PSR Calls on Gates Foundation to Divest Its Fossil Fuel Holdings
December 1, 2015
PSR has joined a broad campaign calling on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest private foundation, to divest its holdings in fossil fuels.
The Gates Foundation is a leader in funding efforts to combat malaria and polio, infectious diseases and infant mortality – among the most prominent global health issues of our time. Yet the Foundation’s investments in fossil fuels perpetuate climate change, which undercuts these invaluable contributions to health.
PSR garnered the signatures of 739 health professional members on a petition calling on the Gates Foundation to divest.
In addition, several thousand additional PSR members signed on, despite the petition’s invitation to health professionals only. The zeal of these members to convey the divestment message to Gates compelled PSR to create a similar petition for non-health professionals.
The same day the COP21 international climate conference opened in Paris, PSR and over 100 activists, health professionals and faith leaders marched to the Gates Foundation headquarters in Seattle. Bruce Amundson, MD, president of Washington PSR and a family physician, spoke at an event where the petitions were announced and marched with the group to deliver PSR’s petition and several others.
In an interview during the event, Amundson commented, “If they’re investing, as they have, in major ways in improving the international health of the community, it’s an oxymoron then to invest in coal companies and oil companies that are creating the pollution that’s impacting the health of people negatively.” He noted that climate change affects the world’s poorest people most severely.
The effects of climate change -- extreme weather events, increased air pollutants, and higher temperatures and precipitation -- can increase disease, hunger and death. As the petition noted:
Gates Foundation agricultural grants will be ineffective when farmers face unforgiving droughts or extreme flooding. … The Foundation's efforts to eradicate malaria will become more difficult as rising temperatures allow disease-carrying mosquitos to expand their range, exposing millions more to this fatal disease.”
In 2013, the Gates Foundation had $1.4 billion invested in fossil fuel companies.
At the international climate conference in Paris, Bill Gates joined with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and several other business leaders to launch a multi-billion-dollar fund for clean energy innovation. That struck a discordant note, as a swift, ambitious transition to truly clean energy – renewable sources and energy efficiency – is clearly contradictory to continued reliance on fossil fuels.
In the words of the PSR petition, “Divesting from fossil fuels is a natural step for the [Gates] Foundation to take in order to support and remain true to the amazing work it is doing for the global community.”