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OSCE Economic and Environmental Forum 2nd Preparatory Meeting: UK statements

Session 2 (environmental degradation and conflict)


May I start by thanking the CiO, the Office of the Co-ordinator, and all those involved in the organising of this event for pulling these informative panels together and convening us here in Valletta today to talk about these important issues.

We are glad that the Chair chose to hold this session which includes in its selected topics the impacts of environmental degradation stemming from conflicts. It is on this that I would like to focus a few short comments.  Russia’s war in Ukraine reminds us, every day, that conflict brings degradation and destruction into the natural world. The war has left scars not only on the urban landscape and on civilian infrastructure, but also on Ukraine’s environment and wildlife.  

Last year we spoke at length about the environmental impact of the destruction of the Kakhovka dam. Since then, missile attacks on the Dnipro plant have led to a massive leakage of petroleum products into the Dnipro River. And further coordinated attacks on Ukrainian hydroelectric power plants have affected Ukrainian wetlands, such as the Ramsar site Liadova-Murafa, which serve as habitats for important populations of waterbirds. Continuous shelling and explosions have rendered it impossible for certain bird colonies, such as flamingos, to breed. Bombing has also altered their migratory routes, posing a significant threat to biodiversity. 

We cannot pretend this is not happening. To gloss over the environmental impact of the war would be to undermine the basic principles of environmental security. So the UK supports a continued OSCE focus on the environmental impact of the war in Ukraine. And as this event explores environmental degradation and its link to security, we must ensure that Russia is held to account for as long as its war of choice continues to damage Ukraine’s soil, water, habitats and ecosystems.

Thank you.

Closing session


Over the course of today we have heard distinguished panellists discuss the links between environmental protection and security, including in the context of climate change. I would like to thank them for bringing clarity to such a complex issue.   

As we have heard, tackling climate change requires international collaboration. Among many of the disastrous consequences of Russia’s aggression, it prevents us from making progress on this urgent issue.  To claim, as the Russian delegation did earlier against all the evidence, that the environmental problems they have caused by their invasion aren’t real, that the Russian state has somehow rescued the people living under occupation and that the main problem in the region is British armaments, is nonsense. The problem in Ukraine is Russian arms, Russian soldiers, Russian attacks on critical infrastructure and Russian environmental irresponsibility. And the narrative that the Russian state has to construct around the denial of this prevents us from tackling the problems. 

Climate change acts as a threat multiplier on existing causes of conflict, by intensifying competition on resources and creating instability through displacement, with a disproportionate impact on women and girls. However, we must not lose sight of the possibility that our response to climate change can enhance our security. The Ukraine Recovery Conference last week highlighted the importance of developing renewable energy as part of a sustainable recovery in Ukraine. This in turn could lead to higher geopolitical resilience, including by reducing reliance on Russian gas.  

Notwithstanding Russia’s aggression, the UK is committed to working with the OSCE to integrate climate and nature issues into wider cooperation on Euro-Atlantic security. We will enhance our analytical, assessment and foresight capacity to address the risks posed by climate change. And we will develop complementary approaches between climate and environment and conflict and vulnerability that recognise the underlying drivers of fragility for climate vulnerable populations. 

As we look forward to the High Level Climate Change Conference tomorrow and continue our discussion on these issues, I am grateful to Dr Ziya Meral for his recommendations on how the OSCE can contribute to mitigating the security risks of climate change.

Thank you.

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