The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) has sold all fossil fuel investments formerly held in its £1.3m portfolio. It joins a growing list of global healthcare institution divestments worth £274m.
RCEM’s decision was made on the of back ever-growing concerns about the impact of fossil fuels on human and planetary health. Just 100 fossil fuel companies have been responsible for over 70% of greenhouse gas emissions since 1988.
Air pollution, to which the fossil fuel industry is a major contributor, claims approximately 7 million lives per year, similar to the number of deaths per year due to tobacco.
Gordon Miles, CEO of the RCEM, said:
“The Royal College of Emergency Medicine is proud to mark London Climate Action Week by joining the institutions taking action against climate change by divesting of its holdings in fossil fuel companies.
We call on all asset owners to consider carefully selling their fossil fuel shares and including sustainable companies or indexes into their long-term investment strategies”.
Other UK healthcare organisations that have divested include the British Psychological Society, The Royal College of General Practitioners and the Faculty of Public Health.
The fossil fuel industry has over five times more fossil fuels in its proven reserves than can be burned if we are to prevent catastrophic climate change. Despite this, the industry continues to explore for even more fossil fuels; its business plans are incompatible with maintaining a planet that is safe for humanity.
Dr Zoe Steley, a Medact member and Emergency Medicine (EM) registrar said:
“The climate crisis, fuelled by the fossil fuel industry, has brought us to the point of a public health emergency – so it is very fitting for us, as emergency medicine practitioners, to be taking this action
I’m thrilled that RCEM have taken institutional initiative and are showing climate leadership. In A+E, our job is to triage, prioritise and be caring in a pragmatic and decisive way. Divesting from fossil fuel companies lines up with this ethos.”
Dr Michael Trauer, Medact member and a fellow of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine said;
“The fossil fuel industry is doing untold damage to human health; not only through its contribution to climate change but also through air pollution and the direct health impacts of fossil fuel extraction.
Much of this extraction happens in the global South, against the wishes of local communities. Meanwhile the profits from fossil fuel extraction are concentrated in the global North. The fossil fuel industry is the ultimate multiplier of global health inequities”
To meet the Paris climate goals, the UN PRI finds that a $12.1 trillion investment in new renewable power generation is required, or $485bn per year on average. The “gap” between meeting this challenge and current investment forecasts is $5.2 trillion, or $208bn per year over 25 years.
Dr Deirdre Duff, Fossil Free Health campaigner with public health charity, Medact, said,
“By divesting from fossil fuels, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine is recognising that gas, oil and coal companies are dangerous, rogue companies that must be curtailed if we are to protect human health.
It’s exciting to see more and more healthcare organisations divesting from fossil fuels – it is no longer tenable to promote human health while investing in an industry that is driving health destruction.”
Fossil fuel divestment is a crucial tool for the healthcare community to use in the fight against climate change. Divestment erodes the fossil fuel industry’s social license and weakens its political power. This helps create conditions that are more amenable to the introduction of legislation to restrict fossil fuels and accelerate the transition to renewable energy. Divestment now presents a material risk to the fossil fuel industry and is making it more difficult for companies to raise capital for new fossil fuel projects.
She leads Medact's work on the Fossil Free Health campaign.