BSMS hosted a virtual panel discussion at the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference (COP26) on Friday 5 November 2021. The webinar brought together key international voices from the field of sustainable healthcare to discuss how the environmental impact of healthcare can be mitigated: exploring the interplay of research, clinical leadership, institutions, and industry.
Held in the COP26 WHO Health Pavillion, the session was organised by Dr Chantelle Rizan (PhD student and honorary clinical lecturer at BSMS), who spoke about the importance of research in informing an evidence-based approach to meeting Net Zero within healthcare, and the session was chaired by Prof Mahmood Bhutta (co-founder of the Sustainable Healthcare Group at BSMS, and Green Lead for University Hospitals Sussex).
Dr Rizan, who also attended the first week of COP26 as an observer on behalf of the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare, said: “Being at COP26 was a fantastic opportunity to contextualise my research in the wider climate negotiations and to raise awareness of the threat that climate change poses to human health amongst the delegates. The WHO Health Pavillion acted as a central forum for meeting other healthcare professionals working in this space to explore mechanisms for transitioning towards sustainable healthcare systems.
“It was a pleasure to organise this panel discussion on behalf of BSMS and to bring together international expert voices, including Sustainable Healthcare Coalition chair, medical director of Centre for Sustainable Healthcare (CSH), UKHACC chair, alongside international academic experts. Our session explored the interplay between research, clinical leadership, learning from resource-poor settings, healthcare industry, education and advocacy in meeting Net Zero within healthcare, and my ambition was for this to be helpful to policy makers.”
Prof Bhutta added: “It has been heartening to see so much of the healthcare community come together at COP26. The climate agenda is about human health as well as planetary health, and that needs a radical change, to deliver healthcare in more sustainable ways. It was inspiring to hear in this session from those who have been leading that agenda.” .
Other speakers at the event included:
- Dr Forbes McGain (Western Health, Australia), who discussed integrating a culture of sustainable practice throughout a hospital or healthcare provider.
- Dr Cassandra Thiel (New York University, US) and Dr Rengaraj Venkatesh (Aravind Eye Hospital, India), who showcased low-carbon, high quality models of care in lower-resourced settings.
- Dr Fiona Adshead (Sustainable Healthcare Coalition, UK), who discussed collaboration and innovation with healthcare industry to achieve Net Zero.
- Dr Frances Mortimer (Centre for Sustainable Healthcare, UK), who demonstrated the role of healthcare education in sustainability.
- Dr Richard Smith (UK Health and Climate Change Alliance), who discussed advocating together through institutional leadership and collaboration.
The Glasgow-based COP was the first COP to host a Health Pavilion, with a full two-week programme of healthcare events at the heart of the blue zone in COP26, placing health at the centre of the need to tackle mitigate climate change. Sessions ranged from exploring the impact that climate change has on health, with particular emphasis on widening health inequalities and global injustice, through to engaging with healthcare industry and policy makers to move health systems towards Net Zero.
Notable healthcare outcomes from COP26 include the commitment from 47 countries to develop climate resilient, low carbon sustainable systems, including the US and Germany. This is significant given that healthcare emissions equate to around 5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, with the US accounting for 25% of global health emission. All four UK health services have now joined NHS England in pledging to meet Net Zero by 2050. In addition, COP26 saw the delivery of an open letter signed by 600 organisations and representing 46 million healthcare professionals globally, emphasising that the climate crisis is the greatest threat to public health, and demanding that health and equity are placed at the centre of climate action. This was delivered to COP26 delegates at a Climate Action for Health event, alongside a COP26 Special Report on Climate Change and Health from the WHO.
A full recording of the webinar is available to view below.