National health leaders must now take responsibility
It is time to learn from the English. Are Brean, the editor-in-chief of the Journal of the Norwegian Medical Association, asked us who should be responsible for such an initiative in Norway (9). We believe Bent Høye, Norwegian Minister of Health and Care Services, needs to roll up his sleeves together with Bjørn Guldvog, Director General of Health, Camilla Stoltenberg, Director of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, and the other regional health leaders to make a targeted plan of action for a carbon-neutral Norwegian health service. For this to happen, we need clearer organisation of efforts and a shared platform, preferably an online equivalent of The Lancet Countdown, which shows in a simple way what we have accomplished and what remains to be done to achieve a climate-neutral health service (10). It is important that both the secondary and the primary health services across the country participate in this work. Everyone in the health service can help to make a difference, and the Norwegian health service can afford to, and should allow itself to, be as ambitious as the English.
While the health services have traditionally lagged behind the rest of society in efforts to decarbonise, the ambitious plans of the NHS in England show that it is possible to do two things at once: deliver high-quality health care and work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is easy to forget about the climate crisis during the ongoing pandemic, but as the British point out in their climate report, this should not be regarded as an either-or situation. By achieving a carbon-neutral health service, we will create a health service for the future that is better equipped to tackle emerging health challenges. Ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2021, there is a window of opportunity for the health services to send a powerful message: the climate crisis is a health crisis, and carbon-neutral health services are part of the solution. We also call on the Norwegian health leaders to establish clear targets for how the Norwegian health service will become carbon neutral.
It is time to take action for the climate.