Healthcare Climate Pledge – Impactful (this time around!)

Healthcare Climate Pledge – Impactful (this time around!)


July 05, 2022

The Biden Administration’s efforts to set ambitious and actionable decarbonization targets has culminated in a resounding response – the June 30th Healthcare Sector Climate Pledge. The Pledge places the spotlight on large government agencies including the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) and the Military Health System, as well as over 650 major hospitals and healthcare companies whose commitment to decarbonization will now be accompanied by targeted and measurable action.

Among the many prominent names on the list are Ascension, CommonSpirit Health, Pfizer and AstraZeneca. They have committed to a comprehensive short-term emission reduction goal of 50% by 2030 with a focus on system-wide climate resilience.

But how is this any different from the rest? For starters, the Pledge assumes a three-pronged approach by directing attention to public reporting, Scope 3 emissions and climate resilience strategies.

Until now, emissions reductions have taken place out of sight and in the absence of a mechanism for accountability. This is where the Pledge’s focus on public reporting can prove to be a game-changer by addressing the healthcare sector’s biggest challenge — emissions opacity. It also recognizes that transparency and accountability can only assume permanence if there is a clear identification of who is responsible for emissions.

Enter: Scope 3 emissions. It is not surprising that greenhouse gas inventories have been dedicated almost entirely to Scope 1 and 2 emissions. These are after all easier to track and constitute a far lower proportion of the total emissions. However, this approach is no longer feasible. Our understanding of responsibility needs to extend to the elephant that hides in plain sight — the healthcare supply chain. The most effective mechanism to address this is one that integrates data into real-time reporting and optimization.

The Pledge also does well to pool together a series of macro-, and micro-level actions that address the most integral elements of a plan for climate resilience, namely facilities and communities. What distinguishes this approach from all the others is its identification of an executive lead responsible for tracking progress and staying on target. The presence of a point person lends much more than a face and a name to the process. It creates a new template for transparent action that will become much simpler to emulate over time.

Together, the three pillars of the Pledge lend substance and a commitment of our collective intent to decarbonize. Climate action can no longer be driven by an empty script. The template for transformation is here.

Are you ready?

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