Healthcare sector urged to lower carbon footprint | Inquirer News

Healthcare sector urged to lower carbon footprint

/ 04:51 AM June 14, 2021 stock images

MANILA, Philippines — Even before the coronavirus pandemic put further strain on the global healthcare system, Southeast Asia’s healthcare sector already contributed over 63 million metric tons to global carbon emissions every year, according to a new report.

Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) urged government and private actors in the health-care industry to work toward lowering the sector’s carbon footprint, stressing the link between the climate crisis and human health.


“The sicker the people are, the more emissions [the health-care sector] emits,” said Ramon San Pascual, HCWH Asia director, during the launch of the international organization’s second “green paper” titled “Global Road Map for Health Care Decarbonization” last week.

“In reverse, the better [the] well-being of our people… means less emissions coming from the health-care system,” San Pascual said.


HCWH analyzed the carbon emissions of health-care sectors in 68 countries to determine their shares of global emissions, using latest available data from 2014 and 2015. In Southeast Asia, it looked at Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Emitted 5.22M metric tons

Its report showed that the Philippines’ health-care system—before the COVID-19 pandemic—emitted some 5.22 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, ranking 36th in terms of gross emissions out of 68 countries.

Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand ranked 20th, 21st and 24th.

Fossil fuel combustion was the dominant source of emissions, comprising 84 percent across facility operations, supply chain and the broader economy. This includes the use of coal, gas and oil to power hospitals, travel related to health care, and the manufacture and transport of health-care products.

“While we are not able to fully assess the impact [of the pandemic], there are certainly increases in the health-care sector pollution from the use of disposable personal protective equipment, for instance,” said Josh Karliner, HCWH international director of program and strategy.

Health-care systems worldwide were already emitting 2.2 gigatons of emissions per year, as of 2014, a previous HCWH report showed. Should the sector proceed “business as usual,” this could triple to six gigatons by 2050, according to the latest report.

Climate action

Karliner said that if governments made progress on their energy and climate commitments around the Paris Agreement, the emissions from the sector could be reduced to three gigatons per year.


“But we know the governments are not yet meeting those commitments,” he said. “As the health-care sector, if we want to see [our] footprint reduced, we need to make sure our governments actually fulfill the commitments they’ve made.”

To decarbonize, the world’s health-care system should achieve a “thorough transition” to renewable energy, the report said.

Key recommendations

“Health-care delivery, facilities and operations, the sector’s supply chain and the broader economy must all transition from fossil fuels,” HCWH said. “Climate-smart solutions can save health-care systems operating costs and reduce countries’ health-care costs by reducing the burden of disease caused by pollution.”

Aside from powering health care with renewable energy, HCWH recommended the provision of healthy and sustainable food, incentives for and production of low-carbon pharmaceuticals, and the implementation of circular health-care and sustainable health-care waste management.

Karliner noted that the pandemic opened an opportunity to prepare and transform the world’s health-care system toward zero emissions.

“The lessons of the pandemic can help the health sector better prepare for the climate crisis [and] become more resilient,” he said. “[We can] also mobilize COVID recovery investments to build low-carbon resilient health systems that can better respond to both future pandemics and [the] climate crisis.” INQ

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