Health Sector Steps Up to Protect Public Health and Lower Costs
Today, the Biden-Harris Administration announced that 61 of the largest U.S. hospital and health sector companies responded to the Administration’s Health Sector Climate Pledge, committing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 50% by 2030. The new commitments represent over 650 hospitals and thousands of other providers across the country, and include plans to strengthen resilience to climate change, protect public health, and lower costs. The health care sector accounts for 8.5% of U.S. emissions, so these bold commitments advance President Biden’s goal to reduce nationwide greenhouse gas emissions 50-52% in 2030 and reach net-zero emissions in 2050.
Today, historic commitments are being made across the health care industry, including:
- Two of the five largest US private hospital and health systems (Ascension and CommonSpirit Health) and the largest US public health system have pledged to halve their carbon emissions by 2030.
- Leading health sector suppliers like Pfizer and AstraZeneca have stepped up to achieve net-zero emissions ahead of the 2050 pledge timeline.
- Major medical associations, including America’s Essential Hospitals, the American Association of Medical Colleges, and the National Academy of Medicine, have committed to taking climate action.
The full list of the 61 organizations is outlined below.
President Biden sees action on climate change as a public health priority. Studies show that the increasingly dangerous consequences of climate change are affecting public health, through more frequent and intense severe weather, extreme heat, and threats to food and water security. The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to using every available tool to protect public health, while moving full-speed ahead with our mission to tackle the climate crisis, to create jobs, grow the clean energy economy, and lower costs for families.
The Biden-Harris Administration launched the Health Sector Climate Pledge on Earth Day 2022 through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Since then, over 650 private and public hospitals and health centers, along with pharmaceutical companies, medical device-makers, suppliers, and group purchasing organizations have signed the pledge, joining more than 200 federal hospitals and health facilities from HHS, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Military Health System. These organizations are also developing climate resilience plans for facilities and communities, including plans to support individuals and communities most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Today, the White House and HHS are re-opening the Health Care Sector Pledge until October 28th, 2022 to build on these historic commitments ahead of the United Nations Climate Conference in November.
Private Sector Pledge Signers
61 organizations have signed the pledge, representing a large share of the US health sector, including:
- Health Systems, Hospitals and Other Providers
- Providence Health, HealthPartners, Kedren Health, CommonSpirit Health, University Medical Center of El Paso, NYC Health + 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, 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, Steward Health Care System, DaVita
- Other Industry Organizations
- 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
- National Academy of Medicine, Association of American Medical Colleges, the Joint Commission, Health Care Without Harm, American College of Physicians (NJ), Kimball Sustainable Healthcare, Mazzetti
Leading by Example to Advance Health & Climate Goals
Last year, the Administration established the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity at HHS to identify and address health disparities exacerbated by climate impacts. Since then, the Administration has invested over $8 billion in the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) to help low-income Americans manage energy costs in the face of extreme weather.
The VA has made substantial progress implementing its 2021 Climate Action Plan, including incorporating climate resilience requirements into construction standards, assessing the adequacy of critical supply stockpiles to align with projected climate change impacts, and developing agency wide strategies to address mission risk amplified by climate change. Within its medical centers, VA has also successfully initiated efforts to transition to zero-emission vehicles, is accelerating efforts to increase energy and water efficiency, and is expanding upon existing and new sources of carbon-pollution free electricity.
Today, the Administration is announcing a series of new resources to support the health sector in transitioning to clean energy, reducing emissions, and building climate resilience:
- Federal Health Sector Emissions Reduction Resources. HHS, with contributions from the Department of Energy (DOE), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA), is launching the “Accelerating Healthcare Sector Action on Climate Change and Health Equity” webinar series to provide education and training on sustainable infrastructure financing, climate emergency preparedness, and emissions tracking from the health sector supply chain.
- Federal Health Network on Decarbonization Best Practices. The VA, Military Health System, and Indian Health Service are launching a coalition to exchange best practices on emissions reduction and climate resilience with a plan to share their learning with private-sector organizations.
- National Research Forum on Climate Impacts and Heart Health. HHS is launching The Million Hearts Climate Change & Cardiovascular Disease Collaborative (CCC), a national forum for health care organizations to learn about climate change and the effects of air pollution on cardiovascular health, and to review evidence-based interventions to address those threats.
- Health Sector Emissions Assessment Toolkit. HHS’s Agency for Health Care Research Quality (AHRQ) will release a suite of resources to facilitate consistent measurement and reporting of health facility emissions data and to provide guidance on transitioning to greener models of care delivery.
- Federal Funding for Climate Smart Health Facilities. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) launched the Green Mortgage Insurance Premium which will provide incentives for ongoing care facilities to implement energy and water efficiency upgrades. This program will lower costs for renovation and rehabilitation of facilities and increasing the safety of the populations they serve.
Private Health Care Systems Leading the Way
Private health care systems are taking up the mantle on climate action – going beyond the HHS Health Care Sector Climate Pledge to achieve even greater progress on climate resilience:
- Tackling Super-Polluting Medical Gases: Providence Health, Advocate Aurora Health, and Children’s National Hospital have committed to reduce emissions from medical anesthetic gases used in surgical procedures by over 75% — keeping these dangerous greenhouse gasses from being vented into the environment. AstraZeneca and Chiesi Group are tackling emissions from fluorinated gases used in common devices like inhalers, with the goal of reducing their carbon footprint by at least 90%.
- Investing in Clean Energy: Blue Shield of California, NYC Health + Hospitals, AmerisourceBergen, Kaiser Permanente, Children’s National Hospital and others have constructed on-site solar arrays and other clean energy generation sources to reduce emissions and provide direct benefits for surrounding communities. Kaiser Permanente has added over 44 MW of on-site solar generation – enough to power 9,600 homes, while the energy from Children’s National Hospital will benefit communities through a solar program that will lower utility costs for 325 families by up to $500 a year.
- Achieving Carbon Neutrality: Seattle Children’s Hospital, Philips, Kaiser Permanente, and Blue Shield California have all surpassed their pledge commitment and already achieved carbon neutrality.
- Building Climate Resilience in Vulnerable Communities: Valley Children’s Healthcare, University of Utah, and CommonSpirit Health have developed and implemented detailed climate resilience plans that put the focus on communities most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, because the cascading impacts on health such as poor air quality from wildfires, extreme heat, and increased instances of vector-borne diseases are hitting those communities first.
- Increasing Transparency on Climate Costs-Impacts: Vizient, AstraZeneca, and DaVita are leading the charge to ensure that company costs and accounting include risks to organizations from climate impacts through the Task Force of Climate Related Financial Disclosure. These actions will ensure that companies make climate-smart investments with information about how climate can disrupt health care supply chains, damage facilities or impact energy supply.