The case for health to divest from fossil fuels

The Climate and Health Alliance and Doctors for the Environment Australia have launched a new joint report: Investing in Health, on the case for the health sector to divest from fossil fuels.

The report is available here.

Written by Dr Nick Watts, the lead author of the landmark Health and Climate Commission published by The Lancet in 2015, with a foreword from Prof Nicholas Talley from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, the report says the health sector has an obligation to divest from any investments in coal, or oil or gas on ethical, health and economic grounds.

It urges Australia’s Australia’s 600,000+ health workers to divest, along with health organisations and health super funds.

It demonstrates the health of people everywhere is being harmed by fossil fuels and positions renewable energy as a healthier, safer, investment.

Key findings

• Climate change has been identified as both the “defining health issue” and the “greatest global health threat” of the 21st century.
• The health impacts of climate change occur due to heat, extreme weather events, ecosystem change and collapse and social system destabilisation. Climate change is currently responsible for 400,000 deaths per annum.
• Health professionals have a long history of acting beyond the clinic, taking active steps to improve the social, economic and environmental determinants of health. Actions against the tobacco and asbestos industry are recent examples.
• Production and consumption of fossil fuels – coal oil and gas – adversely impact human health through air pollution, psychosocial impacts, water contamination and land degradation, as well as being the major driver of climate change.
• To have a reasonable chance (66% likelihood) of staying below a 2°C limit of global warming, up to 80% of known fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground.
• Fossil fuel assets are worth five trillion US dollars. Many health professionals and health organisations have investments in the industry via their financial portfolios, superannuation or banking; most are unaware they are supporting the fossil fuel industry.
• There are clear financial risks in investment in carbon intensive industries which will become ‘stranded assets’ in a carbon constrained world.