COMMENT: Climate Change campaign: A success for FoE

Friends of the Earth has played a leading rôle in putting climate change at the top of the international political and media agenda, exposing the fossil fuel industry’s activities and persuading the UK to lead the world in pushing for tough targets.

In Kyoto, the FoE EWNI team worked alongside FoE International delegates and other environmental NGOs, talking to the world’s press, lobbying delegates, exposing the dirty dealings of the oil industry and staging a high-profile art event, “Raising Standards”. Here in the UK, FoE had the highest profile on national and regional TV and radio. FoE local groups nation-wide got coverage as local celebrities and politicians signed up to our Clinton and Blair postcards. Demonstrations at the Japanese and US Embassies were covered by Japanese press and CNN, and 30,000 postcards were delivered to 10 Downing Street.

We have now started to see a split in the fossil fuel industry. While nay-sayers like Exxon continue to deny that climate change is even a problem, Shell UK was pressured into making a ground-breaking statement in November supporting precautionary action and, most significantly, targets for emissions reductions at Kyoto.

The challenge now in the UK is to ensure the Government keeps to its own voluntary target of a 20% cut in CO2 by 2010, confirmed by Prescott upon his return from Kyoto. The Government will be holding a consultation on how to meet this target in Spring 1998, to which we will be making a detailed submission, and we will also be asking the public to write letters to their MPs asking for a sustainable energy policy to cut CO2 emissions.

The final phase of our climate campaign (up to April 1998) is also focused on energy liberalization — promoting solutions to climate change by creating a demand for green energy. We will do this through the Climate Challenge postcards and by producing a league table of RECs to encourage consumers to choose the ‘greenest’.

Nuclear Power is not the answer to climate change. Why not? Because it’s unsafe and uneconomic. BNFL ship thousands of tons of radioactive waste into the UK from all over the world, treat it to extract plutonium — and then twiddle their thumbs as the UK becomes the world’s nuclear dumping ground. This plutonium processing is hugely expensive and dangerous — and it must be stopped. Having achieved a massive victory over Nirex, FoE is now in a position to make tremendous changes to the nuclear agenda.

We will target the following plans by BNFL:

During the last 12 months our legal strategy has successfully managed to stop the licensing process for the first two in its tracks — but the next stage of the campaign is to achieve overwhelming political support. An Early Day Motion on plutonium already has over 100 MPs’ signatures. To carry the momentum forward, MPs need to get letters from concerned constituents, so please write to Roger Casale and Siobhain McDonagh asking the following questions:

Also please ask your MP to sign Early Day Motion 348 on stockpiles of plutonium.

Auriel Glanville
Coordinator for Merton Friends of the Earth

London Region AGM 18·1·1998

WDC/CND was well represented by Muriel, Helen, Dorothy and Joanna. The new venue at the Quaker International Centre was very pleasant and the day was on the whole productively spent.

Dave Knight, Chair of CND, gave a lively address and workshops attended by our delegates were Influencing the Labour Government led by William Peden, CND Parliamentary worker, and The International Disarmament Scene introduced by Bruce Kent.

Bill Peden was quite frank about the problems facing CND in the light of the Government's huge majority, but he did give some grounds for optimism. The crucial rôle of letter-writing in our campaign was emphasised. The disposal of military nuclear waste is to be examined by the House of Lords Select Committee as a direct result of recent lobbying, for example. It is very important that MPs associate human faces with the CND argument — people in their constituencies, people on the street and people in the news.

There are lots of confidence-building measures that the Uk could take and plenty of scope for the UK to capture the international initiative. The most positive speeches on the subject have been delivered in the House of Lords with some indication that the Foreign Office is showing greater flexibility than the MoD. The 'waste of money' argument is probably our strongest suit at present because of the debate over the future of the welfare state. All Constituency Labour Parties are urged to invite a CND speaker to one of their regular meetings.

Bruce Kent covered a wide field very rapidly but encouraged us to feel that CND was "respectable" and in the mainstream of international non-governmental campaigning. The landmines campaign had shown the way. There was increasing globalisation of concern about warfare, poverty etc. OXFAM had launched a 'cut conflict' campaign which would have been unthinkable a few years ago. The centenary of the 1899 Hague Convention will be marked by the "Hague Appeal for Peace" — "towards the abolition of war" and Bruce sees this as an opportunity to build bridges into new areas; already in this connection he has received friendly letters from Field Marshal Lord Bramall, the Red Cross and the Royal British Legion!

CND Chair Dave Knight comes to Wimbledon on March 12th

Please do everything you can to publicise this event. There will be plenty of opportunity for general discussion following Dave’s talk and it should be a most stimulating evening. Dave gave a very inspiring address to the London Region AGM on the triple themes of Action, Lobbying and Education, to be remembered as ALE!

He gave several grounds for optimism: that the huge number of World Court Declarations collected from ordinary members of the public was accepted as official evidence when the ICJ came to consider its final judgment and that General Lee Butler of the USA admitted to being impressed by the international reaction to French nuclear testing. Following the British General Election there are now 150 MPs who support CND and the government is at least agreeing to meet delegations and listen to our arguments. We must keep up the pressure by asking what Labour is actually going to do to bring about the nuclear-free world which they claim to desire.

