London, UK — The British Medical Association (BMA), the representative body of doctors in the UK, has voted to end its investments in fossil fuel companies, making it the first national medical organisation in the world to do so. It also voted to increase investments in renewable energy.
The motion, passed at the annual meeting of the BMA in Harrogate, calls on the BMA to “transfer their investments from energy companies whose primary business relies upon fossil fuels to those providing renewable energy sources.”
Hugh Montgomery, Professor of Intensive Care Medicine at UCL, said in response to the move, “Doctors have long recognised that it is wrong to treat smoking-related diseases whilst investing in the tobacco industry. This vote makes a similar statement in relation to fossil fuel investments and the immediate and grave threats to human health posed by climate change. It is to be hoped that all organisations and individuals will follow their lead, and will similarly act with principle.”
Medical student and Coordinator of Healthy Planet UK, Isobel Braithwaite, welcomed the news, “Climate change has profound implications for human health, as does the air pollution produced by fossil fuels. By adding the voice of health professionals, this decision will add considerable momentum to the international movement for divestment from fossil fuels.”
The motion, passed at the annual representatives’ meeting of the BMA with a significant majority, was brought by members of the BMA’s Retired Members Forum as well as several local committees. It recognises “the Lancet Commission’s description of climate change as ‘the greatest threat to human health of the 21st century’”.
The decision comes on the back of increasing support for the fossil fuel divestment movement both internationally and within the UK health community. An editorial published in the British Medical Journal in March called for divestment from fossil fuels because of the “scale and immediacy of the threat to human survival, health and wellbeing” posed by unmitigated climate change.
The health charities Medact, the Climate and Health Council and Healthy Planet UK, which represent health professionals and medical students, have since called on UK health organisations to divest from fossil fuels, and welcome this historic news.
The organisations are in dialogue with a number of other organisations, including medical Royal Colleges, on the issue of divestment. They believe that the BMA’s leadership will help encourage other health organisations to do likewise.
David McCoy, public health doctor and Chair of Medact, congratulated the BMA on taking a leadership role in the fight against climate change, “We need a completely and radically different, more sustainable pattern of energy production and consumption. Shifting money away from the fossil fuel industry is an important step in that direction. In the same way that ethical investors choose not to profit from tobacco and arm sales, the health community worldwide is correctly calling for divestment from another set of harmful activities.”
Isobel Braithwaite, National Coordinator, Healthy Planet, 0044 7813 980 366, firstname.lastname@example.org
Chris Venables, Programme Officer, Medact, 0044 7907 161 225, email@example.com
Melanie Mattauch, Europe Communications Coordinator 350.org, 0049 151 5812 0184, firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors:
1. The full text of the motion voted by the BMA. N.B. Clause (ii) of the motion, which called for divestment, passed as a ‘reference’, meaning that the spirit and intent are kept but the BMA’s Council are not required to adhere to the exact wording. It is, however, a clear commitment to divest: during the debate, the BMA’s Chair of Council, Dr. Mark Porter, and Treasurer, Dr. Andrew Dearden, stressed that this would mean that the BMA will seek to divest “carefully and properly”, not “only if we feel like it”.
2. Further information about the ethical and financial case for divestment by health organisations can be accessed at http://tinyurl.com/divestmentbriefing
3. Medact is a London-based health charity designed to enable health professionals to act on the social, political, ecological and economic determinants of health and health inequality. For more information, visit www.medact.org.
4. The Climate and Health Council is a not-for-profit organisation which aims to mobilise the health community across the world to take action to limit climate change, a serious threat to human health. For more information, visit http://www.climateandhealth.org.
5. Healthy Planet UK is a student-led organisation affiliated to the global health network Medsin UK, focused on environment and health. For more information, visit www.healthyplanetuk.org