Our Work Sustainable Health Care

Sustainable Health Care

The Canberra Hospital expansion to be powered entirely by renewables. Source: Canberra Times


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.


Sustainable Health Care Resources

Net Zero Emissions: Responsibilities, pathways and opportunities

Proposal for a National Sustainable Healthcare Unit

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, September 2021

Environmental Sustainability & Healthcare: What do health Professionals Need to Know?, July 2018

Greening Hospitals, video produced by DEA students

Greening Hospitals brochure, produced by DEA students, with accompanying graphics.


Doctors for the Environment Sustain Health Facebook Page

Other useful resources including peer-reviewed articles and websites:

See more of our work on sustainable healthcare:

NHS Progressing Towards Net-Zero Commitment