Using U.S. Natural Resource Damage Assessment to Understand the Environmental Consequences of the War in Ukraine
By Theodore D. Tomasi, Ph.D., Managing Principal
The human toll of war is clearly devastating for both combatants and civilians. However, the environmental impacts of war, while less immediate, can have long-lasting and important effects on human wellbeing in the affected areas. Reparations for the impacts of war on natural capital can fund post-war restoration of the environment necessary to sustain recovery of human wellbeing in war zones. If claims for environmental reparations are to be successful, estimates of the amount of restoration needed and its cost must be based on defensible and transparent methods. Such methods will rely on a data-driven, science-based approach that provides information consistent with evidentiary requirements of western legal proceedings.
In this paper, it is proposed that approaches developed over decades of practice under natural resource damage provisions of U.S. and European environmental liability statutes satisfy these requirements. These methods have been used to estimate the injuries to natural capital caused by releases of oil and hazardous substances, and by physical impacts to resources. Next, the type and scale of natural resource restoration needed to offset these injuries is determined. Restoration is of appropriate scale when it re-establishes the stock of natural capital to what it would have been absent the impacts of the conflict. Monetary reparations then equal the cost of scaled restoration. The damage assessment process begins with a preliminary assessment of damages, which could be initiated during wartime to document effects, estimate the likely magnitude of injury, and inform restoration planning. The preliminary estimates of injury and restoration cost can be refined later using data collected via in-country investigations after cessation of hostilities. This phased approach helps ensure that restoration can begin in a timely manner, speeding the recovery of the resource base in an effective and targeted program of a size commensurate with the amount of harm inflicted on natural resources by wartime events.
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Using US Natural Resource Damage Assessment to understand the environmental consequences of the war in Ukraine. Richard J. Wenning, Theodore D. Tomasi. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2022;00:1–10. © 2022 SETAC.