How armed conflicts impact the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions

How armed conflicts impact the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions

Since 1989, the Basel Convention, and later the Rotterdam and Stockholm conventions, have played an important role in international efforts to minimise the health and environmental threats from chemicals and hazardous wastes. However, their implementation relies heavily on the ability of states to ensure robust domestic environmental governance. Armed conflicts and insecurity commonly disrupt the capacity of states to adequately respond to the pollution threats that may arise from them, and to oversee or implement environmental regulations. This blog examines how conflicts interact with the conventions, and how they challenge […]

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New data on Ukraine conflict’s environmental risks supports calls for comprehensive assessment

New data on Ukraine conflict’s environmental risks supports calls for comprehensive assessment

With the threats that the Ukraine conflict poses to the environment once again in the news, Zoï Environment Network has released new maps on the environmental consequences of the conflict. With both sides increasingly conscious of the humanitarian and ecological impact of the war, plans to minimise risks and encourage sustainable reconstruction are being promoted. However, without a comprehensive assessment of the damage, such proposals are of limited value. This blog reviews Zoï’s latest research and argues that absent a UN-led assessment, civil society should be encouraged to plug the […]

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The environmental consequences of Iraq’s oil fires are going unrecorded

The environmental consequences of Iraq’s oil fires are going unrecorded

Oil facilities have been targeted during conflicts since the start of mechanised warfare. It is a practice that can have serious consequences for the environment and human health. Oil fires started by Islamic State in northern Iraq have now been burning for months, exacerbating an already serious humanitarian crisis, but right now nobody seems to be monitoring their impact on the ground. The oil fires burning in and around the northern Iraqi town of Qayyarah began in July when retreating Islamic State forces ignited wells, storage tanks and a refinery. […]

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South Sudan’s broken oil industry increasingly becoming a hazard

South Sudan’s broken oil industry increasingly becoming a hazard

The environment has long been a factor in violent conflict in South Sudan, especially with respect to control over oil. The first oil was discovered in 1999, and by 2007, hydrocarbons accounted for over 95 percent of Sudan’s income. South Sudan became independent in 2011 after years of war with the Sudanese government in Khartoum, intensified by local conflicts over access to oil-rich border areas. But beyond conflict, South Sudanese communities have also been ringing the alarm bell about pollution and health hazards caused by the oil industry. PAX’s Wim […]

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Fire and oil: The collateral environmental damage from airstrikes on ISIS oil facilities

Fire and oil: The collateral environmental damage from airstrikes on ISIS oil facilities

As the United States, Russia, and others step up attacks on the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), there is concern over their direct and long-term environmental and public health impacts. Many air strikes have targeted lucrative oil installations under the control of ISIS, and these could have severe detrimental effects for Syria’s future, both environmentally and socio-economically. Questions around the effectiveness of these strikes, both from a military and political perspective, seem to be missing in the wider debate. Although essentially forbidden by the Geneva Conventions, attacks on […]

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Lifecycle versus the law – defining the environmental impact of weapons

Lifecycle versus the law – defining the environmental impact of weapons

This blog considers the extent to which we can use international humanitarian law (IHL) to define or judge the environmental impact and acceptability of weapons. How do weapons damage the environment? Should we be thinking only in terms of their direct impact, or should we focus on how weapons are used? Or do we also need to take a more holistic approach, one that considers their impacts on the environment from production to disposal? During the debate among states over the International Law Commission’s (ILC) ongoing study on strengthening protection for the environment […]

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Online identification of conflict related environmental damage

Online identification of conflict related environmental damage

In this blog, Wim Zwinenburg (PAX) and Eliot Higgins (Bellingcat) discuss the open source intelligence tools that they used to recover data on environmental damage during the ongoing conflict in Syria for PAX’s recently published report Amidst the Debris. With the conflict in Syria soon to enter its fifth year, large parts of the country have been laid to waste by intense fighting, bombardment and shelling. Understandably, most of the focus has been on the fighting and the direct victims of armed violence, with rather less on other impacts and […]

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New desk study on Syria identifies pollution risks to civilians

New desk study on Syria identifies pollution risks to civilians

The ongoing conflict in Syria is likely to have a disastrous impact on the environment and public health, according to a new study published by PAX. Four years of fighting has left cities in rubble and caused widespread damage to industrial sites, critical infrastructure and the oil industry. Pollution from these forms of damage is likely to result in acute and chronic risks to civilians and will have a long-term impact on the environment that they depend on. “With the additional attacks by Russia in or near Aleppo, which has […]

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Ukraine conflict – 24 months of urgent environmental recovery will cost $30m

Ukraine conflict – 24 months of urgent environmental recovery will cost $30m

The environmental costs of the ongoing Ukraine conflict are still to be fully quantified but an EU-UN-World Bank needs assessment has called for US$30m to fund urgent environmental recovery over the next two years. With UNEP still unable to assess or begin restoring the damage on the ground due to insecurity, this sum, which already far exceeds that for UXO management is only likely to grow. Shortly after Zoi Environment Network and the TRWP published a first look at the environmental damage from the Ukraine conflict, the EU, UN and […]

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Collateral damage estimates and the acceptability of attacks on industrial sites

Collateral damage estimates and the acceptability of attacks on industrial sites

The deliberate or inadvertent damage or destruction of industrial facilities during conflict has the potential to cause severe environmental damage and create acute and long-term risks to civilians. Can such attacks ever be justified, particularly when the consequences of attacks may be difficult to anticipate with any degree of certainty? Global population growth, and with it increasing levels of industrialisation, is increasing the likelihood that in any given conflict, fighting may occur in areas containing industrial infrastructure. Consequently, the likelihood of damage to such sites is increasing. Industrial sites whose […]

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