by a group of international experts and would facilitate the investigation of crimes against the environment;
  4. Make active use of national courts and prosecutor’s offices to investigate and bring to justice Russia’s soldiers for committing crimes against the environment, including the crime of ecocide;
  5. Appeal to international courts and agencies that oversee the payment of reparations and establish Russia’s responsibility for destroying the environment and the ecosystem;
  6. Support the adoption of multilateral agreements that include Ukraine in order to bring Russia to justice for its violation of such agreements by employing methods of conflict resolution and of overseeing respect for those agreements;
  7. Adopt and implement the principles of EU legislation on the preservation and protection of the environment; create new environmentally protected areas in Ukraine that include territories where the enemy has laid mines and those polluted as a result of military action;
  8. Continue monitoring and assessment of the harm already done by military action and that which may still to be done. The damage and related information should be presented in light of the ecosystem approach put forward by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. In this way, it can be determined how far the harm to the survival and well-being of the population and the biophysical environment extends;
  9. Monitoring and assessment of such damage should apply the latest scientific approaches and technologies available from the following organisations: the European Environment Agency; the working groups of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). These will be supported by the work of the Intergovernmental Working Group on Ecological Damage to Ukraine, which is made up of 21 US government institutions, including NASA;
  10.  The monitoring reports and assessment updates should be prepared as part of the country’s ecological recovery and submitted to the Commission on Complaints and Compensation announced by the President of Ukraine;
  11.  When adopting new legislation and developing policies and budget programmes during the post-war recovery of Ukraine introduce the principles of the European Green Deal;
  12.  Continue to reform the disposal of waste, the management of water resources, wildlife conservation areas (including the country’s Emerald Network), the forestry and the energy sectors in accordance with EU directives and the policies of Europe’s Green Deal;
  13.  Adopt legislation and implement an integrated solution for the environment and to monitor industrial pollution in accordance with EU directives about industrial emissions;
  14.  Launch a reform of State monitoring of the environment, increasing responsibility for failure to observe the laws on environmental protection and enforcing the implementation of the necessary measures;
  15.  Support reduction of the Ukrainian economy’s carbon dependence by stimulating low hydrocarbon technologies and equipment and encourage the shift towards a closed loop economy;
  16.  After the military conflict has ended, conduct stress tests at Ukraine’s nuclear energy plants, reducing their vulnerability to attack and advocating fundamental reform of the International Atomic Energy Agency;
  17.  Introduce financial incentives for business and local government bodies to encourage ecological innovation and clean technologies based on low carbon usage;
  18.  Continue to involve civil society in decision-making. Strengthen the civil society-government partnership in both the evaluation of the scale of harm inflicted by Russia and when planning and implementing recovery projects in Ukraine;
  19.  Strengthen the human and institutional capacity of the Ministry for  Environmental Protection and Natural Resources as a central agency of the Ukrainian government;
  20.  Reconsider the ecological section of the Ukraine Recovery Conference in Lugano [4-5 July 2022] in the light of the EU’s Green Deal and Ukraine’s existing international obligations in environmental protection;
  21.  Monitor the pollution of agricultural land as a result of aerial bombardment and restrict the agricultural use of this land or remove it altogether from agricultural production.

In light of the above resolutions, the conference participants make the following appeal to international bodies and organisations:

  1. Assist in the gathering and evaluation of evidence of the harm done to the environment;
  2. Support national agencies investigating criminal cases linked to Russian aggression;
  3. Create the means of investigation for the gathering of information that could serve as evidence in the investigation of crimes against the environment;
  4. Set up a special Compensations Commission to consider applications about ecological damage caused as a result of military operations;
  5. Provide a financial basis for restoring the natural environment of Ukraine that has been harmed or destroyed as a result of military operations;
  6. To join in and support with financial, technical and expert assistance to assure the stable reconstruction of Ukraine; and
  7. Support the harmonisation of Ukraine’s legislation and that of the European Union together with institutional reform of the natural environment.

Lviv Region, 6 July 2022

Share this article