Whanganui-River_by_Alex-Indigo

Recognising nature as a legal person: the Whanganui River in New Zealand

The relationship between indigenous peoples and nation states is historically marked by conflict and oppression. The exploitation of natural resources, usually ignoring indigenous knowledge, feed into these conflicts,threatening the sovereignty, rights, culture and ultimate existence of indigenous peoples. The historical relationship between the state of New Zealand and the Māori has proved to be no exception. However, the 2014 Whanganui River Deed of Settlement is an exemplary attempt to protect the River, and its natural resources while respecting incorporating the long ignored voices of the local Whanganui tribes.

Conflict flows

The Whanganui River, home for a large proportion of Māori villages in pre-European times and regarded as taonga (special treasure), is sacred to the Whanganui Iwi Māori tribe and believed to have human traits. Prior to 1848 a substantial Māori population, which was dispersed along the Whanganui River and its major tributaries, enjoyed rights and responsibilities over it. This changed in 1848 when the Crown purchased 86,200 acres of land at Whanganui. The Crown proceeded to assert authority over the land and River within the area purchased and, as a result, faced Māori opposition, who asserted control over the rest of the area and continued to make use of the River.

Frequent conflicts arose between the Crown and the Māori. The River’s relevance as an important communication route motivated, in 1887, the inauguration of a steam-boat service, which was protested by the locals, who argued this would greatly affect fish and eel weirs population, their main food source. Only a few years later, by 1891 most fish and eel weirs had, in fact, been destroyed, and yet the boat services continued. Rights to extract and sell gravel from the River were equally protested by the Whanganui Iwi, who attempted to obstruct the River works, but were ignored by the Parliament. In 1903, the Coal-mines Act Amendment Act, without consultation with the Whanaganui Iwi, brought further misery, by declaring the beds of all navigable rivers to be vested in the Crown.

The Māori tribe continued to be voiceless throughout the 20th Century until the Whanganui River Māori Trust Board was established. It negotiated outstanding Whanganui Iwi claims for the settlement over the Whanganui River and, in signing the Deed of Settlement, the Crown recognised, amongst other things, its failure to protect the interests of Whanganui Iwi, and the adverse effects and prejudice caused to Whanganui Iwi.”

Several settlements have, prior to the Whanganui River Deed of Settlement, recognised Māori conceptions of the environment, among them are settlements that relate to the Waikato, Waipā and Kaituna Rivers. The Waikato River settlement, for example, recognises that the River is an ancestor (tupuna) to the Waikato-Tainui and it possesses a life force.

The Settlement

On August 2014, and following numerous petitions to Parliament dating back more than a century, the Whanganui River Deed of Settlement (or Ruruku Whakatupua) was finally signed. Under the settlement, the Whanganui River is recognised as a legal person, granting the River rights, powers, duties and liabilities and “recognises the intrinsic ties which bind the Whanganui River to the people and the people to the Whanganui River.” Not only has Māori belief been incorporated into the Deed of Settlement but the River is also represented by two guardians (with advisors) who act ‘as one’: one is nominated by the Crown and the other one by the Iwi natives.

The Deed of Settlement helps ensure a more sustainable usage of natural resources by, for example, significantly limiting dredging from the riverbed. It also respects natural areas and traditional knowledge: S.3.3.3. states that Iwi and Crown guardians, working must “promote and protect the health and well-being” of the River within a framework of traditional Māori knowledge. Ensuring a less polluted River, not only helps to restore local ecosystems and balanced biodiversity, but it brings a significant impact on the ocean’s health as well.

This policy is not only vital for environmental and natural resources protection but it also recognises  the local community and its relationship with the State, and the local environment. Poverty and human rights violations are addressed through the redress of historic exploitation by the Crown and the development of the River that had taken place without Māori consent. The Crown also “recognises its failure to protect the interests of Whanganui Iwi, and the adverse effects and prejudice caused to Whanganui Iwi.” The historical oppression  by the Crown over the Iwi is also taken into account. By consulting and partnering with local tribes, the Crown provides an avenue to redress such atrocities and violations, where possible.

It must be noted, however, that this Settlement is only appropriate and well-adapted to the cultural values and traditions of the Iwi. Local inhabitants of other faiths don’t have their beliefs acknowledged within the Deed of Settlement. This means that the Deed does not have the neutrality of pluralism and secularism, which the New Zealand government displays elsewhere in its policies.

By electing guardians and advisors from the tribe and incorporating their beliefs, knowledge and practices, it further empowers the local Iwi. It also provides for public consultation and genuine engagement in its design and implementation such as the appointment of legal representatives who “must … develop appropriate mechanisms for engaging with and reporting to [local Māori] on matters relating to [the river]”. The Deed establishes a strategy group comprised of representatives of persons and organisations with interests in the Whanganui River. This includes the Iwi, local and central government, commercial as well as recreational users and environmental groups.

This Settlement is by no means the consequence of a fully healed relationship, both between New Zealand’s indigenous peoples and the State, and between humans and nature. However it is a cause for celebration. The burden of environmental degradation rests the heaviest on the shoulders of indigenous peoples, who are more likely to rely upon a healthy and thriving  environment and yet, perversely usually have little say, or few means of access in these matters. Hopefully policies like the Whanganui River Deed of Settlement can inspire Governments around the world to take action towards recognising and respecting indigenous knowledge, and the restorative capacity of healing nature and communities.

rsz_ajuna-kagaruki-in-front-of-her-house-with-the-solar-home-system_2_copy-right_carmen-rosa

Seizing the Solar Energy Revolution in Tanzania

When Ajuna Kagaruki and her husband built their new house in Mabwepande, a suburb of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, it was not an option to wait for the government to connect the area to the national grid. Instead, they decided to take action themselves in order to have electricity for their life with the three children. Today, a 120 kwh Solar Home System (SHS) lights the house, powers a TV and an iron and charges their mobile phones.

A. Kagaruki in front of her house with SHS. Image by Carmen Rosa

A. Kagaruki in front of her house with SHS. Image by Carmen Rosa.

“When we moved in here, there was no electricity. That was hard. My children were bored and the two older ones could sometimes not finish their homework in the evening.” Ajuna Kagaruki is 35 years old, works as a social welfare officer and on top of that, just accomplished her Master’s degree. Her husband is a lawyer. “Even though we had a nice house, we could not enjoy family life here, because it was dark when we all got home.” With this experience, Ajuna Kagaruki and her family are not alone in their country. In Tanzania, only 26% of households have access to the national grid. And only 11% of people in rural areas and 40% in urban areas have access to electricity at all.

