Health NGOs call for divestment from fossil fuels

4th February 2015


Related Topics

Related tags

  • Mitigation ,
  • Generation ,
  • Conventional

Author

Rupert Carrick

Healthcare organisations should take stronger action on climate change and end investments in companies with fossil fuel assets, according to a group of health charities.

The group, which includes the Climate and Health Council, the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare, and Medact, argues that fossil fuel companies damage human health through their activities.

Investment in such companies is “immoral and inconsistent” with a healthcare organisation’s responsibility to protect health, the group says.

In a report published today, the group highlights health problems caused by climate change. These include direct damage from extreme weather and indirect impacts through changing temperatures, rainfall patterns and ecosystem collapse, which are likely to exacerbate poverty and lead to malnutrition or starvation, the report states.

Fossil fuels are also a major cause of air pollution, responsible for one in eight deaths worldwide, as well as respiratory and heart disease and low birth weight, it adds.

The group recommends that healthcare organisations review their investments in the top 200 publicly listed fossil fuel companies. It also says they should freeze any new investments in oil, gas or coal companies, and commit to selling off all shares they hold directly in such firms within two years, and indirectly within five years.

Investment should instead be redirected towards renewable or energy efficiency technologies, or other options that promote public health through maintaining a healthy environment, it suggests.

Dr David McCoy, director of Medact, said: “The link between fossil fuels, air pollution and climate change are clear, and the health impacts are unacceptably high. This report sends an unequivocal message that the health sector should end its financial association with the fossil fuel industry.”

Writing in the report, Martin McKee, professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, drew parallels with the success of the health sector in influencing restrictions on tobacco.

“The UK health profession led the way in the tobacco divestment movement two decades ago, putting the issue firmly on the political agenda, strengthening public understanding of the risks, and paving the way for stronger anti-tobacco legislation,” he wrote.

The report highlights investments held by the healthcare charity the Wellcome Trust. According to its annual report, the trust holds an £18 billion share portfolio, with direct holdings in Shell (worth £142 million), BP (£118 million), Schlumberger (£114 million), Rio Tinto (£97 million) and BHP Billiton (£93 million).

A spokesperson for the Wellcome Trust said that it did not support a divestment campaign, and believed that engagement with fossil fuel companies had better prospects to bring about change.

“As a long-term investor, the trust places great value on the sustainability of the companies in which we invest, including their responsibilities to the environment and to wider society. These responsibilities apply both to companies that use and drive demand for fossil fuels, which remain essential to the global economy, and to those that supply them. We will continue to engage with both,” he said.

Subscribe

Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.


Transform articles

EU and UK citizens fear net-zero delivery deficit

Support for net zero remains high across the UK and the EU, but the majority of citizens don't believe that major emitters and governments will reach their climate targets in time.

16th May 2024

Read more

There is strong support for renewable energy as a source of economic growth among UK voters, particularly among those intending to switch their support for a political party.

16th May 2024

Read more

Taxing the extraction of fossil fuels in the world’s most advanced economies could raise $720bn (£575bn) by 2030 to support vulnerable countries facing climate damages, analysis has found.

2nd May 2024

Read more

The largest-ever research initiative of its kind has been launched this week to establish a benchmark for the private sector’s contribution to the UK’s 2050 net-zero target.

2nd May 2024

Read more

Weather-related damage to homes and businesses saw insurance claims hit a record high in the UK last year following a succession of storms.

18th April 2024

Read more

The Scottish government has today conceded that its goal to reduce carbon emissions by 75% by 2030 is now “out of reach” following analysis by the Climate Change Committee (CCC).

18th April 2024

Read more

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) has issued a statement clarifying that no changes have been made to its stance on offsetting scope 3 emissions following a backlash.

16th April 2024

Read more

While there is no silver bullet for tackling climate change and social injustice, there is one controversial solution: the abolition of the super-rich. Chris Seekings explains more

4th April 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close