AMR, climate change and biodiversity loss
(Credit: Aviva, UKSIF)

AMR, climate change and biodiversity loss

Sustainability themes are rarely mutually exclusive. Three big ones are inextricably linked.

Summary: A collaborative report from Aviva Investors, the University of Exeter Medical School and the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy titled "Confronting a permacrisis: the intersection between antimicrobial resistance, climate change and biodiversity loss." By 2050, the impact of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) left unchecked could be profound. It is picking up a pace too with, for example, 20% of previously treatable tuberculosis now resistant to antibiotics.

Why this is important: There are strong connections between AMR and two other systemic threats: climate change and biodiversity loss. Global healthcare costs could increase by up to US$1 trillion, 28 million people could fall into poverty, global livestock production could fall by up to 7.5% and global exports could fall by 3.8%.

The big theme: Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is a macro threat to the sustainability of the human race and other species. It is of a similar level to that of the worst impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss. Together they pose a triple threat with many overlapping underlying causes and exacerbating factors. For AMR, bringing together biological, behavioural, and physical solutions with appropriately incentivising funding we should be able to continue to enjoy the benefits of our microbe partners whilst avoiding their darker side. This is potentially a massive, if complex, investment theme for those who care about sustainability; the potential goes well beyond the pharma industry.

The details

Summary of my takeaways from the Aviva Investors Antimicrobial Awareness Week event.

"I had always thought that medicine was infallible. It would eventually solve all things." (James Alexander, UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association)

Epiphany moments: The first panel of the event featured a varied group of speakers who detailed their 'epiphany moments' or the point at which they realised the scale and importance of AMR. Tytti Kaasinen (Engagement Director, Council on Ethics Swedish national pension funds AP 1-4) had been aware on the periphery for a number of years but over the past year a friend contracted Lyme disease rendering her vulnerable to infection which brought the issue home to her. Sofia Condes (Senior Investor Outreach Manager, FAIRR) remembers attending a public health lecture given by Professor Peter Piot (renowned microbiologist) who was asked what three issues kept him up at night. He said (i) an airborne lethal virus, (ii) obesity and malnutrition and (iii) AMR. Sofia saw the link between the food system which was at that time her primary area of study and AMR with 70% of antibiotics going to animals. Finally, James Alexander (Chief Executive, UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association) had always felt that "medicine was infallible." As he got older he realised that really wasn't the case. A big concern for him is that people do not yet recognise the scale of the challenge - analogous to the early stages of climate change. Whilst governments with policy and regulation are important, lots of people can do lots of little things.  

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