Ajuna Kagaruki and her family changed this situation for themselves. A few months ago, they decided to buy a Solar Home System (SHS). While Ajuna knew about the technology before, she wasn’t convinced to install it, because she heard a lot of stories about bad services and technical problems. This situation is also very common in Tanzania. As there is a lack of expertise for the technology, a lack of trained employees as well as no quality standards for solar equipment, many installations fail or need intense maintenance. However, Ajuna Kagaruki came across one company, who was supposed to offer good and reliable after-sales service. “When the Mobisol technician explained me how the system worked, I was surprised how easy it is. I can actually handle it myself and if I need support, there is always a team to contact.”

A. Kagaruki and her daughter in front of the TV and solar battery. Image by Carmen Rosa

A. Kagaruki and her daughter in front of the TV and solar battery. Image by Carmen Rosa.

Mobisol was founded 5 years ago, starting in Arusha in 2011. In 2013, the company had hired 30 people and 500 customers across Tanzania. Today there are about 400 employees in the country (about 200 sale agents, 150 local technicians, training technicians and assemblers) and 37.000 customers. All employees are trained by Mobisol in their academy centers is Arusha, Mwanza and Mbeya. “Especially finding good sales agents is difficult. Technicians, we usually find through universities or vocational trainings”, says one Mobisol staff member. The SHS are designed for households and small commercial use and are based on a rent-to-own idea: After a down payment of 8%, the customer makes a monthly payment for a maximum of three years. If a customer does not pay the monthly rate, which is done through M-Pesa, the system is locked down. When the full amount is paid off, the customer owns the system and produces electricity for free.

While Ajuna knew about the technology before, she wasn’t convinced to install it, because she heard a lot of stories about bad services and technical problems. This situation is also very common in Tanzania. As there is a lack of expertise for the technology, a lack of trained employees as well as no quality standards for solar equipment, many installations fail or need intense maintenance.

Ajuna Kagaruki’s 120 kwh SHS costed the family 163.000 TZS (about 76 USD) for the upfront payment and about 70.000 TZS (about 32 USD) for the monthly payment. “I am enjoying the light in the evening, watching TV and having a charged mobile phone whenever I need it. My older kids can do homework also at home and sometimes they even bring their friends to play after school.”

The Tanzanian government is aware of the fact that energy is the prerequisite for development. “We want to tackle the challenges that so many people in our country are facing every day,” says Doto Mashaka Biteko, Member of the Tanzanian Parliament and Chair of the Energy and Minerals Committee. “Therefore, the government is aiming to provide access to 50% of the population by 2020.”  And Mwanahamisi Athumani Munkuda, Clerk to the Parliamentary Committee Energy and Minerals adds: “The parliament has allocated 53% of the national development budget – which is about 1.13 trillion TZ Schilling – for energy issues.”

Watching a TV running on solar power. Image by Carmen Rosa

Watching a TV running on solar power. Image by Carmen Rosa.

The National Energy Plan from 2015 unveils how this should be achieved and what the money should be spent for. “In fact, looking at the government’s strategy for enhancing access to electricity, it is mainly about expanding the national grid,” says Sixbert Mwanga, Head of Climate Action Network Tanzania (CAN Tanzania). “However, renewable energies provide a unique window of opportunity to transform the electricity production and supply of Tanzania. Examples from across the world actually show that a decentralized approach, based on off-grid and on-grid solutions, is much cheaper and delivers faster.” CAN Tanzania, in cooperation with the World Future Council and Bread for the World, is currently developing policy recommendations for transiting to 100% Renewable Energy as a mean to reduce poverty in the country.

Ajuna Kagaruki shares this experience: “The government says that the national grid will be extended to our area within the next 3 years. But I couldn’t wait that long to have electricity for my family. And now, even if we get connected to the grid, I would continue with our SHS, because by then, I will produce my electricity for free.”

Authors

Anna Leidreiter, Senior Programme Manager – Climate, Energy and Cities, World Future Council

Irene García, Policy Officer, Climate, Energy and Cities, World Future Council

English Lake District mountains in summer. The view from Red Pike over the Mosedale Valley towards Yewbarrow, Great Gable, Kirk Fell and the Scafell Range. Stewart. © Smith Photography /Shutterstock.com

The View of the World from Europe

Pearce_Catherine_2

A comment by Catherine Pearce, Director of Future Justice and Co-ordinator of the Global Policy Action Plan at the World Future Council.

August, 2016

As a British national, living in the UK, I am witnessing some of the most turbulent, destructive and unsettling moments of my country’s political history. And not only that, but the wider European region is going through some of the most worrying times.

I first began writing this comment a few weeks back. My draft, within a few a days, was already out of date, surpassed by events and fast moving developments.

I want to deconstruct some common myths, raise some uncomfortable realities, and remind ourselves of some fundamental limits, natural and otherwise which we are already bumping up against.

First off, the myth that there can be a view from Europe. There are many, many views. There are commonalities, of course, but Europe is a patchwork of different stories. Europe comprises over 40 countries. There are 28 countries and 24 official languages in the EU alone. It demonstrates a strong diversity of histories, cultures, identities, political views, realities and priorities. And it doesn’t stop there. Our views and perspectives are also informed by our neighbours: Africa, Russia, the Middle East. What is happening, immediately beyond our borders is perhaps posing the largest tension and conflict for Europe today.

One could argue that the painful and extended efforts to fix the EU project has provided a dangerous distraction. Whether it be saving the Euro or retaining its membership, the EU at least, has neglected or simply failed to respond to critical events around us.

Turning to the UK referendum, the vote divided and split the country on a number of different lines and demographics. By region, by age, by nationality, ethnicity, class even. Based upon certain myths, lies and allegations, the vote has created a fragmented country, threatening to split up the kingdom.

The truth is however that the “Brussels” against which British voters rebelled is a bureaucracy answerable to 28 contentious governments that has never constrained British sovereignty in defense or fiscal policy, or in dealing with refugees from outside the EU. And as the Brits will soon realize to our regret, we benefited handsomely from participating in a large common market.

Image by Jeff Djevdet (CC BY 2.0)

Image by Jeff Djevdet (CC BY 2.0)

All that has been amply chronicled, along with the real motives behind the Leave vote: the sense among older, provincial, white voters, the ‘middle Englanders’ that they are somehow being marginalized by globalization; they had been driven by a nostalgia for a simpler and often mythical past.

Certainly, there are valid points about the European Union and about globalization to which politicians should pay heed. But that isn’t why Leave won. It won because demagogic, charlatan politicians like Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party, and Boris Johnson, our newly appointed Foreign Secretary had no scruples about playing on base fears that ‘swarms’ of people of different colours and religions were threatening to overwhelm the native way of life. That is also Mr Trump’s refrain and the core message of right-wing demagogues across Europe, from Marine Le Pen in France to Geert Wilders in the Netherlands.

