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To: Auckland Medical School Foundation

Encourage Auckland Medical School Foundation to Divest from Fossil Fuels

Encourage Auckland Medical School Foundation to Divest from Fossil Fuels

Many institutions around New Zealand are already expressing their support in tackling climate change by divesting from fossil fuel industries; who are the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. Victoria University of Wellington and the University of Otago Foundation Trust have already made public their decisions to divest, and have joined a world-wide list of proactive universities announcing their intention to move out of investment in carbon-emitting fossil fuels. Other notable universities include Stanford University, Glasgow University, Oxford University and the Australia National University.

Auckland Medical School teaches its students about the harmful effects of climate change on health and “aims to improve the health and wellbeing of our local, national and global communities through excellence in teaching, research and service,” and yet our medical school may be receiving funds from fossil fuel activities that are in direct contravention to this noble goal. Therefore it would make sense for the foundation to openly declare their divestment from the fossil fuel industry in the next 2 years, setting an example for other foundations within the University and the wider country. Let us not be on the wrong side of history, let us stand up for what we know to be the just and ethical thing to do by moving away from supporting an industry that is clearly damaging our planet.

The University's Sustainability Policy, says: "Through our Sustainability Policy we've envisioned a future as a truly sustainable university. In our vision, research, teaching and action for sustainability are actively encouraged and supported; sustainability attracts staff and students; and ideas germinated here are applied within and beyond our campuses and make a difference in the world.” How can we honestly say this as an institution without first ceasing any investments in an industry that directly and indirectly harms the health of the environment and the people living within it?

It should also be noted that the Foundation’s current investment policy has no “ethical investment commitments” which means the Foundation can invest directly in other industries that are detrimental to human health, such as weapons development, tobacco and alcohol industries, among others. It is increasingly becoming the norm among Universities in the region (Australia and New Zealand) to adopt ethical investment policies.

The AUMSA and Grassroots student groups have an interest in preserving and improving the health of New Zealand as the majority of its members will go on to work and serve in communities that will experience the direct and indirect effects of climate change. We urge the Auckland Medical School Foundation to take action against climate change by publicly divesting from fossil fuel industries and creating an ethical investment policy to ensure their actions are in line with their teaching. Please take our appeal seriously, New Zealand’s health is at stake.

Auckland University Medical Students Association, Grassroots Rural Health Club and their members.

Why is this important?

Climate change is occurring at unprecedented rates, largely due to the massive amounts of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere by the fossil fuel industry. It is widely accepted that elevated carbon dioxide levels are the major contributor to the increasing global temperatures, rising sea levels, acidification of the oceans, retreating ice sheets and extreme weather events that continue to affect our planet with increasing intensity and frequency. 2014 was the hottest year in recorded history and 2015 is predicted to be even hotter.

This year is also set to be another year of record global carbon dioxide emissions, a trend that has continued since the climate change performance index began in 2005. Furthermore, the global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration exceeded the 400ppm threshold in March of this year, according to the US department of commerce national oceanic and atmospheric administration. This level demonstrates the effects of human fossil fuel usage since the pre-industrial era, when carbon dioxide concentration was 120ppm lower than current measurements.

To limit global warming to a globally agreed safe level of no more than 2°C above pre-industrial temperatures, we can only afford to emit 565 more gigatonnes of CO2. We would emit 2795 gigatonnes of CO2 if we burned all the reserves already discovered, and the fossil fuel industry still invests millions in finding new reserves. The reality of taking action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has serious financial implications for the fossil fuel industry and those invested in it.

According to a report published by Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Company, major oil and gas companies could lose up to 60% of their market value should the international community enforce existing pledges to reduce emissions. As a result of these analyses, international authorities including the International Energy Agency, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund have called upon investors to shift their money away from fossil fuels, we encourage the Auckland Medical School Foundation to do the same to discourage the destructive nature of the fossil fuel industry from causing further harm to our environment.

Climate change has huge implications to our nation’s ecological systems and future physical and psychological health. The worsening of these environmental parameters may lead to substantial increases in climate change related diseases such as diarrheal and vector-borne infectious diseases e.g. malaria, dengue fever, as well as cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, injury and illness from extreme weather events, heat/UV radiation related morbidity and mortality, malnutrition and allergic diseases e.g. asthma. Climate change also has the potential to result in indirect deleterious effects on mental health due to stress, loss of homes, economic instability, and forced migration; with children, the elderly, and communities living in poverty being the most vulnerable. This will only widen preexisting inequalities among populations in New Zealand and around the world.

We are already witnessing the impact of climate change-related extreme weather events taking their toll on, often the most ill-equipped regions of the world, and they are becoming more frequent says the United States National Academy of Sciences. Man-made climate change is likely responsible for significantly contributing to these devastating consequences. While the rise of fossil fuel use initially led to increased prosperity as well as advances in human health indirectly over the past two centuries, we are now at a cross roads. We are forced to make a decision as to whether to continue on our current trajectory, knowing full well that the costs of continued carbon emissions are simply too great bear, or we can decide to leave fossil fuels for the history books and instead adapt and advance clean and renewable energy sources which are becoming cheaper and more readily available. An awareness is spreading that economic development is no longer contingent upon fossil fuel use.

By urging the Auckland Medical School Foundation to take action against climate change by publicly divesting from fossil fuel industries you will be aiding in the preservation of this Earth and its residents.

How it will be delivered

Email the signatures and if possible deliver them in person.

Auckland, New Zealand

Maps © Stamen; Data © OSM and contributors, ODbL


2015-12-11 16:44:57 -0500

25 signatures reached

2015-12-11 03:09:57 -0500

10 signatures reached