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BMA annual meeting: Representatives vote to spread the word about the benefits of shunning fossil fuels

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g4307 (Published 27 June 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g4307
  1. Gareth Iacobucci
  1. 1The BMJ

The BMA will push to ensure that the benefits of reducing greenhouse gases are widely understood and incorporated into health and economic policies around the world, after a motion was passed at this week’s annual representative meeting.

Doctors at the meeting in Harrogate passed a motion that recognised the Lancet Commission’s description of climate change as “the greatest threat to human health of the 21st century.”1 The motion—carried with a large majority—urged the BMA to “facilitate the widest possible alliance of healthcare bodies to ensure that the co-benefits to health and the economy of reducing greenhouse gases are more widely understood and incorporated into health and economic policy.”

Representatives also passed a separate part of the motion supporting the BMA’s transfer to “100% renewable” electricity suppliers—a move that the association has already undertaken. An additional strand called for the BMA to transfer its investments from energy companies whose primary business relies on fossil fuels to companies that provide renewable energy sources. This was carried as a reference, which allows the association more flexibility to explore the economic feasibility of such a move before deciding on a course of action.

The motion was proposed by Jane Richards, a member of the BMA’s Retired Members Forum. Richards said, “I am asking the association to be more positive, and . . . to put its money where its mouth is. We can be a very influential mouthpiece.

“Moving to low carbon living can change patterns of disease and mortality. Obesity, diabetes, and heart disease are all diseases of affluent, high carbon producing societies, and pollution from fossil fuels increases deaths from lung disease. Reducing greenhouse gases will therefore have health and economic benefits.”

Among those who supported the motion was Beth Banks, a medical student from Northern Ireland, who said, “We know the detrimental effects [of climate change] and the impending consequences on the planet, and thanks to the report in 2009 we know beyond doubt the effects on health. The BMA have already taken these arguments on board. But we can still go further.”

But Paul Miller, a consultant psychiatrist from Sheffield, opposed moving the BMA’s investments away from companies that rely on fossil fuels, warning that it could cost the association “millions in years to come.”

With reference to Miller’s warning, Mark Porter, BMA chairman, said it was best that this strand of the motion be carried as a reference to allow time to explore the issue more closely. “That will give us an indication of the way the representative body wants to go, but [also] the flexibility to be able to implement it as practicable,” he said.

Notes

Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g4307

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