5 July 2019
The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) today becomes the latest London institution to offload its shares held in fossil fuel companies, urging local authorities, universities and religious institutions worth £36bn* to consider following suit.
London based local authorities, universities, and medical colleges hold £36bn investments through endowments and pension funds. Fossil fuel shares have been divested from a significant proportion of these assets in response to the worsening climate emergency:
To mark London Climate Action Week, the RCEM has sold all fossil fuel investments formerly held in its £1.3m portfolio. The RCEM joins a growing list of global healthcare institution divestments worth £274m. (5) Worldwide, over 1,000 organisations with £7 trillion assets under management have committed to divesting away from fossil fuels and instead investing in climate solutions. (6)
The decision from the RCEM was made due to ever-growing concerns about the impact of fossil fuels on public and environmental health. 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. (7)
“The Royal College of Emergency Medicine is proud to mark London Divestment Day 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”.
Gordon Miles, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine
Other UK healthcare organisations that have divested include the British Psychological Society, The Royal College of General Practitioners, the UK Faculty of Public Health.
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.
“Divestment starves the world’s most carbon intensive industries of funding and is already making an impact in the fight against climate change. But reinvestment is just as important, to supercharge a new low carbon economy – so trillions are switched into renewables and green tech. By divesting fossil fuels and re-investing in climate solutions, major institutions can use their capital to support green infrastructure development and drive the climate action that is so sorely needed.”
Lib Dem MP Ed Davey, former Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change
“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 Zoe Steley, Medact member and Emergency Medicine (EM) registrar
“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. It is no longer tenable to promote human health while investing in an industry that is driving health destruction.”
Dr Deirdre Duff, Fossil Free Health campaigner with public health charity, Medact
“Health professionals across the UK recognise that climate change is the greatest public health threat and opportunity of the 21st century. Urgent action is needed to mitigate against climate changes’ effects, and the additional burden it places on our health services. Air pollution alone is responsible for up to 36,000 deaths per year, and heat-related deaths are predicted to reach 7,000 per year by 2050 unless significant action is taken.
“The Royal College of Emergency Medicine are leading by example as they become the latest of our members to fully divest from the fossil fuel industry – joining the British Medical Association, Royal College of General Practitioners and Faculty of Public Health. On the pathway to net zero emissions, we hope more medical bodies will join them. We congratulate RCEM on taking this step.”
Nicky Philpott, Director of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change
Local authority case study: Southwark Council
University case study: SOAS
Religious institution case study: United Reformed Church
Notes to Editors
* This total does not include investments held by religious institutions
(1) Medact estimate that London-based members of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, hold at least £153.6m investments (latest available annual reports). The Royal College of GPs, the Faculty of Public Health and the Royal College of Emergency Medicine hold £13.2m investments and have now divested from fossil fuels.
(2) Total London local authority pension fund assets – Investment & Pensions Europe, divested total – Southwark, Lambeth and Islington annual reports.
(3) London University endowments over £1m – People and Planet University data
(4) London church divestment figures – BrightNow data
(5) Tab 3 ‘Analysis’ in DivestInvest data compilation
(6) DivestInvest ‘Commitments so far’
(7) World Health Organisation – ‘How air pollution is destroying our health’
Medact is a public health charity whose mission is to support health professionals from all disciplines to work together towards a world in which everyone can truly achieve and exercise their human right to health.
We do this through research and evidence-based campaigning for solutions to the social, political and economic conditions which damage health, deepen health inequalities and threaten peace and security. We also work with organisations that have specialised knowledge in fields such as climate science, economics, energy, agriculture, water and international law. You can find out more at www.medact.org
About the Royal College of Emergency Medicine
The Royal College of Emergency Medicine is the single authoritative body for Emergency Medicine in the UK. Emergency Medicine is the medical specialty which provides doctors and consultants to A&E departments in the NHS in the UK and other healthcare systems across the world.
The Royal College works to ensure high quality care by setting and monitoring standards of care, and providing expert guidance and advice on policy to relevant bodies on matters relating to Emergency Medicine.
The Royal College has over 8,000 fellows and members, who are doctors and consultants in emergency departments working in the health services in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland and across the world.