New CAAT report on Military Expenditure and Climate Change

The UK government spends about £46.6 billion a year on the military, according to figures provided by the UK to NATO, or 2.1% of GDP.

* Government investment for a greener and fairer economy, Cafod, FoE, Green Alliance, Greenpeace, Islamic Relief, the WI, RSPB, and WWF, Sepember 2019.

After several years of relative austerity, this military budget is now firmly on the rise, with a 10% real-terms increase since 2015, and more increases promised.

How much, in comparison, does the UK spend on preventing climate change? There are no official figures, but a recent report by an NGO coalition* estimated annual spending on “climate change and nature” to be £17 billion, which they called to increase to £42 billion.

“The first duty of government is the security of the nation and its people” – such clichés are frequently trotted out in Government military and security policy documents; but the “security” in question is almost always seen in terms of state security, centring on the military and other “hard” security tools (such as border control).

This militaristic outlook is not simply about defending the UK from military attack – a remote prospect as even the government admits – but about using armed force to attempt to solve a wide range of problems, be it terrorism or regional tensions and conflicts.

This approach has led to a series of disastrous military interventions that have made the problems they sought to address far worse. It also reflects the idea that military power is the key to the UK’s status in the world, with ministers seeing a global military presence at the core of “Global Britain” post-Brexit.

But “security” does not have to be seen in these terms. A focus on sustainable, human security would reinterpret the “first duty” of government in terms of ensuring the security of people in the UK – and, inseparably, of people around the world – from the threats they actually face, which are overwhelmingly not susceptible to military “solutions”.

Most importantly, by far the biggest and most urgent threat to people’s security, including in the UK, is climate change, which is already causing catastrophic damage and loss of life worldwide. Yet, while the government has accepted a target of reducing the UK’s net carbon emissions to zero by 2050 (which many see as too slow), it has not backed this up with the policies and resources needed to achieve it. The government’s own Committee on Climate Change (CCC) warned this year that the UK is missing almost all its targets for carbon reduction.

The CCC estimates that achieving net zero by 2050 would require investment of between 1–2% of GDP per year. Yet this is seen as unrealistic by a government that sees 2% of GDP as the absolute minimum to be spent on the military, to meet NATO’s 2% target for its members – with ministers (backed by the arms industry and its supporters) calling for far higher spending. This represents a distorted set of priorities, fuelled by a distorted, militaristic view of security, which urgently needs to change. Right now, the first duty of every government should be tackling the climate crisis.

‘Fighting The Wrong Battles – How Obsession With Military Power Diverts Resources From The Climate Crisis’ is a new report by Dr Sam Perlo-Freeman. Read the full report

Stop the Arms Fair Week of Action Day 3: No Nuclear

Day three of the #StopDSEI protests saw a morning of back-to-back successful blockades of both entrances to the DSEI site, meaning vehicles carrying weapons and equipment were blocked from getting in.

Continue reading “Stop the Arms Fair Week of Action Day 3: No Nuclear”

Arms race redux – SIPRI’s latest military expenditure data

World military spending is going up, according to data released this week by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the most authoritative and comprehensive international source on military expenditure.1 According to SIPRI, the world total increased by 2.6% in real, inflation-adjusted terms, reaching an estimated $1,822 billion. The figure is almost certainly an underestimate, given that some countries are completely excluded due to a lack of data (notably Qatar, Syria, and North Korea). A number of other countries, typically those with large natural resource revenues such as the Gulf states, often exclude spending on arms imports from the limited information they publish, funding such purchases directly from oil revenues without including them in the official budget.

Continue reading “Arms race redux – SIPRI’s latest military expenditure data”

How the arms industry is hijacking EU policy

A new report “Securing Profits: How the arms lobby is hijacking Europe’s defence policy by Bram Vranken of the Flemish peace organisation Vredesactie documents the symbiotic relationship between arms industry lobby and the European Union.

Person wearing tie with pictures of weaponry in EU colours
Photo: Vrredesactie

In 2016 the European Union took the unprecedented step of setting up a military research programme worth 90 million euros, the so-called Preparatory Action on Defence Research (PADR). This is only a first step. For the next ten years, the European Commission proposes the establishment of a European Defence Fund which would allocate more than 40 billion euros to the research, development and procurement of weapons.

These steps signify a fundamental change to the European project. Although arms companies have received EU funding before, this has always happened through the ‘back door’ by way of a security research programme. The establishment of a EU military research programme points towards an unprecedented acceleration in the militarisation of the EU.

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No EU money for arms!

CAAT’s Ann Feltham reports on arms industry lobbying for EU subsidies, and the campaign to stop it.

anti-militarist EU flag symbolThe European Union had its genesis in the vision of post-World War Two leaders who believed that uniting countries economically would end the bloody wars between European neighbours. Military matters were not part of it, being seen as the province of national governments and not the EU. Today the EU’s founders must be spinning in their graves as cooperation for peace and human rights is undermined and the EU inches into the military sphere.

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The election is over – what next?

Cartoon saying "Now What?!!"

The outcome of the General Election and the daunting prospect of continued austerity and increased cuts to public services has no doubt left many campaigners feeling deflated. There is no way around it- the next five years will be challenging and difficult.

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Time to Act: No War! No Warming!

730timetoactIn his book Capitalist Realism: Is There no Alternative? Mark Fisher sharply argues that when it comes to thinking about changing entrenched social norms and priorities our lives have become dominated by an attitude of resignation and fatalism.

Fisher’s argument can be easily applied to mainstream discourses around climate change and militarism. Just as capitalism dominates the horizon of the possible, talks and ideas for a future without fossil fuels and wars are often rejected as mere utopian fantasy. Indeed, the ‘no alternative’ ideology has such a totalising effect that many seemingly treat ecological catastrophe and the arms trade as facts of nature that simply cannot be reversed, despite hard evidence and rational arguments for the opposite. Continue reading “Time to Act: No War! No Warming!”

A New Vision of Security

The UK sells arms to over 100 countries across the globe, including many abusive regimes, or those in conflict, even selling arms to both sides
The UK sells arms to over 100 countries across the globe, including many
abusive regimes, or those in conflict, even selling arms to both sides

The official justification for the Government’s unquestioning support for the arms trade is that it is vital to safeguard “national security”. CAAT’s Arms to Renewables campaign argues that we must shift priorities to tackle the root causes of insecurity.

What is security?

For individuals in the UK and all over the world, security means having basic needs met and feeling safe in our homes and communities.

In contrast, the Government views security almost exclusively through a military lens. Its National Security Strategy is based on military force and the projection of power. Continue reading “A New Vision of Security”