Hospitals Worldwide Call for Action on Climate Change

Last week in Bonn, as the COP23 climate negotiations continued, staff from approximately 20 hospitals and health systems came together at a roundtable meeting to discuss healthcare’s response to climate change and sign Health Care Without Harm’s Call to Action on Climate Change.

The two-day high-level roundtable meeting was convened by the European Healthcare Climate Council - a newly formed coalition of European hospitals and health systems that are committed to strengthening the healthcare sector’s response to climate change.

The meeting served as a platform to discuss the challenges and ambitions of hospitals and health systems in their efforts to build low-carbon and resilient healthcare. Discussions contributed to the development of a common vision of Climate-Smart Health Care ­– a term coined by the World Bank Group in a recent report which sets forth both low-carbon and resilience strategies designed for the development community, ministries of health, hospitals, and health systems to deploy while addressing the health impacts of climate change.

Health Care Call to Action on Climate Change 

The Call to Action - which was also signed by several organisations represented at the roundtable meeting - has already been signed by over 120 institutions from 31 countries, representing the interests of more than 10,000 hospitals and health centres around the world. It is a powerful message from the healthcare sector about the need for action and leadership from all parts of the wider system.

This message from hospitals and health systems to colleagues and sister institutions around the world calls on healthcare to address its own climate impacts, and to prepare for expected serious climate-change induced extreme weather impacts. 

Signatories to the call acknowledge that:

“As health care providers, we recognise that many of our institutions have a major carbon footprint … All of us must do our part to address climate change by implementing renewable energy, clean transportation, green building and sustainable procurement strategies.”

In the U.S. alone, healthcare is responsible for an estimated 8% of greenhouse gas emissions.

In the wake of several extreme weather events around the world that have disabled and devastated hospitals and health centres, the Call to Action also recognises that - as a front line first responder - healthcare “must build resilience into our systems and facilities so as to best prepare for … serious climate change-induced extreme weather impacts.”

Speaking at the roundtable meeting, HCWH Europe Executive Director, Anja Leetz said:

“This meeting of healthcare leaders and their commitment to Health Care Without Harm’s Call to Action is a recognition that healthcare’s first mission must be to first, do no harm to both the health of the communities it serves and the environment. Health professionals, hospitals, and health systems have a moral obligation to protect public health from climate change.”

The first day of the meeting was held at LVR-Klinik Bonn - an excellent setting for the event: the clinic was awarded the BUND (Friends of the Earth Germany) "Energy-saving hospital" label for the third time in a row in 2016, and has been certified according to EMAS (Eco-Management and Audit Scheme) since 2013.

Ludger Greulich, CEO of LVR-Klinik Bonn said:

“Thanks to intelligent solutions, we at the LVR-Klinik Bonn reduced CO2 emissions by more than 40% compared to 1998, thereby making an important contribution to the implementation of national climate targets. In doing so, we assume social responsibility and combine modern treatment methods with sustainable environmental protection. We are proud of that and want to be a role model for other clinics, which is one of the reasons we are delighted to host this meeting and endorse the Health Care Call to Action on Climate Change.” 

Photo 1: Ana-Christina Gaeta, Climate & Resources Policy Officer at HCWH Europe speaking at day one of the roundtable

Photo 2: Josh Karliner, International Director, Program and Strategy for Health Care Without Harm presenting the Call to Action to World Health Organization Director General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Photo 3: Particpants at the roundtable meeting signing the Call to Action