In a significant step forward, G7 health ministers declared their aim “to build environmentally sustainable and climate-neutral health systems at the latest by 2050 and to support other countries in this effort.”
“The nations responsible for nearly half of health care’s climate emissions have just come together and signaled their ambition to decarbonize, while also promoting climate resilience and greater health equity,” said Josh Karliner, International Director for Program and Strategy, Health Care Without Harm. “This builds on Glasgow and the COP26 Health Programme commitments. It is another watershed moment in a cascading series of health care climate actions.”
Health care contributes more than 4.4% of net global greenhouse gas emissions. The G7, an informal forum of seven leading industrial nations and democracies (Germany, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America, together with the European Union), makes up 46% of health care’s global climate footprint.
In their communiqué, the G7 health ministers called for this transformative action to be “supported through the use of emissions accounting systems for the health care sector, which can serve as a basis for developing roadmaps” to decarbonize health care.
The communiqué reflects the growing momentum in the sector.
“Health Care Without Harm is working closely with several governments in Europe to develop the methodology and tools to measure the carbon footprint of their health systems and build road maps to chart a course to zero emissions,” said Will Clark, Executive Director, Health Care Without Harm Europe. “We look forward to supporting more G7 countries, as well as nations around the world in their commitment to decarbonize health care.”
"U.S. health systems are the largest contributor to health care's global climate footprint and we are pleased to see leaders focused on accelerating a necessary, transformational shift to net-zero health care," said Antonia Herzog, Health Care Without Harm U.S. Associate Director for Climate Policy and Advocacy. "We proudly support the work of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Climate Change and Health Equity, the National Academy of Medicine, and leading health systems across the country as they continue on their path to do this life-saving work to decarbonize health care and improve equity and resilience."
Recognizing that climate action could save millions of lives, the G7 health ministers’ communique also called for health systems worldwide to become “better prepared for and more resilient to multiple concurrent threats such as climate change, pandemics, and other risks.” Governments, the ministers said, need “to ensure that health and equity considerations are well understood and accounted for when developing climate policies.”
“Support from G7 countries will be essential to help build low-carbon, climate-resilient, pandemic prepared and equitable health systems in Asia, Africa and Latin America,” said Ramon San Pascual, Executive Director, Health Care Without Harm in South East Asia. “We applaud the communiqué that is geared towards the protection of people’s health and well-being, especially vulnerable populations. We look forward to helping put those words into action.”