Healthcare’s Climate Footprint

“If the global health care sector were a country, it would be the fifth largest emitter.”

Health Care Without Harm, a key strategic partner of the 50by40 coalition, has recently come out with a report that establishes the first-ever estimate of health care’s global climate footprint. The new report titled Health Care’s Climate Footprint: How the health sector contributes to the global climate crisis and opportunities for action was published by Health Care Without Harm in collaboration with ArupThe report finds that health care’s footprint is equivalent to 4.4% of global net emissions (2 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent). It also identifies key sources of health care emissions, and makes a series of recommendations to align global health goals with global climate goals. Health care’s climate footprint makes the case for a transformation of the health care sector that aligns it with the Paris Agreement goal of limiting climate change to 1.5 degrees celsius. Being released simultaneously at events around the world, the reportoutlines immediate actions that stakeholders from across the health sector can take,concluding that health promotion, disease prevention, universal health coverage, and the global climate goal of net zero emissions must become intertwined.

Specifically, the report:

  1. Provides a global estimate of health care’s greenhouse gas emissions, as well as tabulated national health care emissions for 43 countries.
  2. Examines how energy, food, anesthetic gases, and transportation contribute to health care’s global climate footprint.
  3. Identifies opportunities for further research and methodological development that would support the sector in its efforts to understand and address its climate footprint.
  4. Outlines a series of international, national and subnational policy recommendations for health care climate action.

The lion’s share of emissions – 71% are primarily derived from the health care supply chain through the production, transport, and disposal of goods and services, such as food and agricultural products. Part of decarbonising the health care supply chain is leveraging health care’s purchasing power toward sustainably and locally grown food and plant-centered meals.


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