Doomsday clock warning makes UN High-Level Conference even more important

Hands of Doomsday Clock moved to 2 Minutes to Midnight.
PNND leaders highlight importance of the UN High-Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament.

On January 25, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the hands of the symbolic Doomsday Clock to 2 Minutes to Midnight, indicating that the threat of a nuclear war through accident, miscalculation or intent has risen to an alarming level, and that climate change is not being averted.

The Bulletin highlighted nuclear threats between the U.S. and North Korean governments, including "hyperbolic rhetoric and provocative actions on both sides."

The Bulletin expressed deep concern over a range of unresolved conflicts and increased tensions involving all the nuclear armed countries. And they decried the failure of the international community to roll-back carbon emissions in order to prevent catastrophic climatic consequences of increased atmospheric carbon.

The Bulletin put forward a number of actions that governments should take to 'rewind the clock' and prevent the destruction of civilization from nuclear war or catastrophic climate change. But such actions won't occur unless there is sufficient political push. This is what makes the upcoming UN High-Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament so important.

The nuclear-armed States are threatening not only themselves but the whole world with their arsenals on hair-trigger alert and with first-use policies,’ said Bill Kidd MSP, Co-chair of the Scottish Parliament Cross-party Group on Nuclear Disarmament. ‘These weapons, including the ones deployed in Scotland by the UK, make us a target in a nuclear exchange, rather than a force for peace. The UN conference provides an opportunity for the nuclear-armed governments to realise that we all would be safer in a non-nuclear-armed world.’

UN High Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament

Scheduled to take place at the United Nations from May 14-16, 2018 the conference will attract attendance from world leaders of most UN member states. They will be expected to take – or announce – actions to reduce the risks of a nuclear holocaust and to make progress on global nuclear disarmament.

Such actions could include: taking all nuclear weapons off launch-on-warning and high alert; adopting policies never to initiate nuclear war (no-first-use); agreeing not to develop new nuclear weapons systems; removing all forward-based nuclear weapons (such as U.S. nuclear weapons deployed in Europe); commencing negotiations on the phased reduction and elimination of nuclear stockpiles; and reducing nuclear weapons budgets in order to release resources for climate protection and phase-out of fossil fuels.

Such actions have already been laid out in various multilateral forums, such as the UN General Assembly and Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conferences. However, to-date there has been insufficient political will to adopt and implement these measures.

"The UN conference provides an opportunity for the UK and other nuclear-armed States to make progress on incremental disarmament measures to which they agreed in the Non-Proliferation Treaty conferences but have not yet implemented," said Baroness Sue Miller, Member of the UK House of Lords and a Co-President of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament.

Political support for key measures

Parliamentarians from across the political spectrum have been calling on governments to step back from the nuclear brink,’ said Christine Muttonen MP (Austria), PNND Co-President and former President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). ‘This includes adopting policies to never use nuclear weapons first, to attend the 2018 UN conference at the highest level, and to support UN nuclear disarmament negotiations. We are ready to support governments in this vitally important initiative.’

The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly – which includes the parliaments of France, Russia, United Kingdom, USA and the other 52 OSCE members – adopted declarations in 2016 and 2017 calling member governments to reduce nuclear threats, adopt no-first-use policies and support UN negotiations including on the nuclear ban treaty and at the 2018 UN High-Level Conference.

Non-nuclear countries have already taken a lead in adopting a treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons’ says Mr Ware. ‘We hope and expect that the number of countries signing the treaty will grow from the current 53 to 100 by the end of the UN Conference. This will give strong support to global nuclear disarmament.’

Countries like Canada which are under extended nuclear deterrence relationships, have a role to reduce the reliance on nuclear weapons and support effective disarmament measures,’ said Dr Hedy Fry MP, Member of Parliament for Vancouver Center (Canada) and the  Special Representative on Gender Issues for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. ‘The UN High Level Conference provides an opportunity to do this.

Connection to climate change and the sustainable development goals

The human and economic resources currently committed to nuclear weapons – over $100 billion per year – are a waste and could instead be used to create jobs, support renewable energy, protect the climate and implement the sustainable development goals,’ said PNND Co-President Saber Chowdhury MP, Honorary President of the Inter Parliamentary Union. ‘The UN conference provides an opportunity to make mutual commitments to re-direct some of these resources, as we phase out reliance on nuclear weapons.

Civil society participating in the UN High-level Conference will make these connections, including through a Count the Nuclear Weapons Money action, Over 7 days, one million mock notes each of $1million (totally $1 trillion) will be counted, with comparisons made each hour to how this money could instead support climate protection, poverty alleviation, education, health and other social, economic and environmental needs.