US Climate and Health Alliance

Health Organizations Urged to Divest from Fossil Fuels

October 22, 2016 World Medical Association

National medical associations and other health organisations around the world have been urged by the World Medical Association to transfer their investments from energy companies relying on fossil fuels to those generating energy from renewable sources.

At its annual Assembly in Taiwan, the WMA urged health organisations to ‘strive to invest’ in companies upholding the environmental principles consistent with United Nations policy, and refrain from investing in companies that do not follow these principles.

It adopted a new policy statement calling on its 112 national medical association members to continue to educate health scientists, businesses, civil society, and governments about the benefits to health of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to advocate for the incorporation of health impact assessments into economic policy.

Dr. Dong Chun Shin, who chaired the WMA committee that drew up the new statement, said: ‘Evidence from around the world now shows quite conclusively that the effects of climate change and its extreme weather are having a significant and sometimes devastating impact on human health.

‘Fourteen of the 15 warmest years on record have occurred in the first 15 years of this century. The vulnerable among us, including children, older adults, people with heart or lung disease, and people living in poverty, are most at risk from these changes. Yet they are the people least able to adapt to the new conditions.

‘We know that fossil fuel air pollution reduces quality of life for millions of people worldwide, causing a substantial burden of disease, economic loss, and costs to health care systems. According to the World Health Organization, in 2012, approximately seven million people died as a result of air pollution.

‘In many densely populated cities, the fine dust measurable in the air is up to 50 times higher than the recommended level. The health consequences from asthma and heart and lung disease are considerable. The world now needs to transfer to electricity suppliers who are renewable’.

The British Medical Association is one of the first national medical associations to review its investments with fossil fuels in mind.

Dr. Andrew Dearden, treasurer of the BMA and newly elected treasurer of the WMA, said: ‘I am pleased to confirm that none of the WMA assets or investments are invested in companies that do not uphold the environmental principles that are consistent with United Nations policy. The WMA would recommend that all national medical associations review their investments with this in mind’.

Dr. Ketan Desai, the newly elected WMA President, added: ‘While many developing countries now rely on fossil fuels for their economic wellbeing, ways and means need to be evolved to substitute fossil fuels to available, sustainable, affordable, alternative technologies. This is particularly important in the developing world, where much of the health burden related to fossil fuels exist’.