AMA Resolution: Divest from Fossil Fuels

Submitted by:  American Association of Public Health Physicians

WHEREAS the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has concluded that the burning of fossil fuels by humans to generate energy is the principal driver of climate change.  Burning fossil fuels is already causing accelerated warming of Earth’s surface, which is a direct threat to both environmental and human health; and

WHEREAS the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, petroleum derivatives, and natural gas, is recognized by the AMA to be detrimental to human health and to contribute significantly to global climate change; and

WHEREAS AMA policies favor environmental education and stewardship (H-135.973, H-135.969, H-135.939) and the need for improved energy efficiency in our offices and medical centers (D-155.999), and other aspects of environmental sustainability, but these policies do not address the investment and business strategies of health professionals, professional organizations, and hospitals; and

WHEREAS our AMA recognizes the importance of physician involvement in policymaking at the state, national, and global level and supports efforts to search for novel, comprehensive, and economically sensitive approaches to mitigating climate change to protect the health of the public (H-135-938); and

WHEREAS our AMA recognizes that whatever the etiology of global climate change, policymakers should work to reduce human contributions to such changes (H-135.938); and

WHEREAS in recent years, divestment of fossil fuel companies by healthcare organizations has been initiated by Gundersen Health, a well-known health system based in Wisconsin; by HESTA Australia, a health care industry retirement fund worth $26 billion [correct to 2018 figures if different]; and by the British Medical Association; and

WHEREAS as physicians who have committed to the principle of “First do no harm”, we share an ethical obligation to minimizing fossil fuel consumption in our daily activities, and to strive to influence the healthcare institutions within which we practice and our professional societies to divest from fossil fuels; and

WHEREAS the AMA Board of Trustees’ thoughtful report on fossil fuels divestment (B of T Report 34-A-18) acknowledges that fossil fuels divestment over the last 20 years would have improved AMA’s portfolio results and acknowledges that divestment might be a prudent investment choice looking forward, but raises fears that the language of the original resolution (Resolution 607-A-17) might create legal risk because of risk modeling in light of outside counsel’s interpretation of fiduciary duty; therefore be it

RESOLVED that our American Medical Association, Foundation, and any affiliated corporations shall work in a timely, incremental, and fiscally responsible manner, to the extent allowed by their legal and fiduciary duties, to end all financial investments or relationships (divestment) with companies that generate the majority of their income from the exploration for, production of, transportation of, or sale of fossil fuels; and be it further

RESOLVED that our AMA shall, when fiscally responsible, choose for its commercial relationships vendors, suppliers, and corporations that have demonstrated environmental sustainability practices that seek to minimize their fossil fuels consumption; and be it further

RESOLVED that our AMA shall support efforts of physicians and other health professional associations to proceed with divestment, including to create policy analyses, support continuing medical education, and to inform our patients, the public, legislators, and government policy makers.

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