Green Jobs, Not Trident

IssueOctober 2010
Comment by Milan Rai , Emily Johns

A careful new report from CND demonstrates that replacing the Trident nuclear weapons submarine system will actually cost more jobs than it generates, and that cancelling the project gives Britain a golden opportunity to use its industrial skills for a green economy.

Recent weeks have seen a furious struggle within the military establishment, as the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has struggled to plan for the 10%-20% cuts being demanded. Because the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government has insisted that the costs of the Trident replacement programme come out of the main MoD budget, this has placed huge pressure on conventional military spending, with dramatic cuts likely.

On 14 September, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) launched a report on the economics of Trident replacement at the Trade Union Congress conference in Manchester. Using official figures, the report shows that the cancellation of surface ships, aircraft, armoured vehicles and RAF bases, as a result of the need to pay for Trident replacement, would endanger far more jobs than the relatively small numbers that would go were Trident replacement to be cancelled. More importantly, scrapping Trident replacement would free up workers with skills needed for complex submarine and shipbuilding, skills which are similar to those required for wave and tidal energy development.

The Trident shipyard at Barrow “could become, with appropriate investment, a major centre for the design and manufacture of wave and tidal turbines”.

CND argues: “If we invest the money saved by cancelling Trident, we could make the UK a world leader in wave and tidal power technology and create hundreds of thousands of new jobs in Britain, more than compensating for the jobs lost by cancelling Trident replacement.” The morally-right thing to do is to abandon weapons of mass destruction and to use our skills, energy and financial resources to try to avoid runaway climate change. It is also the economically sensible thing to do.

Nobel laureate in economics Joseph Stiglitz argues that our priority today should be to “shift spending away from unproductive uses – such as wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, or unconditional bank bailouts that do not revive lending – toward high-return investments” such as investments in education, technology, and infrastructure, which can actually “lead to lower long-term deficits”.