Angelic spending: Doctors urged to invest ethically

3 minute read

Doctors are being asked to vote with their wallets and starve the coal, gas and oil sectors of cash


Doctors are being asked to vote with their wallets and starve the coal, gas and oil sectors of cash

Doctors and other healthcare providers have been urged to ditch superannuation funds and banks that have fossil fuel companies in their investment portfolio.

In a new report released last week , Doctors for the Environment Australia and the Climate and Health Alliance called on Australia’s 610,000 health care practitioners to divest investments in fossil fuels.

“Investing in industries that cause harm to human health is incompatible with our duty of care,” said report editor Dr Helen Redmond. “The science is crystal clear: climate change is a public health emergency.”

The report acknowledges that selecting financial institutions with no ties to the fossil fuel industry can be difficult. For instance, the so-called big four banks have funnelled $19 billion into coal and gas since 2008 and some of the key super funds in the health industry do not have clear investment policies. However, groups such as Market Forces and Super Switch can help practitioners invest ethically, according to the report.

Doctors for the Environment stresses the importance of doctors telling the institutions their reasons for switching banks and superannuation funds.

“Customer engagement with their current bank regarding climate change concerns […] is as important as the move itself,” the report states.

Brett Hogan, a director at the Institute of Public Affairs, said these kinds of campaigns were terribly naïve as high standards of living depended on reliable energy sources.

“The only way to save the lives and health of millions of people in the developing world is the large-scale deployment of industrial-scale electricity, which can only be done by coal, oil and gas,” he said.

Mr Hogan said it was possible for the health sector to entirely withdraw funding from fossil fuels but that such a move was ethically questionable. He also queried the relevance of ideology in financial decision-making. “Using politics to determine where your investments go is not good financial practice,” he said.

However, the report says ceasing all investment in fossil fuels is both ethically and financially sound. If governments stick to their resolution to limit temperatures increases to 2°C, fossil fuels will become ‘stranded assets’ in the long term.

Meanwhile, renewables are performing strongly, with some sustainable investment portfolios outperforming non-divested ones. Regulatory environments are also beginning to favour renewables, with the value of fossil fuel assets “already collapsing” in some markets, the report says.

Climate and Health Alliance vice president Dr Peter Sainsbury said health professionals had a record of leadership in removing the social licence of health damaging industries, including tobacco, weapons, and gambling.

“It’s now time for health leadership on divesting from fossil fuels,” he said.

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