Council admits dismal failure of policy on fossil fuels

Press Release
Divest East Sussex [1]
1 December 2020
More info: 07596 483 272

COUNCIL ADMITS DISMAL FAILURE OF POLICY ON FOSSIL FUELS

Five years after Paris Climate Agreement not a single oil and gas major aligned with 1.5°C pathway, chair of East Sussex Pension Committee concedes



Tuesday 1 December: East Sussex County Council has finally admitted that its policy of ‘engaging’ with oil and gas companies like Shell and BP has failed to bring a single one of these companies into alignment with the goals of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement – namely, to keep global warming to ‘well below 2 °C’, pursuing 1.5°C. [2] The admission comes one day after 32 organisations from across East Sussex, Brighton and Hove sent an open letter to the Council calling on it to start treating the climate emergency like an emergency [3].



The East Sussex Pension Fund – which is the Local Government Pension Scheme for Brighton and Hove as well as East Sussex – currently has £134.6m of local people’s pension monies invested in fossil fuels (oil, coal & gas) [4]. According to the UN’s climate science body, the IPCC, going from 1.5ºC of global warming to 2ºC could mean 1.7 billion more people experiencing severe heatwaves at least once every five years [5]. In his new film ‘David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet’, David Attenborough says: “It’s crazy that our banks and our pensions are investing in fossil fuels, when these are the very things that are jeopardising the future that we are saving for.” [6]

Scores of members of the public re-submitted three key questions about the Council’s continued investment in fossil fuels after the Chair of the East Sussex Pension Committee, Cllr Gerard Fox, failed to provide answers to these questions at its October meeting [7]. However, Cllr Fox once again refused to say whether or not the Committee accepted that ‘because burning fossil fuels is the key driver of global warming, the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement … cannot be achieved without the rapid alignment of the big fossil fuel companies with a 1.5°C pathway.’ [8]

In total, 135 members of the public from across East Sussex, Brighton and Hove submitted divestment-related questions to today’s meeting. [9]

A spokesperson for Divest East Sussex said: “The window for limiting global warming to 1.5°C – and thereby avoiding the most calamitous impacts of climate change – is rapidly closing. Moreover, doing this will require dramatic cuts in emissions from oil and gas over the next ten years. [10] Yet – as the Council has finally conceded today – despite many years of ‘engagement’ not a single oil and gas major is currently anywhere near aligning with this goal [11]. For East Sussex County Council to continue pursuing a failed policy of ‘engagement’ with these companies after itself declaring a ‘climate emergency’ [12] is pure hypocrisy. The time is long overdue for ESCC to follow the lead of other local councils, like Southwark and Waltham Forest, and commit to divesting from fossil fuels.”

PHOTO: https://tinyurl.com/thunbergin2020 [Supporters of Divest East Sussex holding a ‘Thunberg-in’ outside County Hall this February]

More info: 07596 483 272

NOTES

[1] https://divesteastsussex.wordpress.com
[2] ‘A large number of the questions ask whether as Chair of the Pension Committee I can give a single example of an oil and gas major that is currently aligned with a 1.5⁰c pathway. The research shows that there are none …’ https://democracy.eastsussex.gov.uk/documents/b15365/Item%204%20-%20public%20questions%2001st-Dec-2020%2010.00%20Full%20Council.pdf?T=9
[3] https://divesteastsussex.wordpress.com/2020/11/30/county-council-failing-to-take-climate-change-seriously-30-local-groups
[4] See page 24 of https://democracy.eastsussex.gov.uk/documents/g4450/Public%20reports%20pack%2030th-Nov-2020%2010.00%20Pension%20Committee.pdf?T=10
[5] https://www.climaterealityproject.org/blog/why-15-degrees-danger-line-global-warming
[6] See clip here: https://twitter.com/GeoffreySupran/status/1314566184902238209
[7] For Councillor Fox’s past failure to answer these questions see https://divesteastsussex.wordpress.com/2020/10/13/0-3-county-council-ducks-key-questions-on-climate. For the full text of the multi-part question submitted, by scores of people to the 1 December meeting see https://divesteastsussex.wordpress.com/2020/10/25/tell-the-truth-about-climate-change-fossil-fuels-email-your-question-to-esccs-next-full-council-meeting-by-23-november/#more-780. The full text has not been reproduced in the written answers to the 1 December meeting – presumably to spare Councillor Fox’s blushes.
[8] See https://democracy.eastsussex.gov.uk/documents/b15365/Item%204%20-%20public%20questions%2001st-Dec-2020%2010.00%20Full%20Council.pdf?T=9. 
Councillor Fox’s statement that ‘Whether an individual company or sector is currently on track for 1.5 or 2 degrees [of global warming] is not a direct determining factor for investment by the Fund’ (ibid) could be construed as an indirect answer to the third question: ‘[W]hen will the Fund divest from those oil and gas companies that fail to align themselves with a 1.5°C pathway?’ If so then the apparent answer is that there is *no* deadline for divestment from oil and gas companies that fail to align with the Paris climate goals.
[9] https://democracy.eastsussex.gov.uk/documents/b15365/Item%204%20-%20public%20questions%2001st-Dec-2020%2010.00%20Full%20Council.pdf?T=9
[10] The IPCC’s 2018 report ‘Global Warming of 1.5 ºC’ included four illustrative 1.5°C pathways. The most precautionary (P1) avoids reliance on bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, a technology created within climate models that is untested at scale and faces significant feasibility constraints. According to an analysis by Carbon Brief to cut emissions in line with the IPCC’s P1 illustrative pathway, relative to 2019 levels: (a) CO2 emissions from oil must fall by 44 percent by 2030; and (b) CO2 emissions from gas must fall by 39 percent by 2030.The oil and gas decline would need to be even faster if the extremely rapid coal phase-out assumed (nearly 80 percent by 2030) does not prove feasible. See http://priceofoil.org/content/uploads/2020/09/OCI-Big-Oil-Reality-Check-vF.pdf, page 7 and https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-why-coal-use-must-plummet-this-decade-to-keep-global-warming-below-1-5c.
[11] See http://priceofoil.org/2020/09/23/big-oil-reality-check and https://www.transitionpathwayinitiative.org/publications/60.pdf?type=Publication
[12] https://divesteastsussex.wordpress.com/2019/10/15/323/

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