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Most Massachusetts hospitals pledge net-zero emissions by 2050

Vascular surgeon Doug Jones and his team perform a surgery to unblock the patient's carotid artery at Boston Medical Center. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Vascular surgeon Doug Jones and his team perform a surgery to unblock the patient's carotid artery at Boston Medical Center. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

More than half of the hospitals in Massachusetts pledged this week to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030, and reach net-zero emissions by 2050. They're among 650 health care companies and organizations nationwide making the same commitment.

The Biden administration launched the pledge on Earth Day to “mobilize” the health care industry.

“Nobody should underestimate the importance of federal and private sector health care leaders joining together to address the impacts of climate change,” said U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra in a statement.

Boston Medical Center President and CEO Kate Walsh said hospitals need to take a leading role in efforts to reduce greenhouse gases because they generate nearly 10% of U.S. emissions.

“And for us, there’s a real obvious and distinct connection between the climate change events that we’re seeing in our country and the health of the people who are affected by them,” Walsh said.

Changes made during the pandemic like the expanded reliance on telehealth and at-home treatment programs, will help hospitals meet their sustainability goals, Walsh said.

“The most efficient square-foot is the one you never build,” she said.

But the pandemic has also increased the carbon footprint of some health care facilities because of increased use of masks and other disposable items.

While some of the hospitals, health insurers, pharmaceutical firms and organizations signing on have already reduced their fossil fuel use substantially, this pledge includes zeroing out emissions tied to supplies, which increases the challenge.

The other Massachusetts hospitals and networks joining the pledge include BayState Health, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, Mass General Brigham, Southcoast Health, Steward Health Care and Tufts Medicine.

The Biden administration announced the signatories at White House event on Thursday, the same day the Supreme Court ruled that limited the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to impose carbon emissions limits.

This article was originally published on July 01, 2022.

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

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