The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) reaches its 39th anniversary tomorrow, commemorating the Manchester City Council ‘nuclear free’ resolution with a major contemporary art exhibition in Manchester Central Library. (1) With a general election campaign about to formally start later this week, NFLA calls on all UK political parties to not just discuss ‘Brexit’ and the UK’s relationship with the EU, but to have the issue of the ‘climate emergency’ and the safety of the country (and the world) from the threat of weapons of mass destruction as core matters for consideration in that campaign.
With over half of principal Councils in the UK having now passed ‘climate emergency‘ resolutions in the past year, it is quite clear that the impacts of climate change and the need for radical measures to be put in place to reduce carbon emissions should be one of the most prominent issues in British politics not just for this election, but also for all elections over the next 20 years and more.
NFLA is pleased that all UK political parties are taking the ‘climate emergency’ more seriously, but this election now has to see some clear pledges that move the words into radical action. As part of that, local government should be given greater powers and resources to deliver what should be a core part of a low carbon strategy – the full development of decentralised low carbon renewable energy solutions linked to a comprehensive energy efficiency programme, energy storage and smart energy projects.
Such measures can play a fundamentally crucial role in decarbonisation measures, and NFLA has shown the way forward in great detail in its ‘manifesto’ for radical low carbon decentralised energy solutions, as well as showing the many examples of local best practice in the areas of renewable energy, heating and transport. (2) In many ways Councils are actually going faster than the central government in these areas, but it comes after 9 years of deep austerity making it difficult for them to provide adequate funds to realise all of their ambition. The next UK Government has to take these issues forward and not just consider a 2050 ‘net zero’ target but look at ways to deliver it even quicker. NFLA member councils are keen to work with the new government in realising this immense challenge.
NFLA is pleased to see that the current UK Government has recently come to its senses over fracking, which has now been given an indefinite halt to join with moratoriums in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. NFLA was consistently concerned with this process that can bring to the service naturally occurring radiation, as well as producing potentially large amounts of contaminated wastewater, and it clearly being a fossil fuel operation. NFLA hope fracking is not resurrected after the election, but rather the renewable energy revolution becomes the central plank of UK energy policy.
In the same vein, the next Government should move away from supporting the exorbitantly expensive new nuclear programme. With Hinkley Point coming in now at around £22.5 – £23.5 billion it is clear the financial cost of new nuclear is going up just as renewables are rapidly coming down in cost. There is also the fact that no long-term solution for the management of radioactive waste exists, ongoing nuclear safety issues also remain, the huge cost still to be found for long-term nuclear decommissioning and the simple fact that the urgency of the climate emergency cannot wait for new nuclear to deliver.
Finally, it is clear that we should not forget what a dangerous situation the world remains in. With this week being the 30th anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down, it is important to note the words today of the former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, that the world is in ‘colossal danger’ from the threat of nuclear weapons. In an interview with the BBC broadcast today, Gorbachev has called for all countries to declare that nuclear weapons “must be destroyed” in order to “save ourselves and our planet.” (3)
Fears of a renewed nuclear arms race have heightened since both the United States and Russia withdrew this year from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty that was signed by Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan in 1987. NFLA believe the next UK Government has to establish a Strategic Defence Review to refocus defence policy away from offensive nuclear weapons – the country simply cannot afford to develop a new generation of Trident nuclear missiles.
As Maria Eugenia Villareal stated on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons at the UN First Committee last week: “If you think that nuclear weapons do not affect your country, you should think again. The 14,000 nuclear weapons that exist in the world today pose an acute existential threat to all of us. No nation is immune to the radioactive fallout that would transcend national borders if these weapons were ever used again. No nation is immune to the climate disruption, agricultural and economic collapse, mass human displacement and famine that would inevitably follow even a limited nuclear war.” (4)
Climate change and delivering a safe and more peaceful world should be discussed in great detail in this election campaign, and NFLA calls on all candidates to consider signing the ICAN pledge to support the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).
UK & Ireland NFLA Steering Committee Chair, Councillor David Blackburn said:
“The upcoming general election is perhaps one of the most important in a generation, but not just for determining the UK’s future relationship with the European Union. Climate change and the dangerous security situation in our world are immensely important issues that each political party needs to find progressive solutions for in its manifestos. With the real possibility of a further ‘hung’ Parliament there should also be some contemplation on how parties should work together on these critical issues for the safety of all of us. It is obvious that the world is in a dangerous place, what we need now is courageous politicians willing to make it much safer for future generations to live in.”
Ends – for more information please contact Sean Morris, NFLA Secretary, on 00 44 (0)161 234 3244.
Notes for editors:
(1) Manchester City Council will be unveiling a special contemporary art exhibition ’50 Cities, 50 Traces’ on November 5th in Manchester Central Library from 6pm in what will be the 39th anniversary of its famous ‘nuclear free’ resolution that established the NFLA.
http://www.50cities-50traces.org/index-j.html – further details are available from the NFLA Secretary.
(2) NFLA Policy Briefing 191 – ‘The climate emergency – a NFLA manifesto for dynamic local low carbon action’ –
(3) BBC, 4th November 2019 –
(4) ICAN Statement to the First Committee of the UN General Assembly, 18th October 2019