Climate-smart health care

A climate-smart health care” approach: Mitigation and anchoring community resilience

In 2017 the World Bank published a report, co-produced with Health Care Without Harm, establishing a new approach that bridges the divide between adaptation and mitigation in the health sector. While mitigation and resilience are often placed in separate silos in the climate world, the “Climate-Smart Healthcare” approach encompasses both low-carbon and resilience strategies in an overarching framework.

Indeed, as hospitals and health systems explore opportunities to address climate change, they are finding significant overlap and synergy between mitigation measures and climate change resilience interventions.

Many of these strategies can yield significant operational cost-savings as well as facility resilience in the case of short-term grid energy loss. For instance, hospitals are finding that the interventions which enable them to reduce their dependence on large power grids and infrastructure also enable them to better withstand situations, like increased storms, that disable centralized infrastructure.

By jointly implementing resiliency and de-carbonization strategies within the sector, climate-smart health care can reduce emissions from large systems.  This approach can form a foundation from which health care can contribute to broader policy, economic and communications initiatives in concert with global climate and health goals.

Thousands of hospitals, health centers and entire health systems around the world are already implementing climate-smart health care strategies.  

Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest hospital systems in the U.S., will be carbon net positive by 2025. Working with UNDP, the government of Zimbabwe installed solar energy systems on more than 400 health centers across the country. Health systems in New Zealand, Canada, Costa Rica and more are committed to becoming carbon neutral.

HCWH is providing a series of tools and resources to support the implementation of climate-smart health care. Launched in June 2018, the Health Care Climate Challenge mobilizes health care institutions around the world to protect public health from climate change.

Additional tools and resources on the horizon:

  • A series of case studies from around the world demonstrating the viability of a diverse set of replicable strategies for health care infrastructure and community resilience.
  • A set of standardized measurement tools, and a detailed methodology for understanding health care’s contribution to carbon emissions by country and globally.
  • Technical, legal, and financial tools to help decarbonize large facilities and power health care in energy-poor settings.
  • Communications tools and trainings so that our member health care institutions’ employees can become communicators to their patients and in their communities.