All seven global companies’ near-term targets aligned to the 1.5°C pathway
Endorsement of commitments and action by health systems partners
CEOs from AstraZeneca, GSK, Merck KGaA, Novo Nordisk, Roche, Samsung Biologics and Sanofi today announced joint action to achieve near-term emissions reduction targets and accelerate the delivery of net zero health systems. For the first time, the global health sector has come together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the Sustainable Markets Initiative (SMI) Health Systems Task Force, a public-private partnership launched at COP26.
The Task Force is taking scalable action to collectively address emissions across supply chains, patient care pathways, and clinical trials. This includes aligning on a set of common supplier standards to incentivise decarbonisation efforts across the supply chain, and jointly pursuing renewable power purchase agreements and green transportation corridors. Task Force members will build an end-to-end care pathway emissions calculation standard and tool that allows stakeholders to measure and track emissions across the care pathway and will publish product-level life cycle assessments (LCA) data to increase transparency on treatment emissions. In addition, a common framework to measure the emissions from clinical trials will be created.
The connection between climate change and the health of humanity is proven and profound. Non-communicable and infectious diseases, malnutrition, threats to mental health and premature deaths are all increasing as a result of the climate crisis, with vulnerable populations most at risk. Air pollution causes seven million premature deaths globally each year1 and extreme heat kills another 5 million annually.2,3 Health systems are responding to the impacts of the climate crisis but are also responsible for 4-5% of total global net emissions, equating to 2.4 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.4
Pascal Soriot, Chief Executive Officer, AstraZeneca, and Champion of the SMI Health Systems Task Force said: “Climate change is the greatest global health threat of our time. During the pandemic, the healthcare sector stepped up and showed what can be achieved when we work together. Today, we act with the same urgency to tackle the climate crisis, with the collective commitments announced by the Sustainable Markets Initiative Health Systems Task Force setting a benchmark for others to drive action.”
“The case for decarbonising our health systems is clear, and failing to keep the 1.5°C goal alive will have irreversible impacts on global health,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization. “Transitioning to low-carbon, climate-resilient health systems is essential for every country’s journey towards universal health coverage. The commitments announced today demonstrate the power of public-private partnership to achieve positive and sustainable change for the health of people and the planet.”
Today, member companies of the Task Force unveiled their shared commitments to decarbonise at pace in three priority areas, which have been identified as drivers of the greatest positive impact in the sector: supply chains, patient care pathways, and clinical trials. Specific actions announced today include:
1. Recognising that supply chain emissions drive over 50% of overall health care emissions, the Task Force members today announced they are committed to net zero emissions and will:
- align on a set of common supplier standards
- switch to renewable power
- jointly evaluate renewable power purchase agreements in China and India in 2023
- explore green heat solutions by 2025 to accelerate the adoption of scalable technologies
- transition car fleets to zero-emission vehicles by 2030 and jointly explore green transportation corridors by 2025
2. There is a significant opportunity to reduce the emissions of patient care, which contribute to approximately 45% of overall health care emissions, while simultaneously improving health outcomes. The Task Force will:
- collaborate with stakeholders including health policy makers, regulators, payers, providers, healthcare professionals and patient groups to raise awareness on the need and opportunity to decarbonise care pathways
- build an end-to-end care pathway emissions calculation standard and tool for specific diseases that allows stakeholders to measure and track emissions across the care pathway and assess decarbonisation strategies
- align on a common framework to perform LCAs, with private sector members also committed to publishing product-level LCA data across their product portfolio to increase transparency on treatment emissions
3. The Task Force is committing to leverage digital health solutions to decarbonise clinical trials and will:
- commit to a common framework by 2023 and subsequently start to measure greenhouse gas emissions in phase 2 and 3 clinical trials. Companies aim to report phase 2 and 3 trial emissions for trials starting in 2025
- align new trials to companies’ decarbonisation pathway and set trial emissions reduction targets for 2030 at the latest
- incentivise clinical research organisations and clinical trial-related suppliers to commit to a framework to measure and reduce emissions, including through the use of digital solutions
- target 90%+ of trials starting in 2025 to include a review of how digital solutions can reduce emissions
In addition to private sector members, the SMI Health Systems Task Force includes leaders from the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, and healthcare, academic and non-governmental organisations. The Task Force is partnering with the WHO-convened Alliance for Transformative Action on Health and Climate (ATACH) to provide recommendations to over 60 governments that have committed at Minister of Health level to deliver climate resilient and low carbon health systems.
To support health systems stakeholders accelerate towards net zero, the Task Force has today published three whitepapers outlining practical recommendations and scalable actions:
- Decarbonising Healthcare Supply Chains
- Decarbonising Patient Care Pathways
- The Digital Solution for Sustainability in Clinical Research
All published whitepapers can be viewed by visiting https://www.sustainable-markets.org/Taskforces/health-systems-Taskforce/.
- World Health Organization. How air pollution is destroying our health [Online]. 2021. Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/spotlight/how-air-pollution-is-destroying-our-health [Last accessed: November 2022]
- Prof Zhao Q et al. Global, regional, and national burden of mortality associated with non-optimal ambient temperatures from 2000 to 1029: a three-stage modelling study. The Lancet Planetary Health. 2021;5(7):E415-E435.
- The Guardian. Extreme temperatures kill 5 million people a year with heat-related deaths rising, study finds. July 2021. Online. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jul/08/extreme-temperatures-kill-5-million-people-a-year-with-heat-related-deaths-rising-study-finds [Last accessed November 2022]
- Health Care Without Harm 2019. Health Care’s Climate Footprint, Arup. Online. Available at: https://www.arup.com/perspectives/publications/research/section/healthcares-climate-footprint [Last accessed November 2022]
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