UWEC: Ukraine War Environmental Consequences Work Group

Seeking solutions through information sharing about the environmental impacts of the war

Today, the repercussions of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are beginning to be felt around the world. Global challenges include an energy crisis exacerbated by many nations’ rejection of Russian fossil fuel deliveries, the prospect of famine that will primarily affect the planet’s poorest nations, regressing environmental and social policies in many countries, and slowing progress toward achieving climate neutrality goals. Russia’s attack on Ukraine is a critical moment, a crossroads of sorts. It is not only about the humanitarian and environmental crises to be comprehended and endured across all of Eastern Europe, but also about choosing a path for the development of global society. 

The world cannot wait for the war to end; we must search for solutions to the questions of our time, be they climate change, destruction of natural ecosystems, or the resumption of the Cold War. 

Ukraine at the frontlines

The military invasion of Ukraine, an industrially developed state possessing nuclear facilities, has led to catastrophic pollution with existing and potential transboundary consequences. A significant number of unique natural sites, ecosystems, and species, as well as World Heritage Sites are being destroyed or threatened.

Direct negative environmental impacts are the most obvious, such as emissions stemming from bombardment of oil refineries and natural gas pipelines or destroyed water and sewage treatment facilities. 

In addition to obvious consequences, problems can also be indirect or even hidden, receiving less attention. The war is not over and the situation could worsen significantly. Concern is building that these events could deal a crushing blow to global climate policy. Sanctions and worldwide censure impact critical global collaborations for climate research in Russia.

The war has also triggered relaxation of environmental requirements in Ukraine, Russia, and many other countries. Politicians and corporate lobbyists in many countries propose to sacrifice environmental conservation in favor of strengthening defense and saving the economy. 

Another less obvious consequence of the war is increasing pressure on civil society activists, experts, and community initiatives, including those focused on protecting the environment in Russia and Belarus. Many activists and experts from these countries are forced into political exile and yet seek opportunities to continue their work.

Today, the Ukrainian Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources, environmental NGOs, and a number of international organizations collect information regarding the negative environmental consequences of the invasion. That said, both government agencies and civil society are unable to document negative impacts and even begin to address problems and hazards in occupied areas and active combat zones. 

In Ukraine and the larger region, civil society is also fighting to stop the war from being used as an excuse to relax environmental laws and regulations. Environmental NGOs oppose any relaxation of environmental impact assessment standards and seek to ensure that Ukraine’s restoration meets standards for sustainable development and the European Green Deal.

UWEC’s beginnings

The founders of the Ukraine War Consequences (UWEC) Work Group are environmental activists, experts, and journalists. The goal of our partnership is to collect, verify, analyze, and share information about the war, produce expert analyses, and offer development solutions meeting the best environmental standards to address the global humanitarian and environmental crises. 

As we see it, with incomplete information the problems cannot be understood. So we will gather data on the war’s negative impacts on the environment and verify and analyze it.  Environmental monitoring organizations and investigative journalists must collaborate to collect, verify, and organize huge amounts of data. This work will leverage existing and develop new assessment and verification mechanisms.

Analysis comes next – processing, analysis, and forecasting. We already have a core group of experts with extensive experience in environmental and ecological analysis, and we will expand and attract specialists in fields from climate research to energy. 

The third phase is information-sharing, including a regular newsletter, website, and social media engagement. Looking ahead, we plan to use a variety of modern media, including podcasts, video, and virtual events.

Key topics 

  • Transboundary impacts
  • Direct environmental impacts from warfare
  • War and climate change
  • Ecosystems threatened by the war and its aftermath
  • Wartime challenges for civil society 
  • Safeguarding protected areas
  • Food security and environmental policies
  • Sanctioning impacts on the environment
  • Green recovery
  • Nuclear safety
  • International political crisis and the fate of global cooperation

Our founding  team:

  • Oleksii Vasyliuk – UWEC WG expert group director, Ukrainian Nature Conservation Group  leader and co-founder
  • Eugene Simonov – UWEC WG expert group coordinator, RA(***)EA speaker, Green Silk Road Network co-founder, and University of New South Wales PhD researcher, listed as “foreign agent” by Russian Ministry of Justice..
  • Aleksei Ovchinnikov, UWEC WG editor-in-chief, Green Portal co-editor– (Belarusian and regional independent media) 
  • Irina Sukhy, UWEC Project Operations Coordinator,  Ecohome Coordinator and co-founder (Belarusian environmental NGO in exile)
  • Jennifer Castner, UWEC WG co-editor, translator, The Altai Project director (US-based Eurasian conservation organization)

Questions? Want to get involved? Have ideas? 

Contact us editor@uwecworkgroup.info