Biden administration signals shift to focus on climate and public health

After the supreme court ruled to limit the Envrionmental Protection Agency's auhtority to regulate carbon, the Biden Harris Administration is announcing renewed focus on catalyzing private health sector commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, strengthen climate resilience, and protect public health. At a White House event with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and partners from across the health sector, participants pledged to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, in line with goals set by President Biden for the U.S., while producing detailed plans to prepare their facilities and communities for both chronic and catastrophic climate impacts.

“Nobody should underestimate the importance of federal and private sector health care leaders joining together to address the impacts of climate change,” said Secretary of Health and Human Service Xavier Becerra. “Health care providers already see the undeniable risks to their patients, especially those who already face other economic and health disadvantages. With suppliers and pharmaceutical companies helping decarbonize the supply chain, where so much of the sector’s carbon footprint lies, the health sector is getting a significant jump on addressing one of the key issues of our time.”

“Climate change presents serious and urgent threats to public health, and our response has to match those threats,” said ADM Rachel Levine, the Assistant Secretary for Health. “We’re already seeing the damage done by extreme heat, wildfires, severe storms, and increasing chronic disease burdens, all associated with climate change. It’s exciting to see so many health care organizations come together to reduce their emissions and protect human health from climate change. Today’s announcement is just the beginning of a longer ongoing effort with partners from across the industry, which is exactly the kind of big response we need as a country.”

Signatories to date represent 650 hospitals, numerous health centers, insurance companies, suppliers, professional associations and other industry stakeholders.

The announcement builds on steps HHS has taken over the past year to strengthen its climate response, with a focus on advancing health equity and protecting vulnerable communities. These include launching its new Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (OCCHE), which orchestrates the Department’s work to protect vulnerable communities that disproportionately bear the brunt of pollution and climate-driven disasters, such as drought and wildfires, at the expense of public health.


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