Ironically, after outsourcing our trade powers to Brussels for the last 43 years, the UK is now relying on the expertise of foreign trade negotiators – as Whitehall looks to recruit foreign nationals, experienced in trade negotiations, to help us. So much for ‘taking back control’!

While the UK vote has brought increased support for the EU in other parts of the region, it has also catalysed fragmentation as other EU countries seek to hold their own referendums. The Catalan government has recently intensified its war of words with Spain by vowing to use its democratic mandate to forge a long standing call for a separate Catalan state, with or without the approval of Madrid.

I could write at length about the political turmoil the EU has been plunged into via the Brexit vote, however I want to turn to immigration. An inflammatory issue that stirred up and played on emotions during the referendum and reaches the heart, and indeed the borders of Europe. It also brings into question the relationship that Europe has with the rest of the world.

The movement of people into Europe is happening on an unprecedented level since World War II. Europe has become the 21st-century destination of choice for the war-ravaged, the persecuted, the displaced, the homeless and the penniless from numerous less fortunate and less stable lands.

The International Organization for Migration estimates that over a million migrants arrived by sea in 2015, and almost 35,000 by land. And those figures are only the official records, many more arrive undetected.

Though its suffering is horrendous, Syria is but one of many disaster areas whose collective woes have led some experienced observers to assert that 2016 is already the worst year for humanitarian crises in living memory. Nearly all these crises potentially affect Europe.

Europe’s resources, capacities and attitudes are being tested, as the numbers of people, either moving through, or requesting asylum increase. So far, our response has been pitiful. Last September, Austria’s Chancellor compared Hungary’s treatment of refugees to the ordeal of Jews under the Nazis. Werner Faymann, a Social Democrat, launched a blistering attack on the handling of the migration crisis by Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister. Mr Faymann is reported to have said “Refugees put on trains in the belief they are going somewhere else entirely brings back memories of the darkest period of our continent,”

Racism and xenophobia are on the rise. In the week before and the week after the UK vote, reports to the police of racial hate crime increased by 42%, probably the highest ever recorded. Some had assumed that the Brexit vote had given them a free licence for open racism.

How secular, or mostly Christian Europe will cope with the mass migration, largely from Muslim Africa and the Middle East is now the dominant common factor at the heart of national politics across the region.

Recent horrific attacks in France and Germany also, inevitably give rise to the concern of opening our doors to potential terrorists, and creating our own ‘enemy within’.

Greece has been on the frontline of the mass movement of people. Greece, a country already on its knees economically, socially and politically, barely able to serve its own people. A country on the edge of the EU, quite literally, which has been on the receiving end of such draconian and harsh measures from Brussels, that a referendum resulted in a clear refusal to continue under the EU policies. Yet it was ignored by the governing party. And, despite the widespread suffering of its own, Greece continues to welcome the weak, vulnerable, scared and desperate, escaping some of the worst conflict zones the world has ever seen. These lands of war were, until recently, their home. To leave, with nothing, risking their lives and that of their children’s, not knowing what is ahead, or if they will ever return.

We, the Western world are guilty of the atrocities taking place in these regions. We have all, intentionally or not, assisted in creating the conditions for such dangerously unsettled and unstable parts of the world.

It is certainly grotesque that the UK, a key ally to the US in the Iraq War, and a driver of intervention in the region, now wishes to tightly limit the number refugees arriving, as a result of the conflicts. Meanwhile, Greece was a staunch opponent of the war in Iraq, yet is currently bearing the brunt of its consequences.

Poorly thought through, hawkish actions in Libya, led by French, US and British coalitions has left a country now ‘ungovernable’. To do this anywhere is reckless and foolish. But to do this on Europe’s doorstep denotes such idiocy that one wonders if the conspiracy to break Europe under further stress is so far-fetched. After all, it was not so long ago that David Cameron, as the UK Prime Minister had strenuously called for Turkey’s accession to the EU, hoping to stretch EU capacities even further, something he vehemently denied during the referendum.

There is no doubt that the numbers of people on the move today are nothing, nothing in comparison to what we face as the impacts of climate change really begin to hit.

We are only now beginning to understand how climate change will undermine some of our basic human rights, and we have yet to fully comprehend what this will mean, and the implications for what we all currently take for granted.

El Hierro, Spain.

El Hierro, Spain.

The organisation I work for, the World Future Council, identifies policy solutions to these challenges and helps to spread and implement them. Aware that only a rapid shift to renewable energies can address climate change, we are spreading the most effective law to achieve this – ‘feed-in-tariffs’ rewarding solar and wind energy producers, first introduced in Germany, to other countries.

In the UK, this law has increased solar PV production rapidly – although we are not a very sunny country. We are now showing policy-makers that 100% renewables is possible, taking them to places like the Spanish Canary island of El Hierro where it is already the case, and the lights haven’t gone off.

Of course, such changes require ecologically literate people and here, Europe can learn from the US. The Environmental Literacy Standards of the state of Maryland are the best worldwide, as they are a high school graduation requirement, and we are working to introduce them in Europe.

Outdoor education in Maryland, US.

Outdoor education in Maryland, US.

Less than a day into the job, UK Prime Minister May’s shocking decision to shut down DECC, the Department for Energy and Climate Change, brought accusations of downgrading our country’s efforts on climate change, of not taking the issue seriously. Climate has been eaten up by a newly beefed up business department, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Personally, I have never been entirely convinced by the UK government’s leadership on climate change. But in this case, climate appears to have been demoted. The move does little to reassure business, poised to invest in a renewable future, or to the broader, international community of our climate commitments, especially our COP21 pledges.

Ministries and their structures indeed shape the priorities and direction of a government, however, commitment can be demonstrated by more than just a name. Leadership from recently appointed Climate Minister Nick Hurd and the State Secretary Greg Clark can go some way in making sure climate change is elevated and hardwired into the new department. Both their records on climate are good, but it remains to be seen if they will be climate champions in the face of conflicting priorities. It has been assumed that the new department holds more power and influence than DECC, however in the face of the new Government, complete with a large number of prominent climate skeptics, it suggests we will witness a series of tug of wars.

The freeze last week, on the go ahead on the controversial Hinkley nuclear power station, at the eleventh hour, to read the small print, leads one to wonder, perhaps naively, if this presents the shift from outdated, centralised energy to distributed renewables and smart grids.

