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Boston Area Hospitals Cut Carbon Emissions But Still Far From Goals

Hospitals in metro Boston cut greenhouse gas emissions 18% between 2011 and 2019 even as they expanded space. The main driver was a shift to renewable energy such as Boston Medical Center's purchase of solar power and Mass General Brigham's increasing use of hydro and solar power.

The findings are in the latest analysis  on Boston hospitals' energy use from the nonprofit Health Care Without Harm.

“Health care organizations have an obligation to improve the health and well-being of patients and the communities we serve,” said Dr. Anne Klibanski, president and CEO of Mass General Brigham, in a statement. “Reducing greenhouse gas emissions will create healthier environments for people and help prevent public health crises before they happen."

The report, produced for the Boston Green Ribbon Commission, says the reduction equals 195 million fewer miles in a gas-powered car as well as nearly $21 million in savings from fewer extreme weather events, lost time at work and climate-related illnesses.

“Today’s report shows that hospitals in Boston are doing their part to reduce climate emissions through innovative approaches to energy management, improvements in energy efficiency and large-scale renewable energy purchases,” said Kate Walsh, Boston Medical Center president and CEO, in a statement. “By focusing on sustainability, we are prioritizing the health of our patients and communities beyond our hospital walls.”

But the 18% reduction is well short of Boston's goals: to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% as of 2030 and 100% by 2050. In fact, it appears hospitals did not reach their 2020 goal of a 25% cut.

"We need to be honest with ourselves," said Winston Vaughan, who wrote the report. "The reductions that we've made, if we just draw a straight line, are not going to be enough to get us to a 50% reduction by 2030."

The report spells out a path to these climate change goals. Hospitals can reduce carbon emissions 38% by 2030 if all of their electricity comes from renewable sources. The remaining 12% cut would be in natural gas or other energy uses.

The Boston area's biotech sector is not included in this analysis, although the report says their 24/7 labs consume even more energy than hospitals. Biogen is among the companies pledging to reduce or end fossil-fuel emissions.

Martha Bebinger Twitter Reporter
Martha Bebinger covers health care and other general assignments for WBUR.

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