British weapon exports to poorer nations fueling the climate crisis
40% of the 40 most vulnerable countries on ND-GAIN’s list are already suffering from armed conflict, and while the climate crisis deepens, more weapons are being exported from the UK.
UK exports of military equipment to the world’s poorest nations are most likely catalyzing the climate crisis. Declassified UK revealed that the UK has exported £1.5bn ($1.96bln) of military and “dual use” equipment to 39 of the 40 most vulnerable states on ND-GAIN’s list since 2008.
The US-based Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative (ND-GAIN) index lists countries based on their vulnerability and strength against climate change in ranking.
According to the Geneva Academy, 40% of the 40 most vulnerable countries on ND-GAIN’s list are already suffering from armed conflict, and while the climate crisis deepens, more weapons are being exported from the UK.
Arms sales hit a record £8.5bn ($11.1bln) last year, according to the only publicly available official figures.
Miroslav Jenča, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Europe, Central Asia, and the Americas, stated, “Climate change exacerbates existing conflicts and is likely to create new ones.”
Somalia, subject to a partial UN arms sanction for the last 30 years, has been receiving exports of military and dual-use equipment worth £36m ($47m) since 2008. Somalia is suffering an ongoing civil war and has kept a recurring place on the UK Foreign Office’s top 30 most concerning countries for human rights.
Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General, in April, said, “Somalis, who have done almost nothing to create the climate crisis, are suffering its terrible impact."
Fighting climate with conflict
Arms exports affect financial resources and required care to adapt to the consequences of what the UN describes as the “biggest threat modern humans have ever faced.”
An example of that is the war in Ukraine, which has shown that military goals are diverting resources from finance that are supposed to be allocated to climate. The UK moved money from its climate finance in June 2022 budget and allocated it to a £1bn ($1.3bln) military package for Ukraine.
In 2020, the UK Ministry of Defense noted that “more conflict in itself will damage the planet [as] those involved in conflict will not be able to focus on the climate, and instead will be creating more emissions whilst in conflict.”
The weapons industry does not spare the environment either. The Dèlas Centre says that “from the extraction of raw materials, through to production by arms companies, their use by armed forces, decommissioning and end-of-life disposal.”
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN released a warning that conventional weapons, land mines, and improvised explosive devices disperse heavy metals into the soil, as does the manufacturing and testing of weapons.
In the Near and Middle East, armed conflict is attributed to agricultural land degradation, water infrastructure damage, pollution, and protective infrastructure damage.
Between the years of 2018 and 2020, 17 of the ND-GAIN index’s 40 most climate-vulnerable countries were provided training by the UK.
Seven of those 17 were featured on the Foreign Office’s “Human rights priority countries” list in 2019, 2020, and/or 2021.
A report by the Transnational Institute stated that “the likelihood of climate change causing conflicts is much greater if the response to extreme weather events and their social impacts is militarised and repressive."