15,000 nuclear weapons are held in the arsenals of the nine nuclear-armed states. The US and Russia are responsible for 95% of those weapons, 10% of which are on what is called ‘hair-trigger alert’ – a policy left over from the Cold War, which allows these weapons to go flying within minutes of an attack being logged.

Five European states continue to host US ‘tactical nuclear weapons’. Even though every military commander agrees they serve no military purpose and can never be used, the US is about to spend $10 billion to modernise this arsenal.

The terminology in the UK Trident debate was skewed. Click to read more.

Click to read more about the skewed terminology used in the UK Trident debate.

The British Parliament, recently held a debate on our Trident nuclear programme. It was held thanks to outgoing Prime Minister Cameron, wishing to send a signal to the international community that we remain a player on the world stage, perversely through showcasing our stockpile of nuclear weaponry, and as well, knowing it would split the opposition, the Labour Party further still. During the debate, Prime Minister, Theresa May said she would be willing to authorise a nuclear strike that could kill 100,000 people. To gasps across the chamber, May confirmed she would be prepared to press the nuclear button if necessary as she opened the debate about whether the UK should spend up to £200bn replacing four submarines that carry nuclear warheads. “The whole point of a deterrent is that our enemies need to know that we would be prepared to use it”. These types of adversarial policies stand in the way of the unprecedented cooperation we need to tackle transnational challenges.

The World Future Council recently published a study on the Climate-Nuclear-Nexus, showing the inter-linkages between these two global security threats. Many policy-makers are very worried about this and the Inter-Parliamentary Union, based in Geneva, which brings together almost all parliamentarians in the world, asked the World Future Council to produce a handbook on exemplary nuclear disarmament policies.

Argentina’s National Programme for the Voluntary Surrender of Firearms, paved the way for a highly successful firearms and ammunition buyback and also promotes a culture of non-violence and peaceful conflict resolution. My colleague Rob van Riet brought this policy to Bosnia, a country still suffering from the animosities of the civil war 20 years ago.

The trade in weaponry, from Europe is adding to escalating conflict and wars in neighbouring countries. Since the escalation of the Syrian conflict in 2012, eight countries, including the Czech Republic and Romania have approved €1.2bn of weapons and ammunition exports to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey – key arms markets for Syria and Yemen. Eight European countries that fiercely opposed to receive refugees in the EU are the very same ones that are profiting from the war.

Allow me to turn to the obvious and uncomfortable parallels arising between the UK and the US. The UK referendum debate was based upon lies, propaganda and untruths. Tidy, appealing slogans such as ‘taking back control’ used during the referendum are being echoed in the US presidential race.

The Republican convention used the outcome of the UK vote to justify and intensify the patriotic, vitriolic fist pumping hysteria ‘to take back America’. The witch hunt on Clinton generated during those debates sat very uneasily for me. In the UK, we are still mourning the loss of one of our brightest and most inspiring political figures, Jo Cox MP, assassinated in her own constituency for her views. Some Labour MPs, particularly women, also continue to receive death threats, personal attacks and intimidation.

Trump, and many UK politicians leading the Brexit campaign have unleashed, and fuelled an almighty rage and anger based on fear. Regretfully, pandora’s box has been opened.

The fact that these fires are burning in two of the most unequal countries and societies should be no surprise. As human beings, we have deep-seated psychological responses to inequality and social hierarchy. The tendency to equate outward wealth with inner worth means that inequality colours our social perceptions. It invokes feelings of superiority and inferiority, dominance and subordination – which affect the way we relate to and treat each other. As well as health and violence, almost all the problems that are more common at the bottom of the social ladder are more common in more unequal societies – including mental illness, drug addiction, obesity, loss of community life, imprisonment, unequal opportunities and poorer wellbeing for children. The effects are not confined to the poor. Inequality is bad for everyone. It eats away at the social fabric of the whole society.

We need to find it in ourselves to think the unthinkable. Both of the negative, as hard and uncomfortable as that may be, of some unimaginable outcomes, but of the good too, of what we can achieve, together, if we are to turn things around.

Among other deficits, our democracy has become a dictatorship of the present, with no-one representing the interests of future generations.

Our ancestors thought differently, the most famous example being the Native American principle that the impact of any decision on the 7th generation to come had to be taken into account.

My work in the World Future Council has focused on reviving this principle, by establishing guardians for future generations. Hungary established a Parliamentary Commissioner for Future Generations in 2007 and last year, we helped to set up a similar institution in Wales.

We have also worked since Rio 2012 to establish a UN High Commissioner for Future Generations, an initiative now being discussed at the UN High Level Political Forum.

Thanks to the internet we believe we are engaging with the world around us like never before. This could not be more true for the millennials as they feel disconnected from the democratic systems designed to service them. Yet, in reality, our worlds are shrinking into the online bubble we wish to identify ourselves with. We know the platforms we can turn to in order to validate ourselves and affirm our views. Many Britons woke up on the 24 June and did not recognise the country they lived in. The online community they depended on and fed off, served only to feed their own beliefs and value systems.

The pace of change in technology, globalization and climate has started to outrun the ability of our political systems to build the social, educational, community, workplace and political innovations needed for citizens to keep up.

“Political power in the West has been failing its own test of legitimacy and accountability since 2008 — and in its desperation has chosen to erode it further by unforgivably abdicating responsibility through the use of a referendum on the EU,” said Nader Mousavizadeh, who co-leads the London-based global consulting firm Macro Advisory Partners.

After the destruction of World War II, the EU project emerged as a force for peace, prosperity, democracy and freedom in the world. This is one of our great achievements. Rather than let it be destroyed we must use the shock of the Brexit vote to reimagine, reform, and rebuild a new Europe.

We are all, Europe. We are all, America. We are all black. We are all refugees. The challenges we face know no borders. They transcend nationality. They transcend race. They transcend age, ethnicity and they transcend political lines.

Let us think the unthinkable.

Renewable-Energy-and-Sustainable-Development

Renewable Energy and Sustainable Development

Renewable-Energy-and-Sustainable-Development

Abstract

Societies around the world are on the verge of a profound and urgently necessary transformation in the way they produce and use energy. This shift is moving the world away from the consumption of fossil fuels toward cleaner, renewable forms of energy. The rapid deployment of renewable energy has been driven mainly by a wide range of objectives (drivers), which include advancing economic development, improving energy security, enhancing energy access and mitigating climate change. While such presumed benefits are widely cited as key drivers in political and energy debates, specific, documented evidence of such benefits remains rather limited for reasons including a lack of adequate conceptual frameworks, methodological challenges, and limited access to relevant data.

This paper identifies some of the remaining questions relating to the implications of aiming for 100% renewable energy, with the aim to provide a basis for subsequent development of a conceptual framework for future work on this topic.

