To: East Sussex County Council
Stop investing Brighton and Hove's Pension Fund in fossil fuels
East Sussex County Council (ESCC) runs the local government pension scheme covering Brighton, Hove and East Sussex: the East Sussex Pension Fund. The Fund currently has over £60 million of local people’s pensions invested the giant oil and gas companies which are driving the climate crisis.
Brighton and Hove’s population makes up a third of the population of East Sussex, Brighton and Hove. And Brighton and Hove City Council (BHCC) and its employees pay a significant proportion (31.9%) of the annual contributions to the Fund.
BHCC has repeatedly called for the Fund to stop investing in fossil fuels (oil, coal & gas).Yet because it has no representation on the Fund's decision-making body (the East Sussex Pension Committee), which is made up entirely of East Sussex County Councillors, it has no say in how the Fund is invested.
We the undersigned therefore call on ESCC to grant BHCC adequate representation on the East Sussex Pension Committee so that it can ensure that these climate-destroying and financially risky investments are eliminated from the Fund.
Why is this important?
Burning fossil fuels (oil, coal & gas) - which releases the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into the atmosphere - is the main driver of climate change.
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 efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5º C. Failure to do so would be truly disastrous.
In particular, the vast majority of proven reserves of fossil fuels will have to remain in the ground unburnt.
Yet despite this, in 2019 the oil and gas industries were forecast to spend $4.9 trillion over the next decade on new oil and gas fields - none of which is compatible with limiting warming to 1.5°C.
As of 31 December 2020, the East Sussex Pension Fund – the local government pension scheme for East Sussex, Brighton and Hove - had £76.4 million of local people's pensions invested in fossil fuels.
These investments not only threaten the climate, but also pose a significant financial danger to the Fund.
In 2015 the then-Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, warned that investors in these fossil fuels faced ‘potentially huge’ losses from climate change action that could make vast reserves of oil, coal and gas ‘literally unburnable’.
After coal demand peaked in 2014, UK public pension funds lost nearly a billion dollars as the value of their coal investments plummeted. Oil and gas are next.
And the East Sussex Pension Fund's policy of ‘engaging’ with fossil fuel companies simply isn’t working.
Indeed, despite many years of such ‘engagement’ not a single major fossil fuel company has yet re-aligned its business model with a 2ºC world, let alone a 1.5ºC one. And there are no precedents for a company changing its core business model following pressure from shareholders.
By getting institutions like the East Sussex Pension Fund to publicly commit to divesting from fossil fuels, we can help to undermine the political power of the fossil fuel companies that continue to block effective action on climate change by the world’s governments.
It’s time to divest from fossil fuels.
Who supports divesting the East Sussex Pension Fund?
- Maria Caulfield, Conservative MP for Lewes
- Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion
- Hastings Borough Council
- Brighton & Hove City Council
- Lewes District Council
- Lewes Town Council
- UNISON (the public service union)
What else can I do?
(a) Tell your friends, family and workmates about the campaign and ask them to sign the petition;
(c) If you're a member of the Pension Fund then please sign this petition to ESCC, calling on it to divest the Pension Fund from fossil fuels: https://tinyurl.com/memberspetition. The Council has claimed that 'There’s no evidence that most [East Sussex Pension Fund] members or other stakeholders consider divestment from fossil fuel companies a pressing issue ...' Help prove them wrong! You can also send a short message to the Chair of the East Sussex Pension Committee, the decision-making body for the Fund, using this adaptable template: https://act.350.org/letter/eastsussex