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Health Equity

A Commitment to Net-Zero Emissions by 2040 for a Healthier Planet

Climate change is not a new phenomenon. And while it’s common to think about temperatures rising, icebergs melting and threats to food production when it comes to this topic, climate change has a significant impact on health, too.

“At its core, climate change is a health equity issue. We believe there is an unbreakable connection between the health of our planet and the health of our people,” said Lloyd H. Dean, CEO of Dignity Health. “We see the effects that climate change can have on the patients we serve, from trauma and emergencies to mental health, allergies, respiratory illnesses and infectious diseases.”

These factors, along with other natural and human-made health stressors, influence human health and disease and may continue to intensify, with new health threats emerging, according to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control. As with other health inequities, vulnerable and underserved populations are the most affected.

As a result, Dignity Health recently announced a commitment to the environment and public health in line with the Paris Agreement, the international treaty on climate. Dignity Health plans to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 and is also targeting cutting its emissions in half by 2030.

It takes more than just knowing about the effects that climate change can have. It requires an understanding of the responsibility we have as a health care organization, said Dean.

“The U.S. health care system contributes 10% of the nation’s carbon emissions and 9% of harmful non-greenhouse air pollutants,” he said. “Our plan aims to move the entire sector forward by working with supply chain and our wider stakeholders to support their reduction in emissions.”

For the next 20 years — and beyond — Dignity Health is striving toward net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. It will achieve these goals through a comprehensive climate action plan that includes:

  • Leveraging new energy-efficient technologies
  • Engaging with suppliers to help them reduce their emissions
  • Evaluating investment portfolios for climate impacts
  • Using credible offsets only where emissions cannot be reduced through other measures, such as energy efficiency and renewable energy procurement

This commitment was shared at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, in November 2021.

“Urgent action is needed now to reverse climate change,” said Shelly Schlenker, executive vice president and chief advocacy officer of Dignity Health. “We are committing to an ambitious, science-based goal that leverages advances in the pace and scale of renewable infrastructure.”

In the U.S., public health can be affected by disruptions of physical, biological and ecological systems, including disturbances originating here and elsewhere. The health effects of these disruptions include increased respiratory and cardiovascular disease, injuries and premature deaths related to extreme weather events, changes in the prevalence and geographical distribution of food- and water-borne illnesses and other infectious diseases, and threats to mental health.