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Thurnbergs outside County Hall. Photograph by Katie Vandyck

Thurnbergs outside County Hall. Photograph by Katie Vandyck

Greta Thunbergs descend on County Hall to demand end to fossil fuel investments

Divest East Sussex officially launched a nonviolent direct action campaign this week as a result of East Sussex County Council’s refusal to stop funding climate change. HOT’s Erica Smith went along to meet the Gang of Gretas.

I have been a supporter of the Divest East Sussex Campaign for many years now, but this week saw my first visit to County Hall to actively campaign. I am still reeling from the contradictory action of East Sussex County Councillors at their Full Council meeting back in October last year. Whilst the Council acknowledged that there was indeed a climate emergency which needed to be addressed, at the very same meeting they refused to divest the East Sussex County Council pension scheme from fossil fuel investments.

From 8–9.30am on Tuesday 11 February I joined scores of campaigners from across East Sussex outside County Hall in Lewes for a masked ‘Thunberg-in’ and Valentine’s-themed sing-a-thon. The event, called ‘Stop in the name of love!’, marked the launch of a nonviolent direct action campaign to compel the Council to stop investing in the giant oil and gas companies that are driving our current climate crisis – companies like Exxon, Shell and BP.

The masked ‘Thunbergs’ performed a variety of well-known songs, with altered lyrics, as Councillors arrived for their Full Council meeting, including Stop in the name of love!, Wouldn’t it be nice [if you would divest]? and All you need is love [and to ditch BP].

StopInTheNameOfLoveThe Thunbergs also sent Valentine’s cards to the leader of the Pensions Committee, Councillor Gerald Fox, and encourage all East Sussex residents who care about climate change to do the same. You can find out how to participate on the Divest East Sussex website.

ESCC currently invests £175 million of the East Sussex Pension Fund (which covers Brighton and Hove as well as East Sussex) in fossil fuels (oil, coal and gas). Last October saw the County Council declare a ‘climate emergency’ but refuse to commit to selling these investments. It was this hypocrisy that roused me to take the early train to Lewes and stand in the freezing cold singing along with Danny the Busker and a friendly group of masked campaigners.

In January the real Greta Thunberg joined 19 other climate strikers from around the world in issuing a call for “all companies, banks, institutions and governments [to] immediately halt all investments in fossil fuel exploration and extraction … and completely divest from fossil fuels. Anything less than immediately ceasing these investments in the fossil fuel industry would be a betrayal of life itself”, they noted.

A spokesperson for Divest East Sussex said: “Last year we saw Australia burn, the Arctic melt, Sheffield flood and Mozambique devastated by tropical cyclones. And much, much worse is on the way unless we rapidly transition away from fossil fuels. Yet East Sussex County Council continues to invest in the oil and gas companies – companies like Exxon and BP – that are blocking such action. We urge all those members of the public in Brighton and East Sussex who are concerned about the climate crisis to heed the climate strikers’ call and join with us to compel the County Council to stop funding climate change.”

Sex Strike for the ClimateIf East Sussex County Council continue with their refusal to divest the pension scheme from fossil fuels, next month the Divest East Sussex campaigners plan to take their ‘Stop in the name of Love’ protest to a new level and declare a Sex Strike for the Climate before next month’s East Sussex County Council Pension Committee meeting on Monday 16 March.

They will issue a public call for all people of goodwill to refrain from sex with members of the Council until they agree to stop funding climate change. Extracts from Oscar Wilde’s translation of the play Lysistrata – in which women of ancient Greece use a sex strike to end the war between Athens and Sparta – will be performed outside County Hall.

If you would like to join the Sex Strike for the Climate, you can find out more on the Divest East Sussex website.

Posted 17:43 Tuesday, Feb 11, 2020 In: Campaigns

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