The Issue

Greater energy efficiency and transitioning to clean, renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, can both significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect public health from the myriad impacts of climate change, including increased heat-related illnesses, the expansion of vector borne diseases, increased droughts and water scarcity in some regions and storms and flooding in others.

Moving away from fossil fuels also brings with it the health and economic co-benefit of reductions in hospital admissions and treatments for chronic illnesses such as asthma, lung and heart disease caused by the pollution created from the extraction, refining and combustion of coal, oil and gas.

The health sector consumes significant amounts of fossil fuel energy, although there are no adequate figures for most countries. Health-care facilities can also significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions and energy costs over time by using alternative forms of clean and renewable energy – such as solar and wind energy, and biofuels that do not undermine public health.

Action Items

  • For existing buildings, implement an energy conservation and efficiency program that will reduce energy consumption by a minimum of 10% in a single year, and will continue to produce ongoing energy savings of 2% per annum, resulting in a 10% reduction in each five year period. For new buildings, design to achieve building energy performance targets of 320 kWh/sq m or less.
  • Conduct regular energy audits and use the results to inform awareness and retrofit programs.
  • Once efficiency measures are implemented, investigate the purchase of clean, renewable energy, and if available, purchase at least five percent at the next available opportunity. In existing plants, shift to cleaner boiler fuels.
  • Investigate sources of onsite, clean, renewable energy and include its generation in all new building plans.
  • Identify potential co-benefits of climate mitigation efforts that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and local health threats, while saving money at the same time.
  • Integrate occupant education and awareness programs to reduce energy consumption related to occupancy. In mechanically conditioned spaces, turn thermostats down a few degrees in winter or cool climates, and up in summer or warm climates. Even a slight shift can create significant energy savings.