Picture post: Divest East Sussex petition hand-in

Climate campaigners in East Sussex handed in a petition calling on the county council to stop investing in fossil fuels.

Climate campaigners outside East Sussex County Council in Lewes, 21 March 2023. Photo: DrillOrDrop

The petition, accompanied by a 7ft placard of an oil barrel, also demanded the council support publicly a permanent windfall tax on large oil and gas companies. 

About 5,300 local people signed the petition. This is enough to qualify for a county council debate on the issue. The next council meeting is Tuesday 9 May 2023.

Lead-petitioner Sarah Hazlehurst handed the signatures to the council vice-chairman, Roy Galley.

Ms Hazlehurst said:

“By clinging on to its remaining investments in fossil fuel companies ESCC [East Sussex County Council] is effectively providing a fig-leaf for these companies’ ongoing attempts to block effective climate action.

“By contrast, a public commitment to ditch these investments would send a powerful signal to policymakers to get serious about tackling the climate emergency, which requires the rapid phasing out of fossil fuels. These companies are driving the climate crisis: it’s time for ESCC to make a public commitment to fully divest from them.”

Sarah Hazlehurst (third from right) presents the petition to the county council vice chair, Roy Galley (right), 21 March 2023. Photo: DrillOrDrop

Divest East Sussex said the East Sussex pension fund, administered by the county council, has tens of millions of pounds invested in large oil and gas companies.

The group said the petition was supported by BrightonEnergy Co-op, Eastbourne Climate Coalition, Divest East Sussex, Energise Sussex Coast, Frack Free Sussex, Friends of the Earth Brighton & Hove, Hastings & District Trades Council, Just Stop Oil – Sussex University, Lewes Climate Hub, Seaford Environmental Alliance, South East Climate Alliance, Transition Town Lewes, Weald Action Group, XR Eastbourne and XR Hastings & St Leonards.

[ 24/03 Name corrected in photo caption to Sarah Hazlehurst]

5 replies »

  1. I would hope the pension fund is administered by the Trustees, who should be independent from the employer! (Remember Maxwell.)

    How are those investments doing for the pensioners, or soon to be pensioners? For oil and gas, they should be doing pretty well. Tesla? Not so good.

    Beware folks, it is your money you have worked for that others want to control. They will be nowhere to be seen if and when their campaigning has given you a miserable retirement. For their own pensions they can invest where they like and accept the consequences to themselves.

    (It was a pretty quick courtship though for the local petitioner!)

  2. This is quite a confused comment.

    I am a member of the Pension Fund as I worked for East Sussex for almost 20 years and paid into the fund for the whole time. Many other ESCC pensioners and workers have signed the petition or been involved in the campaign. I wish I could have some say over what it is invested in but at the moment it is only the five county councillors on the Pension Committee who do so. (It is a public sector pension so it is not run by trustees).

    Dr Fredi Otto, a leading climatologist from Imperial College and one of the authors of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that came out on Monday, described fossil fuel investments as ‘stranded assets’ which will soon not be ‘doing pretty well’.

    Both from a personal financial and climate crisis point of view, I don’t want my pension to be invested in stranded assets.

  3. Well, Sarah, when I worked I was provided, after Maxwell, with an option by my employers whether I wanted my pension contributions paid into a fund they nominated, or I could opt out and have my funds paid into a fund of my choosing. My choice would be different to yours, but I would not want to impose my choice upon anyone else.

    I certainly would have opted out of all of them if they had not been run by professionals, independent from my employers!

    Methinks that if the ESCC operate their pensions in the way you describe, then it might be better to campaign in support of a system that provides the choice I have described within the private sector? Looking at many Council’s investments, I would suggest there is much proof within that pudding. Croydon springs to mind.

    Ahh, the stranded assets! Well, Sarah if that is the investment advice you want, you go along with it, but for others it should be their choice whether or not they do. I am not convinced either yourself or Dr. Fredi Otto will pick up the pieces for others when and if your investment advice turns out to be incorrect. Besides which, unless there are very lazy Committees operating, pension funds should change as circumstances change. The current and medium term circumstances indicate that oil and gas are very strong financial performers for pensioners. Tesla certainly is not.
    Ironic really that many a pensioner receiving the pension income from gas and oil may be able to Shell out for a Tesla. Without? Probably not.

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