Protecting Climate Health Keeps Humans Healthy
By Sunny Lewis
SAN FRANCISCO, California, September 18, 201 (Maximpact.com News) – The health care industry is committing to quickly transition from dependence on climate-destroying fossil fuels to an economy based on clean, renewable energies such as wind and solar.
The initiative comes from Health Care Without Harm, an international nongovernmental organization based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, that aims to transform health care worldwide to reduce its environmental footprint and lead the global movement for environmental health and justice.
As Health Care without Harm puts it, “Climate change is an urgent threat to human health everywhere, and health care organizations and professionals are coming together around a collective vision of healthy people living in sustainable and equitable communities on a thriving planet.”
In San Francisco last week, Dr. Aparna Bole, Health Care Without Harm board member and division chief for general pediatrics and adolescent medicine at University Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, announced commitments by large health systems, hospitals, and health centers around the world to procure or install 100 percent clean, renewable electricity.
The commitments were made as part of the Global Climate and Health Forum at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), an affiliate event to the three-day Global Climate Action Summit.
Dozens of health organizations representing more than five million doctors, nurses and public health professionals, and 17,000 hospitals in more than 120 countries announced commitments and unveiled a Call to Action on Climate and Health aimed at accelerating stronger advocacy and action in addressing climate change.
To protect their patients and communities from the health impacts of climate change and air pollution, 18 health care institutions, representing the interests of more than 1,200 hospitals and health centers in 10 countries, committed to power their facilities with 100 percent renewable electricity.
When fully implemented, these institutions will collectively serve more than 23 million patients a year at facilities powered by 3.3 billion kilowatt hours of renewable electricity.
In doing so, they will have reduced their aggregate annual greenhouse gas emissions by over one million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e), equivalent to preventing more than 453 tonnes of coal from being burned.
“Climate change is the greatest threat to health of this century. It is impacting health in every country today and is projected to reverse half a century of progress on global health. Global action is urgent and must be accelerated to avoid potentially catastrophic levels of global warming. The health sector has a vital role to play,” said the UCSF Institute for Global Health Sciences, an organizer of the Global Climate and Health Forum where these commitments were made public.
Health Care Without Harm president and co-founder Gary Cohen and Kathy Gerwig, Health Care Without Harm board member and Kaiser Permanente VP of environmental stewardship announced more commitments.
First, they said, 178 participants, representing the interests of more than 17,000 hospitals and health centers, have joined the Health Care Climate Challenge.
Launched in June 2018, the Health Care Climate Challenge mobilizes health care institutions around the world to protect public health from climate change.
The Health Care Climate Challenge now has over 335 participants, representing the interests of hospitals and health centers in 24 countries. It is supported by Global Green and Healthy Hospitals and Practice Greenhealth.
In another commitment announced in San Francisco, 21 U.S. health systems, representing 918 hospitals and over one million employees in 41 states signed the We Are Still In pledge, a reply to the move from President Donald Trump to take the United States out of the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate.
Finally, representing 119 hospitals in California, five of California’s largest health systems – Dignity Health, Kaiser Permanente, Providence St. Joseph Health, Sutter Health, and University of California Health – have formed the California Health Care Climate Alliance to drive stronger commitments from California’s health care sector and to work with policymakers to support the state’s climate goals.
Dignity Health CEO Lloyd Dean said, “At Dignity Health, we believe that our well-being is inextricably connected to the health of our planet. We also see the effect of environmental change on vulnerable populations – the elderly, our children, people with chronic diseases, and in low-income communities.”
Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest hospital systems in the United States, expects to be carbon net positive by 2025.
“Climate change causes extreme heat waves, wildfires and droughts that hurt people, make them sick—and worse,” said Elizabeth Baca, MD, senior health adviser in the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research. “This alliance of large California health providers is taking action to help make our hospitals and healthcare systems more resilient and better prepared for the worst impacts of climate change.”
Alliance members have committed to reducing their own greenhouse gas emissions to help in the State of California’s effort to transition to 100 percent clean energy by 2045, known as Senate Bill 100 signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown earlier this month.
SB 100 sets three targets for California:
50 percent renewables by 2026
60 percent renewables by 2030
100 percent carbon-free energy by 2045
Thousands of hospitals, health centers and entire health systems around the world are already implementing climate-smart health care strategies.
Working with the UN Development Program <undp.org>, the government of Zimbabwe installed solar energy systems on more than 400 health centers across the country.
Health systems in New Zealand, Canada and Costa Rica are committed to becoming carbon neutral.
Health Care Without Harm is providing a series of tools and resources to support the implementation of climate-smart health care.
- A series of case studies from around the world demonstrating the viability of a diverse set of replicable strategies for health care infrastructure and community resilience.
- A set of standardized measurement tools, and a detailed methodology for understanding health care’s contribution to carbon emissions by country and globally.
- Technical, legal, and financial tools to help decarbonize large facilities and power health care in energy-poor settings.
- Communications tools and trainings so that employees of member health care institutions can become communicators to their patients and in their communities.
Bob Biggio, senior vice president Facilities & Support Services, Boston Medical Center, is supportive of the health care industry’s move toward climate health. “As the largest safety net hospital in New England, we know first-hand how climate change is impacting the health of the most vulnerable members of our community,” he said. “That’s why Boston Medical Center has invested in a 60-megawatt solar farm in North Carolina, the largest renewable-energy project ever built in the U.S. through an alliance of diverse buyers.”
Featured Images: Doctors in an operating room at Boston Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts (Photo courtesy Boston Medical Center) Posted for media use
Caption: Solar panels cover the roof of Santa Clara, California Medical Center’s parking garage. (Photo courtesy Kaiser Permanente) Posted for media use