February 14, 2023 - The AMA and DEA recommend that the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality of Health Care (ACSQHC) consult with the Department of Health and Aged Care’s National Health Sustainability and ...
Sustainable Health Care
The carbon footprint of Australia’s healthcare sector is estimated at over 7% of Australia’s total emissions. While every sector needs to play its part to limit global warming and environmental degradation, the healthcare sector has an added responsibility (and opportunity) to lead mitigation of emissions and environmental impacts.
Guided by the principle, ‘first do no harm’ it is beholden on the healthcare sector to be part of the solution and urgently ‘get its own house in order.’
Of health care’s 7% contribution to Australian carbon emissions, hospitals are responsible for 44%, pharmaceuticals 19%, capital expenditure 8%, community and public health 6% and general practice 4%. Beyond carbon emissions, healthcare is a significant contributor to waste products and natural resource consumption, threatening our present and future health.
Doctors for the Environment Australia has been working for over a decade to address healthcare sector’s carbon footprint and environmental impact and to highlight the added health and financial co-benefits of healthcare sector action.
Net zero carbon emissions for the Australian healthcare sector
Our report outlines why the Australian healthcare sector has a responsibility to urgently reduce its carbon footprint and recommendations to achieve this.
MJA Insight+ published an article on this initiative.
Required emission reduction targets:
- An interim emission reduction target of 80% by 2030
- Net zero emissions by 2040
DEA and the Australian Medical Association have formally agreed to work together to advocate for, and support, a transition to environmentally sustainable practice within the health sector including a national Sustainable Healthcare Unit and net zero emissions by 2040.
Organisations that have endorsed healthcare emission reduction targets of 80% by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2040 can be found here.
An open letter to the Prime Minister in April 2021 included support for these emission reduction targets and a national Sustainable Healthcare Unit from numerous groups.
DEA National Sustainable Healthcare Unit Proposal
A national Sustainable Healthcare Unit (nSHU) (September 2021)
DEA supports the development of national Sustainable Healthcare Unit to coordinate environmentally sustainable initiatives in health care and reduce its carbon footprint.
It would: standardise and benchmark the measurement of carbon emissions; develop a road map for, and assist implementation of, emission reductions and sustainability best practices and; ensure successful implementation of sustainable healthcare initiatives at state, regional, health organisation / network, hospital and practice levels.
All Electric Hospital Builds
DEA members have been working to ensure that new hospital capital projects across Australia will be all-electric (no gas infrastructure for new hospitals or capital work upgrades).
We have developed the DEA: All Electric Hospital Guide which outlines practical steps for health professionals to advocate for all electric new hospital builds to ensure we protect and promote the health of our patients.
A list of all-electric hospitals that are planned in Australia can be found here.
DEA and the AMA have developed the GreenCollege Guidelines document for medial colleges, specialities, societies, councils and associations to lead by example through incorporating changes to operations that will assist in transforming the healthcare sector to net zero emissions. Supporting organisations can be found here.
Sustainable Health Care Resources
Net Zero Emissions: Responsibilities, pathways and opportunities
Proposal for a National Sustainable Healthcare Unit
DEA: All Electric Hospital Guide
GreenCollege Guidelines: Reducing the environmental impact of your medical colleges, specialty, society, council and association
Improving a hospital’s environment impact: what can a doctor do? A practical guide to achieving change
Net Zero Emissions for Australia’s healthcare sector (March 2021)
Sustainable menstrual products (December 2020)
Presentations and videos
Webinar recording: Climate Change and Sustainability: Leadership and Action from Australian Doctors, August 2022
Webinar recording: Climate Change and Sustainability: Leadership and Action from Australian Doctors, September 2021
Environmental Sustainability & Healthcare: What do health Professionals Need to Know?, July 2018
Other useful resources
Doctors for the Environment Sustain Health Facebook Page
NHS Progressing Towards Net-Zero Commitment
See more of our work on sustainable healthcare
AMA / DEA Media Release: Impact of climate change on public health recognised in the federal budget
October 26, 2022 - The Australian Medical Association and Doctors for the Environment Australia say the federal government’s budget commitment to establish a National Health Sustainability and Climate Unit is a big win in ...
