HHS calls on healthcare providers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

por John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | May 04, 2022
HHS is encouraging healthcare providers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is pushing providers to pledge that they will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 and to net zero by 2050.

They must, at a minimum, reduce emissions and publicly disclose their progress. They also have to complete an inventory of Scope 3 (supply chain) emissions; develop climate resilience plans for their facilities and communities; and elect an executive leader for their work.

Doing so will reduce further damage from such emissions and align private health systems with federal health systems, which are already taking steps to be more climate resilient in the future, according to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.

The White House plans to address the matter further at a convening in June, where it will elaborate on the progress the healthcare sector has made in developing and implementing solutions for combating climate change. “Every stakeholder group in America must step up, and collaboration across the public and private sector is key. At HHS, we stand ready to partner with as many players as possible. Reducing emissions and fighting climate change’s catastrophic and chronic impact on vulnerable people is key to building a healthier nation,” said Becerra.

President Joe Biden has made it a goal to reduce emissions across the entire economy by 2030. The healthcare sector is responsible for 8.5% of total U.S. emissions and 5% globally.

HHS is taking steps to address this. In August 2021, it set up of the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity. In November, it attended the United Nations Climate Conference to discuss creating a low-carbon health system. It also co-chairs the National Academy of Medicine Action Collaborative on Decarbonizing the U.S. Health Sector, which brings together leaders from public and private healthcare facilities to address the impact their industry has on the environment and increase its sustainability and resilience.

Becerra has also said that he is not opposed to issuing a mandatory fine for hospitals that don’t cut emissions, and says the federal government has the authority to do this.

In response to these efforts, the American Hospital Association said in a statement that “the hospital field is committed to doing our part to reduce emissions and promote environmental stewardship."

Many healthcare organizations are working to become carbon neutral and reduce emissions. For example, the University of California, San Francisco teamed up with Siemens back in November to create the first carbon-neutral radiology imaging service.

To do this, it will use the company’s Smart infrastructure solutions to monitor power consumption of radiology equipment and research ways to reduce standby energy consumption of MR scanners. It will also use new Siemens scanner technology that is greener, lighter, and smaller, and study ways in which Siemens’ turnkey solutions can be used for eco-friendly imaging.

HHS expects to have more climate-readiness resources and technical assistance support for providers in the next few months. Pledge signees can download forms and learn more about the submission process online.

The forms are due by June 3, 2022.

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