Healing the Planet: Healthcare’s role in influencing ambitious climate action 

By Charlotte Owen-Burge | June 21, 2023

As the world grapples with the existential threat of climate change, the healthcare sector is playing an increasingly vital role in leading the way towards sustainable development. Initiatives like the Health Care Climate Council and international aid organisation, ALIMA, are leading the way. The Council, an initiative of Race to Zero partner, Health Care Without Harm, is committed to mitigating climate change and shrinking the sector’s carbon footprint, while championing robust climate policies. Meanwhile, Climate Action Accelerator member, ALIMA, is proactively integrating climate action within their humanitarian efforts. These influential organisations, echoing from local health centres to the global stage, are crucial to driving forward a sustainable healthcare model in the ongoing Race to Zero.

Health Care Without Harm 

For many years Health Care Without Harm in the U.S. has worked with leading health systems in the country to reduce their carbon footprint. As part of this effort, they formed the Health Care Climate Council, a group of diverse health systems from across the country committed to addressing climate change.  The Health Care Climate Council membership includes 21 leading health systems representing over 600 hospitals and 10,000 health centres in 43 states, with more than 1.3 million employees serving over 81 million patients annually. The Climate Council uses its unified voice to set and track climate goals, share best practices with one another and the broader sector, and collectively advocate for policies.  Several Climate Council members have joined Race to Zero.

The Climate Council has pursued several advocacy initiatives over the past several years, including ones joining other sectors to secure strong climate provisions in what became the Inflation Reduction Act, infrastructure legislation, and securing federal funding for renewable energy microgrids for hospitals. When the COP26 Health Programme was proposed, the Climate Council also wrote to President Biden, Secretary Kerry and Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Xavier Becerra urging the U.S. to join, stating that “We have an obligation and opportunity to decarbonize our health care operations and set a leadership example for countries around the world.”  The letter, which put the power of many leading US hospitals behind the Programme, helped convince the US government to join. Since then, several policy, regulatory and voluntary initiatives have been initiated by HHS and others to support the implementation of the commitment by the U.S., which accounts for 27% of global healthcare emissions.


As an international humanitarian organisation, ALIMA works closely with local NGOs. As a part of their roadmap towards halving emissions by 2030, they have included advocacy elements to encourage partner NGOs to reflect on their own climate and environmental strategies, persuading them to take steps towards climate action themselves.

After successfully rallying its local partners, ALIMA convened workshops between the national NGOs and Race to Zero Partner, the Climate Action Accelerator, to support their move towards a sustainable development model. In 2022, an adapted methodology was developed with 5 of ALIMA’s partners, with 2 partners serving as pilots and a collective cycle of 3 to follow. By 2023, letters of intentions were signed by all 5 organisations (Alerte Santé, KEOOGO, SOS Médecins, BEFEN and AMCP-SP) and officially they became partners with the Climate Action Accelerator. All 5 NGOs have since committed to moving towards a sustainable, resilient and low-carbon development model, to develop their capacity to respond to and prepare for the present and future consequences of the climate crisis, all the while strengthening their medical action in favour of vulnerable populations and communities.

The actions of the Health Care Climate Council and international organisations like ALIMA underscore the essential role that healthcare systems play in the fight against climate change. These institutions have shown leadership in reducing emissions, setting and tracking climate goals, and fostering advocacy initiatives. They have also championed the cause internationally, encouraging members to join the Race to Zero and influencing legislative decisions at home and abroad. As the global community strives to meet the challenges posed by climate change, the collaborative efforts of these organisations provide a blueprint for sustainable, resilient healthcare that can serve as a model for other sectors to follow. Their work has demonstrated the undeniable link between environmental sustainability and the health of our planet, emphasising that caring for our planet is indeed caring for our health.

Learn more in our 5th P (Persuade) Handbook on advocacy, policy and engagement with net zero goals:

discover the 5th P Handbook


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