Local campaigners are persuading large organisations to stop investing their pension funds in fossil fuels

16 February 2019


It’s easy to feel downhearted about climate change, to feel that we can’t make a difference as individuals. But as Patricia Patterson-Vanegas tells us here, everyone can make a significant impact by persuading organisations like local councils to stop investing their funds in fossil fuels. Already three councils in Sussex have committed to divest as a direct result of local pressure.

 Fossil fuel divestment means no longer investing in fossil fuels

Investors are already moving away from fossil fuels

The worldwide campaign to stop investing in coal, oil and gas (fossil fuel) companies started in 2012. Today more than 1000 institutions across all continents have moved their investments elsewhere. The campaign’s aim was to start a global shift in attitudes towards the fossil fuel industry and in only six years almost U$8 trillion worth of assets have committed to divest from the likes of Exxon and Shell. 

Divestment is a tactic to delegitimise the fossil fuel industry and its sustained profiting from the destruction of the planet. Notable divestment commitments include Lewes Town Council, Hastings Borough Council, Brighton & Hove City Council, University of Sussex, the Church of England (coal and tar sands only), Durham University, Environment Agency Pension Fund, World Council of Churches, City of Oslo, New York City, British Medical Association, London Borough of Southwark Pension Fund, Quakers In Britain and The Guardian Media Trust. 

Fossil fuel companies are losing value

These commitments are hitting the fossil fuel industry where it hurts:Peabody, the world’s biggest coal company, announced plans for bankruptcy in 2016 and counted the divestment movement as one of the factors making it difficult to raise capital. Also, Goldman Sachs stated that the divestment movement has been a key driver of the coal sector’s 60% de-rating over the past five years[1].

The bad news: East Sussex County Council invests in fossil fuels

As of June 2017, the East Sussex Pension Fund was estimated to have at least £150m invested in fossil fuels. With Climate Forest Row, I have actively supported the campaign to persuade the East Sussex County Council to divest its pension fund. More than 3,600 people have signed a Divest East Sussex petition that needs 5,000 signatures to force a debate at County Hall on the topic, over 100 questions have been asked at the County Council’s full council meetings and more! 

The good news: real fossil-fuel-free progress in East Sussex

The East Sussex Pension Committee has committed 11% of funds held in their passive investment portfolio into a Climate Aware Fund, which has reduced investments in fossil fuel companies and increased investments in renewable energy. Our campaign’s pressure will continue.

How you can get involved in ending fossil fuels

You can join us! Sign the petition, ask questions or support the campaign in other ways. Contact Patricia at patriciapv@wealden.greeparty.org.uk

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Patricia is a member of Wealden Green Party, and campaigns for East Sussex County Council to stop investing in fossil fuels. She is standing for election to Wealden District Council, representing Forest Row, in May 2019.