Activists have delivered a petition to East Sussex County Council, demanding it stop investing in fossil fuel.

Campaigners from Divest East Sussex carried a 7ft tall oil barrel which said "Tax big oil - divest now" to County Hall in Lewes, along with a petition demanding the council stop investing in fossil fuels through its pension fund.

The Argus: Campaigners outside county hallCampaigners outside county hall (Image: Natasa Leoni)

They also want public support for a windfall tax on "big oil" with a transition to a system which provides affordable green energy.

The petition was signed by 5,236 people from across East Sussex and Brighton and Hove, which they hope will be enough to trigger a debate on the issues at the next county council meeting on May 9.

Lead petitioner and member of East Sussex County Council's pension fund Sarah Hazlehurst said: "By clinging on to its remaining investments in fossil fuel companies, East Sussex County Council is effectively providing a fig-leaf for these companies' ongoing attempts to block effective climate action.

"By contrast, a public commitment to ditch these investments would send a powerful signal to policymakers to get serious about tackling the climate emergency, which requires the rapid phasing out of fossil fuels.

"These companies are driving the climate crisis: it's time for East Sussex County Council to make a public commitment to fully divest from them."

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The council fund, valued at around £4.6 billion, currently invests in a range of oil and gas companies, including BP and Shell Oil.

It had around 81,000 members in March 2022.

In September, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said: "We need to hold fossil fuel companies and their enablers to account.

"That includes the banks, private equity, asset managers and other financial institutions that continue to invest and underwrite carbon pollution."

As of March 31, 2021, the East Sussex Pension Fund's fossil fuel exposure stood at £82.2 million but this figure is believed to have fallen since then.

East Sussex County Council and East Sussex Pension Fund have been approached for comment.