Tanzania_CEC

Summer news in August!

Dear friends,

As Martin Luther King once said, “it may be true that laws can’t change the heart but they can restrain the heartless”. Only good laws have the power to guarantee people’s fundamental rights and ensure that future generations grow up in just societies and a healthy environment.

We are excited to present some of these exemplary policies in our new “Future Policy” video series. And don’t forget to follow us on social media to stay up-to-date on our work.

With best wishes,

Jakob von Uexkull (Founder),
Alexandra Wandel (Director) and
Stefan Schurig (Member Management Board)
Support our work by donating

New Zealand’s Whanganui River Deed of Settlement

Under this settlement, following a Māori belief, the Whanganui River in New Zealand is recognised as a legal person, granting it rights, powers, duties and liabilities. Read more about this groundbreaking policy.
Synergies between Better Public Spaces and Regenerative Cities

Public space regeneration not only allows greener cities but can also lead to a revitalisation of urban communities, inclusiveness and social equality. Together with UN-HABITAT we explored the linkages between public spaces and the regenerative city from July 25-27.

The Brexit Chaos

Theresa May has vowed to make a success of Brexit. But will the British Parliament actually pass Brexit legislation, which most of its members do not believe in? The current House of Commons has a large pro-EU majority and it is unlikely that this will change after the next election. Read Jakob von Uexkull’s reflections on the matter.
Support our work by donating
Great news from Maryland, USA! The sewage pollution goals have been met 10 years early, there has been a resurgence in flora and fauna and “dead zones” in the Chesapeake Bay are shrinking. Maryland’s strong environmental education legislation, which won our Future Policy Award 2015, plays a key role in these developments.
Read more
Renewable energy and poverty reduction in Tanzania

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: policy-makers and WFC staff together for 100% RE
How do we make 100% Renewable Energy a reality in Tanzania? Only by working together! This is why 40 policy-makers and opinion leaders established a new task force as the result of our workshop in Dar es Salaam this July. The exciting collaboration inspires stakeholders and builds up hands-on knowledge on how 100% RE adds value to local economic development and community sustainability.
Read more
How terminology skewed the Trident debate
George Orwell famously wrote in his novel 1984 that, “if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought”. Some of the terms used in the debate on the renewal of the Trident nuclear programme in the UK are inaccurate or misleading. Instead of describing the systems and policies that rely on nuclear weapons in terms of “deterrent” and “strategic stability”, we should expose the risks they are rife with and underline the catastrophic consequences any use would have.
Read more
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World Future Council Newsletter – August 2016
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Dear friends,

As Martin Luther King once said, “it may be true that laws can’t change the heart but they can restrain the heartless”. Only good laws have the power to guarantee people’s fundamental rights and ensure that future generations grow up in just societies and a healthy environment.

We are excited to present some of these exemplary policies in our new “Future Policy” video series. And don’t forget to follow us on social media to stay up-to-date on our work.

With best wishes,

Jakob von Uexkull (Founder),
Alexandra Wandel (Director) and
Stefan Schurig (Member Management Board)
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New Zealand’s Whanganui River Deed of Settlement

Under this settlement, following a Māori belief, the Whanganui River in New Zealand is recognised as a legal person, granting it rights, powers, duties and liabilities. Read more about this groundbreaking policy.
Synergies between Better Public Spaces and Regenerative Cities

Public space regeneration not only allows greener cities but can also lead to a revitalisation of urban communities, inclusiveness and social equality. Together with UN-HABITAT we explored the linkages between public spaces and the regenerative city from July 25-27.

The Brexit Chaos

Theresa May has vowed to make a success of Brexit. But will the British Parliament actually pass Brexit legislation, which most of its members do not believe in? The current House of Commons has a large pro-EU majority and it is unlikely that this will change after the next election. Read Jakob von Uexkull’s reflections on the matter.
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Watch and learn: Renewable Energy in 15 minutes
Future Policy Series – 100% Renewable Energy
Click the picture above to watch the first episode of our brand new “Future Policy Series”.
What are 100% Renewable Energy Targets and what impact can they have on communities across the world? In the first episode of our new “Future Policy Series”, our Senior Project Manager Anna Leidreiter answers these and other questions in a short video presentation.
Watch the video
Environmental education and local action lead to impressive impacts in Maryland

Maryland, US: Children learning in the outdoors
Great news from Maryland, US! The sewage pollution goals have been met 10 years early, there has been a resurgence in flora and fauna and “dead zones” in the Chesapeake Bay are shrinking. Maryland’s strong environmental education legislation, which won our Future Policy Award 2015, plays a key role in these developments.
Read more
Renewable energy and poverty reduction in Tanzania

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: policy-makers and WFC staff together for 100% RE
How do we make 100% Renewable Energy a reality in Tanzania? Only by working together! This is why 40 policy-makers and opinion leaders established a new task force as the result of our workshop in Dar es Salaam this July. The exciting collaboration inspires stakeholders and builds up hands-on knowledge on how 100% RE adds value to local economic development and community sustainability.
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How terminology skewed the Trident debate
George Orwell famously wrote in his novel 1984 that, “if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought”. Some of the terms used in the debate on the renewal of the Trident nuclear programme in the UK are inaccurate or misleading. Instead of describing the systems and policies that rely on nuclear weapons in terms of “deterrent” and “strategic stability”, we should expose the risks they are rife with and underline the catastrophic consequences any use would have.
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Public

Breaking Silos: Exploring Synergies between Better Public Spaces and Regenerative Cities

During the 3rd Session of the Preparatory Committee towards Habitat III held between 25th and 27th of July 2016 in Surabaya (Indonesia), the World Future Council in partnership with UN Habitat and UCLG ASAPAC hosted a side event exploring the linkages between public spaces and the regenerative city. The event was a call to adopt an integrated approach to public space planning, one that is able to fully grasp the wide-range of co-benefits that emerge from regenerating public spaces.

The panel discussion brought together a diverse group of pannelists including Ms. Dato’ Maimunah Mohd Sharif, Mayor of Sebarang Perai in Malaysia, Dr. Bernadia Irawati Tjandradewi, Secretary General at UCLG ASPAC, Mr. Xu Yunfei, urban planner from the Guangzhou Urban Planning & Design Survey Research Institute and Mr. Bruno Dercon, Senior Urban Settlements Officer at UN-Habitat. Together they discussed the synergies between regenerative cities and public spaces. They explored the challenges and policy solutions that can support local authorities create liveable, healthy and inclusive public spaces while also ameliorating the environmental sustainability and resilience of cities.

