Pension Committee suspends meeting as “suffragettes” deliver climate change ultimatum at County Hall

Press Release
Divest East Sussex [1]
25 November 2019
More info: 07596 483 272

Image: https://tinyurl.com/dnwcountyhall (CAPTION: “Suffragettes” launch the ‘Deeds Not Words’ pledge outside County Hall on 25 November)

PENSION COMMITTEE SUSPENDS MEETING AS “SUFFRAGETTES” DELIVER CLIMATE CHANGE ULTIMATUM AT COUNTY HALL
‘Deeds not words’ action pledge launched for nonviolent campaign to get East Sussex County Council to stop funding climate change

Monday 25 November, County Hall, Lewes: The East Sussex Pension Committee suspended its meeting at County Hall this morning after campaigners dressed as suffragettes delivered it an ultimatum calling on the Committee to agree to stop funding climate change or face a campaign of nonviolent action.

East Sussex County Council (ESCC) currently invests £145 million of the East Sussex Pension Fund (which covers Brighton and Hove as well as East Sussex) in the giant oil and gas companies that are driving our current climate crisis – companies like Exxon, Shell and BP [2]. The five members of the Pension Committee are the ultimate decision-makers regarding the Fund’s investments.

A member of Divest East Sussex, dressed as a suffragette, stood up at the beginning of the meeting to announce the ultimatum and deliver written copies of it to the five members of the Committee: Simon Elford (Cons, Bexhill), Nigel Enever (Cons, Peacehaven), Gerard Fox (Cons, Hailsham), David Tutt (Lib Dem, Eastbourne) and Trevor Webb (Lab, Hastings). As the ultimatum was read out the Committee’s chair, Gerard Fox, declared the suspension of the meeting.

The ultimatum, the full text of which is available online [3], warns the Committee that “if it insists on continuing to invest in these companies, we will be launching a campaign of nonviolent action to compel [it] to stop’”.

The intervention coincided with the launch of a ‘Deeds Not Words’ action pledge. Members of the public can sign this online at https://tinyurl.com/deedsnotwordspledge to commit to taking part in various forms of action, including ‘arrestable’ and ‘non-arrestable’ actions, if East Sussex County Council continues to refuse to stop funding climate change.

A spokesperson, for Divest East Sussex said: “For the last four years people and institutions from across East Sussex [4] have been calling on East Sussex County Council to stop funding climate change. The Council knows that there is very little time left to act. Yet they refuse to stop investing local people’s pensions in the giant oil and gas companies – companies like Exxon, Shell and BP – that are driving the crisis. As Australia burns, the Arctic melts and tropical cyclones devastate Mozambique, we can no longer wait. We therefore put the Council on notice that if it insists on continuing to invest in these companies, we will be launching a campaign of nonviolent action to compel them to stop. We urge all those who *really* believe that there is a climate emergency to join us. It’s time for deeds, not words.”

More info: 07596 483 272

NOTES

[1] https://divesteastsussex.wordpress.com
[2] Response by the Chair of the Pension Committee to Frances Witt, 16 October 2018: https://democracy.eastsussex.gov.uk/documents/b12581/Item%204%20-%20Questions%20from%20members%20of%20the%20public%2016th-Oct-2018%2010.00%20Full%20Council.pdf?T=9. Over the last four years these companies have spent over a billion dollars on misleading climate-related branding and lobbying, in an effort to undermine global action on climate change (https://influencemap.org/report/How-Big-Oil-Continues-to-Oppose-the-Paris-Agreement-38212275958aa21196dae3b76220bddc). Last month the Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, ‘warned that the global financial system is [currently] backing carbon-producing projects that will raise the temperature of the planet by over 4°C’ – a temperature rise that could lead to a 9-metre rise in sea levels (affecting up to 760 million people), searing heatwaves and droughts, serious food supply problems and half of all animal and plant species facing local extinction (https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/oct/15/bank-of-england-boss-warns-global-finance-it-is-funding-climate-crisis).
[3] For the full text see https://divesteastsussex.wordpress.com/2019/11/25/we-can-no-longer-wait-for-you-to-act-our-ultimatum-to-the-east-sussex-pension-committee/
[4] Hastings Borough Council, Lewes Town Council, Brighton & Hove City Council, Lewes District Council, UNISON, Caroline Lucas MP (Green, Brighton Pavilion) and Maria Caulfield MP (Cons, Lewes) have all backed divestment of the East Sussex Pension Fund. In October the County Council was forced to debate the issue at County Hall after over 5,000 local people signed a petition calling on the Council to divest from fossil fuels: https://divesteastsussex.wordpress.com/2019/10/15/323/

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