Local pension fund member launches petition calling for East Sussex Pension Fund to ditch its fossil fuel investments

LOCAL PENSION FUND MEMBER LAUNCHES PETITION CALLING FOR EAST SUSSEX PENSION FUND TO DITCH ITS FOSSIL FUEL INVESTMENTS
Pension Fund must stop pretending it can “influence” the likes of Exxon – petition founder

1 November 2016: As the world enters “a new era of climate change reality” [2], a member of the East Sussex Pension Fund has set up a new petition (tinyurl.com/eastsussexdivest) calling on East Sussex County Council to divest the Fund of its investments in the coal, oil and gas industries.

The petition, which has been set up on the County Council’s official East Sussex Petitions website by pension fund member Karl Horton (42), was formally launched last Saturday with a street stall in Hastings. The petition notes that investments in fossil fuels (oil, coal & gas) ‘are damaging the balance of our climate and pose serious financial risks to investors, including many local pension holders’ and that ‘over 500 institutions, representing over $3 trillion in assets, have already committed to divest (i.e. move their money away) from fossil fuel companies’ [3].

The East Sussex Pension Fund – which is administered by the County Council [4] – currently has an estimated £172m invested in fossil fuels, including £4.3m in oil giant Exxon [5]. 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 [6]. Last week the World Meterological Society reported that in 2015 atmospheric levels of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide – which is generated when fossil fuels are burned – had averaged 400 parts per million across the globe throughout the year for the first time, marking “a new era of climate change reality” [2].

Karl Horton said: “Global temperature targets agreed by world leaders can only be met if most of the existing fossil fuel reserves remain unburned and we quickly move to cleaner technology. The East Sussex Pension Fund needs to stop pretending that it can influence fossil fuel companies like Exxon – a company notorious for funding climate denial [7], that currently spends £27m a year delaying and obstructing climate legislation [8] – by retaining its investments in them. Instead it should be following the lead of organisations from around the world, such as the Waltham Forest Pension Fund [9], who are divesting from fossil fuels and sending a powerful signal to governments, investors and others that we need to rapidly replace fossil fuels with renewables. I urge all East Sussex residents to support the call for fossil fuel divestment by visiting tinyurl.com/eastsussexdivest and adding their names to this petition.”

ENDNOTES

[1] Divest East Sussex is a coalition of East Sussex organisations calling for the divestment of the East Sussex Pension Fund from Fossil Fuels. Members include Fossil Free Hastings: https://fossilfreehastings.wordpress.com
[2] ‘Globally Averaged CO2 Levels Reach 400 parts per million in 2015’, World Meterological Association, 24 October 2016, http://public.wmo.int/en/media/press-release/globally-averaged-co2-levels-reach-400-parts-million-2015
[3] See http://epetition.eastsussex.public-i.tv/epetition_core/community/sign/3616
[4] https://new.eastsussex.gov.uk/jobs/workingateastsussexcountycouncil/pensions
[5] ‘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 and £4.3m figures are based on data collected through Freedom of Information Requests (FOIs) to administering authorities for the 2014/15 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. See https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/19OSrcE1GsWqvA8T56v0RC0IwXcnDhFuWm3UnMjsWb8E/edit#gid=1078204141
[6] ‘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.
[7] ‘ExxonMobil gave millions to climate-denying lawmakers despite pledge’, Guardian, 15 July 2015, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jul/15/exxon-mobil-gave-millions-climate-denying-lawmakers.
[8] http://influencemap.org/report/Climate-Lobbying-by-the-Fossil-Fuel-Sector
[9] 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/

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