On Saturday 23rd September members of Keep it in the Ground Lewes together with other members of Divest East Sussex visited Hastings, Bexhill, Hailsham, Eastbourne, Seaford, Crowborough and Uckfield in a Big Lemon bus powered by waste cooking oil during a one-day tour to publicise the campaign to persuade East Sussex County Council to stop investing local people’s pension monies in fossil fuels.
Equipped with their own mobile bus stop and traditionally-dressed bus conductor, the campaigners collected over 640 signatures for the ‘Divest East Sussex’ petition bringing the current total to over 2,500. They also distributed copies of a ‘Global Warming Time-Table’ with the message: ‘Don’t Miss the Bus on Climate Change: Make Pensions Fossil Free.’
Investments in fossil fuels 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.
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.
These investments not only contribute to global warming but, as Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, said in an article in The Guardian on October 13 2015, also pose a growing financial risk for local people’s pensions. For example, UK public pension funds lost nearly £700m during 2014/15 when the value of their investments in the coal industry plummeted. ESCC should follow the lead of other UK Councils, such as Waltham Forest and Southwark, and commit to ridding itself of these investments over the next five years.