April 14, 2016

HASTINGS COUNCIL PASSES UNANIMOUS FOSSIL FUEL DIVESTMENT VOTE

Fossil Free Hastings[1]
Press Release
14 April 2016

HASTINGS COUNCIL PASSES UNANIMOUS FOSSIL FUEL DIVESTMENT VOTE

Campaigners outside the Town Hall after the decision

Labour and Conservative Councillors unite in call for East Sussex County Council to rid itself of £172m in oil, coal and gas investments

Hastings Borough Council became the first council in Sussex to pass a fossil fuels divestment motion last night, with Labour and Tory Councillors uniting to pass the motion unanimously [2].

Hastings Borough Council is also the first member of the East Sussex Pension Fund to call for the Fund to divest itself from fossil fuels [3]. The East Sussex Pension Fund, which is administered by East Sussex County Council [4], currently has £172m of local people’s pensions invested in the oil, coal and gas industries [5].

The motions’ preamble notes that ‘Scientists have estimated that at least half of the world’s proven fossil fuel reserves will have to remain unburnt if we are to have a 50% or better chance of keeping global warming to less than two degrees Celsius – a dangerous threshold that world leaders at the 2009 Climate Summit recognised should not be crossed.’.

It also notes that, ‘As the investment risks associated with climate change are better understood, the fossil fuel reserves of energy companies could become ‘stranded assets’ – assets with little or no value – representing a substantial risk for those that invest in them, including pension funds, organisations and individuals.’ [6]

During the debate, Council leader Peter Chowney (Labour) said: ‘I think that as public bodies it is important that we recognise the absolute critical nature of climate change’, ‘I hope many councils will adopt motions like this.’ Conservative Group leader Liam Atkins (Conservative) said: ‘It is difficult to argue with the following quote from Desmond Tutu: “It makes no sense to invest in companies that undermine our future. We need an apartheid-style boycott to save the planet.”.’ [7]

To date, over 500 institutions representing over $3 trillion in assets have committed to divest from fossil fuel companies, including the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the World Council of Churches, Oxford City Council, the British Medical Association and the City of Oslo. [2]

John Enefer, a spokesperon for the group Fossil Free Hastings, said:

“We welcome the fact that Hastings Councillors have set aside party differences to do the right thing, with a united call to East Sussex County Council to rid itself of its £172m of investments in the oil, coal and gas industries. These investments pose a threat the climate and to local people’s pensions, and so ditching them isn’t – and shouldn’t be – a party political issue.

“We urge other institutions that run their pensions through the East Sussex Pension Fund – such as the East Sussex Fire & Rescue Service, Bexhill Academy and the University of Brighton [8] – to follow Hastings Borough Council’s lead, and help to build pressure on the County Council to divest from fossil fuels.”

The vote was also attended by campaigners from further afield in East Sussex. Patricia Patterson Vanegas from Climate Forest Row said:

“I was very inspired to see Fossil Free Hastings moving forward in their campaign which will most definitely inform our own strategy.”

Andrew Durling from Eastbourne and District Friend of the Earth said:

“This vote sends a clear signal that protecting our climate future should be every councillor’s priority. We in Eastbourne & District Friends of the Earth call upon Eastbourne Borough Council and Wealden District Council to follow the great example set by Hastings Borough Council by introducing their own divestment motions as a matter of urgency.”

NOTES

[1] https://fossilfreehastings.wordpress.com

[2] See http://gofossilfree.org/commitments. The motion pledges Hastings Borough Council ‘to develop and implement a Responsible Investment Policy through which it will: (a) divest from direct ownership and any commingled funds that include fossil fuel public equities and corporate bonds within 5 years; (b) set out an approach to quantifying and addressing climate change risks affecting all other investments’ and ‘(c) focus future investments in property and other assets on areas that minimise climate change risk and continue to reduce the council’s carbon footprint.’ It also commits Hastings Borough Council to call ‘on both East Sussex County Council and the East Sussex Pension Fund to divest from fossil fuels by developing and adopting Responsible Investment policies with the same scope.’ For the full text of the resolution seehttps://fossilfreehastings.wordpress.com/2016/03/22/divestment-motion-tabled-for-hastings-council-meeting-on-13-april-contact-your-councillor-now/.

[3] See htttp://gofossilfree.org/commitments andhttps://esccpensionfund.wordpress.com/members/

[4] http://www.eastsussexpensionfund.org/about-us.aspx

[5] ‘REVEALED: UK Councils have £14 billion invested in fossil fuels’, Fossil Free UK, 24 September 2015, http://gofossilfree.org/uk/revealed-uk-councils-have-14-billion-invested-in-fossil-fuels/. The £172m figure is based on data collected through Freedom of Information Requests (FOIs) to administering authorities for the 2013/14 financial year. It includes direct equity holdings in the top 200 fossil fuel companies as well as estimated fossil fuel investments in pooled equity funds.

[6] For the full text of the motion seehttps://fossilfreehastings.wordpress.com/2016/03/22/divestment-motion-tabled-for-hastings-council-meeting-on-13-april-contact-your-councillor-now/. The motion was passed unamended.

[7] Quotes taken from transcript of video-recording of the debate.

[8] https://esccpensionfund.wordpress.com/members/

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