What's more important - arms or renewable energy?

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What’s more important - arms or renewable energy?

By Andrew Smith


Oliver Clarke under a Creative Commons Licence

What would happen if the government thought peace and social justice was more important than militarism and war? What would happen if they used as much money and energy to make the world a better place as they now use to promote military power?

This year, Britain will spend $57 billion on arms and the military. What would happen if they spent the same on social and environmental justice and creating jobs with renewable energy?

This seems obvious. And now there are not enough skills in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. But the government spends 25 times more money on Research & Development (R&D) for the military ($2.24 billion) than it spends on Research & Development for renewable energy ($90 million).

This is only one example of how the government gives arms companies and the military far too much political and financial support.

There are close connections between the arms trade, politicians and civil servants. We saw this in February at the ADS (Aviation, Defence and Space Industries) dinner. There were more than 40 MPs eating with important civil servants and hundreds of arms dealers at an expensive dinner at the Hilton hotel in Mayfair (that cost £250/$385 each person).

Every year, taxpayers give hundreds of millions of pounds to arms companies to sell arms to war areas, so that controlling governments around the world have weapons. These weapons give military support, and also political support. They show British support for terrible wars and violence across the world.

And in Britain, billions of pounds are spent buying military technology we do not need (eg. trident and aircraft carriers). BAE Systems, for example, has agreements that they will get at least $353 million of tax money every year for a long time. And the government are cutting the public services that we all need.

The government says it supports the arms trade because it needs to protect high-skilled manufacturing jobs. But the number of jobs in the arms trade is going down, even though they have all these resources and government support. The future doesn’t look good.

We believe there is a different way.

Our research shows that if they give more money and support to offshore wind and marine energy, this will be good for everyone. It will give us more security from environmental threats and it will create more jobs than the whole arms industry. We think the right investment and government support could help to create more than 300,000 jobs only in offshore wind and marine energy. They would also need to build the supply chain for renewable energy, and make companies develop skills in local communities.

They could make this change from arms to renewable energy without losing too many jobs. The area of renewable-energy is highly skilled, and uses similar engineering skills. The jobs could be in the same areas; with tens of thousands of supply-chain jobs anywhere in the country.

The arms companies also say this is true. For example, Sandy Wilson (President of General Dynamics UK) said to the Parliamentary Defence Committee that alternative energy is one of the industries that arms-trade workers could move to if there was less military spending.

If Britain changes from arms to renewable energy, it can be a leader in important technologies, it will be able to export more and it will also help other countries cut carbon emissions. This would mean there will be green jobs in the future. And this will improve human security, not threaten it. But this will not happen without action.

The government will need to take action, and give as much investment and support that they now give to the arms trade. It will also need engineers with the skills that are now used to make weapons and other things that kill.

And we all need to fight. We all have to tell the government to change what they think is important and create more and better jobs that can help to build a safer and greener future.

Andrew Smith and Matthew Burnett-Stuart are with Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT). See: @CAATuk.

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: http://newint.org/blog/2015/02/23/government-spending/ (This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed).