Hastings artist urges county council to divest from fossil fuels

Members of Fossil Free Hastings hand in the petition at County Hall in Lewes
Members of Fossil Free Hastings hand in the petition at County Hall in Lewes

An artist spoke at a meeting last week, urging East Sussex County Council to ditch its investments in fossil fuels.

Julia Hilton, from Hastings, addressed the East Sussex Pension Committee in Lewes and her appearance followed the hand-in of a petition, signed by more than 3,000 people from 1066 Country, urging the authority to divest the East Sussex Pension Fund of its investments in oil, coal and gas. It also took place in the wake of a unanimous cross-party motion by Hastings Borough Council, calling for the fund to be divested from fossil fuels.

Julia said: “Investments in oil, coal and gas are not only damaging the balance of our climate but also pose serious financial risks to investors, including many pension holders. Decades of ‘engagement’ with fossil fuel companies have not succeeded in achieving any meaningful moves towards reducing emissions. If it’s serious about tackling climate change and protecting people’s pensions then East Sussex County Council should follow the lead of the University of Glasgow, the South Yorkshire Pension Fund and Oslo and begin to divest itself from these dirty and damaging fuels.”

A spokesman for the East Sussex Pension Fund said: “Money from the fund is invested in areas which generate the best return with consideration for the level of risk every investment poses. Investments are regularly reviewed taking into account a number of factors. Divesting of assets in the energy sector would mean the fund’s ability to influence the direction of individual companies and the national and international energy sector would be severely curtailed.

“The fund believes the best way to bring about change while managing investment risk issues is through active engagement with companies the fund invests with, and it will continue to work both on a fund and a collective level to further climate change action.

“Therefore, the decision of the committee was not to divest of its investments in the energy sector, but to continue to seek to use its influence as a corporate investor to positively influence companies’ behaviour. The committee also resolved to reserve the right to apply ethical or environmental criteria on a case-by-case basis where relevant and appropriate, with particular emphasis on obtaining further information on the long-term financial return on fossil fuel companies.”

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