The Shift Project is continuing its Transformation Plan for the French Economy (PTEF) with the publication of a fourth report, this time devoted to health. The sector, so far rarely singled out, still represents 8% of greenhouse gas emissions in France. The think tank is issuing several recommendations to decarbonize the sector while a movement emerged on the subject during the COP26 in Glasgow on the climate.

It is a sector that has long remained outside of climate radars. And yet, it is far from trivial. According to estimates made by the Shift Project, and published on November 25 (1), health represents nearly 8% of greenhouse gas emissions in France, or nearly 50 million tonnes of CO2. The sector, which has 2.5 million workers, consumes goods and food, produces waste, mobilizes transport, builds, heats and cools premises. It therefore plays a role in the degradation of the climate and biodiversity, recalls the think tank.

Among the main sources of emissions, there is the purchase of drugs (33% of emissions), the industrial production of which is mainly done abroad. In 2017, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), for example, authorized 91 new medicines, of which only six were produced in France. Next come medical devices (22% of emissions) very often single-use – syringes, gloves, compresses, scalpels, gowns, etc. – and in third place the transport of users, visitors and caregivers (16% of emissions).

Decrease in the use of drugs, relocation, telemedicine …


The Shift Project details some forty measures to decarbonise the health sector. The essential prerequisite is to take into account all the emissions in the carbon balance sheets, whereas today the establishments are not required to integrate the Scope 3 emissions (the indirect emissions, the most important). In addition, it is important to train health professionals in the climate emergency and the low-carbon transition, a demand increasingly made by the younger generations.

More concretely, among the measures proposed, there is the relocation of certain essential molecules in Europe and the profound decarbonisation of the manufacturing and distribution processes, the reduction in the use of drugs by acting on prevention, the conditioning of drug delivery. ” Marketing authorization (AMM) for the publication of the carbon content of the drug or medical device, the reduction in the use of medical devices and their reuse when possible, the prohibition of anesthetic gases with a strong greenhouse effect or further development of telemedicine.

50 countries commit to resilient health systems, but not France

Today, if many hospitals in France are working to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions – the Niort hospital has notably received a gold medal at the international level – none has yet taken ‘commitment to carbon neutrality in 2050. France has not, moreover, signed the “Climate smart health” launched during the COP26 in Glasgow on the climate to set up health systems capable of withstanding the impacts of climate change, low-carbon and sustainable. The initiative has been joined by some fifty countries representing more than a third of global healthcare emissions. Among the signatories are the Maldives, the United States, and even Germany. Belgium,

“The commitments made by these governments are a testament to the growing strength of the global climate action movement. Around the world, doctors, nurses, hospitals, health systems and ministries of health are cutting back. climate footprint, become more resilient and advocate for a just transition that places health at the center of a carbon-free civilization , “said Josh Karliner, international director of program and strategy at Health Care Without Harm.