Call for action: European strategy for a net zero healthcare sector in the European Union

Laetitia Römer1, Kristin Sieberger1, Jannik Christopher Wagner1, Johanna Waschke1, Marina Oosterhuis – Loete1 and John Middleton2


The urgency of addressing climate change’s impact on healthcare is emphasised and we, as public health professionals, are advocating for a net zero strategy in the EU’s healthcare sector. With climate change posing severe threats to vulnerable populations, the paradox of healthcare contributing to climate change underscores the need for immediate action.

The healthcare sector, accounting for 4.4% of global greenhouse gas emissions, is a significant contributor to climate change. As climate change intensifies, healthcare systems face increased challenges. However, current efforts, including the European Green Deal, Climate Law and National Energy and Climate Plans, lack explicit strategies for the healthcare sector.

Policy Options:
We propose a three-step process for EU Member States to achieve a net zero strategy until 2030 and a reduction of the healthcare systems’ emission by 2050. The first step focuses on Communication, Cooperation, and Collaboration through stakeholder meetings to foster collaboration and share best practices. The second step emphasises improving funding accessibility, urging transparency in available funds for sustainable healthcare. The third step calls for the development of a European Action Plan, consolidating experiences and results at the EU level.

To enhance collaboration, regular stakeholder meetings and written updates are recommended. The accessibility of funding options for the healthcare sector should be improved, with transparent assessment tools. The establishment of a European Action Plan is proposed, integrating experiences and strategies for decarbonizing the healthcare system.

Keywords: Climate change, healthcare sector, net zero, European Union, Green Deal, National Energy and Climate Plans

Conflict of interests: We the authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Financial disclosure: None declared.

Ethics statement: Not applicable.

Data availability: All relevant data are within the paper and its supporting information files.

Authors contributions: All authors contributed equally.

Acknowledgements: The authors would like to thank Katarzyna Czabanowska from Maastricht University and John Middleton from the Association of Schools of Public Health in the European Region (ASPHER) for their expertise and continuous support. Additionally, we would like to thank Nicole Mauer and Bernd Rechel from the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies and Marie Nabbe from the European Hospital and Healthcare Federation (HOPE). During our writing process they joined some of our weekly meetings and shared their knowledge to support our project.

DOI: 10.61034/JGPOH-2024-11