MJAInsight: Climate change and sustainability: leadership, action from doctors
August 15, 2022 - When we think of carbon emissions, we don’t often think of healthcare’s substantial contribution. Yet, in Australia alone, this sector is responsible for 7% of our national carbon emissions. Australia’s ...
AMA/DEA Media Release: Governments and the healthcare sector must lead on climate change
August 10, 2022 - Australian doctors are pushing for greater buy-in from the health care sector to reduce its carbon footprint and are urging further action from medical colleges who signed up to a ...
Hope is not a method – we must act now to decarbonise the health sector
April 21, 2022 - Are we able to reimagine a world where clean air, water and food are available to all? Where economies are focused on health and well-being? Where cities are liveable and ...
DEA: All Electric Hospital Guide
March 24, 2022 - DEA’s sustainable health care Special Interest Group (SIG) have released a new guide for medical practitioners. ‘Building the next zero hospital to be net zero carbon emissions (all-electric): A six ...
AMA and DEA outline plan to reduce healthcare’s carbon footprint to top health bureaucrats
February 27, 2022 - The AMA and DEA outlined their plans to heads of state and federal health departments to reduce the healthcare sector’s carbon footprint.
Have you stopped wearing reusable fabric masks? Here’s how to cut down waste without compromising your health
February 3, 2022 - An article about COVID-19 medical waste co-authored by DEA member Forbes McGain, University of Melbourne; along with Aleasha McCallion, Monash University; and Kim Borg, Monash University. This article originally appeared ...
Dr Eugenie Kayak: Taking action on climate and health is a win-win-win for Australia
January 16, 2022 - Dr Eugenie Kayak along with many other Australian health leaders representing millions of Australians are calling for immediate and ambitious climate action to protect our health. Video with thanks to ...
MJAInsight+: COP26 opportunities missed for Australian health care
January 5, 2022 - AT the UN climate change conference (COP26) in Glasgow, over 50 countries participated in the COP26 Health Programme and committed to strengthen the climate resilience and sustainability of their health systems. Yet while health ...
MJA Insight+: COVID-19 is urgent, climate is important
October 29, 2021 - Drs Kate Charlesworth and Omar Khorshid state scientific reports are becoming increasingly blunt: decarbonise urgently or face catastrophic climate breakdown. The health sector has a lot of work to do. ...
National Sustainable Healthcare Unit Proposal
September 13, 2021 - Doctors for the Environment Australia supports the development of national Sustainable Healthcare Unit to coordinate environmentally sustainable initiatives in health care and reduce its carbon footprint. It would: standardise and benchmark the measurement of carbon emissions; develop a road map for, ...
We need to lead the way
June 8, 2021 - “One of the principles as doctors is to first cause no harm, and through our own emissions we are causing harm,” says Dr John Van Der Kallen. “We need to ...
Hospital environmental sustainability: end of the beginning
May 31, 2021 - “Early in May 2021, the Victorian Government released the updated Victoria’s Climate Change Strategy. The state pledged a 45–50% carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent (CO2e) emissions reduction by 2030 and net zero emissions ...
Roadmap to sustainable health care
May 3, 2021 - Op-ed by one of our members, Dr Eugenie Kayak.
DEA welcomes HCWH’s global road map for zero emissions in healthcare
April 16, 2021 - Doctors for the Environment Australia welcomes the launch of Healthcare Without Harm’s global road map for healthcare decarbonisation. The report highlights how “all countries’ health systems will need to reach ...
New Podcast Episode: Net Zero Emissions for Australia’s healthcare sector with Dr. Eugenie Kayak
March 24, 2021 - The changing climate is exposing our patients and communities to more frequent and intense extreme weather.
Health sector can save lives by reducing its carbon footprint
March 22, 2021 - Getting to net zero emissions and phasing out fossil fuels, could save over 8 million lives globally every year, writes Kate Charlesworth.
AMA and DEA Make Joint Call for Emissions Reduction in Healthcare
March 17, 2021 - Climate change is a health emergency, which is already contributing to life-threatening illness and deaths and the Australian healthcare sector is part of the problem – contributing about 7 per cent to Australia’s national carbon emission footprint.
Launch of New Report on Sustainable Healthcare
March 2, 2021 - Health professionals are increasingly treating climate-related illnesses, and healthcare services are vulnerable to a range of risks, including an increase in patient demand and threats to infrastructure, workforce and supply chains.