By James Moules
THE UK could boost its green energy sector to become a “global leader” while simultaneously stepping away from the arms trade and redeploying skills, campaigners have said.
As the UK plans its economic recovery in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, numerous groups are calling on the government to consider the climate emergency in its package.
But campaigners are saying that the transition to green energy presents an opportunity to wean the UK away from the international weapons industry.
Redaction Politics spoke to the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), which is calling for an end to UK arms sales and a redeployment of skills from weapons manufacturing towards the renewable energy sector.
A spokesperson for Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “A transition from arms to renewables would be a long-term process. It would take time and political will.
“In the long-run the right investment could see the UK becoming a global leader in areas like hydro power and wind energy, which could play a huge role in revolutionising the economy while creating more and better jobs.”
On the CAAT website, the campaign argues: “These jobs would provide alternative employment for arms trade workers.
“Like arms, the renewable energy sector is highly skilled. It has a similar breakdown across broad categories of skill levels and employ many of the same branches of engineering.
“These would be better jobs for the workers and for all of us: jobs in an industry which is growing not declining, which create a safer, rather than a more dangerous world.”
This follows Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s speech at Dudley, in which he said: “Though we are no longer a military superpower, we can be a science superpower. We must end the chasm between invention and application, which means a brilliant British discovery disappears to California.”
The Prime Minister has set out to frame the UK’s economic recovery plan as a form of ‘New Deal’ – a reference to the mass infrastructure investment project implemented by US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the Great Depression.
However, in preceding months, the prospect of a ‘Green New Deal’ – a similar scale project with a focus on renewables – has been floated on both sides of the Atlantic.
When asked how a transition away from arms could fit into such a programme, the CAAT spokesperson said: “The last few months thrown into sharp focus the urgent need for governments to redefine what it means by ‘security’ and to reflect the real threats to human security including global pandemics and climate change.
“In order to become a reality, a shift from arms to renewables would need the kind of sort of resources that are being poured into the arms industry, and the skilled engineers that are currently employed by arms companies.”
The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy was contacted for comment.
Last year, the UK government passed a motion – tabled by then Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn – to declare a climate emergency.
The UK has also enshrined in law a target to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
But critics say this is not ambitious enough.
In the 2019 UK general election, Labour pledged a substantial reduction in emissions by 2030, while the Green Party promised absolute carbon neutrality by that date.
The Conservatives, on the other hand, stuck to the 2050 date in their manifesto. The Liberal Democrats set the deadline at 2045.
But calls for further climate action in the UK – including a Green New Deal – have not subsided.
In a recent statement, the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs said: “The recovery from Covid-19 must tackle the urgent climate crisis facing our planet. With the highest ever temperatures recorded in the Arctic Circle, we cannot delay in taking action to save our planet and future generations.
“We believe that the necessary and urgent action must consider not only the historic responsibility of the UK in greenhouse gas emissions, but also the need for a just transition for workers employed in the energy industry.”
The statement was signed by high profile socialist MPs including Diane Abbott, Richard Burgon, Dawn Butler and former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
They added: “We support the recommendations if Labour’s 2019 report ‘Thirty by 2030’, and the work of Labour for a Green New Deal in continuing to push for Labour Conference policy to be made a reality, to save our planet for our children, and to fight for climate action to be at the heart of everything our country does as we rebuild after the coronavirus pandemic.”
Shadow Business Secretary and former Labour leader Ed Miliband also recently expressed his commitment to the 2030 carbon reduction pledge.
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