WMA Statement on Divestment from Fossil Fuels
Adopted by the 67th WMA General Assembly, Taipei, Taiwan, October 2016
- As noted by the 65th World Medical Assembly in Durban in 2014, physicians around the world are aware that fossil fuel air pollution reduces quality of life for millions of people worldwide, causing a substantial burden of disease, economic loss, and costs to health care systems.
- According to World Health Organization data, in 2012, approximately “7 million people died, one in eight of total global deaths, as a result of air pollution” (WHO, 2014).
- The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) notes that global economic and population growth, relying on an increased use of coal, continues to be the most important driver of increases in Carbon Dioxide emissions. These emissions are the major component of an accelerating the amount of human fossil fuel Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions despite the adoption of climate change mitigation policies (IPCC, 2014).
- The burden of disease arising from Climate Change will be differentially distributed across the globe and, while it will affect everyone, the most marginal populations will be the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and have the least capacity for adaptation.
- In many densely settled populated cities around the world, the fine dust measurable in the air is up to 50 times higher than the WHO recommendations. A high volume of transport, power generated from coal, and pollution caused by construction equipment are among the contributing factors (WMA, SMAC 197, Air Pollution WMA Statement on the Prevention of Air pollution due to Vehicle Emissions 2014).
- Evidence from around the world shows that the effects of climate change and its extreme weather are having significant and sometimes devastating impacts on human health. Fourteen of the 15 warmest years on record have occurred in the first 15 years of this century (World Meteorological Organization 2014). The vulnerable among us including children, older adults, people with heart or lung disease, and people living in poverty are most at risk from these changes.
- The WMA notes the Lancet Commission’s description of Climate Change as “the greatest threat to human health of the 21st century”, and that the Paris agreement at COP21 on Climate calls upon governments “when taking action on climate change” to “respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights (and) the right to health”.
- As the WMA states in its Delhi Declaration on Health and Climate Change, “Although governments and international organizations have the main responsibility for creating regulations and legislation to mitigate the effects of climate change and to help their populations adapt to it, the World Medical Association, on behalf of (…) its physician members, feels an obligation to highlight the health consequences of climate change and to suggest solutions. (…) The WMA and NMAs should develop concrete actionable plans/practical steps” to both mitigate and adapt to climate change (WMA 2009).
The WMA recommends that its national medical associations and all health organizations:
- Continue to educate health scientists, businesses, civil society, and governments concerning the benefits to health of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and advocate for the incorporation of health impact assessments into economic policy.
- Encourage governments to adopt strategies that emphasize strict environmental regulations and standards that encourage energy companies to move toward renewable fuel sources.
- Begin a process of transferring their investments, when feasible without damage, from energy companies whose primary business relies upon extraction of, or energy generation from, fossil fuels to those generating energy from renewable energy sources.
- Strive to invest in companies upholding the environmental principles consistent with the United Nations Global Compact (www.unglobalcompact.org), and refrain from investing in companies that do not adhere to applicable legislation and conventions regarding environmental responsibility.
Air Pollution, Climate Change, Coal, Fossil Fuels, Health/Economic Co-Benefits