GENEVA | BASEL (April 11, 2019)—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.
Image: Reversing the financial interests in fossil fuels and the nuclear arms race. Credit: nuclearweaponsmoney.org
IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.
International Conference: Move the Nuclear Weapons Money
An international conference on divestment and other actions to reverse the nuclear arms race and protect the climate
BASEL, Switzerland (April 12-13, 2019) — Nuclear weapons and climate change create existential threats to humanity and the environment. Federal governments have committed to eliminating both threats—nuclear weapons through the disarmament obligation in the Non-Proliferation Treaty and climate change through the Paris Agreement. However, implementation of these obligations is being prevented by institutional inertia and vested financial interests in the status quo, especially from the fossil fuel and nuclear weapons industries.
Corporations involved in the nuclear weapons industry, for example, actively lobby their parliaments and governments to allocate even more funds to nuclear weapons. And they support think tanks and other public relations initiatives to promote the ‘need’ for nuclear weapons to be maintained, modernized and deployed.
Basel Peace Office has joined with other partners in launching Move the Nuclear Weapons Money, a global initiative to cut nuclear weapons budgets and investments, and reinvest these in climate protection, peace and key areas of a sustainable economy, such as education, renewable energy, health, job creation and sustainable development.
One of the most effective tools for non-nuclear governments, cities, universities and civil society is nuclear weapons divestment. Such action puts economic and political pressure on corporations to abandon their involvement in the nuclear weapons industry or convert such production to civilian purposes. Similar divestment from the fossil fuel industry can assist in cutting carbon use and supporting renewable energy.
Already several governments, cities, religious institutions and universities in Europe, USA and globally have adopted nuclear weapons and or fossil fuel divestment policies. These include the Swiss War Materials Act of 2012, Berlin city policy on non-investment in armed warfare, Göttingen University policy of non-investment in fossil fuels or nuclear weapons, Cambridge MA city policy of divesting from nuclear weapons, and the UK Quaker meetings divestment from fossil fuels.
Additional impetus for nuclear weapons divestment comes from the 1996 International Court of Justice opinion on nuclear weapons, United Nations adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in 2017 and the UN Human Rights Committee affirmation in October 2018 that nuclear weapons violate the Right to Life as codified in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
This conference will bring together legislators (mayors, city councilors and parliamentarians), financial managers, and experts in disarmament and climate change to examine successful divestment policies and support their expansion and replication. The conference will also address impact investment and build cooperation to advance related nuclear disarmament policies.
The conference will build upon previous Basel events including a European Regional Meeting of Mayors for Peace and PNND held in January 2019, the 2019 Basel Peace Forum which focused on impact investment, and an international conference in Basel in September 2017 on Human Rights, Future Generations and Crimes in the Nuclear Age.
Mayors, city officials, parliamentarians, financial managers, policy analysts, experts in nuclear disarmament and climate change, university students and nuclear disarmament campaigners from Europe and North America, with a focus on Switzerland, Germany and France.
The conference will consist of six sessions, two on the afternoon of Friday April 12 and four on Saturday April 13. The Friday sessions will be public and consist of presentations followed by Q&A from the audience. The Saturday sessions will be restricted to conference participants and will be in seminar workshop format.
Confirmed Speakers Include
Lukas Ott, Head of Cantonal and City Development Unit, Basel-Stadt Kanton President’s Department;
General (ret) Bernard Norlain, Former Air Defense Commander (France), Vice-President of Initiatives pour le désarmement nucléaire;
Cllr Audrey Doig, Member of the Renfrewshire City Council, Vice Chair of Nuclear Free Local Authorities, Scotland;
Fabian Hamilton MP, UK Shadow Minister for Peace and Disarmament;
Robert Smith, ICV Investment Group;
Rudolf Rechsteiner, President Ethos Foundation;
Nishant Malapatti, Financial adviser for Blackrock USA;
Margret Kiener Nellen MP, Head of Swiss delegation to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly;
Bärbel Höhn MP, Chair of the Global Renewables Congress;
Chayley Collis, Member of Huddersfield Quakers UK;
Marc Finaud, Senior Fellow, Geneva Centre for Security Policy;
Ute Finckh-Kraemer, former Vice-Chair, Bundestag Subcommittee on Disarmament and Arms Control;
Laurent Goeschel, Executive Director of Swisspeace;
Andreas Nidecker MD, President of the Basel Peace Office, Board Member of Swiss Physicians for Social Responsibility;
Quique Sánchez, Project Manager at Centre Delàs, Coordination team member for the Global Campaign on Military Spending;
Jürgen Grässlin, Spokesman of the campaign Crying out loud—Stop Weapons Exports!, of the German Peace Society (DFG-VK);
Keith Suter, Member Club of Rome. Foreign Affairs Editor, TV Channel 7 “The Morning Show” (Australia);
Daniel Rietiker, Lecturer in International Law at the University of Lausanne, President of the Association of Swiss Lawyers for Nuclear Disarmament.
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