Research Handbooks in Environmental Law series
Edited by Michael Bowman, Peter Davies and Edward Goodwin
Chapter 9: Armed conflict and biodiversity
While many industrial and developmental activities, such as minerals extraction, logging and the damming of rivers, have devastating impacts on biodiversity, many states are also plagued by the environmentally destructive phenomenon of warfare. Often what sets wartime environmental destruction apart is its perceived needlessness, such as the Iraqi oil-well fires during the 1991 conflict, as well as the intentionality of unleashing weapons and tactics with devastating inter-generational effects. And as scientific understanding increases, and the benefits and value of healthy natural habitats, including biodiversity, become clearer, it is natural to seek to minimise all causes of harm, including that caused by warfare. The current chapter, therefore, hopes that in more precisely pinpointing how wartime harm to biodiversity occurs, lawmakers might be better equipped to prevent it in the future. Specific to the situation of armed conflict is the legal regime of international humanitarian law (IHL). Of current interest, however, are recent legal developments in the work of the International Law Commission(ILC) and international judicial decisions, among others, which point to greater emerging importance of environmental treaty obligations during armed conflict. With the ILC’s new work stream on the Protection of the Environment in Relation to Armed Conflict it seems an opportune time to examine threats to biodiversity as a consequence of armed conflict.