Health sector joins We Are Still In coalition
Nineteen American health care systems committed on Aug. 8 to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. The health care sector – America's largest employer – is the latest sector to join the "We Are Still In” coalition, strengthening the message to the world that the United States is committed to the Paris Agreement. The first 19 systems to sign onto We Are Still In represent 763 hospitals, 784,778 employees, and $167.2 billion in revenue across 39 states.
The We Are Still In coalition formed in June 2017 in response to the current administration’s plans to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement. With the addition of the 19 health care systems, it now includes more than 3,000 businesses, state, and local leaders, universities and other organizations from all 50 states.
"As health care providers, it is our responsibility to protect and improve the health of our patients," said Sister Mary Ellen Leciejewski, Dignity Health vice president of corporate responsibility. "As we look at the social determinants of health, we look beyond our hospital walls at the factors that impair health. That must include protection for the air, water, and land from which we depend for healthy life. That's why we are committed to making impactful solutions head on.”
The health care sector is responsible for nearly 10 percent of America’s greenhouse gas emissions, which have a startling health impact. A recent study predicts that greenhouse gas emissions from the U.S. health care system will cause as many as 381,000 additionally years of life to be lost each year due to ill-health, disability, or early death. By taking action to reduce emissions, these health care systems will improve public health, protect the environment, and spearhead a more sustainable direction for America’s fastest growing economic sector. Many have already taken significant strides:
“As the largest safety net hospital in New England, we know firsthand how climate change is impacting the health of the most vulnerable members of our community. That’s why Boston Medical Center has invested in a 60-megawatt solar farm in North Carolina, the largest renewable energy project ever built in the U.S. through an alliance of diverse buyers,” said Bob Biggio, Boston Medical Center senior vice president for facilities and support services.
As another example, Dignity Health has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent since 2010, by expanding its use of renewable energy and cutting its overall energy usage by 16 percent from 2010 levels. Dignity Health is now raising its game, setting plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent and increase sourcing of renewable energy by 35 percent by 2020. Additional examples of health systems that have taken critical actions to curb their emissions and improve the sustainability of their operations include Mercy Health and Hackensack-Meridian Health. Mercy Health has adopted more sustainable purchasing and procurement practices and is investing in sustainable roofing and other low-emissions building practices to reduce their carbon footprint. Hackensack-Meridian Health has invested more than $30 million in energy efficiency projects and has instituted more environmentally friendly practices like phasing out toxic cleaning supplies in their hospitals.
We Are Still In has emerged as the broadest cross-section of the U.S. economy ever assembled in pursuit of climate action, and the largest demonstration of continued climate leadership in the face of the federal government’s intended withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. Its membership represents over $6.2 trillion of the U.S. economy and is comprised of more than 3,000 cities, states, tribes, businesses and investors, college presidents, faith and cultural institutions, and now health systems that are committed to supporting climate action to help meet the U.S. emission reduction targets under the Paris Agreement.
The 19 health care systems include:
Boston Medical Center
Catholic Health Initiatives
Hackensack Meridian Health
Oregon Health and Science University
Providence St. Joseph Health
University of Vermont Medical Center
Virginia Mason Health System
Virginia Mason Memorial
UC Davis Health
UC Irvine Health
UC San Diego Health