Divest East Sussex is an umbrella group of organisations campaigning to divest the East Sussex Pension Fund from fossil fuels (oil, coal and gas). Its current members are: Fossil Free Hastings, Climate Forest Row and Keep It In the Ground Lewes. Supporters include Divest Sussex and the Brighton Climate Action Network.
Why are we campaigning for divestment? For two primary reasons:
(1) According to the current science, at least 80% of the world’s proven reserves of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) will need to remain in the ground if we are going to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius – a threshold that world leaders at the 2009 Climate Summit recognised should not be crossed. Yet in 2012 alone the 200 largest listed fossil fuel (oil, coal & gas) companies spent $674 billion on developing new reserves. Divestment is a way of morally bankrupting the fossil fuel industries, and thereby creating the political space for governments and international institutions to take effective action against climate change.
(2 For several years now, leading economists have warned of the economic dangers of the so-called ‘carbon bubble’: the over-valuation of oil, coal and gas reserves held by fossil fuel companies, the majority of whose reserves will have to left in the ground when governments start taking serious action to avert catastrophic climate change.
For example, Lord (Nicholas) Stern, a professor at the London School of Economics and chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, has characterised the risk as “very big indeed”, while HSBC has ‘warned that 40-60% of the market capitalisation of oil and gas companies [is] at risk from the carbon bubble, with the top 200 fossil fuel companies alone having a current value of $4tn, along with $1.5tn debt.’
Recent research has revealed that East Sussex County Council has £172m invested in oil, gas and coal through the East Sussex Pension Fund. The investments, which make up 6.6% of the fund, include £4.3m in Exxon Mobil, a company notorious for funding climate denial, and £3.9m in Chevron, which is currently contesting a £6bn pollution judgment made against it in Ecuador.
The County Council’s £150m worth of investments in coal, oil and gas are a clear and present danger to local people’s pensions.