SEADS 2023 Thematic Session

Health Sector Net-Zero Solutions—An Opportunity Hiding in Plain Sight

Organizer: Asian Development Bank
30 March • 14:00 – 15:30 GMT+8 • Bali Local Time


  • Scene Setter: Josh Karliner, Director, Global Partnerships, Health Care Without Harm
  • Response Presentation: John Thwaites, Chair, Monash Sustainable Development Institute and Climateworks Centre
  • Eugenie Kayak, Enterprise Professor in Sustainable Healthcare, Melbourne Medical School, University of Melbourne
  • Srinath Reddy, Honorary Distinguished Professor, Public Health Foundation of India
  • Moderator: Patrick Osewe, Chief of Health Sector, ADB


This session will explore the health impacts of the climate crisis on Southeast Asian nations, as well as the role of the health sector—a major greenhouse gas emitter—in protecting public health from climate change by becoming more climate-resilient and moving toward net zero.


As the world emerges from COVID-19, another global crisis with health implications that could dwarf those of the pandemic tightens its grip. Indeed, climate change is, according to the World Health Organization, the biggest health threat facing humanity. “Health for All” is simply not possible if current global greenhouse gas emissions continue unchecked. This reality requires leaders in all countries to play an urgent role in aligning climate and health goals. This is critical to meeting the combined ambitions of the Paris Agreement, Universal Health Coverage, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030, and One Health. 

Heatwaves, floods, and droughts, which have become more intense and frequent due to climate change, impact human health through the spread of infectious diseases while adding to the burden of non-communicable diseases. Extreme weather also brings fundamental changes to the air, water supplies, and food systems, which can also affect health.

The health sector, which contributes nearly 5% of net global emissions, urgently needs to reduce its own contribution to climate change and shift toward a net-zero pathway. Health systems must also prepare for and build resilience to the impacts of climate change on infrastructure, systems, and communities.

Southeast Asia's health and finance sectors must delink health development and emissions growth and align the health sector with the ambition of the Paris Agreement by prioritizing low-carbon health development that delivers high-quality care. This requires investment to decarbonize healthcare’s operations and its supply chain, with an emphasis on zero-emissions building; clean renewable electricity; zero-emissions transport; healthy, sustainably grown food; low-carbon pharmaceuticals; sustainable healthcare waste management; and greater health system efficiency. Investment in climate-resilient healthcare infrastructure is also essential.  

Many public and private health systems in Asia and around the world are moving in this direction as exemplified by the commitment of 62 national health ministries to climate-resilient, low-carbon healthcare via the Alliance for Transformative Action on Climate and Health, as well as the emergence of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) High-Level Climate Champions Race to Zero healthcare cohort, representing 14,000 hospitals and health centers committed to net-zero healthcare.  


  • Identify the impacts of climate change on human health and the health sector itself, along with healthcare’s significant contribution to the crisis.
  • Understand the potential divergence and confluence of health development and climate solutions by defining different potential future emission pathways for the health sector. 
  • Explore the policy and practical opportunities for achieving net-zero, climate-resilient healthcare while meeting global health goals by gaining an understanding of existing initiatives, best practices, and future prospects.

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