Health professionals welcome MAS’s move to divest from fossil fuels Thursday, 21 September 2017

Source: OraTaiao, 20 September 2017

Health professionals are welcoming the recent move by Medical Assurance Society (MAS) to divest from fossil fuels, saying it shows strong leadership for a healthy climate future.

The society has announced that, from September 14, their KiwiSaver and Retirement Savings Plans will no longer invest in fossil fuels, as well as armaments and tobacco. This policy will also apply to MAS reserves, the money MAS holds to invest for the future and to pay insurance claims.

According to MAS, this represents more than $1.4 billion of investment funds, which "will be playing their part for global health and wellbeing."

Dr. Alex Macmillan, Co-convenor of OraTaiao: The New Zealand Climate and Health Council, and MAS member, agrees that this is a significant step. "We're extremely pleased that MAS has responded positively to calls from members, supported by OraTaiao, to make these changes."

"As one of the leading providers of insurance and superannuation for medical and other professionals in New Zealand, it is fantastic to see MAS divest from fossil fuels," says Dr Macmillan.

"Climate change is widely recognised as the greatest threat to health in the 21st century, so it is important that health professionals take a lead in the transition to a low carbon society. We now have an excellent opportunity to do this by investing our retirement savings in a fossil-free future."

It is common for managed funds to divest from tobacco, alcohol, gambling and armaments as these investments are viewed to be unethical. Increasingly managed funds around the world are also divesting from fossil fuels due to the effect these companies' operations have on climate change. By December 2016, a total of 688 institutions and over 58,000 individuals representing $5.5 trillion in assets worldwide had divested from fossil fuels.

Divestment removes both the financial and social support these companies need to operate. "Many fossil fuel companies have played an active role in funding climate denial," says Dr Macmillan. "Divestment makes a clear statement that the industry is not compatible with a safe climate and healthy population."

"It makes no sense for health professionals to support industries whose activities are directly at odds with our mission of improving population health. We now have an opportunity to instead invest in a healthy climate for current and future generations," says Dr Macmillan.