As emerged during the discussion, it can sometimes be very challenging for city governments to assess and fully value the wide range of benefits and co-benefits that public spaces bring (including social, environmental and economic ones). Therefore, it is essential to identify and comprehensively assess all the co-benefits of regenerating public spaces, as this will play a huge role in mobilizing city governments to take action.

Secondly, an integrated planning approach that allows different city departments and stakeholders to talk to each other and collaborate is needed. Mechanisms must be in place to promote cross-sectoral collaboration. This will enable different departments and stakeholders to understand the benefits that good public space can bring for each one of them. As priorities are aligned and cohesive cooperation across the different actors is prompted, smoother and faster implementation is also safeguarded.

Another key success factor of good public space design and implementation resides in the effective collaboration between public and private bodies in close partnership with the local community. People need to be involved from the planning and design phase down to the implementation and maintenance phase. This is not only fundamental to build quality public spaces but is also an essential prerequisite to effectively finance public spaces. In Guangzhou Province of China, a committee was established to gather comments from citizens and serve as a bridge between the government and local community. This was crucial to ensure public spaces not only would effectively suit the needs of people but also to allow people to feel that their public spaces belong to them. The challenge is often to make sure that a sense of ownership and connection with one´s own public spaces is created.

As highlighted by Bruno Dercon during the discussion, public space regeneration not only allows the creation of greener and more resilient cities (parks, green corridors, walkable, bicycle and transit friendly spaces are undoubtedly beneficial in terms of, for example, pollution reduction, urban ecosystem regeneration and CO2 reduction) but also a true regeneration of people and communities. Public spaces that are designed and planned by engaging local actors will inevitably lead to a revitalization of urban communities, inclusiveness and social equality.  Freely accessible and enjoyable public spaces are also key in facilitating greater social interaction, public engagement and the creation of more lively and people-centred cities.

In conclusion, public space regeneration is one of the most meaningful and effective tools for local governments to engage and affect the lives of people in cities and can be a very effective leveraging tool and starting point for many transformations that will need to happen to make cities more liveable, regenerative, inclusive and just.

Authors

Filippo Boselli, Policy Officer, Climate, Energy and Cities, World Future Council

Boping Chen, Director of China Program, Climate, Energy and Cities, World Future Council

Habitat_III

Public Space for a Liveable Regenerative City: Learning from China and the Asia Pacific Region

The World Future Council in partnership with UN-Habitat and UCLG is hosting a Side Event at the Habitat III Prep Com III in Surabaya on Tuesday 26th of July. Experts from around the world will discuss the key role of public spaces within the regenerative city framework with a particular focus on China and the Asia Pacific Region.

Read more

The terminology in the UK Trident debate was skewed. Click to read more.

How terminology skewed the Trident debate

George Orwell famously wrote in his novel 1984 that, “if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” Indeed, the words we choose can shape our thinking. We should therefore make sure that our language accurately conveys our intentions and thoughts and is as reflective of reality as possible.

Ever since former UK Prime Minister David Cameron, in a cynical attempt to exploit divisions in the Labour Party, announced less than a fortnight ago that the House of Commons would vote on the renewal of the four submarines that carry Britain’s nuclear warheads (a system collectively known as “Trident) on 18 July, debate about Britain’s future as a nuclear-armed state has filled the country’s airwaves and newspapers (Parliament voted in favour of renewal by a majority of 355). This, in itself, is a good thing as a robust public debate on such an important issue is needed. However, some of the terms used in this debate are inaccurate or misleading.

Let’s look at three such terms and consider how they have skewed the Trident debate.

“Deterrent”

One of the most misleading terms used in the debate on nuclear weapons is “deterrent” to describe a nuclear weapons capability or system. The term comes from the belief that nuclear weapons deter against aggression or a nuclear attack through the promise of retaliation—a security doctrine known as “nuclear deterrence”.

Although the primary geopolitical circumstances for its existence have ceased with the end of the Cold War (when nuclear deterrence took on the shape of “Mutually Assured Destruction”), the doctrine continues to permeate strategic thought in the nuclear-armed states and allied states covered by “extended nuclear deterrence”. For many in the defence and security elites in these states the doctrine is sacrosanct.

Incessant use of these terms in previous decades has meant that few people nowadays question the appropriateness of using “deterrent” as a synonym for any given nuclear weapons system. Every single British news gathering source—print media, broadcast news and online sources—covering the Trident debate referred to the weapons system as the UK’s “nuclear deterrent” or “deterrent”.  Interestingly, and revelatory of just how successful the defence and security elites have been in controlling the terms on which the debate is had, even commentators with reservations about the Trident programme, or opposed to it, often use the term.

The problem is that the term “deterrent” is infused with meaning. The designation of a nuclear weapons system as a “deterrent” is invariably accompanied by the implication that it indeed does what the term suggests—that it deters. By using such terms, we tacitly acquiesce to this belief and invest considerable purpose and meaning into these inanimate instruments.

Yet, we cannot prove deterrence works. The fact that there has not been a nuclear war or a major war between the nuclear-armed states does not prove that deterrence work.

The contrary argument—that nuclear weapons and deterrence-fuelled nuclear brinkmanship has a considerable probability of triggering conflicts, possibly of the nuclear kind—is equally difficult to prove. However, there is considerable evidence within historical occasions where nuclear deterrence did not prevent war, as well as occasions where nuclear war was only narrowly avoided. There is further credible analysis that the deterrence doctrine has lost any relevance it may once have had in today’s multipolar world and changing security landscape.

As such, the use of “deterrent” to describe a nuclear weapons system is a sly way to shape people’s thinking on the utility, legality and acceptability of such a system. Just consider the difference in the following two ways to ask about Trident: (1) Should the UK give up its nuclear deterrent?; (2) Should the UK give up its thermonuclear bombs? The use of “deterrent” makes the former practically a leading question, while the latter is factually more correct. It wouldn’t be a stretch to assume more people would answer “Yes” to the second one.

Nuclear weapons are instruments of terror and mass destruction. That’s what we should call them.

Furthermore, we should remind whomever attempts to get away with shrouding them in terms such as “deterrent” or “strategic stability” of the catastrophic consequences their use would cause and the risks inherent to their existence.

“Security”

Newly minted Prime Minister Theresa May opined on the eve of the debate that voting against Trident renewal would be “A gamble with the safety and security of families in Britain that we must never be prepared to take.” She, and many of those who voted in favour of Trident, also called the nuclear weapons system the UK’s “ultimate security guarantee”.

She, quite simply, has it backwards.

