The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in partnership with the White House, is issuing a call to action for healthcare stakeholders to commit to tackling the climate crisis through a new initiative aimed at reducing emissions across the healthcare sector.
Climate change exacerbates health disparities and private healthcare stakeholders have an opportunity to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate future damage. This new initiative challenges private health systems to match or exceed these goals and to build climate considerations into the future of healthcare.
U.S. hospitals, health systems, suppliers, pharmaceutical companies and other industry stakeholders are invited to submit pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase their climate resilience.
“We need all players on the field confronting the climate crisis; sitting on the sidelines is not an option.” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Every stakeholder group in America must step up, and collaboration across the public and private sector is key. At HHS, we stand ready to partner with as many players as possible. Reducing emissions and fighting climate change’s catastrophic and chronic impact on vulnerable people is key to building a healthier nation.”
The voluntary pledge asks signees to, at a minimum, commit to: (1) reducing their organization’s emissions (by 50% by 2030 and to net zero by 2050) and publicly reporting on their progress; (2) completing an inventory of Scope 3 (supply chain) emissions; and (3) developing climate resilience plans for their facilities and communities. It also asks them to designate an executive lead for this work.
“We are encouraged by the bold and specific commitments to decarbonization that many organizations across the country have already made,” Admiral Rachel Levine, Assistant Secretary for Health, said. “It is time for us to both celebrate those commitments and galvanize others to take this critical step.”
“The healthcare sector contributes 8.5% of total U.S. emissions, so they have a big role to play,” National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy said. “We are excited for healthcare leaders across the country willing to step up, reduce emissions, and help us reach the President’s bold climate goals.”
Starting with the establishment of the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (OCCHE) in August of 2021, HHS is taking a more active role to address the challenges climate poses to health. This includes the Administration’s commitment at last November’s United Nations Climate Conference exit disclaimer icon to creating a low-carbon health system. It also includes co-chairing the National Academy of Medicine Action Collaborative on Decarbonizing the U.S. Health Sector exit disclaimer icon, a public-private partnership of leaders from across the health system committed to addressing the sector’s environmental impact while strengthening its sustainability and resilience.
The Department expects to make more climate-readiness resources and technical assistance supports available to healthcare providers in the coming months.