East Sussex Pension Fund members urged to make their voices heard on fossil fuel investments

EAST SUSSEX PENSION FUND MEMBERS URGED TO MAKE THEIR VOICES HEARD ON FOSSIL FUEL INVESTMENTS
Brochure and web tool launched by campaigners from across East Sussex

10 October: Campaigners from around East Sussex have launched a new brochure and web tool today to help members of the East Sussex Pension Fund (ESPF) lobby the County Council to reinvest the £172 million it currently has invested in the coal, oil and gas industries [1].

The front of the new divestment brochure.
The front of the new divestment brochure.

Members of the East Sussex Pension Fund can use the new web tool (available online at http://tinyurl.com/divesteastsussex) to contact the chair of the East Sussex Pension Committee, Richard Stogdon, and urge the Committee to divest the Fund from fossil fuels (oil, coal and gas). A printed brochure with a tear-off slip addressed to the Pension Committee chair, suitable for Pension Fund members to share with their colleagues, is also available free on request from Fossil Free Hastings, c/o Ore Place Farmhouse, TN34 2RA or divesteastsussex [at] gmail.com.

The brochure and web tool both both note the risk that investments in fossil fuels pose to many local people’s pensions, citing Bank of England Governor Mark Carney’s warning that investors in fossil fuels face “potentially huge” losses from climate change action that could make vast reserves of oil, coal and gas “literally unburnable” [2]. They also note that such investments are damaging the balance of our climate, and that a wide range of workplaces, universities and local governments around the world have already committed to divest (i.e. move their money away) from fossil fuel companies.

Campaigners from Eastbourne outside Eastbourne Borough Council's customer contact centre. Eastbourne Borough Council employees are expected to make over £360,000 in pension contributions to the Fund this financial year.
Campaigners from Eastbourne outside Eastbourne Borough Council’s customer contact centre. Eastbourne Borough Council employees are expected to make over £360,000 in pension contributions to the Fund this financial year.

The East Sussex Pension Fund – which is administered by the County Council [3] – currently has an estimated £172m invested in fossil fuels [4]. In April, Hastings Borough Council – a member of the Pension Fund – passed a unanimous cross-party motion, calling on East Sussex County Council to divest the East Sussex Pension Fund from fossil fuels [5].

Julia Hilton from Hastings said: “Investments in oil, coal and gas are not only damaging the balance of our climate but also pose serious financial risks to members of the East Sussex Pension Fund. A growing number of major institutions across the world – including the cities of Oslo, Seattle, and Oxford, Glasgow University, and the World Council of Churches – have already decided to move their funds out of fossil fuels, and last month Waltham Forest Pension Fund became the first UK Pension Fund to completely divest itself from fossil fuels [6]. We now have a real opportunity to press the East Sussex Pension Fund to follow their examples. We urge members of the Fund to visit http://tinyurl.com/divesteastsussex – or contact us to get hold of a printed brochure – and make their voices heard in support of divestment.”

Campaigners from Forest Row outside Forest Row Parish Council office.
Campaigners from Forest Row outside Forest Row Parish Council office.

Andy Durling from Eastbourne said: “Eastbourne Borough Council is expected to make over £360,000 in employers’ pension contributions to the East Sussex Pension Fund this financial year – a fund that currently has an estimated £172 million invested in coal, oil and gas companies. Yet at the same time, Eastbourne is on the front line of climate change because of rapidly rising sea levels – and it has more people exposed to the most severe level of flood risks than anywhere else in East Sussex. I urge all members of the Fund  to tell the Pension Committee to stop investing in the fossil fuel industries that are making climate change worse, posing an ever greater threat to the safety and well-being of Eastbourne.”

ENDNOTES
[1] Brochure: http://tinyurl.com/divestmentbrochure. Web tool: http://tinyurl.com/divesteastsussex.
[2] ‘Mark Carney warns investors face ‘huge’ climate change losses’, Financial Times, 29 September 2015, https://next.ft.com/content/622de3da-66e6-11e5-97d0-1456a776a4f5

Campaigners from Lewes loutside County Hall in Lewes. Lewes District Council employees are expected to make over £150,000 in pension contributions to the Fund this financial year.
Campaigners from Lewes loutside County Hall in Lewes. Lewes District Council employees are expected to make over £150,000 in pension contributions to the Fund this financial year.

[3] https://new.eastsussex.gov.uk/jobs/workingateastsussexcountycouncil/pensions
[4] ‘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.
[5] ‘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.
[6] Worth £735 million, the London Borough of Waltham Forest pension fund has agreed to divest itself of its £23.9 million worth of investments in the oil, coal and gas industries. See ‘WIN: First UK pension fund divests from fossil fuels’, 23 September 2016, http://gofossilfree.org/uk/win-first-uk-pension-fund-divests-from-fossil-fuels/

Campaigners outside Hastings Town Hall. Hastings Borough Council employees are expected to make over £240,000 in pension contributions to the Fund this financial year.
Campaigners outside Hastings Town Hall. Hastings Borough Council employees are expected to make over £240,000 in pension contributions to the Fund this financial year.
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