Climate change

Climate change poses a significant threat to planetary and public health. At the same time, healthcare - the very sector that is tasked with protecting public health - is also a major contributor to climate change itself.

The climate crisis is a health crisis

Climate change is the largest public health threat of the 21st century. It endangers public health by causing illness, death, and injury through extreme weather events, changes in infectious disease vectors, waterborne illnesses, and air pollution. The World Health Organization predicts an increase of approximately 250,000 deaths per year from climate change-related malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stress by 2030-2050. 

Our changing climate and the rising frequency of extreme weather events also have serious implications for our health systems. They put pressure on already-overburdened hospitals and healthcare systems, affecting them operationally, financially, and structurally, and compromising their ability to deliver care in times of crisis. 

“First, do no harm” - that is the driving ethos of healthcare. And yet, the healthcare sector today is responsible for 4.6% of global net emissions, contributing directly to the effects of climate change that are harming public health and healthcare systems. 

traffic sign submerged by flood water

Credit: Kelly Sikkema

The healthcare sector holds the potential to significantly mitigate its climate impact.

With its large carbon footprint, and its considerable purchasing power, it can take action to protect public health from climate change and accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy.

The healthcare sector must acknowledge its role in climate change and the resulting effects on public health. Taking action to address this looks like reducing its emissions to achieve net zero and proactively adapting to become a climate-resilient sector, to ensure our healthcare systems can effectively handle the challenges posed by climate change.

How can I get involved?

Learn how we're building net-zero and climate-resilient healthcare

Find out more about our Climate-smart Healthcare programme.

Climate-smart Healthcare - HCWH Europe

Transform healthcare with us

Get involved in our projects reducing emissions and driving climate resilience across the sector.

Join the sustainable healthcare community

Become part of a network of healthcare workers driving positive change.

Attend our annual European Healthcare Climate Summit

This event provides sustainability professionals with the opportunity to learn more about building climate-smart healthcare in Europe and share their experiences of tackling climate change.

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