By Jamshed Baruah
While Fridays for Future protests underline a global dissatisfaction with the continuing failure of governments and industry to protect the climate, the setting of the Doomsday Clock hands to 2 minutes to midnight in January 2019 signifies a continuing high risk of a nuclear clash with disastrous consequences for human beings and the planet Earth.
But devastating climate change and the risk of a nuclear war will not be prevented unless the international community tackles the economic and political influence of the fossil fuel and nuclear weapons industries: this is the crux of the message expected to emerge from an international conference organized by the Basel Peace Office and taking place in Basel, Switzerland on April 12-13, 2019.
“Companies manufacturing nuclear weapons and producing fossil fuels are making billions – if not trillions – of dollars fostering a nuclear arms race and destroying the climate,” explains Australia’s Dr. Keith Suter the logic behind the conference titled Move the Nuclear Weapons Money. He is Economics Futurist and member of the Club of Rome.
Dr. Suter adds: “They have vested financial interests in producing more and more nuclear weapons and in preventing a shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy, and they exert intense political power on decision makers to protect these interests. We must shift the economic incentives from destroying the planet to instead support peace and the environment.”
The conference is part of the move the nuclear weapons money campaign which is gaining traction around the world, says a press release. “Already a number of sovereign wealth (national government) funds, pension funds, city and state funds, banks, universities and religious organisations have decided to end their investments in the nuclear weapons and/or fossil fuel industries,” says Thies Kätow, researcher for the World Future Council, one of the co-sponsors of the conference.
“As a portion of the trillions of dollars of global investment money, the amount divested to date is only moderate,” adds Kätow. “However, as the nuclear weapons and fossil fuel divestment campaigns grow, their political impact could be as powerful as the divestment campaign against South Africa in the late 20th Century, which was a critical factor in moving the South African government to end apartheid in 1994.”
Legislators including mayors, city councillors and parliamentarians, financial managers, civil society representatives and experts in disarmament and climate change are attending the conference, which is focusing on socially responsible investment (SRI) as a powerful tool to shift this economic and political power.
SRI includes divestment, that is, ending investments in nuclear weapons and fossil fuels, and re-investing in sustainability also described as impact investment.
“Most of us are currently supporting fossil fuels and nuclear weapons through investments made in these industries on our behalf by our governments, cities, universities, religious organisations, banks or pension funds,” says Professor (em) Andreas Nidecker MD, President of the Basel Peace Office. “We can each make a difference by calling on them to end these investments.”
“Through divestment, we can put pressure on the industries to change,” says Dr. Ute Finckh-Krämer, Council Member of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament and former Deputy Chair of the German Parliament Subcommittee on Disarmament and Arms Control.
“Such action highlights the immorality (and stupidity) of making vast profits on the destruction of the planet. It also gives support to legislators who are trying to adopt and implement policies for nuclear disarmament and climate protection,” adds Dr. Finckh-Krämer in a press release.
“Impact investment is the other side of the Socially Responsible Investment coin,” says Professor Laurent Goetschel, Executive Director of swisspeace. “By focusing investments on economic enterprises which support sustainable development, investors can benefit from stable returns as well as the satisfaction that their investment funds are being used for the improvement of human lives and the environment. It’s a win-win for all and should be a guiding principle, at least for all public investment funds.”
The significance of the conference is highlighted by UN Secretary-General António
Guterres’ warning in the letter on June 30, 2018 to member states and the UN staff that the world body is $140 million short of its budget and could run out of cash, due to late and non-payment of UN dues by member states.
The Union of Concerned Scientists pointed out then that the cost to extend the lifetime of each U.S. Trident nuclear missile is $140 million, the same amount as the UN shortfall.
“If the US retires just one Trident nuclear missile from their arsenal, the money saved could be used to wipe out the current UN deficit,” said Alyn Ware, Global Coordinator for Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (PNND) and Co-founder of Move the Nuclear Weapons Money.
“Better yet, if all the nuclear armed States abandoned their plans to upgrade current nuclear weapons and build new weapons and delivery systems, nearly $100 billion could be saved. This could then re-directed into the economy for job creation, climate protection, education, health, peace, diplomacy and sustainable security,” added Ware then.