HHS highlights health sector’s commitment to combat climate change at COP27

Nov. 15, 2022

A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) delegation to the United Nations Climate Conference (COP27) announced that more than 100 health care organizations have signed the White House/HHS Health Sector Climate Pledge to meet bold targets for emissions reduction and climate resilience. The delegation also described plans to collaborate with the National Health Service (NHS) of England on developing proposals for aligned procurement requirements as part of a larger update on progress and future plans.

“After meeting massive demands during the pandemic, health care organizations are again stepping up to the plate to address the threats of climate change,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra. “The organizations that signed the Pledge are demonstrating to the health sector that climate smart investments are not only possible, but are becoming standard for the industry.”

Last year, HHS joined the COP26 Health Programme and committed to supporting the development of a climate resilient and low-carbon health sector. In the year that has followed, the Biden-Harris Administration has introduced a series of initiatives and resources to protect the health of people living in the U.S. from climate change.

On Earth Day 2022, the White House and HHS launched the Health Sector Climate Pledge, a voluntary commitment to climate resilience and emissions reduction that includes cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and achieving net zero emissions by 2050. Since then, 102 organizations representing 837 hospitals have signed the Pledge. In addition to hospitals, these stakeholders include health centers, suppliers, insurance companies, group purchasing organizations, pharmaceutical companies, and more. Federal systems like the Indian Health Service (IHS), Veterans Health Administration (VHA), and Military Health System (MHS) are working together to meet goals similar to those the private sector organizations have embraced. Combined, this means that over 1,080 federal and private sector hospitals have made such commitments, together representing over 15% of U.S. hospitals.

The HHS delegation also announced a joint plan with NHS England to collaborate on a proposal to align procurement requirements as much as possible. This reflects both nations’ understanding of the significant contribution of the supply chain to the high emissions from the health care sector (an estimated 8.5.% of emissions in the United States). Initial meetings between the nations will occur between now and Earth Day 2023 with an intent to align guidance as much as possible by COP28. Other nations will be invited to join these conversations.

“HHS returns this year to COP27 to report great progress,” said ADM Rachel Levine, the Assistant Secretary for Health. “Through the efforts of the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity and several other HHS agencies, we have made significant strides in introducing resources and supports to help communities and care providers accelerate their work to reduce harmful emissions and increase climate resilience in the health sector. We see great promise in the combined force of international and domestic action to combat the global health threat of climate change.”

HHS release