Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

London’s pollution should trigger divestment

The Big Smoke earns its name The Big Smoke earns its name Andres Garcia Marti
04 Feb
Fossil fuel-related air pollution causes over 3,000 deaths in London every year. Campaigners say that should cause healthcare organisations to rethink investments

Air pollution is responsible for five per cent of all UK deaths every year, with 3,389 annual deaths in London alone being chalked up to man-made pollution, according to a new report. Fossil fuels are largely responsible for poor air quality.

‘The studies gathered together in the report were looking at early mortality,’ says Medact director Dr David McCoy. ‘For people with chronic respiratory disease in particular, poor air quality is going to be an aggravating factor in their death. We used London as an illustrative example.’ Five organisations for medical workers behind the report think this means professional bodies and organisations allied with the health sector should divest from fossil fuel companies.

The report, Unhealthy Investments, highlights the health impacts from fossil fuels  and possible divestment strategies. Medact, Healthy Planet UK, the Climate and Health Council, Medsin and the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare collaborated on the report.

‘These deaths are a direct consequence of air pollution. We’re calling on health organisations to divest from fossil fuel companies. We’re particularly campaigning for links to be broken with companies that extract fossil fuels, like the major oil producers,’  says McCoy.

These deaths are a direct consequence of air pollution. We’re calling on health organisations to divest from fossil fuel companies

Last year, the British Medical Association voted to divest in fossil fuels and invest in renewable energy due to concerns over air pollution.

‘We’re focusing on colleges and various health worker organisations. We also want to encourage organisations like the Wellcome Trust, which has £450million invested in fossil fuels, to divest,’ says Alistair Wardrope, national coordinator at Health Planet. ‘We’d like to see more shareholder activism over the issue.’

‘Our organisation can provide support in sorting out the legal and bureaucratic issues around divestment,’ says McCoy.

Medical divestment  is one strand in a wider campaign. ‘Oxford City Council, several US universities including Stanford and some UK local authorities have divested already,’ says Wardrope.

More UK health organisations are expected to make decisions on divestment later in the year.

Related items

Julysub 2020

geo line break v3

Free eBooks - Geographical Newsletter

geo line break v3

geo line break v3

University of Winchester

geo line break v3


Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Derby




Travel the Unknown

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in NATURE...


Researchers have revealed just how many polluting microfibres are released…


Increasing reports of seized jaguar fangs and skin suggest that…


Forced isolation has given many of us the chance to…


A fifth of the ocean floor has now been mapped,…


Four ex-circus lions discovered in France are due to be…


A roundup of some of the top discussions from the…


The agave plant, used to make Tequila, has proven itself…


Concerns about the ozone hole have diminished as levels of…


In the Eastern Cape of South Africa, Munu – a…


Photography competition, Earth Photo, returns for the third year with…


A new study reveals the process behind the strange phenomenon…


Hunting is a topic that attracts polarised viewpoints. But as…


A compilation of 50-years worth of data on human activity…


From the US to the Mediterranean, herds of goats are…


Meet the 2020 Whitley Award winners


Protecting the most famous members of the animal kingdom may…