Wedding protest spotlights Council failure over fossil fuel investments

Press release
Divest East Sussex [1]
22 March 2022
More info: 07596 483 272

PHOTO:;; [CAPTION: Climate campaigners stage a mock wedding between East Sussex County Council and fossil fuels outside County Hall in Lewes, 22 March 2022. PHOTO: Katie Vandyck]


Tuesday 22 March, County Hall, Lewes: Climate campaigners from across East Sussex, Brighton and Hove staged a mock wedding between East Sussex County Council (ESCC) and fossil fuels (oil, coal & gas) outside County Hall in Lewes this morning (Tuesday 22 March) before ESCC’s Full Council meeting. Entited ‘Till Divest Do Us Part’, the theatrical protest – featuring a vicar, a veiled bride, multiple suitors representing the fossil fuel industries, as well as a congregation – was held to highlight ESCC’s ongoing refusal to stop investing the East Sussex Pension Fund in the giant fossil fuel (oil, coal and gas) companies that are driving the climate crisis.

The East Sussex Pension Fund currently has tens of millions of pounds of local people’s pensions invested in giant oil and gas companies like Shell and BP [2]. Hastings Borough Council, Lewes Town Council, Lewes District Council, Brighton & Hove City Council, Bexhill Town Council, Peacehaven Town Council, UNISON, Maria Caulfield MP (Con, Lewes) and Caroline Lucas MP (Green, Brighton Pavilion) have all called on ESCC to stop investing in fossil fuels [3]. The Fund is likely to vote again on fossil fuel divestment at its meeting on 20 July.

ESCC with her fossil fuel suitors, outside County Hall, Lewes, 22 March 2022. PHOTO: Katie Vandyck

Burning fossil fuels (oil, coal & gas) is the main driver of climate change [4]. Massive reductions in carbon emissions will be necessary before 2030 if the world’s governments are to follow through on their stated commitment (‘the Paris agreement’) to hold global warming to ‘well below’ 2ºC, ‘pursuing’ 1.5ºC [5]. In particular, the vast majority of proven reserves of fossil fuels will have to remain in the ground unburned [6].

Yet despite many years of the Fund’s favoured policy of ‘engagement’ with fossil fuel companies, not a single major oil company can credibly be argued to be aligned with a 1.5°C pathway [7]. A recent study of four oil majors (BP, Shell, Exxon and Chevron) found ‘a continuing business model dependence on fossil fuels along with insignificant and opaque spending on clean energy’, concluding that ‘the transition to clean energy business models is not occurring, since the magnitude of investments and actions does not match discourse’ and that ‘accusations of greenwashing appear well-founded’ [8].

In its most recent report, the IPCC – the UN’s climate science body – noted that even with stringent climate measures likely to limit warming to 2°C, half of the world’s population ‘could be exposed to periods of life-threatening climatic conditions arising from coupled impacts of extreme heat and humidity by 2100’ [9].

A spokesperson for Divest East Sussex said: ‘In our play, East Sussex County Council drops fossil fuels and marries renewables instead. However, in reality, the County Council is still investing local people’s in the giant oil and gas companies, like Shell and BP, that are driving the climate crisis. By clinging on to these investments it is helping to provide a fig-leaf for these companies’ ongoing attempts to block effective climate action [10] and missing a huge opportunity to show real leadership on the climate crisis. It’s long past time for East Sussex County Council to make a public commitment to fully divest from fossil fuels.’

This morning’s protest was organised by Divest East Sussex and XR Lewes [11].

Wedding photo, outside County Hall, Lewes, 22 March 2022. PHOTO: Katie Vandyck

[2] The Fund’s reported ‘fossil fuel exposure’ as at 31 March 2021 was £82.2m (see, page 25). However, this figure has fallen since then, following recent decisions by the Committee. According to a recent document circulated by the Fund, its actual exposure to fossil fuel producers may now be as low as 0.5%: As at 31 December 2021 the Fund was valued at £4.741bn (see page 156 of 0.5% of £4.741bn is £23.705m.
[3] Hastings Borough Council: ‘Campaigners’ joy as Hastings council agrees fossil fuel divestment’, 14 April 2016, Hastings Observer, Lewes Town Council: Lewes District Council: Brighton & Hove City Council: (BHCC reiterated this call in October 2020 and then again in February 2022). UNISON: Maria Caulfield: Peacehaven Town Council: Bexhill Town Council:
[4] Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report Summary for Policymakers, section SPM 1.2 ‘Causes of climate change’,
[5] 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 that is untested at scale and faces significant feasibility constraints. According to an analysis by CarbonBrief to cut emissions in
line with the IPCC’s P1 illustrative pathway: (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 (both relative to 2019 levels). 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 ‘Big Oil Reality Check’, Oil Change Intenational, Sept 2020,, p.7 and ‘Analysis: Why coal use must plummet this decade to keep global warming below 1.5C’, CarbonBrief, 6 February 2020,
[6] “70 – 75% of known fossil fuels would have to be left unused to have a 50% chance of limiting global temperature rise to below 2 degrees Celsius” Written Parliamentary Answer,
Hansard, 9 December 2016,
[7] See ‘Big Oil Reality Check’,  and ‘Absolute Impact
2021: Why oil and gas ‘net zero’ ambitions are not enough’, Carbon Tracker, May 2021, For a dismantling of the Transition Pathway Initiative’s
recent Nov ‘21 claim that three oil and gas majors are now 1.5 ̊C-aligned see ‘The TPI benchmark: misleading approach, dangerous conclusion’, Reclaim Finance, Dec ‘21,
[8] ‘Oil firms’ climate claims are greenwashing, study concludes’, Guardian, 16 February 2022,
[9] See ‘In-depth Q&A: The IPCC’s sixth assessment on how climate change impacts the world’, Carbon Brief, 28 February 2022, The stringent scenario referred to is RCP 2.6 – see
[10] According to a 2019 study by InfluenceMap ‘in the three years following the Paris Agreement, the five largest publicly-traded oil and gas majors (ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, BP and Total) … invested over $1Bn of shareholder funds on misleading climate-related branding and lobbying. These efforts [we]re overwhelmingly in conflict with the goals of this landmark global climate accord and designed to maintain the social and legal license to operate and expand fossil fuel operations.’


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