Brighton Council calls for East Sussex Pension Fund to ditch fossil fuels

Divestment campaigners outside Brighton Town Hall, 6 April 2017

BRIGHTON COUNCIL CALLS FOR EAST SUSSEX PENSION FUND TO DITCH FOSSIL FUELS

Thursday 6 April 2017, Brighton Town Hall: Brighton and Hove City Councillors have passed a motion tonight, calling on East Sussex County Council to divest the East Sussex Pension Fund from fossil fuels (oil, coal and gas) [2]. The Fund – which is administered by the County Council and holds the pensions for a wide range of organisations from across East Sussex – is estimated to have over £150m invested in the fossil fuels [3].

Brighton and Hove City Council is now the third council in East Sussex to support the divestment of the fund from fossil fuels, following earlier votes by Hastings Borough Council and Lewes Town Council [4]. Investments in fossil fuels have become increasingly controversial over the last few years, with over 685 institutions in 76 countries,  managing assets worth  more than $5 trillion, making some form of divestment commitment [5].

Tonight’s vote follows a recent decision by the East Sussex Pension Committee to amend the text of its new draft Investment Strategy Statement to recognise that “climate change poses material risks” to the East Sussex Pension Fund [6]. A petition calling on the Committee to divest the Pension Fund has also been signed by over 1,200 people from across the County [7].

Arnold Simanowitz, a spokesperon for Divest East Sussex, said: “Investments in fossil fuels are not only damaging the balance of the earth’s climate, but also pose a serious financial risk to investors. It is therefore the responsible and the prudent thing to do to divest the East Sussex Pension Fund from these dirty and risky fuels. We’re pleased that Brighton and Hove City Council has now passed a motion to this effect and urge all East Sussex residents to support the call for fossil fuel divestment by visiting http://tinyurl.com/esccdivest and adding their names to the Divest East Sussex 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), Climate Forest Row and Keep It In the Ground Lewes.
[2] ‘Divesting from Fossil Fuels’,  Agenda Item 97(a), https://present.brighton-hove.gov.uk/Published/C00000117/M00006133/AI00056672/$Item97aLabGrpFossilFuelsApril2017v2.docxA.ps.pdf. The motion ‘requests the Chief Executive writes to the Chair of the East Sussex County Council Pensions Committee asking the Committee: To commit itself, over the course of the next five years, to divest the East Sussex Pension Fund from direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds’ and ‘To focus re-investment in areas that minimise climate change and reduce the Fund’s carbon footprint; while ensuring the Fund continues to generate a sufficient level of return to ensure the current and future sustainability of the fund.’
[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/. In 2015, based on data collected through Freedom of Information Requests (FOIs) to administering authorities for the 2013/14 financial year, it was estimated that the East Sussex Pension Fund had £172m invested in fossil fuels. This figure included 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?usp=drivesdk
[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. ‘Lewes Town Council calls for East Sussex Pension Fund to ditch its investments in oil, coal and gas’, 7 March 2017, https://fossilfreehastings.wordpress.com/2017/03/07/lewes-town-council-calls-for-east-sussex-pension-fund-to-ditch-its-investments-in-oil-coal-and-gas
[5] https://350.org/big-divestment-news/
[6] ‘County Council accepts climate change “poses material risks” to East Sussex Pension Fund’, 27 February 2017, https://fossilfreehastings.wordpress.com/2017/02/27/254/
[7] Over 1165 of these signatures can be found here: https://campaigns.gofossilfree.org/petitions/divest-east-sussex-pension-fund-from-fossil-fuels. The remained are were either collected here: http://epetition.eastsussex.public-i.tv/epetition_core/community/petition/3616 or are currently available in hard-copy only. Duplicate signatures and signatures with postcodes from outside East Sussex have not been included in the total.

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