Hastings and Rye’s Green Party has called on the county council to stop investing in fossil fuels through its pension fund.
East Sussex County Council has £172m directly and indirectly invested in energy companies such as Exxon Mobil and Chevron, according to a Freedom of Information request by Fossil Free UK.
These total 6.6 per cent of ESCC’s total pension fund through direct investments of £52.2m in oil, gas and coal companies and ‘projected’ indirect investments of £119.6m.
But the county council said that it acts as the administration authority of the East Sussex Pension Fund, with members currently including staff from more than 100 authorities and organisations, while it is managed by external investment fund managers.
They are tasked with investing in areas which generate the best return with consideration for the level of risk involved.
Andrea Needham, a spokeswoman for the Hastings and Rye Green Party, said: “If we’re to have any chance of stopping catastrophic climate change, at least 80 per cent of the world’s proven reserves of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) need to remain in the ground.
“We call on East Sussex County Council to join the hundreds of institutions around the world – including universities, foundations and other pension funds – who have already made commitments to divest from the fossil fuel industries that are undermining all of our futures, and to re-invest these funds in positive solutions.”
Danni Paffard, of 350.org, an organisation looking to create a global climate-focused campaign, added: “Public investments in fossil fuels are fuelling dangerous climate change and present a threat to the pensions of 4.6 million public sector workers. There’s a strong ethical and financial case for local councils to divest from fossil fuels and reinvest into infrastructure fit for the 21st century.”
The data was collected by FoIs for the 2013/14 financial year and includes direct equity holdings in the top energy companies, as well as estimated fossil fuel investments in pooled equity firms.
In September Hastings and Rye’s Green Party branch took part in a protest that saw the occupation of part of the British Museum in London over BP’s sponsorship of several of the UK’s cultural institutions.
A council spokeswoman said: “East Sussex County Council is the administrative authority which acts on behalf of the members of the East Sussex Pension Fund – members currently include staff from more than 100 authorities and organisations. External investment fund managers are appointed to manage the investment assets of the East Sussex Pension Fund.
“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.”
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