Campaigners calling for an end to pension investments in fossil fuels said that Brighton and Hove City Council had no voice in making key decisions about its pension investments.
Luke Simanowitz spoke for Divest East Sussex when he told a virtual meeting of the full council that East Sussex County Council, which manages the city council’s pension fund, was still investing in oil, coal and gas.
The 16-year-old campaigner said that the city council, which had declared a climate emergency, was a major contributor to the fund, with more than £100 million of its pensions invested in fossil fuels.
Yet more than 1,300 institutions in 76 countries were removing investments worth trillions of pounds from companies such as Shell and BP.
He said: “I had my 16th birthday last week. It is my generation that is going to suffer if global warming is not halted.
“We will inherit a world that is barely fit to live in. Fossil fuels are the greatest contributor to global warming and it is just not acceptable that East Sussex County Council is using pension fund money – much of which comes from Brighton and Hove – to support the companies that are going to wreck our future.
“The fact that, because it doesn’t have adequate representation on the Pension Committee, Brighton and Hove City Council is, in effect, forced to continue supporting the giant fossil fuel companies saddens me.
“I, therefore, ask you to stand by your conviction that this is an emergency that cannot be allowed to get worse.”
Mr Simanowitz said that the window for limiting global warming to 1.5C was closing and addressing the issue required action to cut emissions from oil and gas over the next 10 years.
He urged the council to demand a place on the committee.
Green councillor Tom Druitt said that he was a member of the county council’s pension board – a joint board – but was not on the committee.
And he said that he agreed “100 per cent” with Divest East Sussex’s request.
Councillor Druitt said: “It is a crying shame that Brighton and Hove’s residents do not have any representation on the East Sussex Pensions Committee where all the important decisions on investments are made.
“Most people before today probably didn’t even know that.
“I take inspiration from Waltham Forest Council that declared they were going to divest all their investments in fossil fuel assets in 2016 and now in March 2021 they are on target to complete that divestment and will have no fossil fuel investments at all.”
He said that it was up to the council to achieve that but it was impossible to do so without representation on the committee.
He said that he would raise the issue at the next board meeting to see what could be done.
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