This paper examines the UN Security Council’s [UNSC] response to the environmental impact of the 1990–91 Gulf War and its relevance to ongoing debates on environmental protection during armed conflict. With Resolution 687/91, the UNSC referred to “environmental damage and depletion of natural resources” in the context of war reparations, and established the UN Compensation Commission [UNCC] to process environmental claims. Whilst this is often hailed as a success story, this paper raises questions about certain dimensions of the UNCC: the choice of the applicable law; the decision-making process, particularly in relation to causation and remedies; and its punitive/biased nature. It argues that the successful outcome of the environmental compensation regime cannot be separated from the UNCC’s exceptional application of international legal norms. By drawing attention to this “logic of exception”, I suggest that alternative responses, more attentive to the dynamics of contemporary conflicts and their multiple environmental impacts, should be imagined.