Action in the coming year will include Trident Ploughshares (very hush-hush at the moment!), the “Trafficking Trident” mock missile on the road again in July and August, and NVDA at nuclear bases, research establishments and the peace camps, especially Faslane.

CND’s 40th Anniversary gives us a chance to celebrate (still around with 36,000 members!) and to emphasise that nuclear dangers still exist. CND has achieved the dignity of the GCSE syllabus, and material and speakers are sent regularly to schools. The USA is developing a new nuclear space programme and accidental war is an ever-present possibility. Our task is to change public opinion.

“British in secret plot to upgrade Trident”

This alarming report appeared in the Independent on February 16th. Documents uncovered under the American Freedom of Information Act indicate that British scientists are participating in plans to extend the life of Trident warheads by up to 40 years. This plan is being developed without the knowledge of Parliament; shades of Polaris and Chevaline. We have written to MP Roger Casale asking him to investigate.

House of Lords Debate 17·12·1997

We have the full transcript of this nuclear policy debate, instigated by the indefatigable Lord Jenkins of Putney. The occasion was chiefly notable for the unusually positive contribution of the Foreign Office minister Baroness Symons.

“This is a matter which is very much a concern of the Government,” she said. “We recognise that it is also a question in which there is a high level of public interest. In a Gallup Poll which was conducted in October this year, 87 per cent of those questioned supported negotiations to prohibit nuclear weapons. We play close attention to that.

“As one of the five nuclear weapons states, Britain has a key rôle to play in the process of nuclear disarmament. We intend to use our position to work for the global elimination of nuclear weapons. To achieve that, we will press for multilateral negotiations towards mutual, balanced and verifiable reductions.

“Several further steps towards disarmament have been suggested during this debate.... and by such bodies as the Canberra Commission. Many of these are being examined in the strategic defence review and elsewhere. This examination will cover all aspects of out nuclear policy, including warhead numbers, greater transparency and de-alerting measures.

“This Government welcomes the Internaional Court of Justice’s recognition.... of the importance of obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.”

It was also encouraging that ex-chief of defence staff Field Marshal Lord Carver, who has spoken out against nuclear weapons for many years, was joined on this occasion by a younger colleague, Lord Bramall.

“My Lords, perhaps I should make clear at the outset that I speak on this subject as one who, in the light of a number of facts relating to the international scene and our own defence effort, has changed his mind.... I cannot see any situation in which this country would authorise the use of our own nuclear weapons on another country — not in the East, even post-Yeltsin, nor in the Middle East, nor anywhere.

“It amazes me that this Government... should have accepted the whole nuclear deterrent philosophy — one might almost say theology — without demur or question. I urge the Goverment to put our nuclear deterrent under the same microscope as everything else in the strategic review so that we can keep our whole defence programme in a proper balance.” As a military professional Lord Bramall feels that our conventional forces could usefully receive some of the £1·5 billion Trident running costs.

The diehard Conservatives who responded to these speeches were openly shocked. “I have been very startled and saddened by the speeches of the two noble and gallant Lords, Lord Bramall and Lord Carver. I feel that they may have misunderstood the nature and importance of nuclear weapons for world peace.” (Lord Burnham)

“Since the end of the Cold War there have been alarming signs of a resurgence in unilateralism. It is as though there is a new hankering after Greenham Common and the Aldermaston march and rituals of that kind which I hoped we had put behind us.” (Lord Chalfont, ex-chairman of Vickers Shipbuilders)

How refreshing it is to see such people being forced onto the defensive! [Copies of the full debate available on request].

Letter from Alison Williams

I share Maisie Carter’s concern and some of her anger at the escalating crisis in Iraq: the repeated threat of more US/UK bombing raids, supposedly to force Saddam into complying fully with the United Nations Weapons Inspections.

As someone who still regards the United Nations Organisation as our best hope for a more just and peaceful world, I am concerned at the way in which the United States and Britain appear to be abusing their positions as Permanent Members of the Security Council. This further undermines the already low standing of the United Nations in the public mind, as is evident from Maisie’s letter — but the situation is much more complex than she suggests.

It is not true that the United Nations — in this case, the 15-member Security Council — still refuse Iraq permission to import medicines and food. For some five years after the 1991 Gulf War an embargo produced the horrific consequences she reports, and in 1996 an “oil for food” scheme was negotiated to mitigate that suffering.

On 2 February 1998 Kofi Annan reported to the press on his briefing to the Security Council on the implementation of the “oil for food” scheme. He had recommended that the scheme be more than doubled, and pleaded that there should be no linkage between the humanitarian issues and the crisis over weapons inspections. His report urged spending on food, medicine and infrastructure to restore water and electricity supplies. In reply to a question he said there was general support for his proposals to “improve the situation of the Iraqi population. No one in the Council wants to hurt innocent civilians...”

I believe that to be true, even of the United States and our own government.

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