Building a cohort of health authorities committed to zero emissions

Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) Europe is working with two additional national health authorities to develop net zero decarbonisation roadmaps for their healthcare systems. 

The Health Service Executive (Ireland) and the National Environment-Health Action Plan (Belgium) are working with HCWH Europe and Arup on Operation Zero -  a groundbreaking project to put the European healthcare sector on the path to net zero carbon emissions. These new partnerships build on our successful collaboration with Portugal, the Netherlands, and the Lazio region in Italy in 2022. 

Recent findings from the first-ever European Climate Risk Assessment (EUCRA) highlight the urgent need for Europe to take climate action, as it is the fastest warming continent in the world and unprepared for the rapidly growing climate risks. The healthcare sector is crucial to drive the system change necessary to achieve a future that protects the health of both people and the planet. 

"Without immediate and coordinated action at the system level, healthcare's climate footprint could triple by 2050. We are, therefore, delighted that Belgium and Ireland have joined the Operation Zero project, demonstrating their commitment to driving climate action in their healthcare sectors. Our vision is that every European country develops a healthcare decarbonisation plan, and our Operation Zero methodology will put them on the road to achieving that."

Will Clark, Executive Director - HCWH Europe

What is a healthcare decarbonisation roadmap?

A healthcare decarbonisation roadmap is a strategic plan that sets out actions required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the transition to a zero emissions healthcare system. It provides an overview of current emissions and models a future trajectory to reduce them. The roadmap serves as a guide to policymakers, healthcare institutions, and staff working within healthcare on what is involved in transitioning to a climate-smart healthcare system.

Operation Zero

Building on the lessons learnt whilst working with three national and regional health authorities in 2022, we are partnering with Ireland and Belgium to generate national climate footprints and decarbonisation roadmaps for their healthcare systems using the Operation Zero methodology.

The methodology Designing a net zero roadmap for healthcare provides a framework to create a decarbonisation roadmap for healthcare systems. This includes how to calculate a carbon footprint, model emissions trajectories, and develop the appropriate governance structures to support the process.

“The reality is that the climate crisis is a health crisis, and the healthcare sector is a considerable contributor to net global emissions. We want to make sustainability core to our future decisions and ensure that it is embedded into our everyday ways of working and culture to protect the health and wellbeing of future generations. To help us accurately measure our carbon footprint, we are delighted to partner with HCWH Europe.”

Dr Philip Crowley, National Director for Strategy and Research and National Lead for Climate Action Strategy - Health Service Executive, Ireland

A health system-level community of practice

We are also developing a community of practice of health authorities endeavouring to drive decarbonisation within the European healthcare sector. They will help refine the methodology and ensure it is applicable to health systems across Europe and beyond.

“Globally, countries are recognising the health sector’s significant contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. Prioritising the decarbonisation of health systems is a preventative measure, protecting healthcare systems from the health impacts of climate change they will need to treat in future. Taking immediate climate action allows us to transform today’s healthcare services so they don’t create tomorrow’s patients.

Vincent Melis, Chair - Belgian National Low Carbon Health System Working Group

Phase two project partners 

Health and Environment logo
HSE logo


Work for a healthcare provider, and want to be part of this transition?

HCWH Europe Newsletter

To receive further updates on healthcare’s transition to zero emissions, subscribe to our newsletter.