Mount Sinai Health System was celebrated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) at the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) on Thursday, November 10, for pledging ongoing action to decarbonize the health care sector and make health care facilities more resilient to the effects of climate change. Mount Sinai has formally committed to pursuing the Biden administration's climate goal of reducing emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and achieving net zero emissions by 2050 and has already made large-scale efforts to decarbonize.
A September 2021 consensus statement from more than 200 medical journals named climate change the No. 1 threat to global public health. It exposes millions of people in the United States, and countless more around the world, to harm every year through increases in extreme heat waves, wildfires, flooding, vector-borne diseases, and other factors that worsen chronic health conditions. These impacts disproportionately fall on communities that are often already the victims of longstanding discrimination. The health care sector also contributes to climate change, accounting for approximately 8.5 percent of U.S. domestic emissions.
The HHS Office of Climate Change and Health Equity (OCCHE), part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, developed the White House/HHS Health Sector Climate Pledge to help focus industry response to climate challenges. In addition to reducing their carbon footprint, signatories also commit to producing detailed plans to prepare their facilities for both chronic and acute catastrophic climate impacts.
One hundred two prominent health companies in the United States have signed the White House/HHS Health Sector Climate Pledge, including organizations representing 837 hospitals as well as leading health centers, suppliers, insurance companies, group purchasing organizations, pharmaceutical companies, and more. Federal systems like the Indian Health Service, Veterans Health Administration, and Military Health System are working together to meet similar goals to those embraced by these private-sector organizations. Combined, this means that more than 1,080 federal and private sector hospitals have made such commitments, together representing more than 15 percent of U.S. hospitals.
"HHS returns this year to COP27 to report great progress," said Admiral Rachel Levine, the Assistant Secretary for Health. "Through the efforts of the Office of Climate Change and Health Equity and several other HHS agencies, we have made significant strides in introducing resources and supports to help communities and care providers accelerate their work to reduce harmful emissions and increase climate resilience in the health sector."
Mount Sinai has already reduced its energy-related carbon footprint by more than 30 percent since 2005. Key to these efforts were chiller and heating plant optimization projects at The Mount Sinai Hospital, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and Mount Sinai West. Additional investments in electric cooling and heating technology are underway at Mount Sinai's new laboratories and health care facilities throughout New York City to further reduce the Health System's reliance on fossil fuels.
"Mount Sinai is excited to join with other leaders in the health sector to expand on the progress we have already made. We understand the impacts that climate change has on the health of the communities we serve. Thus, we are committed to reducing our impact on the environment while also ensuring that we are resilient to the impacts of climate change," said Christina McNeilis, MPH, Associate Director of Sustainability at Mount Sinai Health System.
Additionally, Mount Sinai is working with its suppliers to better understand and decarbonize its supply chain-related emissions. Earlier this year, Mount Sinai signed on to The Cool Food Pledge, a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from food purchases by 25 percent by 2030.