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UC physicians walking in front of a UC hospital

University of California Health has pledged to take further climate action as part of a nationwide health sector initiative led by the Biden administration.

The University of California has been committed to carbon neutrality by 2025 and with this pledge, UC’s health system will take additional action on assessing supply chain emissions and developing climate resilience plans for UC’s health facilities and communities. An event at the White House today will highlight the sector-wide cooperation between organizations and federal health systems and will include leaders from companies and organizations representing hundreds of hospitals and numerous health centers, as well as pharmaceutical companies, medical device-makers, suppliers and group purchasing organizations. 

The actions in the pledge complement a comprehensive program of ongoing work across UC’s health system to minimize its impact on the environment and further the health of its communities. UC’s academic health centers are focused on improvements in the areas of clean electricity, energy efficiency, waste reduction, water conservation and sustainable food procurement.

“We are pleased to be part of this group of health care organizations leading the way to reduce the sector’s environmental impact and increase climate resilience. This commitment is an important part of the ongoing work across our system to ensure equity, justice and sustainability in our delivery of health care,” said Carrie L. Byington, M.D., executive vice president of University of California Health. “We thank the White House and the Department of Health & Human Services for their leadership on this important issue.”

As part of the University’s comprehensive sustainability program, UC’s health locations in recent years have made a range of gains in sustainable practices such as increasing purchase and production of clean energy, eliminating or significantly reducing use of desflurane – an anesthetic gas with the highest global warming potential – at most locations, improving operating room energy efficiency, and decreasing biohazard (red-bag) waste. More details on UC sustainability goals and achievements can be found in UC’s annual sustainability report.

In September 2021, 200 medical journals named climate change the number one threat to global public health. Millions of people living in the United States already experience associated harm —with disproportionate impacts on disadvantaged and underserved communities—through more frequent and intense periods of extreme heat, wildfires, flooding, vector-borne diseases and other factors that worsen chronic health conditions.

“Public health decisions have to be based on the realities of climate change, and we all need to do more to make that happen at the national level,” said ADM Rachel Levine, the Assistant Secretary for Health. “We’re seeing right now what extreme temperatures and more severe storms can do to human health, environmental quality and our physical infrastructure. It’s great to see so many different companies and organizations come together to decarbonize and become partners in protecting human health from climate change. Today’s announcement is just the beginning of a longer ongoing effort with partners from across the medical sector, which is exactly the kind of big response we need as a country.”

The Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (OCCHE), part of HHS under the Assistant Secretary for Health, developed the health sector climate pledge in conjunction with the White House to help focus industry response to climate change. In addition to reducing their carbon footprint, signatories also commit to producing detailed plans to build climate resilience for their facilities and the communities they serve. 

About University of California Health

University of California Health (UCH) comprises six academic health centers, 20 health professional schools, a Global Health Institute and systemwide services that improve the health of patients and the University’s students, faculty and employees. All of UC’s hospitals are ranked among the best in California and its medical schools and health professional schools are nationally ranked in their respective areas.