There are two types of climate risk:

  • transition risks (requiring decarbonisation or attaining net zero carbon emissions) and
  • physical climate risks (requiring adaptation).

Both types of climate risk are critically important for health systems.

Sustainability is one of six strategic outcomes in NSW Health's Future Health: Guiding the next decade of health care in NSW 2022-2032 and we have committed to 'an environmentally sustainable footprint'.

Climate Risk and Net Zero Unit (CRNZ)

A small Climate Risk and Net Zero Unit has been established, guided by the Environmental Sustainability Steering Committee which is chaired by Deputy Secretary, Patient Experience and System Performance.

There is already some great work underway across the system in energy, infrastructure, procurement and other areas. The CRNZ Unit's role is to coordinate and scale up NSW Health's response, and to focus on decarbonizing clinical care, which research suggests is more than half of healthcare's carbon footprint.

For more information, refer to our position statement.

Environmental sustainability is interlinked with many other Future Health objectives, including keeping people healthy and well, delivering services in the home and community, the use of digital technology, value-based healthcare, research and innovation.

What do consumers think about climate and health?

The Consumers Health Forum of Australia's Health Panel asked panellists about their views on the relationship between climate and health. Of the 136 respondents, the survey results indicate:

  • 77% believed that climate change can impact their personal health
  • panellists were particularly worried about:
    • water security and quality
    • smoke
    • extreme weather events
    • heat
    • food security and quality
    • air pollution.

Find out more about the survey results at What Australia’s Health Panel said about the impact of climate change on health.

High value health care is low carbon health care

NSW Health is committed to a value based healthcare approach delivering outcomes and experiences that matter to patients and the community. By addressing low value health care we can reduce patient harm, save costs and reduce carbon emissions. 

Breth-Petersen et al. found that unnecessary vitamin D testing contributes to avoidable CO2e emissions and healthcare costs with the total costs of unnecessary tests to Medicare amounting to >$A87 000 000. The 2020 carbon footprint of unnecessary vitamin D tests was 28 576 kg (base case) and 42 012 kg (sensitivity) CO2 e, equivalent to driving ~160 000– 230 000 km in a standard passenger car.

Carbon footprint of healthcare, 35,772 kilotonnes C02e carbon emissions: Buildings, electricity and gas 20% (7,154 CO2e), Clinical care 80% (28,618 CO2e). Carbon footprint of clinical care, 28,618 kilotonnes CO2e carbon emissions: Harmful care 10% (2,862 CO2e), low value care 30% (8,585 CO2e), effective care 60% (17,171 CO2e)
The carbon footprint of Australian health care and the share of its carbon emissions attributable to harmful, low value and effective care.

Global Green and Healthy Hospitals

As part of our commitment to scale up and coordinate environmental sustainability action across the public health system in NSW, NSW Health has joined the Global Green and Healthy Hospital network (GGHH).

GGHH is an international community of hospitals, health systems, health facilities and health organisations working to reduce their environmental footprint and foster a healthy future for people and the planet. GGHH is an initiative of Health Care Without Harm.. In the Pacific region, GGHH is coordinated by the Climate and Health Alliance.

Find out more about GGHH in the Pacific region.

For more information

For more about the links between climate change, carbon emissions and healthcare refer to High value health care is low carbon health care.

Please contact us if you have any questions or require more information.

Current as at: Thursday 23 June 2022
Contact page owner: System Purchasing