In light of the urgency of responding to global climate change and the overwhelming evidence of the impacts on population health and well-being, we call on the British Psychological Society (BPS) to divest from fossil fuels.
The BPS has approximately £23M of investments. It is not known how much is in fossil fuel companies, but if the portfolio is typical, then it is likely to be a significant proportion.
Climate change is the single biggest threat to global health of the 21st century. Much research already exists to demonstrate the mental health impacts of flooding, for example, in the UK over the last twenty years.
These impacts of climate change on health, well-being and the associated services is something that we feel should be brought to the attention of BPS members. Divestment is an effective tactic that engages people by empowering them to feel able to influence the systemic drivers of climate change.
The BPS is in a strong position to show climate leadership and draw attention to the threat that climate change poses to mental health. In so doing it will be in a much stronger position to lobby Government for investments in the research and services needed to prepare the UK for the health and well-being impacts of climate change.
We do not believe this compromises the duties of trustees, and this is supported by recent legal opinion on ethical investment policies of charities which makes it clear that as a health charity there is certainly a legal mandate, if not an obligation, to divest from fossil fuels.
Meanwhile The American Psychological Association has shown strong leadership in researching and advocating for action to address climate change, recognising that “climate change has already had disproportionate impact on the poor, including greater impacts on women and children, on rural regions and their inhabitants”. We call on the BPS to demonstrate this same resolve to act by joining more than one hundred UK organisations that have already divested from fossil fuels. This would best involve a freeze on new fossil fuel investments and commitment to a managed programme of divestment over a five year period, beginning with the most damaging stocks (coal and tar sands, if held) and prioritising re-investment in assets that prioritise community well-being while delivering adequate returns.
Mark Burton, Scholar-Activist, Former Head of Service, Manchester.
Carolyn Kagan, Professor Emerita, Manchester.
Ian Parker, Professor Emeritus Manchester / Leicester.
Dave Harper, Reader in Clinical Psychology, London.
Annie Mitchell, Clinical Director and Associate Professor, Devon.
Lisa Thorne, Principal Psychologist.
Francis Vergunst, Postdoctoral Researcher, Oxford / Montreal.
Sally Zlotowitz, Acting Clinical Director and Chair, Community Psychology Section, London.
Sally Weintrobe, Psychoanalyst and writer on climate change, London.
Ms Shira Rüb Clinical Psychologist, (Expert Witness), Devon