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Left to right: Councillors James MacCleary (Lib Dem, ESCC), Imogen Makepeace (Green, Lewes District), Milly Manley (Green, Lewes District), Sabina Arthur (Labour, Hastings Borough) and Siriol Hugh-Jones (Green, Brighton & Hove City) help declare County Hall a climate crime scene. Photo © Emily Mott

Campaigners encircle County Hall with ‘Climate Crime Scene’ tape

Councillors from Hastings Borough Council, Lewes District Council and Brighton & Hove City Council helped to declare East Sussex County Council offices a ‘climate crime scene’. HOT’s Erica Smith snapped on her blue rubber gloves for a forensic investigation.

On Tuesday 7 December, climate campaigners from across East Sussex, Brighton and Hove declared County Hall a climate crime scene this morning, encircling East Sussex County Council (ESCC)’s full council meeting with 400m of ‘climate crime scene’ tape. Over 60 people took part in the action, including local Councillors from Lewes, Hastings, Brighton and Newhaven. The protest culminated in a 10-minute mass noise, using whistles and drums to ‘make a noise that the Council won’t be able to ignore.’

Campaigners are upset that, two years after declaring a ‘climate emergency’, ESCC is still refusing to divest the East Sussex Pension Fund (which covers Brighton and Hove, as well as East Sussex) from fossil fuels, has rejected calls to endorse the Climate & Ecological Emergency Bill (which would ensure that the UK plays its fair and proper role in limiting global warming to 1.5°C), and appears to have done very little to make its ‘target’ of reducing the County’s carbon emissions by 13% a year a reality.

A local pension fund member helps to encircle County Hall with climate crime scene tape. Photo © Katie van Dyck

The East Sussex Pension Fund currently has tens of millions of pounds of local people’s pensions invested in the giant oil and gas companies like Shell and BP. Hastings Borough Council, Lewes Town Council, Lewes District Council, Brighton & Hove City Council, Bexhill Town Council, Peacehaven Town Council, UNISON, Maria Caulfield MP (Con, Lewes) and Caroline Lucas MP (Green, Brighton Pavilion) have all called on ESCC to stop investing in fossil fuels. In October over 150 campaigners delivered a giant ‘Climate Fudge Cake’ to County Hall in protest over its failure to act.

This morning’s protest was organised by Divest East Sussex and XR Lewes and supported by Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth, Frack Free Sussex, Hastings Green Party, Lewes Green Party, Lewes Labour Party, Lewes Liberal Democrats, Transition Town Hastings, XR Eastbourne and XR Hastings & St Leonards.

Divest East Sussex spokesperson, Gabriel Carlyle said: “By clinging on to its investments in fossil fuel companies like Shell and BP, East Sussex County Council is effectively providing a fig-leaf for these companies’ ongoing attempts to block effective climate action. With the window of opportunity to limit global warming to 1.5ºC rapidly closing, this refusal to stop investing in fossil fuel companies is nothing less than criminal. It’s time for the County Council to finally get serious about the climate crisis and commit to fully divesting local people’s pensions from fossil fuels.”

A spokesperson for XR Lewes said: “In October we visited the offices of the Council with our climate fudge cake, to plead with them to take swift, meaningful action to fulfil their own promises. Inside the chamber, Councillors were busy torpedoing a proposal to support the Climate and Ecological Emergency (CEE) Bill, a groundbreaking piece of environmental legislation. We need strong, imaginative leadership to tackle the greatest crisis humanity has ever faced. Instead, we get political skullduggery. This is not acceptable. We’ll be back in the New Year. And we’ll continue to come back until you show you can be the leaders we need you to be.”

Divest East Sussex is now in its ninth year of lobbying East Sussex County Council to divest its pension funds from fossil fuels. You can find out more about the campaign and how to get involved on the group’s website and Facebook page.

Over 60 campaigners encircled County Hall with climate crime scene tape, then assembled at the main entrance and made their voices heard during the full council meeting.

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Posted 14:24 Tuesday, Dec 7, 2021 In: Campaigns

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