We, the undersigned, write to you as doctors, nurses and other members of the healthcare community in Dorset. It is with grave concern that we note that our local authorities are investing in fossil fuel companies fuelling the climate crisis. Dorset County Council and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council are investing approximately £141 million in the fossil fuel industry through the Dorset County Pension Fund.1
Public concern for the climate crisis is rising and the impact of climate change on global health is becoming an ever increasing priority. The fossil fuel industry poses a serious threat to human health. Fossil fuel driven climate change is already impacting the health of millions and threatens to reverse the last half century of gains in global health.2
There is now a strong scientific consensus that global warming needs to be limited to 1.5⁰C.3 We know that 2°C of warming comes with unacceptable dangers to humanity.3 However, the fossil fuel industry has approximately 5 times more fossil fuels in its proven reserves than can be used, if global warming is to be limited to 2⁰C.4 Well over 80% of fossil fuel reserves must be left in the ground if we are to have any chance of limiting warming to 1.5⁰C.
Despite this the fossil fuel industry continues to explore for even more fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are also a major contributor to air pollution, which kills 7 million people every year according to the World Health Organisation.5 This is similar to the number of deaths caused by tobacco each year.5
As clinicians we have a duty of care to current and future generations to limit these dangers. For this reason, we are requesting that you end Dorset County Pension Fund’s investment in fossil fuel companies. The fossil fuel industry is fuelling the climate crisis and is obstructing climate solutions. Ending our councils’ investment in this health-wrecking industry has never been more urgent.
Local government pension funds have a legal responsibility to invest in the best interests of fund members - their fiduciary duty. However, by investing in fossil fuels, the Dorset County Pension Fund is being put at risk of making significant financial losses. Legal opinions by leading UK barristers note that pension fund trustees who fail to consider the financial risk posed by climate change could be exposing themselves to legal challenge.6
Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, has warned that investors could face “potentially huge” losses because a carbon budget consistent with a 2°C target would render the vast majority of reserves ‘stranded’ — oil, gas and coal that will be “literally unburnable”.7
Fossil fuel free indices are already outperforming their parent indices that still include fossil fuels. For example, the MSCI ACWI Ex Fossil Fuel Index has outperformed its parent MSCI ACWI Index from November 2010 to July 2019.8
Motivated by these concerns, funds worth almost $10 trillion have committed to ending their investment in fossil fuels.9 These include New York City’s $189bn pension funds, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Irish Strategic Investment Fund, the World Council of Churches, the Royal College of GPs and many UK universities and local government pension funds.9
Dorset and BCP Councils have declared a climate emergency and have made a formal commitment to achieving carbon neutrality by 2030.10We ask you to honour this by committing to the following action:
- Immediately freeze any new investment in fossil fuel companies, including those made by externally managed and pooled funds.
- Divest from the top 200 companies with the largest known carbon reserves (oil, gas and coal) as soon as possible and by 2021 at the very latest.