Hastings links with UK divestment campaign
Campaigners from Hastings and East Sussex joined fellow activists from across the UK in Herefordshire last weekend for the first UK-wide gathering of fossil fuel divestment groups. Nick Terdre reports.
The gathering – which was attended by members of Fossil Free Hastings (FFH), Keep It in the Ground Lewes and Climate Forest Row – included campaigners from Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as members of three campaigns that have already succeeded in wholly or partially divesting their local pension funds from fossil fuels: Waltham Forest, Haringey and South Yorkshire.
“It was inspiring to meet so many people from across the country who are fighting to make these dirty and damaging fuels a thing of the past and to get local people’s money reinvested in local infrastructure, such as renewable energy – benefiting both future pensioners and the local economy,” said Julia Hilton from FFH. “If councillors in Waltham Forest, Haringey and South Yorkshire can be persuaded to support such sensible and prudent steps, why not those in East Sussex?”
The East Sussex Pension Fund, which is administered by East Sussex County Council, currently has an estimated £172m of local people’s pensions invested in fossil fuels, as calculated from data collected through Freedom of Information requests for the 2014/15 financial year. In April Hastings Borough Council, a member of the pension fund, passed a unanimous cross-party motion, calling on the county council to divest the fund from fossil fuels.
The local campaign continues this Saturday, 29 October, when FFH will have a stall in Hastings town centre to collect signatures for a petition calling on ESCC to follow the lead of the local council. The stall will be open from 11am to 1pm near Millets in Wellington Place. “We invite local people to come and talk to us in the town centre this Saturday or to go online and sign the petition,” Julia said.
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…Over 500 institutions, representing over $3 trillion in assets, have already committed to divest from fossil fuel companies.”
The most recent success of the divestment campaign in the UK was scored in September, when the Waltham Forest became the first local government scheme to commit to full divestment – it will move £23.9 million of investments out of the oil, coal and gas industries. In January Haringey Council decided to divest its pension fund from coal and to invest £200m in a low-carbon fund. In November 2015 the South Yorkshire Pension Fund also committed to divest itself from ‘pure’ coal and tar sands investments.
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