Ukraine war emits more CO2 than Belgium in a year

More CO2 emissions than Belgium in one year – this is how the Ukraine war is affecting our planet

The research team estimates that by far the most greenhouse gases come from the reconstruction of destroyed buildings and infrastructure (archive image)

© Evgeniy Maloletka/AP/dpa

Death, injuries, displacement, destruction – the war in Ukraine has fatal consequences for the local people. But the battle is not leaving our planet unscathed either. Researchers have calculated how many CO2 emissions the war caused.

With its war of aggression, Russia has… According to a recent study, Ukraine caused more climate-damaging greenhouse gases in the first year and a half than a country like Belgium in one year. An international team of researchers led by the Dutchman Lennard de Klerk calculated 150 million tons of CO2 equivalents for this period. The study, which is available to the German Press Agency in advance, should be presented this Monday at the World Climate Conference in Dubai. CO2 equivalents are used when the emissions of other climate-damaging greenhouse gases – such as methane – are converted into CO2 emissions in order to make comparisons easier.

Around a quarter of the 150 million CO2 equivalents were emitted during this time by the actual warfare – such as the fuel consumption of the troops or military equipment and projectiles. Another major source of climate-damaging gases are fires (15 percent). According to the calculations, twelve percent of the emissions arise from the fact that many airlines take long detours due to the closure of affected airspace.

Ukraine War: Reconstruction will consume the most greenhouse gases

The research team estimates that by far the most greenhouse gases, namely 54.7 million CO2 equivalents or 36 percent of total emissions, go to the reconstruction of destroyed buildings and infrastructure – the destroyed Kakhovka dam is particularly highlighted. The construction sector, in which a lot of concrete is processed, is generally one of those sectors with very high greenhouse gas emissions. Here, the researchers calculate how many emissions can be saved by using less climate-damaging materials.

De Klerk advocates keeping an eye on the emissions from wars, which are often overlooked in common calculations and processes. “In the case of emissions resulting from Russia’s war in Ukraine, it is the first time such emissions have been calculated,” the researcher said. “With these numbers in hand, Russia can be held accountable for the damage it has done to our climate.”

Russia should cover the costs

In order to financially quantify the climate damage caused by Russia in the Ukraine war, the researchers use a so-called average CO2 shadow price of 64 US dollars per ton of CO2 equivalent, which also includes social costs. According to this calculation, Russia would have caused $9.6 billion in climate damage in Ukraine – with impacts all over the world.

It makes sense to document this in the damage register under the auspices of the Council of Europe, in which the destruction in Ukraine is documented, in order to be able to hold Russia accountable for it. The register is seen as the first step on the way to possible compensation payments to Ukraine.


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