She was repeating a well-rehearsed mantra. The primary reason given for retention of nuclear weapons is that they are regarded as a vital part of a nation or alliance’s security. What defenders of nuclear weapons often fail to realise is that their country is of course not alone in caring about its security and the more they tout the indispensible role of nuclear weapons as the ultimate security guarantor, the more they are in the business of convincing other countries to acquire these weapons. No nation or group of nations can have a monopoly on “security”.

Luckily, the vast majority of states recognise that their security is better served by renouncing nuclear weapons. Indeed, through national and regional nuclear weapon-free policies, the entire southern hemisphere, as well as parts north of the equator, have sought security without nuclear weapons.

So, whose security are nuclear weapons supposed to serve? They don’t serve planetary security; they don’t serve human security; instead, they are used by a few to advance narrowly devised national security interests or those of military alliances. But even that is a false security. Recent research into the ever-growing list of cases of near nuclear use has revealed the kaleidoscope of risks inherent in nuclear operations.

The truth is that because the effects of use of nuclear weapons cannot be controlled within space or time and their employment in operations and deterrence policies are vulnerable to errors, their wielding by a few comes at the price of insecurity for the rest. This is a blatant form of inequality and injustice.

We thus have to recapture the meaning of security.

Through fear-mongering and misinformation, nuclear weapon advocates have permeated our collective thinking with the dangerous notion that these weapons have kept us safe and that their disarmament will bring with it insecurity and risks. It is imperative that we turn this on its head: nuclear disarmament comes at the benefit of our shared security. Greater security, not insecurity, for all lies in prohibiting and eliminating these instruments of terror. The security challenges coming from interconnected threats such as climate change, environmental degradation, demographic changes, resource scarcity and pandemic disease cannot be met by nuclear weapons. If anything, the adversarial deterrence policies in place are a great obstacle to achieving the unprecedented cooperation needed to address this host of transnational threats.

Crispin Blunt MP, one of the few Conservatives who voted against renewal had it right when he said in the debate yesterday:

“I oppose the renewal of Trident because I care about the security of my country. I’m not prepared to be party to the most egregious act of self-harm to our conventional defence. This is a colossal investment in a weapons system that will become increasingly vulnerable and for whose security we will have to throw good money, after bad – in fact tens of billions of it more than already estimated – to try to keep it safe in the decades to come.”

“Possession”

In the Trident debate, it was regularly suggested that the UK should continue to “possess” nuclear weapons. Merriam-Webster defines “possession” as “the condition of having or owning something”, which would undoubtedly apply to UK and other nuclear-armed states. But the term falls woefully short of accurately describing the nuclear enterprise.

The reality is that these weapons are being used every second, of every minute, of every hour, of every day.

Merriam-Webster defines “use” as “the act or practice of employing something”. With regard to nuclear weapons, “use” is generally understood as the actual detonation of a nuclear warhead. But their threatened use is part and parcel of the policies of the nuclear-armed states and nuclear alliances.

Indeed, this “threat to use” underpins the deterrence doctrine. Nuclear deterrence relies on a perceived willingness to use these weapons, without which the credibility of the doctrine would implode. Nuclear weapons are thus best understood as continually “employed” by possessor states to project threat and power.

An analogy with firearms is enlightening in this respect. Falling short of actually pulling the trigger (thereby using a gun in the strictest sense of the word), pointing a gun at someone to secure a certain decision or type of behaviour or advance your own interests should surely also be regarded as use of said gun. Consider, for example: “He used a gun to rob me!”

The reality is that the nuclear weapons in the arsenals of the nuclear-armed states are not like a gun locked away in a cabinet at home or even holstered on the person. They are not residing in inert stockpiles. Rather, they are at all times employed in dynamic military policies and exercises to intimidate, coerce and extort.

They thus more resemble the drawn gun pointed at someone. As I write this, thousands of nuclear weapons are aimed at cities, with some of them on “hair-trigger alert”, ready to be fired at a moment’s notice. It is a “security system” predicated on the constant readiness and preparations to wage all-out nuclear war, which is riddled with risks, including unauthorized launch, mistaken launch on warning, accidental detonation and inadvertent escalation.

Talking about countries that “possess” nuclear weapons runs the risk of depicting a static situation that is under control. It lulls people into a false sense of security. It is our responsibility to remind people that “possession” actually entails a dynamic enterprise that breeds an existential form of insecurity for all, including their possessors.

Conclusion

There is no greater tactic of exclusion and obfuscation than bombarding (for lack of better word) someone with technical terms. For too long, those in the establishments committed to continue brandishing nuclear weapons have successfully employed this tactic. It has further allowed them to sanitise a discussion that should be had primarily on humanitarian grounds.

The widespread usage and dissemination of terms that, rather than state the facts, manipulate thinking, is all too prevalent in the nuclear weapons debate.

Some of these terms need to be challenged or exposed, while others need to be recaptured to represent their true meaning.

Instead of describing the systems and policies that rely on nuclear weapons in terms of “deterrent” and “strategic stability”, we should expose the risks they are rife with and underline the catastrophic consequences any use would have.

Instead of letting a few monopolise and corrupt the concept of “security” in narrowly devised goals that come at the detriment to the security of the rest, we should recapture the meaning of security as one that recognises that human and planetary security are better served through the elimination of nuclear weapons.

Ultimately, words don’t even begin to capture the horror of nuclear weapons. Anyone shown what these instruments of terror do—the destruction, the death, the burns, the birth deformities, the tumours—should be at a loss for words…

 

Maryland_Environmental_Education

Environmental education and local action lead to impressive impacts in Maryland

A flurry of positive environmental news stories emerging from Maryland is giving hope that the State’s strong environmental education legislation, which the WFC is working to spread, combined with tough pollution control and restoration actions is paying off. Recent weeks have seen particularly positive news for the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the US surrounded by Maryland and Virginia, which had become overfished and badly polluted with sewage, agricultural runoff and industrial waste since the 1970s.  News that sewage pollution goals have been met 10 years early, that there has been a resurgence in aquatic grasses, blue crab, striped bass and bald eagle populations and that “dead zones” in the bay are shrinking are all giving cheer to those involved in restoration and environmental education activities in the area.

Environmental literacy is not just about having a deep understanding of environmental issues facing the planet today, but is also crucially about working to help reduce them.

On a recent environmental education field trip to Maryland, WFC staff saw first hand how awareness raising and practical actions go hand in hand to produce these kind of success stories. Environmental literacy is not just about having a deep understanding of environmental issues facing the planet today, but is also crucially about working to help reduce them. Groups like the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education (MAEOE) are improving awareness and changing behavior among Maryland’s schools and communities while actively restoring native oysters, planting underwater grasses, trees and stream buffers to restore the Bay’s natural filters.

