Hospitals worldwide join together in fight against climate change

This week during the United Nation’s Conference on Climate Change, health system representatives from around the world have gathered in Paris to announce a series of commitments to reduce carbon emissions and exert leadership to combat climate change.

More than 50 major health systems, hospitals and health organisations representing over 8200 hospitals and health centres in 16 countries from every continent have come together to join the 2020 Health Care Climate Challenge. Led by Health Care Without Harm, these health systems are pledging to reduce their own carbon footprint, become climate resilient anchors in their communities and pursue both political and economic solutions that will protect public health from climate change.

“These hospitals and health systems are leading by example, reducing their own carbon emissions by 30, 50, even 80 percent.” said Gary Cohen, President of Health Care Without Harm. “At the same time, many are investing in clean renewable energy, while calling on leaders to implement policies locally, nationally, and internationally that foster a global transition away from fossil fuels.”

With the world’s governments working around the clock to negotiate a new climate accord, health system leaders have also come together in Paris to develop collaborative strategies to address what The Lancet is calling a global health emergency that threatens to undermine the last 50 years of health and development gains.

“Paris provides a leadership moment for health care – an opportunity to take on perhaps the greatest threat to public health of our time,” said Josh Karliner, Global Projects Director for Health Care Without Harm. “By transitioning to clean, renewable energy, health care can help the world kick its addiction to fossil fuels and issue a prescription for a healthy planet.”

In Europe, several Swedish health systems, including the Region Skåne, are set to become fossil fuel free, while the Sustainable Development Unit of the NHS and Public Health England is committed to reducing their carbon emissions by at least 34% by 2020 (based on a 1990 baseline).

In South Korea, the Yonsei University Health System is also aiming to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2020. “Yonsei University Health System has been implementing a greening program since 2010, not only for patient care quality but for protecting public from damages caused by climate change which intensifies natural disasters and diseases on our globe,” said to Dr. DongChun Shin, a senior director at Yonsei.

Dr. Shin and Yonsei University Health System worked with partners from around Asia at a conference in Seoul in October to develop a declaration calling on “the entire healthcare sector in the region to come together and act as one in mitigating climate change.”

In Latin America, representatives from hospitals and health systems gathered in Bogota in September to “call upon [their] health sector colleagues and governments to act to protect population health from the effects of climate change and air pollution, and to promote development based on clean, renewable and healthy energy.” The Bogota declaration also calls on Latin American health systems to “adopt goals for the progressive reduction of greenhouse emissions in our healthcare facilities”, and to engage in the 2020 Challenge.

“After COP21, HCWH will scale up the 2020 Challenge to include thousands more health systems around the world,” said Mr. Karliner. “Building on the examples and experiences shared this week in Paris, the 2020 Challenge will mobilize large groups of hospitals and health systems around the world to step up their efforts in combatting climate change.”
About Health Care Without Harm
Health Care Without Harm works to transform the health sector worldwide, without compromising patient safety or care, so that it becomes ecologically sustainable and a leading advocate for environmental health and justice. Health Care Without Harm has regional offices in Argentina, Belgium, the Philippines, and the United States.

About the Global Green and Healthy Hospitals Network
Health Care Without Harm’s Global Green and Health Hospitals Network has close to 600 members representing more than 20,000 hospitals and health centers on every continent. Health Care Without Harm supports the scale-up of innovative climate mitigation models, resilience, and leadership through the GGHH Network’s 2020 Healthcare Climate Challenge.  For a full list of 2020 Healthcare Climate Challenge Participants, click here.

About the Health Care Climate Council
Established by Health Care Without Harm and representing 16 of the most influential U.S. health systems, the Health Care Climate Council is a leadership network of hospitals committed to strengthening the health sector’s response to climate change.

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