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Composer and ethnic instrument specialist Dirk Campbell piped XR-Brighton’s Lightship Greta through the streets of Lewes. Photograph © JJ Waller.

Banging the Oil Drum for Fossil Fuel Divestment

This Tuesday, 12 July, climate campaigners from across East Sussex, Brighton and Hove joined forces for a ‘big noise demo’ outside County Hall. Their purpose was to demand that East Sussex County Council (ESCC) stop investing in fossil fuels. The protest included a samba band and Extinction Rebellion Brighton’s 20-foot model boat ‘Lightship Greta’ which was pushed up the hill to County Hall from the centre of Lewes. Photographs provided by JJ Waller.

The East Sussex Pension Fund which is administered by ESCC, has tens of millions of pounds of local people’s pension money invested in the giant oil and gas companies that are driving the climate crisis. Bexhill Town Council, Brighton & Hove City Council, Hastings Borough Council, Lewes District Council, Lewes Town Council, Peacehaven Town Council, UNISON, Maria Caulfield MP (Cons, Lewes) and Caroline Lucas MP (Green, Brighton Pavilion) have all called on the Fund to divest from fossil fuels – a request that ESCC has repeatedly refused to support.

The XR Brighton Samba Band led protestors to ‘Bang the Drum for Fossil Fuel Divestment’ outside the ESCC full county meeting. © JJ Waller

The Samba band were joined by individuals with home made percussion instruments. © JJ Waller.

Divestment vote tabled for Wednesday 20 July

A vote on whether or not the Fund should divest from fossil fuels is planned to take place at the East Sussex Pension Committee this Wednesday. A three-day ‘fast for fossil fuel divestment’ will be taking place outside the Hall in the run-up to the vote, and local Extinction Rebellion groups are planning two days of protest, workshops and talks outside County Hall to demand that ESCC ‘takes meaningful action in the face of climate change’.

According to the International Energy Agency, avoiding catastrophic climate change requires an immediate stop to all investments in new oil and gas projects. Yet the world’s 20 largest fossil fuel companies alone are planning to spend over $930 billion on such projects between now and 2030.

UN Secretary-General attacks fossil fuel industry for denying its role in climate change

In a speech last week the UN Secretary-General António Guterres said: ‘We seem trapped in a world where fossil fuel producers and financiers have humanity by the throat. For decades, the fossil fuel industry has invested heavily in pseudoscience and public relations – with a false narrative to minimise their responsibility for climate change and undermine ambitious climate policies. They exploited precisely the same scandalous tactics as big tobacco decades before. Like tobacco interests, fossil fuel interests and their financial accomplices must not escape responsibility.’

About 100 people in total attended the protest outside County Hall whilst the full council meeting was in process. © JJ Waller.

Local people act together to demand divestment from fossil fuels

Tuesday’s demo was organised by groups from across the region, including Divest East Sussex, Eco Action Families Brighton, Lewes Climate Hub, Lewes Green Party, Seaford Environmental Alliance, Transition Town Hastings, Transition Town Lewes, XR Brighton, XR Eastbourne and XR Lewes.

A spokesperson for the demonstration said: ‘Despite declaring a ‘climate emergency’ over 2½ years ago, East Sussex County Council is still investing local people’s pensions in giant oil companies – like Shell and BP – that are driving the climate crisis. Not only is this hypocrisy on a grand scale, but by clinging on to these investments it is also providing a fig-leaf for these companies’ ongoing attempts to block effective climate action. It’s time for ESCC to stop making excuses and divest from fossil fuels.’

Divest East Sussex recommends that anyone who is concerned about the climate reads this document and emails the decision-makers before the vote for divestment is made on Wednesday 20 July.

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Posted 22:21 Thursday, Jul 14, 2022 In: Campaigns

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