Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

ESCC with her fossil fuel suitors, outside County Hall, Lewes, 22 March 2022. Photo: © Katie Vandyck

Wedding protest spotlights Council failure over fossil fuel investments

Yesterday,Tuesday 22 March, climate campaigners from across East Sussex, Brighton and Hove staged a mock wedding between East Sussex County Council (ESCC) and fossil fuels (oil, coal & gas) outside County Hall in Lewes before ESCC’s Full Council meeting. Entited ‘Till Divest Do Us Part’, the theatrical protest – featuring a vicar, a veiled bride, multiple suitors representing the fossil fuel industries, as well as a congregation – was held to highlight ESCC’s ongoing refusal to stop investing the East Sussex Pension Fund in the giant fossil fuel (oil, coal and gas) companies that are driving the climate crisis. Divest East Sussex’s Gabriel Carlyle explains why you should check out your suitors before tying the knot.

The East Sussex Pension Fund currently has tens of millions of pounds of local people’s pensions invested in 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. The Fund is likely to vote again on fossil fuel divestment at its meeting on 20 July.

The Wedding Party – the sun and renewable energy guests are to the left of the blushing bride. Photo: © Katie Vandyck

Burning fossil fuels (oil, coal & gas) is the main driver of climate change. Massive reductions in carbon emissions will be necessary before 2030 if the world’s governments are to follow through on their stated commitment (‘the Paris agreement’) to hold global warming to ‘well below’ 2ºC, ‘pursuing’ 1.5ºC. In particular, the vast majority of proven reserves of fossil fuels will have to remain in the ground unburned.

Yet despite many years of the Fund’s favoured policy of ‘engagement’ with fossil fuel companies, not a single major oil company can credibly be argued to be aligned with a 1.5°C pathway. A recent study of four oil majors (BP, Shell, Exxon and Chevron) found ‘a continuing business model dependence on fossil fuels along with insignificant and opaque spending on clean energy’, concluding that ‘the transition to clean energy business models is not occurring, since the magnitude of investments and actions does not match discourse’ and that ‘accusations of greenwashing appear well-founded’.

In its most recent report, the IPCC – the UN’s climate science body – noted that even with stringent climate measures likely to limit warming to 2°C, half of the world’s population ‘could be exposed to periods of life-threatening climatic conditions arising from coupled impacts of extreme heat and humidity by 2100’.

A spokesperson for Divest East Sussex said: ‘In our play, East Sussex County Council drops fossil fuels and marries renewables instead. However, in reality, the County Council is still investing local people’s in the giant oil and gas companies, like Shell and BP, that are driving the climate crisis. By clinging on to these investments it is helping to provide a fig-leaf for these companies’ ongoing attempts to block effective climate action and missing a huge opportunity to show real leadership on the climate crisis. It’s long past time for East Sussex County Council to make a public commitment to fully divest from fossil fuels.’

The protest was organised by Divest East Sussex and XR Lewes. You can find out more on the Divest East Sussex website.

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Posted 21:48 Wednesday, Mar 23, 2022 In: Campaigns

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