Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:

News

Health organisations are urged to end investment in fossil fuels

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h600 (Published 03 February 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h600

Rapid Response:

From divestment to bold climate change mitigation strategies

I have read with great interest the recent report from the Climate and Health Council (1), and I wholeheartedly agree with the suggestion that health sector organisations should promptly end investments in fossil fuels. I also applaud the British Medical Association’s decision to lead by example and join the worldwide divestment movement. As for tobacco thirty years ago, health sector investments indirectly endorse the fossil fuel industry whose business model jeopardizes the environment and promotes a sedentary lifestyle.

Beyond divestment, health sector organisations should put greater emphasis on the potential of climate change mitigation strategies (such has active transportation) to result in increased physical activity and decreased air pollution at the population level (2,3). Of particular interest, evidence from the Cuban “Special Period” demonstrates that a major reduction in fossil fuel use can lead to increased physical activity, reduced energy intake, and important decreases in mortality from diabetes, stroke, and cardiovascular disease (4). Furthermore, road traffic accidents represent the 8th cause of death worldwide with most fatalities resulting from collisions involving motorized vehicles (5).

In December 2015, World leaders will gather in Paris to negotiate the successor of the Kyoto Protocol, and according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, bold actions are urgently needed if we are to be successful in limiting global warming to 2ºC (6). Demonstration that climate change mitigation strategies present a win-win scenario for the environment and public health (2-4) and make sense economically (7) may help overcome the current political shilly-shally.

References
1. Unhealthy Investments: Fossil Fuel Investments and the UK Health Community; 2015. Available from: www.unhealthyinvestments.uk [cited 2015 Feb 17].
2. Patz JA, Frumkin H, Holloway T, Vimont DJ, Haines A. Climate change: challenges and opportunities for global health. JAMA. 2014;312(5):1565-1580.
3. Woodcock J, Edwards P, Tonne C, et al. Public health benefits of strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions: urban land transport. Lancet. 2009;374:1930-1943.
4. Franco M, Orduñez P, Caballero B, et al. Impact of energy intake, physical activity, and population-wide weight loss on cardiovascular disease and diabetes mortality in Cuba, 1980-2005. Am J Epidemiol. 2007;166(12):1374-1380
5. World Health Organization. Global Status Report on Road Safety 2013: supporting a decade of action. Geneva, World Health Organization. Available from: http://apps.who.int/iris/handle/10665/78256 [cited 2015 Feb 17].
6. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Climate Change 2013: the Physical Science Basis. Available from: http://www.climatechange2013.org/ [cited 2015 Feb 17].
7. Stern N. The Economics of Climate Change: Stern Review. Cambrige, UK: Cambridge University Press; 2007.

Competing interests: No competing interests

17 February 2015
Richard Larouche
Postdoctoral fellow
Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario
401 Smyth Road, Ottawa, ON, Canada, K1H 8L1