COP27: Russian invasion of Ukraine released 8 million tonnes carbon till September, says report

At least 1.4 million tonnes of GHG emissions have been released due to the movement of refugees, both within Ukraine and to Europe due to the Russian invasion

By Seema Prasad
Published: Thursday 10 November 2022
The greenhouse gas impact of reconstruction efforts in war-ravaged Ukraine is in the range of 48.7 million tonnes of carbon emissions equivalent. Photo: iStock

At least eight million tonnes carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent have been emitted from February to September this year as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine that started February 24, 2022, a team of researchers announced at Sharm El-Sheikh November 9, 2022.

The greenhouse gas impact of reconstruction efforts in the war-ravaged country is in the range of 48.7 million tonnes of carbon emissions equivalent, according to The Initiative of GHG Accounting of War.

The team consists of internationally renowned experts from various institutions and Ukrainians. It is led by Lennard De Klerk, a leading expert in greenhouse gas (GHG) accounting.

The team presented its findings regarding GHG emissions released from military operations as a report during a side event titled Dealing with military and conflict-related emissions under the UNFCCC.

The report was released at a side event during the ongoing 27th Conference of Parties (COP27) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  

The GHG emissions were quantified in four areas: Movement of warfare, fires, movement of refugees, and civilian infrastructure.

Climate policy and carbon expert Olga Gassan-zade, a representative of the initiative said: “We made a detailed analysis to the extent we possibly can of the GHG impact of the war and military action itself. This included troop movements, fuel consumption, and military aircraft and also impact of explosives and ammunition in Ukraine.”

At least 6,215 fires spread over a total area of 486,162 hectares were caused by the ammunition and bombs during the seven months of the study period or the first 214 days of the war.

The total number of fires increased by 112 times on 38 times the total area compared to the same period in 2021. Gassan-zade said: “In total, we estimate fires directly caused by military action accounted for 23 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.”

At least 1.4 million tonnes of GHG emissions have been released due to the movement of refugees, both within Ukraine and to Europe, the findings said. 

Damaged forests

A representative of the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine said from February 24 onward, 224,956 explosive devices were fired by Russian troops. Some 2,130 aircraft bombs were neutralised and phosphorous shells banned by international law were regularly unleashed on Ukraine.

This led to unprecedented amounts of air pollution, which translates to monetary losses amounting to 24.6 billion Euros in Ukraine, she said.

The war caused widespread damage to forests in Ukraine; 450,000 hectares of forestland are occupied by troops and are considered to be part of the hostilities zone. Currently, 10 national parks, eight national reserves, and two biosphere reserves are under occupation too.

Some 2.9 million hectares of Emerald Network sites are under threat of destruction. The Emerald Network is an ecological network to conserve natural habitats and their biodiversity in Europe.

Sixteen of Ukraine’s 50 Ramsar Sites, or wetlands of international importance, and 20 per cent of all protected areas are under threat, the official said in her brief. She added that permanent damage to Ukraine’s soil amounted to 11.4 billion Euros in losses.

However, 2.45 million hectares of forest and 27 forestry enterprises have been liberated from occupation, and need to be restored.

The war also caused damage to 497 water management facilities in Ukraine. According to a World Bank assessment, it would cost 7.71 billion Euros for the restoration of irrigation, drainage, and hydro-technical structures over a 10-year period.

Gassan-zade said: “Besides the humanitarian impact of war, little has been known about the environmental impact of the war. This is the first assessment so far and we will be continuously updating it till the war ends.”

“So far national accounting allows exclusion of military emissions due to confidentiality rules and significant parts of military emissions relate to international bunker (transport) fuels that are not covered by the Paris Agreement,” Axel Michaelowa, senior founding partner of the Perspectives Climate Group said.

“We would suggest that reporting for military and conflict-related emissions under the Paris Agreement be urgently included under the global stocktake for COP28, national inventory guidelines of the IPCC, and as a section for the 7th IPCC Assessment Report,” Michaelowa added.

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