Copenhagen. Cancun. Durban. Another year, another collective disappointment for people all over the world looking to the UN climate talks to produce the urgently needed international action addressing the emergency of climate change. (For updates as negotiations wrap-up tonight or this weekend, visit the Guardian live blog.)

Luckily, even while the big polluters and obstructionists like the Harper government keep the world fiddling, there are grassroots movements and indigenous communities leading the struggle for climate action and climate justice. In April 2010, they convened in Bolivia and gave the world the Cochabamba People’s Agreement. It’s worth re-reading today, especially if you are feeling despair about the talks at Durban.

One of the calls to come out of Cochabamba was that the world massively redirect military expenditures to fighting climate change. It’s in that spirit that today the Canadian Peace Alliance has called for a “war on carbon emissions.” Here’s the media release we have put out, which is closely related to our new campaign, “Peace and Prosperity Not War and Austerity,” that calls more generally for a redirection of military spending towards urgent societal needs.


Global community must act on its Responsibility to Protect life on Earth

As the UN climate talks in Durban conclude this weekend, Canada’s umbrella peace organization is calling for a large-scale redirection of military spending to fighting the climate crisis. The Canadian Peace Alliance says there is an urgent need to reduce military spending and use the funds for climate change mitigation and adaptation measures.

“Canada should fully withdraw from Afghanistan, not Kyoto,” says CPA co-chair Derrick O’Keefe. “The Harper government wants to put the blame for record carbon emissions on Global South countries. However, it is the unequal global system, which includes the West’s addiction to war, that is the primary driver of the climate crisis and the real obstacle to a binding international agreement.”

Oil Change International has reported that the annual emissions from the war on Iraq alone are more than the combined total emissions of 60 per cent of all countries in the world. A significant portion of this U.S. fossil fuel consumption is supplied by tar sands exports from Canada.

“Climate talks need to address the carbon bootprint of war — right now there is a loophole for emissions from war large enough to fly an F35 through,” says O’Keefe.

The Harper government plans to spend nearly half a trillion dollars on militarism between now and 2028 through the so-called “Canada First Defence Strategy,” while obstructing meaningful international and legally-binding action on climate change.

“The so-called ‘responsibility to protect’ doctrine is being used as justification to invade or attack country after country, but where is the protection from the climate crisis?” asks CPA co-chair Christine Jones. “We need to stop wars in order to stop climate change. Even the Pentagon has acknowledged climate change is a bigger threat than terrorism. However, yet again, Canada is going in exactly wrong direction, supporting war and militarism that fuels the climate crisis.”

“We need a just  transition to a carbon-neutral, demilitarized economy, with good, green jobs as its cornerstone,” says Gerry LeBlanc, who represents the United Steelworkers on the steering committee of the Canadian Peace Alliance. LeBlanc is in Durban for the climate talks. “Fossil fuel  and  defence industries must be converted to peaceful and environmentally sustainable applications, with adequate retraining for the workers in those industries. The world can’t wait until 2015, let alone 2020.”

A November 2010 Environics Research poll indicated widespread support in Canada for redirecting military spending, with 71 per cent of respondents strongly or somewhat agreeing with the statement: “The money spent on wars and the military would all be better spent on efforts that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the impacts of climate change.”


Derrick O'Keefe

Derrick O'Keefe

Derrick O'Keefe is a writer in Vancouver, B.C. He served as's editor from 2012 to 2013 and from 2008 to 2009.