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Money to burn

Global military expenditure rose by 3.6% (from 2018) to reach $1.917 trillion in 2019, according to data compiled by The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), released in April

Though it notes that the data for the UK is ‘highly uncertain’, SIPRI lists UK’s expenditure as $48.7bn, which would make it the eighth biggest spender in the world after the US ($731.8bn), China ($261.1bn), India, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France and Germany.

Last year the investment bank Morgan Stanley estimated that the world would need to spend $50 trillion by 2050 in order to cap global warming at a rise of 2°C.

Topics: Militarism

‘A new stasi system’

In 2016 members of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit created what they themselves termed ‘a new stasi system’ to ‘vet’ members and supporters in an effort to undermine Jeremy Corbyn, an internal party report, leaked this April, has revealed.

A web app was produced that could scrape Twitter and Facebook for tweets, retweets, shares and comments matching various search criteria, and then match them to profiles of members and supporters’ and a list of ‘banned phrases’ was created that could trigger action.

The latter included the term ‘war criminal’ (because of Tony Blair).

Barclays: storm & spin

Campaigners organised a social media storm on 7 May to coincide with the AGM of Barclays bank, the largest European provider of fossil fuel financing.

A ShareAction resolution, calling on the bank to set targets ‘to phase out the provision of financial services to energy and utilities companies that are not Paris aligned’, received just 24% of the vote.

Commenting on the outcome, student campaign group People & Planet said: ‘It’s clear Barclays’ commitment to climate action doesn’t extend beyond rhetoric and spin. If it did, they wouldn’t be blocking modest motions calling for real energy targets in place of vague and distant “ambitions”.’

Topics: Climate Change

BDS legal victory

On 29 April the UK’s Supreme Court ruled that government ‘guidance’ banning local government pension schemes from ‘using pension policies to pursue boycotts, divestment and sanctions [BDS] against foreign nations and UK defence industries’ (where no formal embargo was in place) was unlawful.

The ruling – the result of an appeal brought by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) - overturned a previous decision of the Court of Appeal. The Government has said that it now plans to bring in new legislation to prevent such boycotts.

Plowshares update

On 8 June, Catholic peace activist Elizabeth McAlister (80) was sentenced to time already served for her part in a symbolic nuclear disarmament action at the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in St. Marys, Georgia, in April 2018 (see PN 2618 – 2619).

The other six members of the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 will be sentenced on 29 and 30 June.

The judge ordered that McAlister – who had already spent 17 months in prison – pay $25 a month until the amount of damage caused by the break-in (estimated at $33,503) was paid back in full by the seven.

Topics: Anti-war action

1,500 years

The UK will take 1,500 years to de-carbonise its domestic heating if funding levels proposed this April are maintained, New Scientist reports.
Emissions from domestic heating made up roughly 10% of the UK’s ‘consumption emissions’ (which include emissions from imported goods) in 2017.

According to the government’s Climate Change Committee, the UK needs to install 19 million heat pumps by 2050 if it is to meet its legally-binding commitment for the UK to have net-zero emissions by 2050.

However newly announced funding levels will support only 12,500 installations a year.

Topics: Climate Change

‘A good alarm signal’

The dramatic melting of Greenland’s ice sheet in the summer of 2019 – which saw near-record rates - was largely down to a persistent zone of high pressure over the region, according to a scientific paper published this April.

The fate of the ice sheet will be a crucial determinant in sea level rise.

One of the paper’s authors told the Guardian: ‘This melt event is a good alarm signal that we urgently need to change our way of living to hold [back] global warming because it is likely that the [UN climate body’s] projections could be too optimistic for [the] Arctic’.

Topics: Climate Change

War in a time of covid

RAF planes resumed bombing Iraq on 10 April after a lull of nearly seven months, according to Jane’s Defence Weekly. Meanwhile the RAF and Britain’s largest arms company, BAE Systems, have continued to support Saudi Arabia’s attacks in Yemen, despite a March call from the UN Secretary-General ‘to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives’.

The US subsequently blocked a UN vote calling for a global ceasefire because the text of the resolution contained an indirect reference to the World Health Organisation.

Topics: Arms trade