Health experts called on the medical sector to pull their investments out of fossil-fuel companies and invest instead in renewable energy as a step toward protecting humans from the ill effects of climate change.
The call came Friday at the conclusion of the World Health Organization’s first-ever Health and Climate Change Conference.
Divestment is a promising way to mitigate climate change and improve human health, Christiana Figueres, Executive Director of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, told the WHO Conference in Geneva.
There, doctors, health NGOs and other medical experts argued that the health sector needs to address the threat posed by climate change in the same way that it addressed the threat posed by tobacco — divestment.
A number of universities have already done so, including the University of Sydney, which this week said it will halt future investments in coal companies.
The call comes less than a month before world leaders and representatives of business and finance are to meet at the UN Summit on Climate Change, called by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Earlier this week, WHO suggested that fast action to limit climate change could yield major health benefits. It cited changes in energy and transport policies as able to save millions of lives annually from diseases caused by air pollution.
Revamped energy and transport policies could also reduce the incidence of disease associated with physical inactivity and traffic injury.
Climate change is causing tens of thousands of deaths every year from shifting disease patterns, extreme weather events, and degradation of water supplies, sanitation, and impacts on agriculture, according to WHO data.
The conference brought together more than 300 participants, including government ministers, heads of UN agencies, urban leaders, civil society and leading health, climate and sustainable-development experts.