Thursday, 4 June 2015

Shifting Priorities - From Arms to Renewables

Illustration: Distribution of arms industry jobs lost (grey bubbles) and new renewables jobs (blue bubbles)

Continued and severe austerity is a political choice, not an economic necessity. And like all choices, it is based on priorities and values.

At present, the government spends 25 times more on Research & Development (R&D) for the military (£1.46 billion) as it does on R&D for renewable energy (£58.6 million). This is a clear statement of priorities, driven by a pro-military consensus that diverts resources from social welfare and from tackling climate change.

As wind farm subsidies are facing the axe, every year taxpayers subsidise arms companies to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds to export conflict and misery.

Trident and new aircraft carriers are not the priorities of ordinary people. That's why the government and industry try to claim this spending creates jobs. However, despite all these resources, and despite the deep well of government support, the number of jobs in the arms trade is on a long-term decline that doesn't look like changing any time soon. The prospects for the industry have been described by a former President of it's own trade body as “flat-lining at best.”

We know most people who work in the arms industry have valuable engineering skills and these could be used for something more productive. Our research shows that a move towards offshore wind and marine energy could provide greater security from environmental threats and by producing more jobs than the entire arms industry. Our estimate is that the right levels of investment and government support could help to create over 300,000 jobs in offshore wind and marine energy alone.

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 is why we have started talking to trade unions and encouraging local branches to support our motion calling for a shift from arms to renewables. It's important we engage with arms trade workers no matter how uncomfortable the conversation might be and we know that some already support our campaign. Equally, trade unions urgently need our support as the new government tries to make striking virtually impossible.

Just Transition has become popular in union circles as a way of protecting workers while also moving away from ecologically destructive industries. Let’s make sure that during this transition we also phase out the massive subsidies arms companies get, stop fuelling conflict and destruction and create more and better jobs.

CAAT will be joining the big anti-austerity march on Saturday 20th June.

Find out more, download the draft union motion and stay in touch with CAAT's Arms to 

Matthew Burnett-Stuart​ is Project Outreach Coordinator at Campaign Against Arms Trade and a member of the Green party and a Green Left supporter.

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