CHICAGO – November 10, 2022 - CommonSpirit Health was celebrated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) at the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) on November 10, 2022 for pledging ongoing action to decarbonize the health care sector and make health care facilities more resilient to the effects of climate change. CommonSpirit has formally committed to pursuing the Biden administration’s climate goal of reducing emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. In fact, the health system–one of the nation’s largest–announced a commitment in 2021 to cut operational emissions in half by 2030 and achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040.
“CommonSpirit has a long history of industry-leading sustainability efforts–from eliminating harmful chemicals in the products we use to supporting renewable energy projects and reducing water consumption,” said Shelly Schlenker, executive vice president and chief advocacy officer for CommonSpirit. “This ambitious, science-based goal is an extension of CommonSpirit’s decades-long work and leverages advances in the pace and scale of renewable infrastructure,” she added. “The health of our planet and the health of our people are interconnected, and it’s clear that climate change is disproportionately impacting the most vulnerable communities,” said Schlenker. “We believe our climate goals will help achieve our aim to improve health for all.”
CommonSpirit will achieve its goals through a comprehensive climate action plan that includes:
- Leveraging new energy efficient technologies;
- Engaging with supply chain companies to support them in reducing their emissions;
- Evaluating investment portfolios for climate impacts; and
- Using credible offsets only where emissions cannot be reduced through other measures, such as energy efficiency and renewable energy procurement.
In 2020, CommonSpirit began the process of retro-commissioning its acute care facilities to provide an immediate impact on energy reduction and has initiated renewable energy initiatives, including the use of solar.
A September 2021 consensus statement from more than 200 medical journals named climate change the number one threat to global public health. It exposes millions of people in the United States to harm every year—with disproportionate impacts on communities that are often already the victims of longstanding discrimination—through increases in extreme heat waves, wildfires, flooding, vector-borne diseases and other factors that worsen chronic health conditions. The healthcare sector also contributes to climate change, accounting for approximately 8.5 percent of U.S. domestic emissions.
The HHS Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (OCCHE), part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, developed the White House/HHS Health Sector Climate Pledge to help focus industry response to climate challenges. In addition to reducing their carbon footprint, signatories also commit to producing detailed plans to prepare their facilities for both chronic and acute catastrophic climate impacts.
One hundred two prominent health companies in the U.S. have signed the White House/HHS Health Sector Climate Pledge, including organizations representing 837 hospitals as well as leading health centers, suppliers, insurance companies, group purchasing organizations, pharmaceutical companies, and more. Federal systems like the Indian Health Service (IHS), Veterans Health Administration (VHA), and Military Health System (MHS) are working together to meet similar goals to those these private sector organizations have embraced. Combined, this means that over 1,080 federal and private sector hospitals have made such commitments, together representing over 15 percent of U.S. hospitals.
“HHS returns this year to COP27 to report great progress,” said ADM Rachel Levine, the Assistant Secretary for Health. “Through the efforts of the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity and several other HHS agencies, we have made significant strides in introducing resources and supports to help communities and care providers accelerate their work to reduce harmful emissions and increase climate resilience in the health sector.”
About CommonSpirit Health
CommonSpirit Health is a nonprofit, Catholic health system dedicated to advancing health for all people. It was created in February 2019 by Catholic Health Initiatives and Dignity Health. With its national office in Chicago and a team of over 150,000 employees and 25,000 physicians and advanced practice clinicians, CommonSpirit operates 140 hospitals and more than 2,000 care sites across 21 states. In FY 2022, CommonSpirit had revenues of $34.4 billion and provided $4.9 billion in charity care, community benefit, and unreimbursed government programs. Learn more at www.commonspirit.org.
About the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity
The Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (OCCHE) plays a vital role in protecting the nation’s health from climate change-related risks, including extreme heat, natural disasters, vector-borne diseases and more. Among the supports OCCHE provides for health sector companies that wish to reduce their environmental impact and become more resilient to the effects of climate change are a webinar series and associated compendium of federal resources to support emissions reduction and resilience. OCCHE also publishes a regular Climate and Health Outlook, an effort to inform health professionals and the public on how our health may be affected in the coming month(s) by climate events and provide resources to take proactive action.