As the ink has barely dried on the Cop26 agreement and citizens are pouring over the entrails to see if anything significant has been achieved, one thing is certain: The planet remains in mortal danger and actions now need to match, or indeed far exceed, words.
Despite extreme weather events and the threat to life posed by greenhouse gas emissions, governments, especially those of rich countries, are woefully reluctant to take the necessary steps to seriously address this issue. And a huge elephant in the room at Cop26 was the failure to even consider tackling the war industry’s part in this crisis.
This industry is powered by fossil fuels and is among the biggest polluters on the planet. For example, the US defence department has a larger carbon footprint than most countries — in fact, if it were a country it would register as the 55th biggest emitter of greenhouse gases.
Some readers may be feeling a sense of relief in the belief that the Republic of Ireland, at least, is not making a contribution to this aspect of planetary peril. However, they would be wrong in that assumption.
Although, traditionally, before our neutrality was steadily and stealthily eroded, we had a limited involvement in the arms industry, all that has changed and is set to change more drastically in the coming years.
A stark example of this can be found in an event being hosted by the Department of Defence and the Defence Forces, due to take place on November 25 in the Aviva Stadium, entitled Support for Enterprise, Research, and Innovation in Defence.
The event, which will be officially opened by Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney, proudly proclaims itself as a high-level seminar and networking event, on the new EU funding and technology supports for the defence and security research, innovation, development, and manufacturing ecosystem in Ireland.
The use of the term ‘ecosystem’ is especially offensive when one considers the environmental damage done to the ecosystem by the military/war machine.
The promotion for the event goes on to say that: "The seminar will provide significant networking opportunities with senior officials from the EU Commission, the European Defence Agency, Enterprise Ireland, and European Defence Industry who will present on the European Defence Fund, defence tech engagement, and Horizon Europe opportunities over the next EU budgetary cycle, 2021-2027."
Is this not extraordinary and disturbing in equal measure?
We, in Ireland, know better than most the damage that weapons can do to people and our environment. The issue of decommissioning weapons following the Good Friday Agreement — which was happily achieved, to a greater or lesser extent — dominated our media and public discourse for many years.
Yet we are now deliberately getting ever more deeply involved in the business of building weapons systems for profit, the consequences of which will inevitably be death, suffering, and forced migration of people whom we do not know and against whom we have no gripe or grudge.
The world is already awash with weapons that are killing, maiming, and driving people from their homes. We don’t need more. The global arms industry racked up an almost incomprehensible bill of $1,900bn in 2019, a vast multiple of the pledges to save the planet made at Cop26.
Our planet is on the verge of destruction as a result of war and, relatedly, global warming.
What is official Ireland’s response?
A decision, under the watch of the Green Party, I might add, to participate in building more weapons, costing — literally — the earth.
I’m sure those who will attend this conference will be highly qualified, politely spoken, and neatly dressed, but the business they will be promoting is the business of blood and of ecological devastation.
For the welfare of the planet and its people, Mr Coveney and the Department of Defence should reflect on the millions of victims of war around the world and call off this grotesque event.
- Joe Murray is the co-ordinator of Afri — Action From Ireland. Afri was founded in 1975 and works on peace, justice and environmental issues.