Russia faces $32 billion bill for carbon emissions from Ukraine war


Russia faces  billion bill for carbon emissions from Ukraine war

A building damaged by a drone attack in Kyiv in October 2022

Roman Hrytsyna/Associated Press/Alamy

The first two years of Russia’s war on Ukraine will result in greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to around 175 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, a group of climate experts has estimated.

The extra warming that would result from such emissions is calculated to lead to extreme weather around the world with impacts amounting to $32 billion.

Ukraine intends to add these climate-related costs to the list of damages for which Russia is responsible, and for which compensation will be demanded.

“It will be an essential plank in the reparations case we are building against Russia,” Ukraine’s Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources, Ruslan Strilets, said in a statement.

“These are the damages that are going to happen to the economy and to societies as a result of extreme weather impacts from climate change, which are a result of emissions,” says Lennard de Klerk, a businessperson involved in climate-related enterprises and the founder of the Initiative on Greenhouse Gas Accounting of War.

That group today released its fourth assessment of the impact of the war, covering February 2022 to February 2024. The reconstruction of bombed buildings, roads and other infrastructure is the single largest source of emissions, it found, accounting for nearly a third of the 175 megatonnes. Its figure includes reconstruction that has yet to occur.

Another third is a direct result of warfare, with fuel use being the biggest part of this.

Around 14 per cent of the total is due to passenger airlines having to reroute flights to avoid Russia and Ukraine. For instance, flights from Tokyo to London now go over Canada rather than Russia, increasing flying time from 11 to 15 hours.

About 13 per cent is due to the increase in landscape fires, as recorded by satellites. This isn’t just due to weapons causing fires, but also to the ending of fire management in occupied areas, the assessment says.

There are large uncertainties in the figures, as there are no official numbers to rely on in most cases. Instead, the group has to turn to the likes of open-source assessments or figures from previous conflicts.

There is also the question of how far to go in assessing the knock-on effects of the war. “We try to be as comprehensive as possible,” de Klerk says. “At the same time, there are limitations, some effects maybe that are too distant or too difficult to quantify.”

Estimating how much harm will result from additional emissions – known as the social cost of carbon – is another tricky area. “The science on trying to put a monetary value on those future damages is still evolving,” says de Klerk.

The estimate of $32 billion is based on a 2022 study putting the social cost of carbon at around $185 per tonne of CO2.

Should this sum – which is rising daily – ever be paid, de Klerk thinks some should go to Ukraine to be used for measures such as restoring forests, to help recapture some of the carbon. Another slice should go to the countries being hit hardest by global heating, he thinks, perhaps via an existing system called the Green Climate Fund. But where the money would go is a political decision that remains to be resolved.

For decades, low-income and island nations have fought to establish the principle that high-emitting, high-income countries should pay for the losses and damages caused by their greenhouse gas emissions. A loss-and-damage fund was finally set up last year as part of international climate agreements.


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