The recent Fridays for Future protests demonstrate a global dissatisfaction with the continuing failure of governments and industry to protect the climate. And the setting of the Doomsday Clock hands to 2 minutes to midnight in January this year indicates a continuing high risk of a nuclear conflict.
However, ‘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’, according to participants of Move the Nuclear Weapons Money, an international conference being held 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,’ says Dr Keith Suter (Australia), Economics Futurist and member of the Club of Rome. ‘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 – which will include legislators (mayors, city councillors and parliamentarians), financial managers, civil society representatives and experts in disarmament and climate change – will focus on socially responsible investment (SRI) as a powerful tool to shift this economic and political power. SRI includes ending investments in nuclear weapons and fossil fuels (divestment) and re-investing in sustainability (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 which is organising the conference. ‘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.’
‘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 conference is part of the move the nuclear weapons money campaign which is gaining traction around the world. ‘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 Mr 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,’ says Mr 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.’