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Defence Secretary challenged over 'bizarre' eco-friendly weapons plan

By agency reporter
December 16, 2020

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has announced that the British armed forces will become more environmentally friendly, with the RAF using sustainable fuel for combat aircraft such as F-35s, Typhoons and Wildcat helicopters. Pacifists and climate campaigners have said that the plan 'makes a mockery' of serious attempts to tackle the climate emergency.

The Peace Pledge Union (PPU), the UK's leading pacifist campaign group, described the plan as a desperate attempt by the Ministry of Defence to appear ethical while totally missing the point. The PPU said that war is by its nature destructive and not climate-friendly.

The Defence Secretary said that “by refining our aviation fuel standards we are taking simple yet effective steps to reduce the environmental footprint of defence”. No details or timescale were given in a statement that said F-35s, Typhoons and Wildcat helicopters “could use up to 50 per cent sustainable sources in the future". Known as ‘drop-ins,’ sustainable fuel sources include hydrogenated fats and oils, wood waste, alcohols, sugars, household waste, biomass and algae.

The PPU says the policy is only the latest  attempt to present the armed force as eco-friendly. In September 2019, the Chief of the General Staff, Mark Carleton-Smith, was criticised by school climate strikers after he suggested that the army could attract more young recruits if they were seen as an environmentally friendly employer.

Symon Hill, Campaigns Manager of the Peace Pledge Union, said: “This policy is beyond naïve. It is pure fantasy. Neither combat aircraft nor any other weapons can be climate-friendly. War by its nature involves destroying human life, animal life and food sources, and devastating the environment. Any carbon emissions that might be saved by powering F-35s with household waste would be vastly outweighed by the destruction that they are designed to cause.”

Anya Nanning Ramamurthy of the Peace Pledge Union Youth Network, who has been active in school climate strikes, said: “War and armed conflict are already impacting communities largely affected by climate breakdown – furthering harm, distress and suffering. This is not what our future should look like. We desperately need to be rethinking what we call security and defence and move towards supporting one another and building resilience, not causing destruction.”

Global Military Spending, Sustainable Human Safety and Value for Money, a report published in November 2020 by Transform Defence, an international NGO, found that the world spends almost 12 times as much on armed force as on tackling climate change. 

* Read the government announcement here

*Read the report Global Military Spending, Sustainable Human Safety and Value for Money here

* Peace Pledge Union https://www.ppu.org.uk/

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