In Maryland, these kind of actions by schools are not only encouraged but are a mandatory part of the curriculum thanks to the Maryland’s pioneering Environmental literacy Standards which in 2011 ruled that each local school system must provide a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary environmental education programme. We saw this first hand when joining a recent science class boat trip where students measured the quality of the water using a range of technology which they then analysed before releasing oysters they had grown into the bay. Oysters are economically important to the surrounding region but are also a vital part of the water filtration system. One oyster can filter about 50 gallons of water a day, meaning that maintaining high oyster levels is very important in making sure the water is fit for wildlife. More than 200 million oysters have been ‘planted’ as a result of these restoration programmes which have undoubtedly had a positive impact on the bay’s water quality

The good news isn’t only confined to the health of the bay but also to a student led victory on climate change. Faced with strong calls from Maryland’s undergraduate students to act on greenhouse gas emissions, the University System of Maryland Foundation pledged to direct its $1 billion endowment away from coal, oil and natural gas companies and instead invest in renewable energy. “It’s because of the students and the positions they took that caused us to focus on it this year,” said Leonard Raley, president and CEO of the foundation. “The world is changing and we’re paying attention to it. We’re concerned about climate change and I think the actions that our foundation took reflect that.”

Of course not all these victories are down to Maryland’s pioneering environmental literacy requirement but we certainly believe it is playing a key role. We are now focussing our efforts at the WFC on showing legislators from around the world how introducing a mandatory and holistic programme for educating young people about our environmental responsibilities can have a positive impact both on the health of local wildlife and in tackling environmental problems such as climate change.

In the wake of Brexit the vote to renew Trident goes ahead

In the wake of Brexit the vote to renew Trident goes ahead

As the fallout of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union continues to spread through Britain and abroad, the renewal of the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons system has become the latest issue to be sucked into the ‘Brexit’ vortex.

At what would prove to be his last international engagement, David Cameron announced last Saturday at the NATO Summit in Warsaw that the parliamentary vote on renewing the four nuclear submarines that make up the nuclear programme will be held on 18 July. Yes, next Monday.

“While Britain may be leaving the EU, we are not withdrawing from the world”, Cameron confidently proclaimed. What gall to tout these weapons as a sign of Britain’s good faith participation in global affairs, especially considering the vast majority of the world’s peoples and nations are desperately looking to the UK and the other eight nuclear-armed states to finally remove the nuclear sword of Damocles hanging over our shared future.

And yes, this too is related to Brexit. It’s related in three ways: first, the vote to renew Trident is being used by the Conservative Party to close its ranks after a bitter EU Referendum campaign and subsequent leadership election, which has regurgitated Theresa May as his successor, has left it divided; second, the vote is being used to exploit divisions in the Labour Party, which is currently embroiled in an acrimonious leadership battle of its own and remains split on the issue of Trident; third, the vote is being used by the outgoing Cameron to make it clear to the rest of the world that despite the Brexit vote, Britain has no intention of retreating from the global stage.

To use an issue as important as Trident renewal as a political football – like the Conservative Party has done with the EU Referendum – is bad enough. However, there is something uniquely sinister and cynical about proclaiming the renewal of a system designed to kill millions as demonstration of Britain’s commitment to remaining ‘open for business’ and globally engaged. “While Britain may be leaving the EU, we are not withdrawing from the world”, Cameron confidently proclaimed. What gall to tout these weapons as a sign of Britain’s good faith participation in global affairs, especially considering the vast majority of the world’s peoples and nations are desperately looking to the UK and the other eight nuclear-armed states to finally remove the nuclear sword of Damocles hanging over our shared future.

There are plenty of reasons for British elected representatives to vote against Trident renewal come Monday. Rather than being the bulwark of British security, the retention of Trident ensures the UK remains exposed to the hydra-headed risk of its nuclear deterrence policy, not least the very real risk of launch by accident or miscalculation. The risks have only been compounded in recent years, with non-state actors seeking to acquire or develop nuclear capabilities and evolving cyber security threats exposing vulnerabilities of nuclear weapons systems.

Meanwhile, the costs of renewing Trident – estimated to be anywhere between £167 and £205 billion – at a time when vital public services are suffering far-reaching budget cuts is inappropriate at best, irresponsible at worst.

Then there are the well-known moral concerns about continuing to brandish and threaten with weapons that are designed for one purpose only: to kill large numbers of civilians, set cities ablaze and spread the horrific trans-generational health effects of radioactive fallout.

As the effects of these weapons cannot be contained in time or space, the UK’s decision to renew Trident does not exist in a political domestic vacuum – the international community has a stake in it. And it’s clear where the vast majority of this world’s peoples and nations fall on the question of whether the UK’s nuclear weapons offer more benefit than harm: an overwhelming majority of UN Member States have continually called for the UK and other nuclear-armed states to disarm their nuclear arsenals for the good of international peace and security.

Neither does the decision exist in a vacuum free of the rule of law. The UK is under clear international legal obligations, enshrined both in Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and customary international law, to eliminate its nuclear weapons. In fact, the Pacific island state of the Marshall Islands has taken the UK and fellow eight nuclear-armed states to the International Court of Justice for its alleged breach of its nuclear disarmament obligations. The Court has yet to decide on whether the case against the UK is to proceed to the merits phase but it should give MPs pause for thought that they are about to vote on something that is currently under review by the highest judicial organ in the world and which may be found as evidence of the UK’s continuing breach of international law.

Despite these arguments, it is expected that Parliament will overwhelmingly vote in favour of renewing Trident on Monday. Many MPs will do so as they dread the prospect of the UK losing the power and prestige Trident is perceived to convey. In particular, they are gripped by the fear that the UK may lose its seat on the UN Security Council if it disarms. For all their proclamations of commitment to internationalism, they have nothing but contempt for international law and the global community’s desire for a world free of nuclear weapons. Others will do so because they remain convinced Trident is the ultimate security guarantor, despite the clarion of calls and expert reports highlighting the risks involved with these weapons. And yet others will vote in favour as the manufacturing of the Trident submarines will take place in their constituencies and in their twisted arithmetic a few thousand jobs outweigh the peace and security of the nation and rest of the world.

Ultimately, the issue of nuclear disarmament is best understood as a social and justice struggle like the abolition of slavery, the end of apartheid and the suffragette movement. While the Conservative Government and many Labour MPs will play fast and loose with Britain’s security and global standing by voting for Trident renewal on Monday, the minority voting for Britain to live up to its nuclear disarmament obligations and being a responsible stakeholder will have to settle for the scant comfort of knowing they will be on the right side of history.