Evidence that fossil fuels pose serious threats to public and planetary health is overwhelming. Health care is responsible for nearly 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, which is inconsistent with healthcare’s mission to “do no harm.” While healthcare professionals and healthcare organizations are increasingly making efforts to reduce their own carbon footprints, financial solutions have not been widely adopted by the sector. In this session we will explore several ways to “put your money where your mouth is” for both individuals and institutions.
Divestment: The healthcare community played a leading role in the tobacco divestment movement. If investment in the tobacco industry is incompatible with healthcare’s moral compass because of tobacco’s adverse health impacts, then there is also a clear moral imperative for fossil fuel divestment. Ending fossil fuel investments makes financial as well as moral sense. Portfolios which exclude investments in fossil fuel companies have performed as well, or outperformed, portfolios with fossil fuel companies since 2008. The time is right for our hospitals, professional societies and health professionals to pursue divestment.
Individual and Employer-Sponsored Retirement Savings Plans: While moving institutional investments can be a long and difficult process, focusing on fossil fuel free options in retirement plans is another path to pursue. Personal and employer-sponsored retirement plans can easily offer and clearly indicate funds that have an Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) or fossil fuel free screen. There is growing evidence that suggests that ESG factors, when integrated into investment analysis and portfolio construction, may offer investors potential long-term performance advantages. Practice Greenhealth has published A Guide for Hospitals and Health Centers on Offering Fossil Fuel Free Retirement Plan Option that can be used to take action at your institution.
Carbon Pricing: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), The Lancet Commission on Climate and Health, and most economists and scientists agree the carbon pricing is one of the most efficient methods of reducing emissions. There are two different market-based approaches – a carbon fee and a cap-and-trade program. Ten states are already pricing carbon, a number of states are considering similar action, and a bipartisan bill was introduced in November 2018 at the federal level. Health professionals have a critical role to play in transitioning the national dialogue and empowering both state and federal legislators to pass such legislation.