Five-metre-long petition to County Council highlights risk to local people’s pensions

FIVE-METER-LONG PETITION TO COUNTY COUNCIL HIGHLIGHTS RISK TO LOCAL PEOPLE’S PENSIONS
Hundreds of people from across East Sussex call on County Council to divest the East Sussex Pension Fund from oil, coal and gas

12 July, County Hall, Lewes: People from around East Sussex – including members of Fossil Free Hastings, Climate Forest Row and Lewes Keep It In the Ground – handed in a five-meter-long petition at County Hall this morning (12 July), urging East Sussex County Council to divest the East Sussex Pension Fund of its investments in fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas).

The five-metre-long petition, calling on East Sussex County Council to divest the East Sussex Pension Fund from fossil fuels, outside County Hall in Lewes, 12 July 2016.
The five-metre-long petition, calling on East Sussex County Council to divest the East Sussex Pension Fund from fossil fuels, outside County Hall in Lewes, 12 July 2016.

The petition [1] was signed by over three hundred and fifty people from across East Sussex, including residents of Battle, Bexhill, Brighton, Eastbourne, Etchingham, Forest Row, Hastings, Heathfield, Hove, Lewes, Polegate, Seaford, St Leonards, and Uckfield. The East Sussex Pension Fund – which is administered by the County Council [2] and holds the pensions for a wide range of organisations from across East Sussex – currently has an estimated £172m invested in fossil fuels [3].

The hand-in, which was timed to coincide with a full council meeting of East Sussex County Council, comes in the wake of the recent unanimous cross-party motion, passed by Hastings Borough Council – a member of the Pension Fund – calling for the Fund to be divested from fossil fuels [4]. It also coincides with the launch of a new divestment petition – this time set up through the official East Sussex petitions website [5] – created by East Sussex Pension Fund member Karl Horton: http://tinyurl.com/espfdivest. If the new petition reaches 5,000 signatures then it will trigger a debate on divestment by the County Council [6].

Ann Link from Lewes said: “Investments in oil, coal and gas are not only damaging the balance of our climate but also pose serious financial risks to investors, including many local pension holders. Last year the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, warned that investors face ‘potentially huge’ losses from climate change action that could make vast reserves of oil, coal and gas ‘literally unburnable’ [7]. Over 500 institutions, representing over $3 trillion in assets, have already committed to ditch their investments in these dirty fuels [8]. That’s why hundreds of people from around East Sussex are now calling on East Sussex County Council to follow these institutions’ lead and divest the East Sussex Pension Fund of its holdings in oil, coal and gas.”

Members of Lewes Keep it in the Ground, Fossil Free Hastings and Climate Forest Row outside County Hall in Lewes on 12 July 2016.
Members of Lewes Keep it in the Ground, Fossil Free Hastings and Climate Forest Row outside County Hall in Lewes on 12 July 2016.

ENDNOTES

[1] See http://tinyurl.com/divesttheespf for the petition text.
[2] https://new.eastsussex.gov.uk/jobs/workingateastsussexcountycouncil/pensions
[3] ‘REVEALED: UK Councils have £14 billion invested in fossil fuels’, Fossil Free UK, 24 September 2015, http://gofossilfree.org/uk/revealed-uk-councils-have-14-billion-invested-in-fossil-fuels/. The £172m figure is based on data collected through Freedom of Information Requests (FOIs) to administering authorities for the 2013/14 financial year. It includes direct equity holdings in the top 200 fossil fuel companies as well as estimated fossil fuel investments in pooled equity funds.
[4] ‘Campaigners’ joy as Hastings council agrees fossil fuel divestment’, 14 April 2016, Hastings Observer, http://www.hastingsobserver.co.uk/news/local/campaigners-joy-as-hastings-council-agrees-fossil-fuel-divestment-1-7328414. For the full text of the motion, which was passed unanimously by all of the Labour and Conservative Councillors present, see http://hastings.moderngov.co.uk/documents/g1649/Printed%20minutes%2013th-Apr-2016%2018.00%20Full%20Council.pdf?T=1
[5] http://epetition.eastsussex.public-i.tv/epetition_core/community/page/index
[6] ‘If a petition has more than 5000  signatures it will be debated by the full council …’: https://eastsussexgovuk.blob.core.windows.net/media/5133/petition-scheme-final-july-2014.pdf
[7] ‘Mark Carney warns investors face ‘huge’ climate change losses’, Financial Times, 29 September 2015, https://next.ft.com/content/622de3da-66e6-11e5-97d0-1456a776a4f5
[8] http://gofossilfree.org/commitments

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