Fossil fuel disinvestment no threat to pensions By Dave Young

On 8th September climate change activists from Papa New Guinea to Panama called for a transition to a world without fossil fuels. Hastings residents joined Rise for Climate, a coordinated worldwide protest, with a petition drive on the seafront and in the town centre.

The Divest East Sussex campaign is calling for 100% renewables for all, and petitioning East Sussex County Council’s pension fund to disinvest in fossil fuel companies. The petition – online at  https://campaigns.gofossilfree.org/petitions/divest-east-sussex-pension-fund-from-fossil-fuels – currently has over 3,000 signatures. Once 5,000 people have signed, the council has to debate the topic. The fund holds pensions
for a wide range of organisations across East Sussex, and is estimated to have at least £150m invested in fossil fuels. Three members representing Hastings, Lewes and Brighton councils have already called for ESCC to ditch investments in oil, gas and coal.

Gabriel Carlyle, a member of Fossil Free Hastings, explained: “Governments globally are held in a headlock by the fossil fuel industry – we aim to change the political climate from the grassroots.” Previous disinvestment campaigns, against South Africa’s apartheid government and pension fund investments in tobacco companies succeeded, said Carlyle.

Directly addressing concerns that rapid disinvestment might damage pensions, Carlyle continued: “We want a stop on all new fossil fuel investments and to see current holdings disinvested over a five year period. The London Borough of Waltham Forest has already asked its consultants to divest without damaging their obligation to pension scheme members. If ESCC follow this example it could both protect pensioners from climate change and eliminate any danger to the fund from falling investments – such as happened with Greater Manchester’s holdings of coal shares.

“The same could happen with oil and gas – now is the time to jump. We have a common interest with ESCC. They see divestments as a risk, but we see not disinvesting as a risk.”

According to Fossil Free Hastings, “Mark Carney (governor of the Bank of England) has warned that investors in fossil fuels face ‘potentially huge losses’ from climate change action that could make vast reserves of oil, coal and gas ‘literally unburnable’  – so-called stranded assets.”

Divest East Sussex will be at the Sustainability on Sea festival on 30 September (click here for more). For more information:  https://riseforclimate.org and https://fossilfreehastings.wordpress.com


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