Members of local campaign group Divest East Sussex recently delivered the latest UN report on climate change to a meeting of East Sussex County Council (ESCC) and urged the ESCC pension fund to ditch its investments in fossil fuels (oil, coal & gas).

The report concluded that “limiting global warming to 1.5°C, compared with 2°C, could reduce the number of people exposed to climate-related risks and susceptible to poverty
by several hundred million by 2050”, but the window for avoiding the worst impacts of climate change is rapidly closing.

According to Professor Nicholas Stern, author of ‘The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change’ for the UK government, “the next 10 years will be absolutely crucial in determining what kind of world will exist in the decades beyond. If we act decisively, and innovate and invest wisely, we could avoid the worst impacts of climate change … If we do not, we face a world in which it will become increasingly difficult for us and future generations to thrive.”

Burning of fossil fuels is the main driver of global warming. The pension fund – administered by the County Council – is estimated to have at least £150m invested in fossil fuels. Former climate chief Christiana Figueres greeted the UN report by calling on financial institutions to assess the risks of not moving out of fossil fuels and related investments.

Hugh Dunkerley, one of those delivering the UN report, said: “We’ve already seen global warming of over 1C, and the resulting climate change is now leading to increasingly severe impacts – from rapidly melting sea-ice at the poles to 50C heatwaves in India and drought in California. Three degrees of warming – where we’re currently heading – would mean increasing areas of the planet being rendered essentially uninhabitable by drought and heat. We’re sure that the members of the East Sussex pension committee agree that they have a duty to future generations. We call on them to follow the lead of other such funds around the world, and ditch their investments in these dangerous and risky fuels that are destroying the balance of the earth’s climate.”

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