The British Medical Association, the representative body of doctors in the UK, has voted to end its investments in fossil fuel companies, making it the first health organisation in the world to do so.

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.”

The decision, instigated by members of the Retired Members Forum of the BMA and supported by the Climate and Health Council, comes on the back of increasing support for the fossil fuel divestment movement within the UK health community. An editorial published in the British Medical Journal in March this year called for divestment, while health charities Medact and Healthy Planet UK, representing health professionals and students respectively, launched a campaign earlier this year calling on UK-based health organisations to divest from fossil fuels.

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Medical student and Healthy Planet UK Coordinator, 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.”

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 radically different and 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.”

Medact and Healthy Planet UK are in dialogue with a number of medical Royal Colleges and others over the issue of fossil fuel divestment. Since the launch of this campaign they have linked up with organisations such as the Climate and Health Council, whose members helped get the motion onto the BMA’s agenda, and 350.org, an international NGO campaigning for divestment in a range of sectors.

The full text of the motion voted by the BMA is available online here.

N.B. Point two of the motion was voted through ‘as reference’ – this means that it is has the support of members of the BMA but that it is up to the Officers to decide whether it is feasible with reference to financial impact.

A short briefing was produced in the run up to the decision at the BMA. It can be accessed at http://tinyurl.com/divestmentbriefing

Find out more about divestment and the health community by visiting www.medact.org/campaign/fossil-free-health.

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