The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has announced that it will divest from fossil fuel and mining companies. The RCP will start divesting from the worst oil and gas companies immediately and will divest from all fossil fuel and mining companies, whose operations are not aligned with the Paris Climate Agreement, by 2023. The RCP has previously divested from coal and tar sands. The RCPs divestment announcement was included in its new Climate Policy. The policy states that the RCP will:
  • Immediately disinvest from major US oil and gas companies that haven’t acted on climate change.
  • By the end of 2020, using insight from the Transition Pathway Initiative (TPI) or an equivalent tool, disinvest from any oil, gas or mining company that has not set emissions targets.
  • By 2023, after engagement with those oil, gas and mining companies in which it still retains a holding and a final assessment using TPI, disinvest from any company that isn’t demonstrably on a path in line with the goals of the Paris agreement.

The RCP will also expect its fund managers to engage with electricity utility companies and those that drive demand for fossil fuels in high carbon intensive sectors such as automotive, aviation, cement, construction, chemicals, steel and shipping. The new policy, which has been designed to allow any financial risk to the Royal College of Physicians as a registered charity to be effectively managed, was approved by its governing body, the Board of Trustees.

Responding to the news, RCP fellow and Medact member, Dr Will Stableforth, said: The fossil fuel industry is driving the climate crisis and is responsible for a public health emergency. As physicians we have a duty to speak out against this industry and hold it accountable for the damage it is doing to human health. I’m delighted that our College will immediately divest from the worst oil and gas companies. I hope we can divest from all fossil fuel companies well before 2023 as gas, oil and coal companies can never be part of the solution to the climate crisis. We need to cut ties with them today, not in one, two or three years’ time.

Dr Deirdre Duff, Fossil Fuel Divestment campaigner with the public health charity, Medact, said: “We congratulate the Royal College of Physicians as it takes this step towards ending investment in fossil fuel and mining companies. Gas and mining companies have been furiously trying to “greenwash” their images and promote false solutions to the climate crisis. But in reality, these companies are devastating human and planetary health and exacerbating health inequalities around the world. Their most damaging extractive projects take place in the global South while their profits are concentrated in the global North.

“We hope the RCP will move swiftly to divest from all fossil fuel companies as other medical colleges have done. Decades of shareholder engagement has failed to make fossil fuel companies change their core business model away from fossil fuels – we cannot afford to wait any longer; divestment is the only option for organisations concerned about human health.”

The Royal College of Physicians is the oldest medical college in England with 36,000 members. It joins a growing number of UK health organisations who are divesting from fossil fuel companies. The Royal College of GPs, Royal College of Emergency Medicine, Faculty of Public Health and British Psychological Society have already ended their investment in all fossil fuel companies. Globally, organisations managing over $12 trillion of funds have committed to fossil fuel divestment. The global fossil fuel divestment movement was formed as a response to the fossil fuel industry’s leading role in driving the climate crisis. Just 100 fossil fuel companies have been responsible for over 70% of greenhouse gas emissions since 1988.

Medact is a public health charity whose mission is to support health workers from all disciplines to work together towards a world in which everyone can truly achieve and exercise their human right to health.

This is achieved through research and evidence-based campaigning for solutions to the social, political and economic conditions which damage health, deepen health inequalities and threaten peace and security. Medact also works with organisations that have specialised knowledge in fields such as climate science, economics, energy, agriculture, water and international law.

– by Deirdre Duff, Fossil Free Health Campaigner at Medact