Fossil fuel divestment placard

Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) has today become the 85th university in the UK to publicly commit to divest from fossil fuels. Making the commitment,  LTSM Director David Lalloo issued a statement which said the university “could not ignore any longer” the moral case for cutting its ties with the fossil fuel industry.

Lalloo said:

As the oldest institution of its kind in the world, our (LSTM) mission is to break the cycle of poor health and poverty. We could not ignore any longer the strong moral and global health arguments for completing this move when we can already see the impact of climate change on disease patterns in endemic countries.

Student activist network People & Planet – which has spearheaded the campaign for fossil fuel divestment in UK universities –  estimates that the decision will see £2.6 million of investments pulled from fossil fuel companies.

LSTM’s decision has been welcomed by divestment campaigners. Rob Abrams, climate and health organiser and Medact said his organisation was “delighted”. Abrams said:

We are delighted to see this move by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine to remove its last remaining investments in fossil fuels. With this announcement, LSTM joins a large number of British health institutions that have, in the last 4-5 years, answered the call for effective action on the climate crisis by divesting from the fossil fuel industry. With the [World Health Organisation] forecasting an additional 250,000 deaths per year between 2030-50 if we don’t rapidly scale down emissions, climate change is and will remain the single greatest challenge to global health.

However, Abrams also criticised other universities for not having taken the steps that LSTM has. In particular, he singled out other medical schools, such as the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine for not following suit.

The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine was the first health research school in the world to begin to shift its investments away from coal companies. However, its decision – made in 2015 – did not commit the university to ending its investments in other fossil fuels. The London School’s investments have an estimated value of over £1.4 million.

Abrams said:

Other medical schools, including the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, must now follow LSTM’s lead and join them in sending a powerful message to the fossil fuel industry by committing to full divestment.

People & Planet co-director J Clarke echoed Abrams view. They described institutions continuing to invest in the fossil fuel industry as “indefensible”. Clarke said:

Seven years of student organising in higher education has made divestment a common sense decision, and continued investment in fossil fuel companies is now widely viewed as an indefensible, shortsighted action that puts profit before wellbeing.

For public health institutions this is even more important, and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine must now follow Liverpool’s example and commit to divest from those most responsible for the climate crisis – fossil fuel companies. With every day that passes the evidence mounts and pressure from social movements rises, clearly stating: If it’s wrong to wreck the climate and our health, it is wrong to profit from that wreckage.

Over 1,300 institutions across the globe have now made public commitments to cut their financial ties to the fossil fuel industry. As a result, an estimated $14.5 trillion of investments have been withdrawn from the sector.

Such divestment commitments have taken place after consistent and sustained public pressure from grassroots activists and campaign groups.

When student activist network People & Planet launched the UK wing of the Fossil Free campaign in universities in 2012, no higher education institutions had committed to divest from the fossil fuel industry. But since the University of Glasgow became the first to divest in 2014, dozens have followed suit, taking the total now to 85.

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Image credit: Kate Ausburn – Creative Commons