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Kaiser Permanente nation’s first carbon-neutral health provider

Addressing climate change

OW Staff Writer | 9/18/2020, midnight

Kaiser Permanente, which has 4.6 million members in Southern California, announced this week that it has become the first health care system in the United States to achieve carbon-neutral status.

The move to carbon neutrality eliminates Kaiser’s 800,000-ton annual carbon footprint, the equivalent of taking 175,000 cars off the road. The U.S. health care industry overall is responsible for roughly 10 percent of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“As wildfires rage across the western U.S., we can all see that the health impacts of climate change are not abstract or far in the future—they are here today, and they disproportionately impact the most vulnerable among us,’’ said Greg A. Adams, chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente.

“We must recognize, for example, that the pollution that leads to respiratory illnesses and is linked to higher mortality rates from COVID-19, disproportionately impacts Black and low-income communities,’’ he said. “In order to create a healthier, more sustainable path forward, we must address the inseparable issues of climate and human health as one.’’

Climate change causes many conditions that drive poor health, including damaging extreme weather events such as wildfires, hurricanes and droughts, increased rates of asthma and respiratory diseases, and the spread of infectious diseases such as malaria and Zika virus.

“As physicians, climate change is absolutely in our lane—let’s educate ourselves, our patients, and our communities,’’ said Dr. Imelda Dacones, president and CEO of Northwest Permanente Medical Group. “As a world, we will develop vaccines and effective medicines to treat the COVID-19 pandemic. Climate change, on the other hand, is a public health crisis where there will be no point of return if we don’t act today.’’

In order to reach the milestone, Kaiser Permanente improved energy efficiency in its buildings, installed on-site solar power, and made long-term purchases of new renewable energy generation.