UK doctors end investments in fossil fuel industry

BMA divestsThe 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.”

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.”

For a short briefing about the ethical and financial case for divestment by health organisations, visit http://tinyurl.com/divestmentbriefing

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