New evidence shows importance of phasing out deadly fossil fuels, and the healthcare sector will play crucial role

A recent study, concluding that air pollution from fossil fuels caused one in five deaths globally in 2018, highlights the need to transition to clean, renewable energy in all sectors.

More than eight million people died prematurely in 2018 due to air pollution caused by fossil fuel combustion, according to a study conducted by Harvard University, in collaboration with the University of Birmingham, the University of Leicester, and University College London, published in Environmental Research.

Small inhalable particles – PM2.5 – are the byproducts of the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal and diesel. When released into the atmosphere, given their small size, they can be inhaled and have detrimental impacts on health, including lower respiratory infections, asthma, heart disease, lung cancer, neurological damage, and birth defects.

Quote by Will Clark, Executive Director, HCWH Europe

Switching to readily available sources of clean, renewable energy can save millions of lives, enhance health and well-being, and slow down the progress of climate change. In recognition of this, in 2020, England’s National Health Service (NHS) became the first health system in the world to make a commitment to achieving net-zero emissions.

Hospitals and health systems all over the world are already leading the transformation to low-carbon healthcare, and have signalled their intent by joining Health Care Without Harm (HCWH)’s Health Care Climate Challenge. By using their innovation, ingenuity, investments and voice, they are reducing their climate footprint, developing low-carbon models of care, adapting to stand resilient to a changing climate and advocating for policies to protect the future health of the planet.

Health professionals also have a crucial role to play in the delivery of climate-smart healthcare, and a wider societal transformation to clean energy. As widely trusted professionals, doctors and nurses have a powerful voice, which could make a key difference in efforts to combat air pollution and raise awareness about the health impacts of climate change.

HCWH Europe recognises that healthcare professionals can be powerful advocates for change. Therefore, a key component of our work aims to mobilise healthcare professionals to use this trusted voice in educating colleagues, patients, the public, and policymakers. Through our Doctors for Greener Healthcare network and the Nurses Climate Challenge, we are supporting doctors and nurses all over Europe to foster wide-scale behaviour change and lead the transition to more sustainable healthcare systems.

Get involved:

  • Global Green and Healthy Hospitals: Global Green & Healthy Hospitals (GGHH) is a worldwide community of more than 1,450 members in 72 countries. Our members are using innovation, ingenuity, and investment to transform the health sector and create a healthy future for people and the planet.
  • Doctors for Greener Healthcare: A network that brings together doctors from across Europe to collaborate, share best practice, and advocate for a healthy future by reducing the environmental impact of healthcare. 
  • The Nurses Climate Challenge Europe aims to mobilise nurses to educate health professionals about the health impacts of climate change. The Challenge is building a comprehensive bank of resources that is tailored to the European health care sector, and will be available in multiple languages.