Right now HESTA and First State Super, Australia’s health and community services industry super funds, are investing our money in fossil fuels – coal, oil and gas. Burning these fuels for electricity is hugely harmful to our health. Air pollution from coal-fired electricity contributes to cardiovascular and respiratory disease, including lung cancers, leading to hundreds of thousands of premature deaths worldwide each year [1,2]. There are uncertainties around the safety of unconventional gas extraction (including “fracking”) given case reports from the United States of significant groundwater contamination with benzene and other highly toxic petrochemicals [3,4]. And all fossil fuels, when burned, contribute to climate change, which has been identified as the greatest global health threat of our time . Climate change threatens our health by increasing the risks of heatwaves, bushfires, droughts and storms, displacing people and straining our health systems .
None of these harms are acceptable when our society should be investing instead in clean, safe, low-carbon alternatives. The price of solar panels has fallen by 80% in the past seven years , and renewable energy industries are growing faster than any other form of power generation .
Healthy Futures is a new Melbourne-based group of health professionals, students and supporters working to address the health impacts of climate change and fossil fuel use. We’re calling on HESTA and First State Super to protect health by divesting from fossil fuels, just as they’ve previously divested from tobacco and from Transfield Services, who run asylum seeker detention centres.
In addition to the health impacts, investments in fossil fuels can have serious financial risks. Last year Market Forces estimated that HESTA lost $165 million on its thermal coal investments .
Join us in asking HESTA and First State Super to divest from fossil fuels at www.healthyfutures.net.au/divest.
We know that if enough of us raise our voices, HESTA and First State Super will do the right thing for health and help pave the way to a safe and healthy future.