13 June 2024

Climate Damage caused by Russia's War in Ukraine

Russia’s war in Ukraine has caused extensive devastation, including the destruction or damage of homes, schools, hospitals, and other critical public facilities, leaving citizens without essential resources such as water, electricity, and healthcare. Beside causing damage to the natural environment of Ukraine, this war affects the global climate due to the release of significant amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHG) into the atmosphere. With the war ongoing, GHG emissions have continued to grow, as is shown is the figure below. This fourth assessment concludes that GHG emissions, attributable to 24 months of war, have increased to 175 million tCO2 e. In the early months of the war, the majority of the emissions were caused by the large scale destruction of civilian infrastructure requiring a large post-war reconstruction effort. Now, after two years of war, the largest share of emissions originate from a combination of warfare, landscape fires and the damage to energy infrastructure. 175 million tCO2 e is more than the annual GHG emissions from a highly industrialized country like The Netherlands, putting 90 million new petrol cars on the road, or building 260 coal fired power units of 200 MW each.

The Russian Federation can be held accountable for these emissions and the resulting damage to the global climate as, without its act of aggression, these GHG emissions would not have happened. Applying the Social Cost of Carbon of 185 USD/tCO2 e, a measure to reflect damage for each tonne of emitted greenhouse gas, the total climate damage that the Russian Federation has caused after 24 months of the war amounts to more than USD 32 billion. For more details, see Chapter 2. The majority of the emissions originated from the territory of Ukraine, whereas a third of the emissions occurred elsewhere, showing that the impact of the war on GHG emissions is not limited to Ukraine. As an indirect effect, the full-scale invasion has led to an insecure world with military spending on the rise, in particular on the European continent. As militaries are responsible for 5.5% of global emissions,2 an increase in military spending will inevitably lead to more military emissions worldwide.


Emissions resulting from warfare continue to grow. The consumption of fuel has risen steadily with each passing month of the war both at the frontline and in the supply chain of the armed forces. Though the rate of artillery use decreased compared to the first year of the war, the production of large quantities of ammunition has significantly increased in Russia, Ukraine, and elsewhere to replenish dwindling stocks. The use of carbon-intensive explosives, steel, and other materials has increased for the production of ammunition. Both Russia and Ukraine have constructed and continued expanding and strengthening hundreds of kilometres of fortifications along and behind the frontlines. Ukraine has also implemented a large-scale programme of building protective layers for critical energy infrastructure and installing concrete shelters in cities and towns to protect civilians. The use of carbon intensive materials, such as steel and concrete, among other construction materials resulted in more carbon emissions. Additional GHG emissions are caused by manufacturing of military equipment that has been destroyed and damaged during the war, as well as long-distance arms deliveries by allies. Total emissions: 51.6 million tCO2e.

Landscape fires 

Landscape fires are a normal phenomenon but the size and intensity of landscape fires in Ukraine during the past 24-month period increased significantly at both sides of the frontline: shelling and other warfare activities ignited fires and, in the absence of adequate fire-fighting capacity, these fires burnt uncontrolledly. This fourth assessment is based on a fully revised approach with manually mapped fires and a novel methodology to distinguish war-related fires from regular ones. Total emissions: 22.9 million tCO2e.

Energy infrastructure

In the first weeks of the war, Russia attacked many Ukrainian fossil fuel depots and refineries and many tonnes of oil products went up in flames causing significant GHG emissions. The large-scale attacks on the Ukrainian electricity network caused many uncontrolled leakages of SF6 , which is the strongest existing greenhouse gas. Additional GHG emissions were caused by the damage and destruction of natural gas transportation and distribution infrastructure in Ukraine and the long-term fire on natural gas production platform in the Black Sea. In this fourth assessment, these emissions have been estimate for the first time. They come on top of the sabotage of the Nord Stream 1 & 2 natural gas pipelines, which resulted in the biggest leak of methane, another potent greenhouse, ever observed. Total emissions: 17.2 million tCO2e.


The closure of the Siberian airspace by Russia to many airlines has cut important east-west air routes between Europe and Asia for many Western carriers. The closure of Ukraine’s airspace to commercial traffic has also disrupted flight routes within Europe, in particular in the eastern part of Europe and between Russia and Turkey. Carriers have been forced to take detours resulting in longer flight times, as well as added fuel costs and higher GHG emissions. Total emissions: 24 million tCO2e.


The post-war reconstruction of damaged and destroyed civilian infrastructure will constitute a large source of emissions. Most of the damage was done in the first weeks of the war, but each day sees more infrastructure being damaged. The frontline has not moved significantly in the past year and the pace of destruction has slowed down. As noted in our previous assess ments, the reconstruction of buildings and other infrastructure is highly carbon-intensive due to the use of large amount of concrete and steel. Total emissions: 56.0 million tCO2e.

This is the executive summary of report by the Initiative on GHG accounting of war, published in June 2024, with Lennard de Klerk as lead author. The executive summary also includes many informational figures. The full report can be accessed through the link here.

Photo credit: UNDP Ukraine/Flickr