Air pollution is responsible for five per cent of all UK deaths every year, with 3,389 annual deaths in London alone being chalked up to man-made pollution, according to a new report. Fossil fuels are largely responsible for poor air quality.
‘The studies gathered together in the report were looking at early mortality,’ says Medact director Dr David McCoy. ‘For people with chronic respiratory disease in particular, poor air quality is going to be an aggravating factor in their death. We used London as an illustrative example.’ Five organisations for medical workers behind the report think this means professional bodies and organisations allied with the health sector should divest from fossil fuel companies.
The report, Unhealthy Investments, highlights the health impacts from fossil fuels and possible divestment strategies. Medact, Healthy Planet UK, the Climate and Health Council, Medsin and the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare collaborated on the report.
‘These deaths are a direct consequence of air pollution. We’re calling on health organisations to divest from fossil fuel companies. We’re particularly campaigning for links to be broken with companies that extract fossil fuels, like the major oil producers,’ says McCoy.
“These deaths are a direct consequence of air pollution. We’re calling on health organisations to divest from fossil fuel companies”
Last year, the British Medical Association voted to divest in fossil fuels and invest in renewable energy due to concerns over air pollution.
‘We’re focusing on colleges and various health worker organisations. We also want to encourage organisations like the Wellcome Trust, which has £450million invested in fossil fuels, to divest,’ says Alistair Wardrope, national coordinator at Health Planet. ‘We’d like to see more shareholder activism over the issue.’
‘Our organisation can provide support in sorting out the legal and bureaucratic issues around divestment,’ says McCoy.
Medical divestment is one strand in a wider campaign. ‘Oxford City Council, several US universities including Stanford and some UK local authorities have divested already,’ says Wardrope.
More UK health organisations are expected to make decisions on divestment later in the year.