Decarbonised Health Systems

Health Sector Carbon Reduction & Sustainability

The health sector has a large carbon (and other greenhouse gas) emissions footprint from energy use, travel, waste, and resource use. 

Health systems around the world (e.g. the UK National Health Service) have recognised that they are contributing to health-harming climate change, and have committed to delivering sustainable healthcare into the future. The 2020 Healthcare Climate Challenge is a leadership pledge by Hospitals, Health Centers and Health Systems from across the globe, see here.

Beyond climate-protection, carbon reduction and sustainability in the health sector can deliver many benefits to the health sector such as cost savings, quality improvements, and health gains for staff and the wider community, more info here.

Sustainable Healthcare Forums

OraTaiao and Sustainable Healthcare Aotearoa (formerly the Sustainable Health Sector National Network SHSNN) have hosted three national Forums on Sustainable Healthcare in Aotearoa NZ - in November 2017, May 2019, and June 2021 - and a webinar series in 2020. 

  • Recordings and presentations from the first Sustainable Healthcare in Aotearoa-New Zealand Forum (2017). See here.
  • Recordings and presentations from the second Sustainable Healthcare in Aotearoa-NZ Forum (2019). See here.
  • Recordings from Sustainable Healthcare and Climate Health Aotearoa Webinar Series (2020). See here.
  • Recordings and presentations from the third Sustainable Healthcare and Climate Health Conference (2021). See here. See posters here.

Sustainable Healthcare Aotearoa

  • OraTaiao works closely with a network of health professionals around Aotearoa that are working to embed carbon reduction and sustainability into the NZ health sector. This group is called the Sustainable Healthcare Aotearoa (formerly the Sustainable Health Sector National Network). The relationship is formalised in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) 

    To find out about joining Sustainable Healthcare Aotearoa please find contact details in the MOU. See here

Offset Your Unavoidable Carbon Emissions

  • In 2013 OraTaiao launched Forests for Health NZ as a way for health professionals to offset their carbon emissions. Details here. Offset carbon emissions here.

Open letter to Ministers of Health and Climate Change asking for government targets on DHB emissions in Aotearoa NZ

  • In 2019 we delivered a letter signed by 900 health professionals asking for urgent policy on health sector sustainability in Aotearoa NZ. See here

Other Resources

  • Report on sustainability and carbon reduction successes in some DHBs in Aotearoa-NZ (2017). Download PDF here.
  • Practical tips on what health professionals can do to address climate change. See here.
  • How to make the health sector more sustainable and climate-friendly. See here.
  • Resources on health sector sustainability at Barts NHS Trust, UK.

Resource sites for health sector carbon reduction and environmental sustainability

References about health sector carbon reduction and sustainability co-benefits

  • Kaplan S, Sadler B, Little K et al. Can sustainable hospitals help bend the health care cost curve? Commonwealth Fund Issue Brief, Nov 2012. See here
  • NHS Sustainable Development Unit. Save Money by Saving Carbon: Decision Making in the NHS Using Marginal Abatement Cost Curves. NHS SDU, Cambridge, 2010. Download PDF here
  • East Midlands NHS - Carbon Reduction Project. See project reports here
  • Thomas J, Cosford P. Place sustainability at the heart of the quality agenda. Qual Saf Health Care 2010;19:260-261 doi:10.1136/qshc.2010.044123.
  • The Royal College of Physicians. (2010). Leading for Quality: The Foundations for Healthcare over the Next Decade. Download PDF here.
  • NHS Sustainable Development Unit. Healthy Returns from Sustainability Actions. NHS SDU, Cambridge, 2015. See here.

Fossil Fuel Divestment by the Health Sector

The burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) for energy is the main contributor to the rapidly rising level of carbon dioxide that is driving climate change.  Fossil fuel extraction, processing and burning also has other negative health effects on communities.  For example, air pollution kills around seven million people a year.

The health sector is beginning to join the fossil fuel divestment movement (removing investment funds from fossil fuel companies) in the interests of climate and health protection.  Health bodies that have already divested include the British Medical Association and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians. Here in Aotearoa, the New Zealand Nurses Organisation and the Medical Assurance Society, one of the leading providers of insurance and superannuation for medical and other professionals in New Zealand, have also divested from fossil fuels.

Our Work:

Letter to the NZ Medical Journal about NZ health sector divestment from fossil fuels

Media release, 20 September 2017: Health professionals welcome MAS's move to divest from fossil fuels

Other Resources:

Evidence about health impacts of fossil fuels here 

Resources for health professionals about fossil fuel divestment here

Why we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground - featured video from the guardian "Keep it in the ground" page.

Research Paper "The risk of hydraulic fracturing on public health in the UK and the UK's fracking legislation".  Environmental Sciences Europe, 2015.