Man holding solar panel in front of hospital
The 2020 Healthcare Climate Challenge, for which UHN recently won two awards, is an initiative of Global Green and Healthy Hospitals that aims to mobilize health care institutions around the world to protect public health from climate change. (Poster: Courtesy 2020 Healthcare Climate Challenge.)

With critically important and life-saving organizations such as healthcare, it is vital to stay up and running.

This is especially important during extreme weather events, which are made more frequent and severe by the advent of climate change. How well an organization can bounce back from major challenges such as floods, droughts and extreme heat shows their level of resilience.

Due to a long history of proactive work in sustainability, UHN was honoured earlier this year with two international awards through the 2020 Healthcare Climate Challenge, which is an initiative of Global Green and Healthy Hospitals (GGHH) that aims to mobilize healthcare institutions around the world to protect public health from climate change.

UHN's awards for 2016 were: Gold in Climate Leadership and Gold in Climate Resiliency.

The awards are to be given annually from 2015 through to 2020 to recognize hospitals and institutions "leading the transformation to climate smart, resilient healthcare around the globe."

GGHH has 744 members in 62 countries on six continents, representing the interests of more than 21,700 hospitals and health centres around the world.

UHN was one of five Canadian institutions to be recognized. For a list of other winners, click here.

Though the awards recognize UHN's efforts, there is still much to do.

"This work has never been more important and UHN is proud to be recognized for leadership as a Climate Champion," says Dr. Peter Pisters, UHN President and CEO. "We are committed to building on this remarkable achievement by continuing to make efficient, sustainable changes throughout the organization."

Key Facts on Climate Change

Climate Change refers to a shift in global and regional climate patterns – temperature, precipitation and wind – particularly over the past century. Though there is a natural level of climate variability, human activity is responsible for the greatest portion of this recent shift.

By over-using fossils fuels, people increase the levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases like methane. These gases blanket the planet so when the sun's rays hit, they cannot bounce back out into space as easily and create a warming greenhouse effect. 

According to Environment Canada, over the period 1948 to 2013, the average annual temperature in Canada has warmed by 1.6 °C, "a higher rate of warming than in most other regions of the world."

According to Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), the impacts of changing climate are already evident in every region of the country and affect our "natural environment, economic sectors and the health of Canadians." NRCan says with "observable changes" emerging, hospitals must be prepared now.

Getting UHN prepared

UHN has been a green leader for years, with its own embedded Energy & Environment department since 1999. It has partnered with organizations such as the Canadian Coalition for Green Healthcare, and made use of their "Health Care Facility Climate Change Resiliency Toolkit," which can help facilities become more resilient to climate-related risks.

The Coalition will host a free webinar on the subject tomorrow, from noon to 1 p.m., featuring Ed Rubinstein, UHN's Director, Environmental Compliance, Energy and Sustainability. All are welcome to join the free webinar where he will speak about ongoing efforts on climate change resiliency.

For more details and to register for webinar tickets click here.​

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