LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Kaiser Permanente, the nation’s largest health system, says it has achieved carbon-neutral status, the equivalent of taking 175,000 cars off the road.

(credit: CBS)

Kaiser serves 12.4 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia, and has 4.7 million in Southern California alone. The health system says its it has eliminated its 800,000-ton annual carbon footprint, the equivalent of taking 175,000 cars off the road.

The U.S. health industry is responsible for roughly 10% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to Kaiser. The health system says climate change is driving poor health and causing extreme weather events that increase the rates of asthma and respiratory diseases, as well as the spread of infectious diseases like malaria and the Zika virus.

“As wildfires rage across the western U.S., we can all see that the health impacts of climate change are not abstract or far in the future – they are here today, and they disproportionately impact the most vulnerable among us, Greg A. Adams, chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente, said in a statement. “We must recognize, for example, that the pollution that leads to respiratory illnesses and is linked to higher mortality rates from COVID-19 disproportionately impacts Black and low-income communities.”

Kaiser says it achieved carbon-neutral status by improving energy efficiency in its buildings, installing on-site solar power, and made long-term purchases of new renewable energy generation. The health system invested in carbon offsets to counter the emissions from the natural gas power that heats and cools its hospitals. Kaiser’s carbon-neutral status has been certified by CarbonNeutral Protocol in three areas – emissions from sources it owns or controls, emissions from the electricity it consumes and emissions it does not directly own or control, like corporate travel. Further improvements Kaiser says it will work on will address emissions from its supply chain.

“To have the necessary impact on the health of our climate and communities, we must continue to set and achieve bold, audacious environmental goals,” Dr. Bechara Choucair, Kaiser’s senior vice president and chief health officer, said in a statement. “We must commit to doing the difficult work of decarbonizing our supply chain to greatly broaden our contribution to a carbon-free economy.”

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