This week the nations of the world will come together to talk about ridding the earth of nuclear weapons, yet our banks and pension funds are still widely invested in them. Will you take action to stop them? In this guest blog, Steve Hucklesby explores the issue and suggests ways we can move forward.
On 23 June, the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) will convene the first Meeting of State Parties since the treaty entered into force in January 2021.
Nuclear weapons place all us at risk. Spending on nuclear weapons is also vast. The National Audit Office forecast a £5.2 billion annual spend on the UK defence nuclear enterprise in 2018. To put this in context this is over twice the amount pledged for International Climate Finance by the UK government at COP26 in 2021.¹ One market analyst firm puts the value of the global ‘nuclear bombs and missiles market’ at $72.6 billion and expects this to grow to $126 billion by 2030.
The majority of the world’s nations have become frustrated with the continued commitment of a few powerful nations and their allies to nuclear weapons. In 2017, 122 nations agreed the text of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) which in 2021 entered into force as a UN treaty. Unfortunately the UK has refused to sign.
The TPNW should cause banks and pension funds to change their investment policies. Currently the major UK banks and pension providers (with the exception of the Co-operative Bank and Triodos) are invested in, or provide loans to, companies involved in the production and maintenance of nuclear weapons. This must change.
When the Cluster Munitions Convention entered into force in 2010, banks and pension funds responded by screening out investment in any company involved in cluster munitions. Now nuclear weapons have an identical status under international law, banks and pension companies should respond in the same way. But some, such as Lloyds and Royal London, continue to invest because the UK government refuses to ratify the TPNW. Meanwhile, other banks and pension providers, Nest and Peoples’ Pension for example, who are similarly resisting change appear more open to dialogue and say that they will assess the interests of their members.
There are some silver linings. SERCO, the UK facilities management company, previously had a 25% stake in Aldermaston Weapons Establishment (AWE) that designs and constructs UK nuclear warheads. After the UK government renationalised AWE, SECRO declined to take on a potentially lucrative utilities management contract. It was reported that SERCO decided to avoid nuclear weapons related contracts after being warned by fund managers that they might be forced to dump the company’s shares.
While awareness is building it has not yet infiltrated the mainstream banks and pension companies. To achieve change they will need to hear from their customers and members. Can you help us?
Take action via the UK Nuclear Weapons Financing Research Group² website www.investinginchange.uk.
On Thursday 23 June we would like as many members/customers as possible to write to the 15 banks and pension providers in our survey to ask them disinvest from any company that is involved in the production and maintenance of nuclear weapons. Template letters are available at the click of a button. You can also find some graphics to make a splash on their Twitter feeds.
Celebrate with us the historic coming together in Vienna of states and civil society and help us to put into effect the new treaty.
¹The pledge of £11.6 billion for International Climate Finance for 2021 to 2026 averages out at 2.3 billion per year.
²The UK Nuclear Weapons Financing Research Group is a collaboration that was initiated by faith groups. It has surveyed 15 banks and pension providers and remains in dialogue with each to bring about policy change in the finance sector.