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Divest East Sussex

Pension funds that fail to consider climate risk could face legal challenges say leading UK barristers.

Campaigners from around East Sussex have hailed a new report, showing that the global movement to get institutions to ditch investments in the oil, coal and gas industries has doubled in size since 2015. Over 685 institutions in 76 countries, managing assets worth more than $5 trillion, have now made some form of divestment commitment.

Included in the list are the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the City of Oslo, the World Council of Churches and the Waltham Forest Pension Fund. The East Sussex Pension Fund currently has an estimated £172m of local people’s pensions investetments invested in fossil fuels  ( oil coal and gas).

The report was released shortly after two leading UK barristers, including pensions expert Keith Bryant QC, issued a legal opinion confirming that pension fund trustees who fail to consider climate risk could be exposing themselves to legal challenge.

Alice Garton, a senior corporate lawyer with legal firm Client Earth said:  “This clarifies beyond doubt that pension fund trustees are legally required to take climate risk into account where it could present financial risks to the fund’s investments. There is now abundant evidence to demonstrate that climate change presents major financial risks to investors as the world transitions to a low-carbon future in line with the Paris Agreement. Pension fund trustees can no longer legally ignore this issue.”

Julia Hilton from Divest East Sussex said: “Investments in fossil fuels are not only damaging the balance of the earth’s climate, but also pose a serious financial risks to investors, This explains why,

“685 institutions in 76 countries managing assets worth more than $5 trillion, have now made some form of commitment to divest. The East Sussex Pension Fund should stop pretending that it can influence fossil fuel companies like Exxon – a company notorious for funding climate denial – by retaining its investments in them, and instead join other local pension funds, such as the Waltham Forest Pension Fund, in ditching these dangerous and risky investments. We urge all members of the East Sussex Pension Fund to visit tinyurl. com/divesteastsussex and make their voices heard in support of divestment. ”