Healthcare workers have been rightly hailed as heroes for their ongoing work during the pandemic. Now the healthcare sector can also take the lead in helping to solve the climate crisis.
Today, our partner Health Care Without Harm will launch “The Global Road Map for Health Care Decarbonization”. This is the first-ever guide for how the healthcare sector can contribute to the Paris Agreement target to keep warming below 1.5 degrees and chart a course to zero emissions by 2050.
The Road Map details national healthcare emission data for 68 countries. It goes on to make recommendations for how governments, international agencies, the private sector and civil society can achieve decarbonisation goals and create better and more equitable health outcomes.
The healthcare sector is responsible for 4.4% of net global emissions. Without climate action inside and outside the sector, its emissions would more than triple to over six gigatons a year by 2050. This is equal to annual emissions from 770 coal-fired power plants. Around 84% of the sector’s emissions are from fossil fuels used to run buildings and services, within its supply chains and in the broader economy. This includes coal, oil and gas to power hospitals, healthcare-related travel, and the manufacture and transport of healthcare products.
Guidance towards zero emissions
The Road Map shows how the healthcare sector can take seven high-impact actions to reduce emissions by 44 gigatons over 36 years. This is the equivalent of keeping more than 2.7 billion barrels of oil in the ground each year.
The Road Map also identifies distinct approaches for different nations. Countries with large footprints from their health sectors need to reduce emissions the most rapidly. Low- and middle-income countries can use climate-smart solutions to develop their health infrastructure, while following a less steep route to zero emissions.
A sign of hope
“All countries’ health systems will need to reach zero emissions by 2050 while at the same time achieving global health goals,” says Sonia Roschnik, International Climate Policy Director, Health Care Without Harm and Road Map co-author. “Many health systems in low- and middle-income countries will require support from developed economies to facilitate access to the necessary solutions during this transition.”
Edgar van de Brug, Programme Manager at the IKEA Foundation, says: “We’re partnering with Health Care Without Harm because we believe the healthcare sector can become the cornerstone of a net-zero economy. Not only will this help protect our planet, but it will also offer a sign of hope to the many people who depend on the sector, especially in communities that are vulnerable to climate change.”