UK doctors vote for fossil fuel divestment

The British Medical Association (BMA) has vowed to end its investment in fossil fuels and increase investments in renewable energy in light of the 'immediate and grave grave threats posed by climate change'.

The representative body of doctors in the UK has become the first organisation of its kind to make the shift from fossil fuels to renewables, with a motion passed at an annual meeting of BMA members in Harrogate last week.

Welcoming the announcement, Hugh Montgomery, professor of Intensive Care Medicine at UCL, said: “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.”

The BMA motion was passed with a ‘significant majority’ of the votes, in recognition of the Lancet Commission’s description of climate change as ‘the greatest threat to human health of the 21st century’.

Threat to humanity

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.

Medact’s chairman David McCoy said: “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.”

The health charities are now 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.

Luke Nicholls

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