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East Sussex residents present Council chair David Elkin with the Divest East Sussex petition at County Hall on Monday 16 September

Petition should trigger debate on ESCC’s role in finding climate change

Monday 16 September, County Hall, Lewes: A petition calling on the County Council to stop funding climate change was handed-in at County Hall in Lewes. The 5,300 signatures on the ‘Divest East Sussex’ [1] petition should be enough to trigger a debate on the issue at the next Full Council meeting on 15 October – the same meeting at which the County Council is anticipated to vote on a ‘climate emergency’ motion [2]. 

East Sussex County Council (ESCC) currently invests £145 million of the East Sussex Pension Fund in the giant oil and gas companies that are driving our current climate crisis – companies like Exxon, Shell and BP [3].

The Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, has warned that investors in these industries face ‘potentially huge’ losses from climate change action that could make vast reserves of oil, coal and gas ‘literally unburnable’ [4]. According to one recent analysis: ‘Oil and gas companies risk wasting $2.2 trillion by 2030 if they base investment decisions on current emissions policies … instead of planning for continued momentum towards a low-carbon world and [the] ensuing reduced demand for fossil fuels.’ [5]

Hastings Borough Council, Wealden District Council, Eastbourne Borough Council, Rother District Council and Lewes District Council have now all passed “climate emergency” motions, and ESCC is anticipated to pass one on 15 October. [6]

A spokesperson for Divest East Sussex said: “If we really are facing a climate emergency then the first thing we need to do is to stop funding climate change – and that means not investing in the oil, coal and gas companies that are driving our current climate crisis. It would be sheer hypocrisy for East Sussex County Council to declare a climate emergency while continuing to invest in these companies.”

Gabriel Carlyle from Fossil Free Hastings added: “The Council’s current policy of ‘engaging’ with oil and gas companies isn’t working. It has no meaningful benchmarks or timelines, little to show in way of achievements and no clear escalation strategies for companies that fail to respond. Moreover, despite many years of such ‘engagement’ not a single major publicly listed oil company has re-aligned its business model with a 2ºC world [7], let alone a 1.5 ºC world. These investments are a disaster for the planet and bad for local pension fund members.”

[1] https://divesteastsussex.wordpress.com/
[2]https://campaigns.gofossilfree.org/petitions/divest-east-sussex-pension-fund-from-fossil-fuels. ‘If a petition has more than 5000 signatures, it will be debated by the full council’: https://www.eastsussex.gov.uk/media/11730/petition-scheme-final-august-2018.pdf
[3] Response by the Chair of the Pension Committee to Frances Witt, 16 October 2018:https://democracy.eastsussex.gov.uk/documents/b12581/Item%204%20-%20Questions%20from%20members%20of%20the%20public%2016th-Oct-2018%2010.00%20Full%20Council.pdf?T=9
[4] https://www.ft.com/content/622de3da-66e6-11e5-97d0-1456a776a4f5
[5] ‘Oil and gas companies approve $50 billion of major projects that undermine climate targets and risk shareholder returns’, Carbon Tracker, 5 September 2019, https://www.carbontracker.org/oil-and-gas-companies-approve-50-billion-of-major-projects-that-undermine-climate-targets-and-risk-shareholder-returns/
[6] https://seclimatealliance.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Progress-summary-latest.pdf. The Rother motion was passed on 16 September 2019.
[7] ‘Carbon Performance Assessment in Oil and Gas: Discussion paper’, Transition Pathway Initiative, November 2018,http://www.lse.ac.uk/GranthamInstitute/tpi/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Oil-and-gas-discussion-paper.pdf

Posted 09:49 Wednesday, Sep 18, 2019 In: The HOT Planet

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