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An offshore drilling rig. Councils are heavily invested in the oil and gas industry (photo: Erik Christensen/Wikimedia Commons).

An offshore drilling rig. Councils are heavily invested in the oil and gas industry (photo: Erik Christensen/Wikimedia Commons).

Ditch fossil fuel investments, Greens tell ESCC

Local Greens are calling on East Sussex County Council (ESCC) to join the battle against climate change by moving its pension fund investments out of the fossil fuel industry. Nick Terdre reports.

Hastings and Rye Green Party have called on East Sussex County Council to get rid of its pension fund investments in fossil fuels. It cites new research which shows that ESCC has £172 million invested in fossil fuel companies through the East Sussex Pension Fund, including £4.3 million in ExxonMobil, a company which it describes as “notorious for funding climate change denial,” and £3.9 million in Chevron, “which is currently contesting a £6 billion pollution judgment made against it in Ecuador.”

According to the current science, the Greens say, at least 80% of the world’s proven reserves of fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas – will need to remain in the ground if global warming is to be kept below two degrees Celsius – the internationally agreed upper limit before “catastrophic” climate change takes place. Investment provides much of the funds which enabled the 200 largest listed fossil fuel companies to spend $674 billion in 2012 on developing new reserves.

“‘If we’re to have any chance of stopping catastrophic climate change, at least 80% of the world’s proven reserves of fossil fuels…need to remain in the ground,” said party spokesperson Andrea Needham. “We call on East Sussex County Council to join the hundreds of institutions around the world – including universities, foundations and other pension funds – who have already made commitments to divest from the fossil fuel industries that are undermining all of our futures, and to re-invest these funds in positive solutions.”

East Sussex Pension Fund’s £172 million fossil fuel portfolio, which accounts for 6.6% of all its investments, breaks down into £52 million of direct investments and £120 million of projected indirect investments.

“East Sussex County Council is the administrative authority which acts on behalf of the members of the East Sussex Pension Fund – members currently include staff from more than 100 authorities and organisations,” ESCC told HOT in a statement. “External investment fund managers are appointed to manage the investment assets of the East Sussex Pension Fund.

“Money from the fund is invested in areas which generate the best return with consideration for the level of risk every investment poses. Investments are regularly reviewed taking into account a number of factors.”

HOT further enquired whether the environmental impact or ethical dimensions of a company’s activities were taken into account when investments are made. ESCC replied that the fund’s investment assets are managed by external investment fund managers appointed by the pension committee. “The decisions on individual stocks and shares are made by those investment managers with a view to deliver long-term investment returns,” it said. So the answer appears to be no.

ESCC is not the only public body administering a pension fund with significant investments in the fossil fuel sector. As the Greens point out, research published by Fossil Free UK has identified local and county council investments across the UK totalling £14 billlion, equivalent to £281 for every citizen. The ultimate beneficiaries are the public employees entitled to a pension on their retirement, who might also be expected to have a view on how their pensions are generated but,as far as HOT knows, are not consulted in this respect.

Failure to consider the implications of investing in the companies which bear the major responsibility for climate change could also be construed as being at odds with the acknowledgement by ESCC, Hastings Borough Council and other local authorities that climate change is occurring and their declared commitment to sustainable environmental policies.

In addition to ESCC, members of East Sussex Pension Fund include Brighton and Hove City Council and the five East Sussex borough and district councils, as well as universities, colleges and public authorities.

 

Fossil Free UK

Hastings and Rye Green Party plans to show Do the Math, a documentary on the divestment movement, on Tuesday 27 October at 7.30pm at the Observer Building, 53 Cambridge Road, Hastings TN34 1DT. For more information, contact them on 07494 360801 or at hastingsgreenparty@gmail.com.

Posted 11:48 Sunday, Oct 4, 2015 In: Campaigns

1 Comment

Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. DAR

    A coherent view from the Greens on this one – unlike their migration policy. Perhaps examples of “positive” investments might have helped.

    Comment by DAR — Thursday, Oct 15, 2015 @ 13:52

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