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More than 60 health leaders have joined a Biden Administration initiative in pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030. This represents over 650 hospitals, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, which made the announcement on Thursday.
Organizations making this pledge include two of the five largest private health systems, Ascension and CommonSpirit Health.
Major medical associations America’s Essential Hospitals, the American Association of Medical Colleges and the National Academy of Medicine, have also committed to take climate action. It also includes pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and AstraZeneca.
At a White House event with HHS, the Department of Veterans Affairs and healthcare leaders, participants pledged to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 and to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. These are in line with goals set by President Biden.
The White House and HHS are also reopening the decarbonization pledge to new signatories until October 28. Stakeholders that sign by that date will be recognized in an announcement at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference in November 2022.
WHY THIS MATTERS
The healthcare sector accounts for 8.5% of U.S. emissions, according to the White House.
Climate change is a public health priority, according to the Biden Administration. Studies show climate change affects public health through more frequent and intense severe weather, extreme heat, and threats to food and water security.
Hospitals have long connected climate change to health and health equity. Kaiser Permanente said it was the first health system to achieve carbon neutrality in 2020.
Organizations pledging to reduce carbon emissions include hospitals, health systems and other providers, health centers, insurers, suppliers, professional associations and other industry stakeholders.
The 61 health leader signatories are: Providence Health, HealthPartners, Kedren Health, CommonSpirit, University Medical Center of El Paso, NYC Health and Hospitals, Boston Medical Center, Baystate Health, Stanford Children’s Health, Stanford Health Care, Atrium Health, Cherokee Health Systems, University of California Health, Northwell Health, Rush University System for Health, Northern Arizona Healthcare, Hackensack Meridian Health, UW Medicine, RWJBarnabas Health, Sun River Health, NYU Langone Health, Ascension, Henry Ford Health, Mass General Brigham, Boston Children’s Hospital, Tufts Medicine, Southcoast Health, Children’s National Hospital, Mount Sinai Health System, Kaiser Permanente, Keck Medicine of USC, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, DaVita, Montefiore, Seattle Children’s, Valley Children’s Healthcare, University of Nebraska Medical Center and Nebraska Medicine, Advocate Aurora Health, Gillette Children’s, University of Utah Health and Steward Health Care System.
Other industry organizations include: Philips, AstraZeneca, Owens & Minor, NewGen Surgical, Chiesi Group, Pfizer, AmerisourceBergen, Excellus Health, Blue Shield of California, Vizient, Aspirus, Anthem, WCM Waste and Compliance Management.
Associations, nonprofits and technical assistance organizations include the National Academy of Medicine, Association of American Medical Colleges, the Joint Commission, Health Care Without Harm, American College of Physicians (NJ), Kimball Sustainable Healthcare and Mazzetti.
THE LARGER TREND
The nation is already seeing the damage done by climate change, said ADM Rachel Levine, the Assistant Secretary for Health.
“We’re already seeing the damage done by extreme heat, wildfires, severe storms, and increasing chronic disease burdens, all associated with climate change,” Levine said.
HHS said it is complying with Executive Order 14057 to create resilient and low-carbon health systems.
Last year, HHS established the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity to work with federal agencies and other partners on such tasks as reducing greenhouse gas emissions in hospitals and health systems.
To support vulnerable families, $385 million in Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funds were announced in April to help families manage energy costs.
Other new efforts include:
- Convening a Climate Change and Health Equity Working Group of representatives from each of the Department’s Operating Divisions and Staff Divisions.
- Conducting regional listening activities and issuing Requests for Information to better understand how climate change is impacting individuals, communities and providers.
- Making major commitments to progress on climate preparedness and mitigation through the United Nations Climate Conference Health Program and the HHS Strategic Plan.
ON THE RECORD
“Nobody should underestimate the importance of federal and private sector healthcare leaders joining together to address the impacts of climate change,” said Secretary of Health and Human Service Xavier Becerra. “Healthcare providers already see the undeniable risks to their patients, especially those who already face other economic and health disadvantages. With suppliers and pharmaceutical companies helping decarbonize the supply chain, where so much of the sector’s carbon footprint lies, the health sector is getting a significant jump on addressing one of the key issues of our time.”
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