There are plenty of interesting snippets about the health sector and its role in both contributing to and mitigating carbon emissions in the latest edition of the NSW Public Health Bulletin.
The general point is that the Australian health sector, with a few notable exceptions, has not yet started to get its act together in any systematic way.
The WHO made recommendations in 2008 for how the health sector might achieve carbon savings, and in the UK, the NHS (which is apparently one of the world’s largest employers) has established a Sustainable Development Unit to help drive such measures.
In Australia? We have a few area health services trying hard. Or, at a guess, there are a few key people in a few organisations labouring to drive change.
Some of the snippets:
• The NHS is the largest public sector contributor to climate change in England, producing 25 per cent of public sector emissions, which is equivalent to the emissions of an entire medium-sized country. Its carbon footprint is composed of energy (22 per cent), travel (18 per cent), and procurement (60 per cent).
• Health facilities in the NHS measure, monitor and display how much energy they are using, which helps to increase “carbon literacy and numeracy” and reduces carbon use.
• NHS contracts now include statements suggesting criteria about sustainability and low carbon emissions will increasingly be used in the commissioning of services and the procurement of goods.
• in NSW, health facilites account for 53 per cent of total NSW Government building energy usage. Many in the health sector are unaware of targets set by the NSW Government Sustainability Policy.
• Blacktown, Mount Druitt and Nepean Hospitals are now generating 40-50 per cent of their electricity onsite using cogeneration fired by natural gas, resulting in an average 15 per cent reduction in energy consumption across the Sydney West Area Health Service. The SWAHS has implemented a number of other measures to reduce carbon emissions, including lighting and energy upgrades, water recycling, and measures to encourage people to travel to its services by walking, cycling, buses and trains.
The authors (from the NHS, SWAHS, University of Sydney and Royal Australasian College of Physicians) conclude: “While the Australian health care system has not yet embraced the challenge of reducing its carbon footprint from a whole systems perspective as the NHS has done, there are many local examples of leadership in NSW.”
Are other States/Territories doing anything interesting in this area?