Come and bang the drum for fossil fuel divestment!
12, 18, 19 & 20 July, County Hall, Lewes
Between 12th and 20th July, Divest East Sussex are holding a series of actions to demand that East Sussex County Councillors vote to stop investing local people’s pensions in fossil fuels. Gabriel Carlyle explains how you can join in – and why the issue urgently requires us all to make a noise.
On Tuesday 20 July, five East Sussex County Council (ESCC) councillors on the East Sussex Pension Committee will vote on whether or not ESCC should stop investing local people’s pensions in the giant fossil fuel companies, like Shell and BP, that are driving the climate crisis. As in previous years, the three Conservative Councillors on the Committee are expected to block such a move.
We know from ESCC’s own reports that it doesn’t like to have its record on this issue exposed. (In a 2021 review, ESCC noted over 70 pieces of ‘largely negative’ media coverage about the Fund during the previous 24 months, ‘the vast majority … in direct response to action taken by Divest East Sussex’.)
So Divest East Sussex and friends will be taking action to throw a spotlight on the 20 July vote, with a ‘big noise demonstration’ outside County Hall on 12 July (‘Bang the drum for fossil fuel divestment!’) and a three-day fast and vigil outside County Hall on 18 – 20 July.
Why it matters
For a number of years now, governments agreed to work to try to keep global heating within 1.5°C of pre-industrial levels. But according to the lead co-author of the United Nations’ latest climate report, unless countries deliver more ambitious emission reduction plans by November this year, “We may well have to conclude 1.5C is gone.”
The consequences of such failure will be horrific, greatly increasing the risk of irreversible changes to the climate and threatening to plunge much of the world’s population into potentially lethal conditions. To keep global heating under 1.5°C, massive reductions in greenhouse emissions would have to happen before 2030 – and there would need to be no new investments in oil, coal or gas from this point on.
This simply isn’t happening.
Indeed, recent research has revealed the existence of over 400 “carbon bomb” fossil fuel extraction projects around the world – that is, projects capable of pumping at least 1 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions over their lifetimes. The combined potential lifetime emissions from these projects is more than twice the amount of carbon we can afford to emit to keep warming within 1.5°C.
The “engagement” farce
One of the main reasons that governments haven’t stopped this ‘moral and economic madness’, as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres calls it, is that thousands of institutions around the world, like the East Sussex Pension Fund, continue to provide political support for the fossil fuel industries through continued investment.
ESCC argues that it aims to change fossil fuel companies through ‘shareholder engagement’. Yet despite many years of such ‘engagement’ not a single major oil company is yet aligned with a 1.5°C pathway.
Indeed, one recent analysis concluded that the climate plans of BP, Chevron, ENI, equinor, ExxonMobil, Repsol, Shell and TotalEnergies all remain ‘grossly insufficient to the bare minimum required for limiting warming to 1.5ºC’. Not a single one has committed to stop approving new extraction projects. It’s way past time to recognise ESCC’s policy of “engagement” for what it truly is: just another form of climate delay.
How you can take action
The Council will be holding its next Full Council meeting on Tuesday 12 July, the week before the vote. To mark the occasion, divestment campaigners will be holding a “big noise demo” outside County Hall, assembling at 9am outside Lewes station. Please join us if you can and bring something to make a noise! (Contact us at email@example.com if you can help publicise the event – either by displaying an A4 window poster or by distributing A5 fliers.)
The following week, we’re going to be fasting and holding vigil outside County Hall:
8am – 2pm, Monday 18 July
8am – 2pm, Tuesday 19 July
8am – 9.45am, Wednesday 20 July
We will then be going in to attend the meeting of the Pension Committee meeting (where the vote will take place) at 10am on Wednesday 20 July.
If you’d like to take part in the fast and / or be part of the presence outside County Hall during the period 18 – 20 July (whether or not you wish to fast) then please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 07596 483 272.
For more info on any of the above see https://divesteastsussex.wordpress.com