The healthcare sector rise to the climate challenge

Health care is a the less known climate sinner that is rarely in the limelight when the climate debate rages. Representatives from the health sector and other industries changed that in a climate debate during the C40 World Mayor Summit in Copenhagen and provided insights on challenges and solutions that foster a greener future.

Climate change is the biggest challenge of our time. Modern lifestyle and increased emissions of greenhouse gases call for action now! If we are to achieve the goals set in the Paris Climate Change Agreement, all industries must contribute, be it transport, construction, energy, fashion or healthcare.  

To take action the Danish clusters and networks invited to a climate debate during the C40 World Mayor Summit in Copenhagen, where mayors and delegates from all over the world met to find and exchange green solutions.  

- I feel a sense of urgency. Today we have seen people willing confess their climate sins – but also to be part of the solution. I'm glad to see so many addresses the challenges - and ready to enter partnerships to develop the solutions. It is not just at push where companies make more climate efficient solutions. There has to be a demand. We have to see the value, and I think we are getting there, said Christian Graversen, CEO, Welfare Tech.  

Compromises and change of lifestyle

Fifteen debaters from various industries in Denmark shared their views on the biggest climate challenges within their area and solutions that can be put to use.  

The green transition will affect us all. But are we willing to change behaviour? A quick survey among the 200 spectators revealed that only a handful had dropped the flights or replaced their car with a greener alternative.  

- You represent the problem, ladies and gentlemen. You don't want to change your life! You, wealthy Danes very much aware of the problem. So, don't blame the companies for producing cars and planes. Instead, listen to them as they explain their problem, said moderator Martin Breum.   

Hospital Director Jonas Dahl from Regional Hospital Randers recognised this challenge.  

- Imagine telling the doctor: "Here is the second-best implant for your patient – but it is climate-friendly", and imagine the doctor say to the patient: "We will treat you with the second-best implant – but it is climate-friendly". What do you think the answer will be, asked Jonas Dahl.    

The doctors want to use the best products, because it is best for the patients, and the industry wants to use the best products because it is best for profit. Still, Regional Hospital Randers has taken up the challenge. They have entered into dialogue with the medical suppliers, mainly focusing on reducing waste and the proportion that is incinerated. In Central Denmark Region alone, hospitals generate up to 7,000 tonnes of waste per year.  

- 70 % of our waste and CO2 come from medical waste and equipment, and we burn 60-70 % of our waste. Only a little can be recycled, said Jonas Dahl.   

Growing pressure from employees

In the past year, however, there has been a significant shift, among employees and hospital management, to take action. Now, more waste is recycled and abolished in a climate-friendly way.  

- We distinguish between "waste collectors" who investigate how we can recycle more waste and "piggy bags", who investigate how we can convince the industry to lower the plastic packaging. There is a strong pressure from the staff, nurses especially, to do something. As management, we need to respond to this and show that it is possible to make a change, said Jonas Dahl.  

Also, in the municipalities, there is a growing awareness of CO2-friendly health solutions. In City of Copenhagen, home nurses use bicycles instead of cars, and the municipality is looking at how they can buy more climate-friendly.  

- In the health sector – around the world - people are sent home from the hospitals to receive help and treatment in their own home, due to demographic changes and limited economic resources. On the plus side, people get less sigh, less infected, and they are happier in their own home. On the minus side, it is a very distributable model where you are transporting nurses, medical supplies, fresh food, laundry, etc. It is a lot of traffic. In City of Copenhagen, we use bikes when it is possible. But when you go into the countryside, or when you have to transport supplies, you need to change the bike into a bigger bike or a car, said Mette Harbo, Digitisation Manager, City of Copenhagen.  


Need for investment and political leadership

Despite the increased climate awareness and more green initiatives, the debate left no doubt that we are still far from the goal. There are still many things we can and must do to ensure a green transition. And there are many actions in store if we are to achieve the ambitious climate goals.   

The question is: Are we investing enough in innovation? And are we willing to pay the price for the green transition?  

- Yes, we lack innovation. Part of the solution is to ensure that we get that innovation. We have realised the problem. We need to solve it. And solve it fast, said Thomas Woldbye, CEO, Copenhagen Airports.  

The aviation industry is well aware of its negative impact on climate changes. The industry accounts for 2-3 % of global CO2 emissions. That has to change! The industry focus on several fronts. In addition to looking at ways on how aeroplanes are used to make the most of fuel, Copenhagen Airports has also initiated a green climate fund. All passengers travelling through a Danish airport will be charged a small amount, which goes to the Fund. It is expected to raise DKK 250-300 million annually for innovation of more climate-friendly aviation. The goal is a CO2-free airport in 2030 and a CO2-free industry in 2050; which is in line with the Paris Climate Change Agreement.  

The growing climate awareness pushes development in the right direction. Companies must be able to see a business model in green solutions. If the end-users do not demand and are willing to choose and pay for green solutions, companies will not offer them.  

To boost development and the necessary innovation, the debaters called for political leadership that sets ambitious climate goals such as green buildings and CO2-neutral transport.  

- We are lucky to live in a country that is heavily funded by the public sector. A lot of the funding in the coming years will be contended on solutions within this space. The money will always talk. The public sector will have to demand climate solutions or say it has to be part of what we want to see. The clusters can contribute and push the companies in the right direction. The public funding will help that, said Christian Graversen, Welfare Tech. 

The climate debate took place at BLOXin Copenhagen on October 10, 2019. It was organised Cluster Excellence Denmark in collaboration with Welfare Tech, Danish Healthtech, BrainsBusiness, InnoBYG, Lifestyle & Design Cluster, CLEAN, RoboCluster, MDC Maritime Development Center and Energy Innovation Cluster

Image: Welfare Tech.



Mette Thiel

Senior Consultant

Welfare Tech

Strategic communication and marketing

T: +45 2058 5138


Skype id : mette.thiel

Supported by

Welfare Tech is​ co-financed by the Danish Ministry of Higher Education and Science and The European Regional Development Fund.

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