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Members of the public present the current list of signatures for the Divest East Sussex petition to County Council chairman Michael Ensor, County Hall, 17 October

Members of the public present the current list of signatures for the Divest East Sussex petition to County Council chairman Michael Ensor, County Hall, 17 October

Managed decline of oil industry

At a full Council meeting at County Hall in Lewes, campaigners handed-in over 2,800 signatures calling for East Sussex County Council to divest local people’s pensions from fossil fuels (oil, coal and gas). Cllr Richard Stogdon, Chair of the East Sussex Pension Committee stated:  ‘[I]t is in the best interest of the [East Sussex Pension] Fund to get the entire oil industry to put itself on a pathway of “managed decline”.’  

Seven members of the public – including former County Councillor Rosalyn St Pierre – attended the meeting to hand-in the petition and to ask questions about the financial risks associated with such investments and the damage they cause to the balance of the earth’s climate. Signatories to the petition include residents of Battle, Bexhill, Brighton, Crowborough, Eastbourne, Etchingham, Forest Row, Hastings, Heathfield, Hove, Lewes, Polegate, Ringmer, Rye, Seaford, St Leonards, Uckfield and Winchelsea.

Investments in fossil fuels (oil, coal and gas) have become increasingly controversial, with over 680 institutions in 76 countries, managing assets worth more than $5 trillion, making some form of divestment commitment since 2012. UK public pension funds lost nearly £700m during 2014/15 when the value of their investments in the coal industry plummeted.

The East Sussex Pension 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 at least £150m invested in fossil fuels. Three members of the Fund – Hastings Borough Council, Lewes Town Council and Brighton and Hove City Council – have already passed motions calling on the Fund to divest from fossil fuels.

Gabriel Carlyle, a spokesperson for Divest East Sussex, said: ‘We welcome the County Council’s recognition that the oil industry needs to be put on a path of “managed decline”. However, the Council’s current strategy of “engaging” with companies like Exxon and BP is extremely unlikely to achieve the phasing-out of these companies at the speed that’s required if we’re to avoid catastrophic climate change.

“Indeed, according to the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum: “Virtually all the oil majors in Europe (and the US) continue to plan on rising demand for oil and gas and have planning scenarios that reflect this’, with scenarios in which governments take action to limit climate change ‘largely ignored’. Furthermore, if its current “engagement” strategy fails, the County Council will have retained its exposure to investments whose value could drop rapidly as a result of new climate change laws or emerging technologies like electric vehicles. This is why we continue to believe that divestment from the oil industry – rather than an open-ended and toothless “engagement” with companies like Exxon – is the correct response to these risks.”

Arnold Simanowitz, from Lewes, 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. Once we get 5,000 signatures on the Divest East Sussex petition the County Council’s own rules state that Councillors will have to debate the issue. We therefore urge all East Sussex residents to support the call for fossil fuel divestment by visiting East Sussex County Council Divest and adding their names to the Divest East Sussex petition.”


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Posted 13:48 Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017 In: Energy Wise

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