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Our concern

Greenhouse gas emissions by the health sector

Worldwide, the health sector accounts for approximately 5 % of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide equivalents [CO2e]).¹ It is now considered likely that the limit of 1.5 degrees of global warming can no longer be met.² This means that droughts, floods and severe weather will also pose increasing risks in Germany in the coming years. This realisation makes it clear that every tenth of a degree of global warming must be prevented. The health sector is now called upon to take responsibility in order to protect patients, to reduce its growing overload and - ultimately - not to jeopardise itself through lack of initiative.

Plastic is harmful to the environment and contributes significantly to climate change

A relevant contributor to the climate crisis is the pollution of our planet by plastic. The importance of global plastic production from fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas has been significantly underestimated so far. While the share of plastic production in global CO2e emissions was already about 4.5 % in 2015, plastic production is projected to increase by 40 % between 2015 and 2030.³
Furthermore, there is increasing evidence that some plastics, including microplastics in externals, as well as additives in plastics can pose significant health risks. The accumulation of these substances has been taking place in the environment for decades

Call to action

The question is therefore no longer whether the healthcare system should introduce resource-optimising measures, but how and in what timeframe they can be implemented.
In view of the urgency, concerted implementation by all health workers is needed. As multipliers, they can make an important contribution to the education of the entire population and the health of each individual.

Watts N, Amann M, Arnell N et al (2019) The 2019 report of The Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: ensuring that the health of a child born today is not defined by a changing climate. Lancet 394(10211):1836-1878

2 Liu PR, Raftery AE (2021) Country-based rate of emissions reductions should increase by 80% beyond nationally determined contributions to meet the 2 C° target. Commun Earth Environ.

Cabernard L., Pfister S., Oberschelp C. et al (2022) Growing environmental footprint of plastics driven by coal combustion. Nat Sustain 5, 139-148

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