Lewes council leader to back end to East Sussex pension fund investing in fossil fuels
The leader of Lewes District Council is to back calls for the East Sussex pension fund to stop investing in the fossil fuel industry.
At a virtual meeting on Thursday (June 11), Lewes District Council’s cabinet agreed that council leader Zoe Nicholson should write to East Sussex County Council’s pension fund committee and ask it to freeze any new investment in the fossil fuel industry.
Cllr Nicholson’s letter will also ask the committee to put pressure on firms it already holds investments with to commit to adopting a carbon neutral business model by 2030 and to divest from those that do not over the next four years.
The proposal to write the letter had been brought to cabinet by Adrian Ross, Green Party councillor for Lewes Bridge ward. Speaking at the meeting, he said: “Both Lewes District Council and East Sussex County Council have recognised the science telling us we must very rapidly eliminate the burning of all fossil fuels if we are to avert catastrophic runaway climate change, and have consequently declared climate emergencies.
“Both councils have also made firm commitments to achieve net zero emissions. Lewes District Council by 2030 and East Sussex County Council as soon as possible, but 2050 at the latest.
“Against that background,East Sussex County Council continuing to invest in companies that derive their entire income from the extraction of fossil fuels, is not just hypocritical, it is also illogical and counterproductive.”
Cllr Ross went on to argue that the value in the companies are likely to “almost collapse” as a result of climate action.
The calls were backed by many cabinet members during the meeting, including deputy leader James MacCleary.
Cllr MacCleary said: “Previously the argument was made that large companies like Shell and BP were very, very safe stocks to invest in if you were looking for a return over a long period of time, which made a lot of sense for a pension fund.
“But clearly the coronavirus crisis, in particular, has undermined that argument. Significantly Shell have massively slashed their dividend for shareholders this year, for instance.
“Actually I think the economic argument for continuing to invest large amounts in large fossil fuel and extraction industries is actually undermined significantly by that.”
Calls for the East Sussex pensions fund to divest from fossil fuels have been ongoing for several years, most prominently from the campaign group Divest East Sussex.
A petition set up by the group calling for divestment has, so far, gathered more than 5,000 signatures.
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